Like a Midler 2.0, vamping from tender to outrageous

Bridget Everett performing at Joe’s Pub. Photo by Bob Krasner

BY BOB KRASNER  |  Bridget Everett has a secret identity. The wild, half-naked chanteuse onstage at Joe’s Pub chugging Chardonnay and singing, “I’ve got the pussy, I’ve got the power!” is, in real life, Bridget Everett. Although her onstage persona, which Everett refers to as “a superhero version of myself,” is brassy and large in every way, she’s still a slightly wide-eyed girl who followed the yellow brick road from Manhattan, Kansas, to Downtown Manhattan 15 years ago. It was here that she discovered a scene that was like none other.

“Nowhere else has the diversity of performers that the East Village has,” she said. Seeing performers like Murray Hill and the drag queen Sweetie opened her eyes to new possibilities.

“I always wanted to be a singer but I didn’t know how,” she said. “They showed me that I could tell my own story and there would be an audience for it. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

Her first show, “At Least It’s Pink,” a collaboration with Kiki and Herb’s Kenny Mellman, was followed by “Our Hit Parade” (also with Mellman and a revolving roster of special guests) and “Bridget Everett and The Tender Moments” (with her band, which includes Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz).

Her onstage antics include pressing her ample breasts into a patron’s face, eating off a customer’s plate and stripping a young hunk so that she can sit on him while singing, but these are not the only reasons why Joe’s Pub is full for every show. The fact is that the outrageous woman climbing atop the piano has heart, soul, a great voice and a growing catalog of original tunes.

Friend and collaborator Justin Vivian Bond said of her, “Bridget’s outrageousness is so explosive that it sometimes obscures the fact that she’s tremendously talented. She’s a fantastic singer. As a comedian her timing is impeccable and as a human being she is seemingly fearless.”

Though her tales of a dysfunctional childhood, adolescence and adulthood provide much of the comedy, listening to her duet with her pianist on “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is somewhat transcendent. Equally affecting is “Endless Road,” the song she wrote for her late sister, which deals with grief, guilt, love and the hope that time will heal the pain of loss.

“My family used humor to get through every situation,” she explained. “Of the six kids, I wasn’t the funniest, but I had the best voice.” Her stories, one of which notably involves her brother and a hot dog, are at least “based on the truth.”

“I take experiences from my own life and turn them into a monologue,” she said. “I don’t rehearse a whole lot. I spend a lot of time in my bathtub coming up with ideas.”

One is tempted to describe her as a modern Bette Midler, but the Divine Miss M never opened a show in a see-through chemise belting out a number called “We’re Gonna Fuck Some Shit Up.” Regular fans have lately found themselves having to move over to accommodate celebrity patrons such as Ben Stiller, Lili Taylor, Kathy Najimy and Patti LuPone.

LuPone, who has joined Everett onstage, told us, “Bridget has a great voice and guts. I am in awe of her.” No less a fan is Bridget’s mother (“a wickedly funny, lifelong Republican school teacher”), who finally, to Everett’s trepidation, saw her daughter perform.

“Bridget,” she told her after the show, “that was freedom in motion.”

Taking a minute to ponder where she’s going, the 40-year-old performer said, “I feel like I’ve hit my stride and the world is slowly getting ready for me. I’ve waited a long time for people to understand me as performer.”

It seems that her time has come.

 

Everett’s upcoming shows at Joe’s Pub, at 425 Lafayette St., include “Our Hit Parade,” starring Everett, Kenny Mellman and Neal Medlyn, on Oct. 24, at 9:30 p.m.; and “Bridget Everett and the Tender Moments,” on Nov. 7, at 9:30 p.m.

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