Tell me about the outfits that Hedwig wears in the film. Each one seems to reflect a certain era in rock history. ^ Actually Arianne and Phyllis and Mike Potter the wig person. Arianne is the costume designer. They got together for a whole week, they went to salvation armies in Bakersfield. Arianne is a stylist for the rock stars, so we got a lot of cast offs from Madonna and Courtney Love and such to wear as well. They actually named each outfit, you know, the pink one is the Ricky Lee Jones, and I’m in the trailer and that one is the Chrissy Hynde. You know, she’s every woman.
It definitely worked. It came across in the movie especially in the scenes where you’re teaching Tommy Gnosis about rock history and what’s good and what’s not. ^ (Laughing) I love it, because it’s also a nice way, if kids do come and see this, to kind of teach them about their history.
The Hedwig character is actually based on someone that you knew in Kansas? ^ That’s true. My friend Brenda who was my best friend in Kansas when I was fourteen reminded me of the person who I remember as my brother’s babysitter (German army-wise). She used to invite us to her trailer, and in exchange for beer we would sort of act out all the story songs of the day. Like Harry Chapin and Barry Manilow and the Eagles, and we would sort of act them out, and she would laugh in her world weary way. Then there would be a date coming up the driveway, and she never seemed to know who they were or what they were going to look like, but there was another date every day. We would have to out the back. It was a trailer with a back door, and she would look out the front and if she didn’t like the look of them she would go out the back too. Only later Brenda said “I think she was a workin’ lady”. Which warmed our memories even more to realize she was surviving in her own special way.
Are any of the other characters in the Hedwig saga based on anyone in particular. Tommy Gnosis seems so rich as a character it just seems that there’s someone else he’s based on. ^ Tommy was a little bit me when I started writing it. When I started writing it with Steven Trask, as sort of my barometer and composer, it was more about me. I was the son of a general and so was Tommy, and so it was originally me and I was brought up very Catholic and his Gnostic Christian view of the bible and of genesis was sort of the way I thought about things. But once Hedwig took over, I plopped my emotional autobiography in her and let Tommy go, and he became a little more cowardly and shallow than he was originally intended to be, but still a sympathetic guy, just not really up to the challenges put before him artistically or emotionally. He sort of was me, and everyone else is quite fictional.
What does General Mitchell think of the film and your career at this point? ^ Both my parents were a little alarmed at first. The turn my career was taking after illustrious Broadway musicals and such. I was sort of getting bored and they thought I was going off the deep end or something. It took them awhile to come and see it, they were a little scared of it. They still can’t really discuss it at length, but I think the outside approval has helped them. You know, you kind of have to go to Japan sometimes to be a rock star. Now they’re very proud and they were at Sundance wearing the foam wigs at the concert, you know General Mitchell and the wig, So, now they’re very excited, the whole extended family is into it. My mom is from Scotland and we’re going to be premiering at Edinburgh at sort of a British premier. So that will be kind of a homecoming for us.
I’ve read the bio, seen the movie, listened to the music, but can you tell me something about yourself that’s not in your official bio that might surprise us? ^ I guess, well talking about Scotland, I was in boarding school there when I was ten. Like a Benedictine boys low-rent boarding school, and there was a music ban. There was no music allowed except church music, and a couple of highland flames, know what I mean? I smuggled in a couple of things, but I remember clearly the song “Fox on the Run” by Sweet. It was heyday of glamrock on Britain. I was the librarian, so the only place I could play it was on the library record player, which was reserved for Gregorian chants, and whatever was available. I remember going in there with my headphones in the library surrounded by the lies of deceit dancing like a madman alone. ^ There’s something informative about that period in another way, because my first role that I ever played in a play or a musical, since it was a boys school, I was given the coveted role of the Virgin Mary in the nativity musical. So that may have been the beginning of the end for me.
Can you pinpoint the band that you might have open if Hedwig ever went on a World Tour? ^ Well, I know who I’d love to open for, Hedwig has opened for a lot of people over the years. (Laughs) That’s a joke by the way. I’d say opening for us, a lot of these people might find it an insult to open for anyone…
What about if you could open for anyone? ^ I think if I could open for someone, my favorite band would be the Pretenders. They’re one of my top five bands ever. Pretenders or the Violent Femmes.
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