He's best known as the tortured gender bender in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but it turns out John Cameron Mitchell is a nightlife afficianado too. We chatted with him in advance of Mattachine, his traveling club concept that comes to La Cita in Los Angeles this Sunday. The Golden Globe nominee's knowledge of DJs and dancefloors goes beyond NYC where Hedwig was born. Cameron, who is originally from Texas, spent the late '80s right here in L.A., and cites Billy Limbo (of legendary Club 1970 fame) as his DJ guru. We even found we share many of the same teenage clubbing experiences, such as under-age bi-friendly dance haps like Phases in the San Fernando Valley!
Mattachine is named for the Mattachine Society, which challenged the practice of bars not serving homosexuals in the mid-'60s. It's the party he and partner DJs PJ DeBoy and Paul Dawson (both stars of his groundbreaking film of sexual exploration, Shortbus) and cabaret performer Amber Martin threw in New York at infamous dive bar Julius, turning it to an unconventional “It” Spot in the process. The idea behind the club was to challenge “homo stereotypes” that had become the norm in gay nightlife. It had unpredictable playlists, an inclusive, non-crusier vibe and regular features and antics we've never heard of at any other party. The idea to take the party on the road not withstanding, Mattachine may be the most unique club you'll ever attend, gay or otherwise. Straight from JCM himself, here's why.
It's a Gaga and Madonna free zone.
“Queer used to mean non-conformist, but gay clubs have become more and more pre-packaged and sheep-like. We want to remind youngsters that there's more than the same pop hits and four on the floor to dance to.”
He'll make out with you if can identify his more obscure set choices.
“If they used Shazam (the iPhone app that IDs songs) I kiss them, but no tongue.” If more than one person gets it, he'll make out with all of them.
“We like to take the music to a frenzy then bring it down, play Sex Pistols than Barry Manilow or Nirvana then Teddy Pendergrass. Also slow dance encourage more interaction. It's hard to text while you're slow dancing. “
Honoring gay icons past.
“It's usually a friend or just someone who's influenced us. Past honorees have included Danny Fields (The Ramones' manager), The B-52's' Fred Schneider, Jake Scheers (The Scissor Sisters), and Randy Jones (the cowboy from the Village People).”
Interpretive dance breaks.
“Think Solid Gold Dancers.”
They play the whole song.
“We avoid the big hits, you know the wedding party songs, and play everything from punk to new wave to disco to country. More importantly, we play the whole songs. The ADD mixes most DJs do lose the build-up. Like sex, it's shouldn't always be about going from climax to climax, there needs to be an element of surprise and anticipation.”
While in LA, Mitchell will direct his second Dior commercial starring Marion Cotillard. He also notes that Broadway production of Hedwig is “definitely happening” once they find the right lead. He is also developing a series for HBO about the music scene in New York in the '80s. He'll be in town for a while so don't be suprised if you see him out under a disco ball or two.
Mattachine's club tour ends in LA, this Sunday, Aug. 21 at La Cita, 336 S. Hill St., Downtown. See our LinA in LA picks for more info.