You may have thought that Nico — the eyelinered, somewhat racist Velvet Underground singer, Warhol superstar and film actress — died in 1988…but you'd be wrong. She's been reincarnated by Tammy Faye Starlite, a New York singer/comedian/performance artist who's also known for sending up two other Tammys — Wynette and Baker — with country gems like “Did I Shave My Vagina for This?”
Here's our Q&A with Starlite channeling Nico, which she also does in a new theater piece at the Bootleg Theatre, beginning Thursday.
Tell us about your new show, Chelsea Mädchen.
Well, first of all, it's about me, which should be enough reason to go to see it, because there are not many shows about me. And also, I appear in it as myself — another reason to see it, because such occurrences are rare. And also, I have a whole band of really good musicians, with only one Jew, as far as I know. We do the songs I sang with the Velvet Underground — the few that Lou let me sing (he is quite avaricious) — and we do a lot of other people's songs, like Jim Morrison's “The End.”
Jim and I had a very torrid fornication in Los Angeles, you know. Did you hear us? We were so loud. Jim was my soul brother, and he wasn't even an African. My friend Danny Fields introduced us. Danny sprinkled the dust into our eyes, you know — he is always making mischief.
And also in the show we do David Bowie's “Heroes,” which he wrote for me when he was in Berlin, having sexual climaxes with Iggy, after he tired of Angela. She can be very distressing, like a fishwife. And songs by Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne, both of whom were in love with me. I think they both still carry torches for me, like tiny little Olympic runners. And also in the show I am interviewed by an Australian who asks me very superficial questions. I am not a superficial person.
When was the last time you talked to Lou Reed?
Oh…Lou…I don't quite remember…maybe it was before he married that boy, what is his name? Laurie Anderson. What a small boy he is. But Lou likes them to be little, so he can feel bigger. Lou is often very contrary. Part of his Semitic heritage, I suppose.
Tell us something we don't know about Andy Warhol?
Andy didn't come to my funeral, probably because I didn't go to his. He can be very vindictive.
You were discovered by Fellini, who cast you in La Dolce Vita. What do you remember about that experience?
Well, first of all, Fellini wanted James Dean to play the lead role, but he settled for Marcello, because of availability. And I had to portray myself, even though I was already playing the part of myself in my own life — but such dialectics confound reality, which is the closest one can get to nihilism, yes?
What current music do you like?
I like new composers like Franz Liszt, Philip Glass, Stockhausen and Arab music — I love Arab music. I love to hear the drumming around the Amazon river, like in Fitzcarraldo. … I also like Flo Rida and Daughtry.
What singer do you not like?
That Adam Levine, his whistling is very grating. I don't care for it at all.
What are you the most proud of?
I think, my motor functions being able to work properly. And I am also very proud of Rob Lowe. He is doing very well right now.
Everyone from Bjork to Patti Smith to Siouxsie to Elliott Smith cites you as an influence — but do you feel like you're properly appreciated?
No, I think they are all trying to grab pieces of me, as if I am Black Friday. What do I have left for myself? No one thinks of that.
What do you think of L.A.?
I like it very much — I mentioned earlier that Jim Morrison and I had consensual clothes-less relations here, at the Castle, rolling and copulating upon the parapet. That was perhaps in 1967. In the current Los Angeles I like that matriarchal family with the long dark-haired girls with the eyelashes and the undulating voices and the weddings with the giant husbands that they discard with impunity — they are a new breed of Valkyrie.
What would you like to see while you are here?
I would love to see the head they found by the Hollywood Sign — maybe I know him? I hope someone can show it to me.
Tammy Faye Starlite stars as Nico in Chelsea Mädchen at the Bootleg Theatre, 2220 Beverly Blvd.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; $12, $10 in advance; foldsilverlake.com. Also Woody's in Palm Springs, Feb. 19.