Sandra Bernhard is a genius. Her take on culture, politics and media is unique and must be heard whenever she's sharing. Lucky for us all, she's performing in New York Off-Broadway in Everything Bad & Beautiful. I caught her in LA, and let me report that her mix of music and musings about everything from Laura Bush to Mariah is spot-on and full of passion and humor. As I waited to take off from LA yesterday, she called my cell for a quickie pre-Passover check-in. Sandra is GIVING IT at the Daryl Roth Theater!!!
HEY SANDRA! HAPPY PESACH! WHAT DOES PASSOVER MEAN TO YOU?
Passover is a major cleansing externally and internally, an opportunity to get rid of all your ego-based things and start fresh. Normally I go to the Kaballah center for seder but this year I'm going where Cecily goes to Chabad, Hebrew School, and the second night I'll do at home. I have the two nights off.
WERE YOU RAISED IN A RELIGIOUS HOUSEHOLD?
We were conservative. We definitely did a lot of family stuff and I was bat mitzvah'd. I love traditions and have managed to evolve spiritually. It's a spiritual thing for me.
(AN ANNOUNCMENT COMES OVER THE PA ON THE AIRPLANE)
Sweetie, where are you? On a plane? Oh honey, I am gonna let you listen to that pre-takeoff announcement for a minute. Let's take a pause -- this is important stuff and I don't want you to miss anything.
OK IT'S OVER, THANKS. WHERE WAS YOUR BAT MITZVAH PARTY?
At the pizza place where all bat mitzvah parties were!
I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU ARE 50, BY THE WAY. YOU ARE SO HOT, HOW DO YOU DO IT?
I grew up painfully thin -- I have a skinny body structure. I take care of myself, eat right, work out and walk a lot. The great thing about living in NYC is walking a lot. As always, it's internal: If you're happy doing what you love it reflects on how you look. Plus my family looks young -- we have good genes and that helps!
WHERE DO YOU STAND ON PLASTIC SURGERY?
I don't have a major problem with it. I haven't had any yet. Smart people do it subtly. I do think it's sad when people transform themselves and lose who they are. I'd hate to lose faith in myself and become "beautiful" in that accepted American way. I might have a nip-and-tuck, I just don't want to depend on it for my happiness.
DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE FOR PEOPLE WHO'VE BOTCHED UP THEIR FACES? WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU SEE PRISCILLA PRESLEY-LIKE LADIES?
I have a lot of compassion for people who feel the need to re-enact their youth. The reality is, once you've hit a certain age and your body evolves you want to honor it. There's nothing wrong with making yourself feel better but when you're constantly chasing it there's something you're not dealing with inside.
I FIRST SAW "EVERYTHING BAD & BEAUTFUL" IN LA. YOU FEATURED "DON'T STOP BELIEVIN'" IN THE SHOW AND WERE ASKED TO DROP IT. WHAT HAPPENED?
(Journey lead Singer) Steve Perry found Jesus and won't let anybody sing his stuff anymore! He'll sue your ass. The truth is that since LA, I've heard "Don't Stop Believin'" in so many places, and I pride myself in doing songs that are obscure and haven't been covered. I still have the set-up leading up to the song, but I replaced it with "The Flame" by Cheap Trick, so it's the best of all worlds.
WHAT DO YOU WATCH ON TV?
I watch The Sopranos and this season is off the rails. I'm starting to watch Huff. I watch The L Word, which I think is a good soap opera. My new guilty pleasure is Deal or No Deal! I really got into it a few weeks ago, but I've missed some because of my show. I could TiVo it, but I think that might be a little extreme. Howie Mandel, in that situation, is soothing. It's a fun show. And I watch Bill Maher.
DO YOU WATCH AMERICAN IDOL?
I don't. Never seen it. I'm sure it's intoxicating.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT REALITY TV?
I don't watch a lot of it. I have caught the latest round of the VH-1 thing where all the stars are in one house, The Surreal Life. Alexis Arquette makes that show this season. It's totally watchable and funny and entertaining.
ISN'T SHERMAN HEMSLEY ON THIS SEASON? I HEARD HE WAS COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET.
Sherman Hemsley? Sweetie, we don't need to know about that at this late date. That's too much for me. And, pre-Pesach. Please, that might put me over the edge.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ON A GAME SHOW?
I was on The $1.98 Beauty Show with Rip Taylor as a contestant, and I won! I was a combo of Dolly Parton-meets-whatever and I covered one of her songs. You win $1.98 and a crazy bouquet of dead veggies. It was crazy. More recently I was on Celebrity Jeopardy.
HOW LONG IS YOUR SHOW UP? AND, YOU CHANGE IT ALL THE TIME, RIGHT? Definitely through the end of May -- I'd say through the end of July. And of course I change it up! It's NYC and things here are always evolving, so I try to stay on top of it.
HAS ANYONE EVER CALLED AND TOLD YOU NOT TO TALK ABOUT THEM IN YOUR ACT?
The only person who ever called was Sandy Gallin when he represented Mariah Carey. He said, "Please lay off Mariah" and I told him NO. I told him that I wouldn't stop talking about her because everything I said was true. And now I've added another post-comeback Mariah piece where I say that basically I am responsible for her comeback because I caused her breakdown. I am responsible for the Emancipation of Mimi! She's a sweet girl.
SPEAKING OF MARIAH, WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
Oh man, Mary J. Blige for sure. My band turned me on to a new singer who I think is named Louis Taylor. And then all my old standards like Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, you know -- my standards. I can't help it, I have to go back to the classics.
AND YOU ARE A CLASSIC, SANDY. THANKS FOR GIVING SO HARD.
Thank you, and have a safe flight. See you soon.