Author, fashionista, creative ambassador, and recovering window-dresser Simon Doonan takes us on a guided tour of gender non-conformity with his latest book, Drag: The Complete Story (Laurence King)! Simon & I talked through his personal history with drag, how drag has evolved over the millennia, how the current moment is pushing drag in new directions, and why male British comics were so comfortable performing in it (a long-standing question of mine). We also get into his love of craft and how dressing windows at Barneys New York was the perfect venue for him, the value of having a day job and not making art the center of one’s life, how a kid who failed his 11+ wound up writing a shelfload of books, the joy of his crafting reality show, Making It, why he didn’t get through the auditions for Queer Eye, the TV skill he had to learn, his love of history and his abhorrence at the idea of being anyone’s role model, why it’s life-affirming to wear some color, what sort of drag I’d be able to pull off, and plenty more! Give it a listen (conversation begins at 7:53)! And go buy Drag: The Complete Story!
(NOTE: All of Simon’s proceeds from this book go to the Ali Forney Center for LGBTQ youth at risk for homelessness)
“I think it’s good for writers to get out and work. Like Simone Weil: she used to work in a car factory.”
“The message I got from my parents was that life’s just not that complicated. The idea that they’d have been involved in my college application is absurd!”
“I have the ability get very interested in things that are outside of myself. My windows were often based around that.”
“I thought about being an Artist, but realized how much more fun it was to be a window-display designer.”
“I’m never gonna be a parent, but if I were, I’d be like, ‘We’re skippin’ this Goodnight, Moon thing; you’re goin’ to Pale Fire.'”
Cartoonist Katie Skelly joins the show to talk about her new book, Operation Margarine (AdHouse Books), which is really just an opportunity for us to talk about Barthes, Edie Sedgwick, and The Maxx, before getting to the moment when she was 15 and read the least “YA”-friendly book ever for all the wrong reasons. Along the way, we also talk about how she manages to work on her comics while holding down a (respectable) full-time job, why she’d rather hunt for a rare comic than buy something new, what it was like to belong to a high school anime club that only had two members. Go listen!
“6 o’clock hits, it’s time to leave the office; what are you going to do with the four or five hours you have before going to sleep?”
“With some of the people in the story, I thought, ‘What if they get mad? What if their feelings are hurt? What if they say, “That’s not the way it was!”,’ and then I thought, ‘Y’know what? Let THEM try to spend 35 years trying to figure this out! I’ve devoted my life to telling this tale that needs to be told.'”
Mimi Pond joins us to talk about her New York Times-bestselling graphic novel Over Easy (Drawn & Quarterly)! We talk about the book, which offers a semifictional version of Mimi’s life in art school and working at a legendarily kooky diner in Oakland, CA in the late 1970’s. We also cover her life in New York in the early 1980’s, how she met her One True Love at a puppet show, the big break she got from a paper described as “The Village Voice for the Upper East Side,” the difficulties of balancing mom-hood with art, the variety of ways she was screwed over by book publishers, her fixation on the Patty Hearst kidnapping, what she hopes young people get out of Over Easy‘s rendition of its era, and more! (It’s kinda hard to believe we got to all that in less than 40 minutes!) Give it a listen!
“One of the great things about the ’70s was the liberation of both sexes. But the slut-shaming nowadays is such a double standard. . . . I made plenty of mistakes, but I learned from them and I married the right person. “
Mimi Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer. She’s created comics for the LA Times, Seventeen Magazine, National Lampoon, and many other publications. Her TV credits include the first full-length episode of The Simpsons, and episodes for the shows Designing Women and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. She lives in LA with her husband, the artist Wayne White.
Credits: This episode’s music is Busy, Pretty Waitress by Stellavision. The conversation was recorded in a study room at the Toronto Reference Library on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Pond by me.
It’s time for another month’s worth of my tweets from twitter! First the retweets (the ones that begin with RT) and then the marginally more original ones! Remember, you can get these regularly by following groth18!
In honor of July 4th, we’ll start off with a bang!
What I’m reading: I sorta defaulted into reading Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell. I was feeling kinda meh one evening this week, and it was on my Kindle, and I thought, “What the heck?” I’m enjoying it, but I’m waiting for the bizarre structural trick that characterizes Mitchell’s novels. Since this one seems to be a novel about his childhood and his stammering problem, it’s possible there’s no pomo wackiness to it. I don’t want to look it up to find out, preferring to let the book unfold itsowndamnself.
What I’m watching: More In Treatment (almost done with season 1), and Ric Burns’ American Masters documentary on Andy Warhol. It wasn’t as good as Andy Warhol: The Complete Picture, which I caught on PBS a year or two ago. There were a few problems with Burns’ doc: it grinds to a halt when it covers Warhol’s filmmaking (much as Warhol’s films were exercises in inertia), it has to mess with timelines for its segment on “casualties of the Factory,” it overemphasizes Edie Sedgwick and her death, and it spends about 15 minutes (of a total of 4 hours) on the post-shooting Warhol. After reading Bob Colacello’s book on the post-1968 era, Holy Terror, I think that phase of his career is immensely interesting, but Burns gives it pretty short shrift. That other doc I mentioned also does a better job of showing Warhol’s relation to his family, and the sheer weirdness of his mother living with him in NYC for 20 years. Anyway, the first half of Burns’ doc is pretty good, but I felt that it lost its way from about 1965 on.
What I’m drinking: Nyquil. Not for recreational purposes.
What Rufus & Otis are up to: Posing for Christmas pictures.
Where I’m going: Nowhere!
What I’m happy about: An old pal got in touch with me for general shooting of the breeze on Friday. It was great to just catch up with her.
What I’m sad about: The way this year’s just whirled by.
What I’m worried about: Getting most of my year-end 500-page issue done by Friday.
What I’m pondering: Whether I’ll finally get around to writing that “favorite books of the decade” post that I delayed since January.