by JK Clarke
Covering a Tammy Faye Starlite gig is pretty much a breeze. There’s never a question of entertainment quality or whether one has witnessed an innovative performance. That’s pretty much a given. The only wild card is what genre of performer is showing up. She can flawlessly cover the Rolling Stones or equally well a Tammy Wynette-esque country singer. Last spring at Pangea in Cabaret Marianne she was, for all intents and purposes, Marianne Faithfull. Her renditions are not just spot-on impersonations, but rather an inhabiting and re-personalization of the character she’s taking on. This time she has returned to Pangea in the East Village in Tammy Faye Starlite Presents Holy War 2016: The New Regime, as an evangelical country singer who’s certain the world is on the verge of the apocalypse, mostly as a result of Hillary Clinton’s impending presidency, rampant homosexuality and immigration.
Starlite, the nom de guerre of New York native Tammy Lang, has been performing for some twenty years, despite her appearing to be no older than her mid-30s. Her characters are often hypocritical opposites of their righteous selves. Case in point, the spitfire Holy Warrior of this performance wanders up to the mic, clearly inebriated, and proceeds to spew racist and bigoted invective in the most charming manner possible in between such “Christian” staples as “Spirit in the Sky” (Norman Greenbaum) and “Holy War” (Ronnie Dunn); not to mention a parody cover of the Beatles’ “Get Back” that urges us to “get back to Jesus.”
Clad in a sexy, all-white romper with lace cuffs to complement her platinum blond hair, offset by cherry red lips and a sparkly diamond cross dangling in a revealing cleavage, Starlite’s performance is more banter offset by songs rather than the other way around. She rambles about everything from having to “get out of the USA while there was a colored in the White House” to societal preoccupation with gender fluidity (“You know what else is fluid? Metastatic cancer. It takes over your organs”). Her outrageousness even folded in the (soon to be momentous) news of that very evening (for the October 7 show) that GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump had been recorded saying he could freely “grab” women’s’ genitals. Starlite saw no problem with her preferred candidates words and actions: “Why if he did that to me, I’d feel like I’m part of the administration.” And with that she launched—sounding vocally like Patti Smith if she drank Anita Bryant’s orange juice—into the Margaret Lewis & Myra Smith tune, “The Rib” which reminds women from whence the came.
The set, and Tammy Faye’s superb vocals, is backed by a superb ensemble, including classical violinist (and actress known for her role in Jim Jarmusch’s classic film Stranger Than Paradise) Eszter Balint; David Dunton on piano; Richard Feridun on electric guitar; and Keith Hartel on bass guitar and vocals. They’re an unassuming, straight-man band, who don’t give away a thing and aren’t the least bit shocked when Tammy Faye, stumbling and a tad irritated, makes them restart songs or playfully mocks their stylings. It’s all part of the act, of course, but Starlite’s buffoonery is more Groucho than Mae West, as she rolls her eyes, more sarcastic than sexy, moaning the country-flecked lament, “Did I Shave My Vagina For This?” (Tammy Lang/Mark McCarron). And you know the audience in the small, sold out venue is right there with her as they happily lean in and sing along.
Tammy Faye Starlite Presents Holy War 2016: The New Regime. Two remaining shows: Tonight, October 14 and Friday, October 28 at 7PM at Pangea (178 Second Avenue, between 11th and 12th Streets). www.pangeanyc.com/music
Photos: Albie Mitchell
Outdoor Photo: Bob Gruen