BY Brandon Voss
July 21 2009 12:00 AM ET
Your release party is being hosted by 20-something performers Jeffery Self and Cole Escola, and you recently made a cameo as a nun on their Logo series, Jeffery & Cole Casserole . Because the LGBT community is so often divided by ageism, it's good to see collaboration between two generations. Are you teaching the children well and letting them lead the way?I've talked about this with John Cameron Mitchell. People our age have lost a lot of our mentors to AIDS, so John and I both have made a conscious effort to try to connect with the younger generations of gays. I do it selfishly because I'm so inspired by them, but I'm also inspired by Debbie Harry, who's a generation older than me. She's still so active in the downtown art scene, she comes to see everyone's shows, and she showed up to do backup vocals when we did our Kiki & Herb record. I see how that's kept her young, relevant, and so intensely cool, so I want to be like that. I don't want to be one of those people who alienates themselves and becomes brittle. I like to keep young people around me to keep myself flexible and engaged. Many of these young, up-and-coming performers inspired me to feel that it was possible to make a career change right in the middle of my most productive years.
Speaking of the kids, proceeds from your concert will benefit the Ali Forney Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeless LGBT youths.What they're doing is so important because gays, lesbians, and trans -- especially trans -- have such high suicide rates. Even today, people are sending their children out on the street, or the children have suffered such terrible abuse that they had to leave home. Homelessness, teenage prostitution, and no education about safer sex are matters of life and death. Anything we can do to save some kid's life, provide a safe haven, and make them into a strong person is the most important thing that we can do as a community. It's an amazing thing to be a part of.
Tell me about your show Justin Does Tragedy in London on September 3.Well, the National Portrait Gallery is doing an exhibition called "ICONIC," and they've asked a bunch of famous homosexuals to choose icons and iconic images other than those in the National Portrait Gallery's collection. I chose Vivien Leigh because I was obsessed with Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche DuBois when I was a teenager. Vivien Leigh was one of the greatest English actresses, and she played two of the most iconographic American Southern roles. I guess the show's all about the ugly duckling aspiring to be a swan; many years later, the ugly duckling is sitting in a bar, talking about when he had been a swan. But was he ever really a swan? That's where the tragedy comes in. How many times can the Phoenix rise back out of the ashes before it goes, "You know what? I'm tired of this." I think that's what happened to Michael Jackson: He rallied and rallied, and then he couldn't do it again, so he just died.
Do you see yourself as a tragic figure?No, not really, but I definitely could have potentially been one. All of the signposts were there pointing toward tragedy, but somehow, by sheer force of will, I've managed to avoid it thus far.
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