And on a Lighter Note
BY Dale Hrabi
March 04 2009 12:00 AM ET
After this un-Pietà-like crack, I officially love Hegarty and our conversation breaks wide open, budding with tangents: late-period Picasso, Hegarty's recent discovery of how brussels sprouts grow ("on tall, spiky stems!"), the time a homeless woman laughed at him for wearing clogs in a Manhattan blizzard, his pubescent struggles to acquire import LPs after his family transplanted itself to a San Jose, Calif., suburbâ€¦.
"Subculture was harder to find then," he says, "but that's what made it subculture. With the Internet, the playing field's been leveled. There's equal access to Beyoncé and Rozz Williams [Christian Death's tragic frontman, who killed himself in 1998]." While Hegarty and I commune as erstwhile morbid '80s kids, the phone line dies; when we reconnect, he says, "Where were we? Oh yes, graveyards!"
He tends to speak in psalm-like sentences, lyrical and strangely fluid. He calls Torment and Toreros , a 1983 album by Marc Almond's solo project, Marc and the Mambas, "my first evidence of radical vulnerability as an invincible punk gesture -- Marc wore his heart so heavily on his sleeve, with teeth gleaming."
"Are you always this articulate?" I ask. "Would it kill you to throw in an 'um' now and then?" He laughs, confessing, "I hesitate if I haven't had the right combination of teas and coffees. I'm catatonic then."
Nearly out of time, I pepper him with final questions: Will he make a good old person? Is it true he started off as a lousy singer? "My second-grade teacher once told me, 'If only your [singing] prowess matched your enthusiasm,'È‚f;" he says. "I didn't know what 'prowess' was. She also told me that my handwriting was erratic, but I liked that. 'Erratic' sounded arty."
I'm not surprised, I say. As a graphology nerd, I know how easily the identity conflicts of a transgender kid could manifest as unpredictable handwriting. Hegarty seems to find this out-of-nowhere analysis eerie, even fated. "I've never mentioned handwriting before in an interview," he says. "Ever." With this new, admittedly slim, bond between us, I feel comfortable enough to ask one last dopey, Barbara Walters question: "What's your favorite flower?"
"The peony," he says. "It's just so voluptuously beautiful and luscious and not persnickety and -- "
"What flower would you call persnickety?" I goad him. "Something tight-assed like a marigold?"
He laughs, unmistakably merry. "Roses can be persnickety," he says. Then, true to his own nature, he turns reflective: "But that's more about what we've done to them, of course. It's hardly their fault."