Apr 24, 2024, 06:24AM

Her Humor Is Infectious, Like An STD

An interview with Jennifer Blowdryer.

1.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Several decades have passed since I first met Jennifer Blowdryer. We’re both still kicking. Blowdryer has a lot of great books with titles like The Laziest Secretary in the World, White Trash Debutante, Modern English, Good Advice for Young Trendy People of All Ages, and Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. Her latest book, True Blue, is available now on Apathy Press Poets. The Jennifer Blowdryer Band will be playing on May 11th in Tompkins Square Park in NYC at two p.m. as part of the lineup for the Al Landess Memorial Concert. She’s an honorary Baltimorean and a member of the Apathy Press Poets gang. Her humor is infectious, like an STD. She has a not-so-secret thing for Zsa Zsa Gabor. I never know if she’s serious or self-deprecating, but she's never dull. She puts the form in performance art. I’m playing catch-up with her. I’m a member in high standing of the Jennifer Blowdryer Mutual Admiration Society Fan Club.

Tom DiVenti: What’s new with you these days?

Jennifer Blowdryer: I’m volunteering to teach with South African refugees. Today I was meeting with a few other people who teach there to discuss what they’re supposed to do when they walk into the warming centers without supplies and no English speakers there.

TD: That sounds like a lot of messy stuff to deal with.

JB: It’s a lot, but I love them.

TD: It looks like you’ve been working with your band in NYC, traveling to New Orleans and San Francisco?

JB: San Francisco is coming up with Lit Quake in late-October. Right now, I’m getting ready for a memorial gig for Al Hammerbrain, whose picture is on the cover of my book True Blue. Kind of like a punk show tribute to Al Hammerbrain Landess. I just finished up a book with Bruce Isaacson’s Zeitgeist Press for the Las Vegas Punk Museum. Then I’d like to do an anthology, Smut Fest, of writings by sex workers. People like Annie Sprinkle are in it.

TD: I remember a long-ago Smut Fest on Church Street at a strip joint. I read my Shit List and a graphic manual on How to Wear a Condom. I’d be very happy to publish your book. Not only that, but I love the Smut Fest. What’s new in NYC?

JB: It's been nice lately teaching these West Africans, mostly from Guinea, at the Earth Church, Reverend Billy’s place. I’ve been getting my teaching chops back. They’re in a pretty bad situation. They’re forced to leave these shelters; they don’t speak English. Likewise, they don’t have family here, but man, I love them. Then, for the band and music, I just recorded with Kevin Tooley. He’s a pro drummer who’s been touring with the Richard Lloyd band. He had a few weeks between concert tours, so I wanted to take advantage of that free time. There’s a jazz diva dive, and it’s kind of uptight. There’s this “exactly how this song should go,” like Sarah Vaughn and the presentation with sheet music and how the beat goes, but for me, it’s another discipline. I used to do the song “Daddy.” You know, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” with Surftallica in Baltimore with Mike Bell and Richard Drews. We did a gig or two at Scallio’s.

TD: I remember that show, and another memorable gig at the Medusa Social Club, around the corner from Scallio’s.

JB: I love fucking around with those songs. I love Della Reese, Pat Suzuki, the ponytail girl of 1961, Peggy Lee, and Dinah Washington. They have standards that they set, which are fun to play around with. I’ve been to a piano bar a few times. Usually if they have the sheet music for tunes like “Goody Goody,” we can do it, and then they kind of trust me so I can do one of my own songs. I went like on a Monday and jammed out on that and recorded the next day. Just for a warmup, I started with Della Reese's “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” I simply couldn’t be bad Da Da Da Da; the lyrics are kind of archaic, and while he was playing the piano, I was doing free verse.

TD: Sounds like a Dada surreal Mae West on steroids.

JB: I was thinking of sweatshops. I have a guest who was working in the sweatshops in Kuala Lumpur doing Netflix customer service. On the maternal side of my family, my grandpa wouldn’t work for the cigar shops because he didn’t believe in sweatshops. I was just thinking about that in general, and according to my great uncle, there were about nine or 10 of them, Russian Jews. They weren’t very religious people who considered themselves Americans, but some of my uncles would have to scrap it out and do the dirty work. Like my great-aunt Fanny and my grandmother, who was just as tough as them. We didn’t necessarily know what they were up to or what was going on, but my great aunt at that time, who would’ve been my blood aunt, was the baby of the family. She was married to a guy who owned a liquor store in Harlem. They protected her. They lived on the Upper East Side. Maybe it was 62nd and Lexington in this building that had pink chandeliers, a grand piano, and nice furniture. She’d go to fixed-priced lunches, and had little suits. Perhaps she wasn’t the worldliest person. Finally, her husband had to get out of the liquor store business because it got too dangerous.

A lot of those standards are kind of campy songs like, “Well, I look swell in sables and furs with Paris labels.” It's a peasant’s conception of wealth. My Russian grandmother would say, “We are peasants.” She said it, but not with self-pity. They were Ashkenazi Jewish, so when they had a chance to get any knowledge or education, they went for it. I put all that info together in a song, recorded it, and collaborated with it.

TD: Do you have any feelings about life, death, heaven, hell and the afterlife?

JB: I think life is a privilege. Now we live longer, too long. Dying is a lot of work. It’s not easy to watch people die. I never got religion from any direction. For me, it’s kind of a joke. It’s a private matter. It’s draining. Everything I know about religion is anecdotal. I think there’s an arrogance to think there’s something that specific about electromagnetic particles or a special life force.


Register or Login to leave a comment