Loose Tits and Painkillers: A Mean-Spirited Review of Kiki and Herb

Categories: Music


"... Listening to you sing reminds me of the bathroom during one of our many fiber awareness weeks here at the Foothills of Serenity, and not in a good way ...."

(Famed drag cabaret duo Kiki and Herb comes to SF this month. The character of Kiki pushes 80 this year, and the SF Weekly found a former colleague's review of their schtick.)
--Posted by Michael Leaverton

Kiki and Herb Show Review
By Madame Sadie DuPayne Dolittle; Singer, Entertainer, Mentalist (Ret.)

Editor's note: The following transcript came to us, unbidden, by a former cabaret singer whose mark upon the world escapes even Google. We decided to print it -- she may have thought we were the Guardian. Our own theater review will appear in next Wednesday's issue.

Young man, of course I mean leave the bottle. As I was saying, when a man phoned and asked for a comment on Kiki and Herb, naturally I assumed it would be for an obituary or lawsuit, and I nearly burst an IV when I was informed that Kiki was not only still breathing but was doing so while pursing song. For money. So permit a fading singer in her twilight years, one who had the decency to go out in view of the top in 1961 at a riverfront nightclub that catered equally to fishermen and dogs, a few moments of reflection, and please edge the bottle a bit closer. Now then. Let's give our dear old Kiki what's been coming to her. You may begin transcribing my words … now.


Kiki, when I left you at the flophouse in '57, you gave me your word you would never grace the stage again in exchange for the rest of whatever I had in my glass. I held up my side of arrangement, but here you are a mere 50 years later after picking up that prissy Herb from whatever piano recital you passed out in the gutter in front of. Last year, when they rolled me to the veranda to catch the fog and presented me with the entertainment pages, carefully clipped of anything that had to do with "rock and roll," television and furniture design, I noticed you'd been dragging your filth around on the boards of Broadway. Dear Kiki, what you do is not an "act." If stumbling around drunk while moaning about children passes for entertainment, then I should not be waking up in the psych ward every Sunday. Your voice does not, as the New York Times so inaccurately put it, suggest "some wondrous hybrid of Marianne Faithfull, Elaine Stritch, Patti Smith and Kitty Carlisle Hart," whatever any of that means. (And I won't begin to claim to understand the following, which I had to have slowly repeated to me several times by the halfwit who brings me lunch: "Fakery is often more real than reality in the glamorous and tawdry world of theater.")
Anyway, it's a fine thing my great grandson Willert had the good sense to purchase the third balcony of the American Conservatory Theater under my direct orders, so I could attend your new show, Kiki and Herb: Alive From Broadway, and warn the people of San Francisco about what just blew in on the transcontinental. And, my dear Kiki, it looks like I was just in time.
First, I have no time, nor do the people of this city, to listen to you go on about whatever war we are in or whatever president is in office or whatever you think about anything -- if I wanted my news from an alcoholic whore I would watch the evening news. I was forced to do with you what I did with dear departed Herbert whenever he talked politics: take a Valium and imagine him naked in the stables with a trio of groundsmen and our kitchen boy, which is how I found him on that delightful evening before he hastily redrafted the will. Still, I detected laughter -- in fact, there was so much laughter I had to check to see if you'd brought Henny Youngman onstage (you had not) -- and of course that has no place in politics or current events, so I can only assume it went poorly.
Second, Kiki, when it is time for a lady to pass out, she does so in her dressing room, not in a tree in the middle of the stage. When the shot of medicine I took in '64 turned out to be sabotaged with something the doctor referred to as quinine, do not think for a minute I crashed headfirst onto the planks like a flophouse whore -- I had the good sense to do it in the wings, or nearly there. In '47, I worked out a system of intake that suited me quite well, though I required a medical technician and a blood-alcohol machine that we hitched to the bus. I believe Radio Shack carries a portable version today. Anyway, keeping myself fixed in the range of 2.1 to 2.4 kept the sweats, nausea, and spiders at bay on the one end and the blackout rages, psychosis, and snakes to a minimum on the other. I suggest you begin monitoring yourself before things get out of hand.
And your voice. I see it hasn't changed one bit. That is not a compliment. Listening to you sing reminds me of the bathroom during one of our many fiber awareness weeks here at the Foothills of Serenity, and not in a good way.
And really, Kiki, do something about your breasts. When one loses the elasticity of youth, when one’s bosom falls lower than the spirit of my psychiatrist, one removes them from public consumption with the aid of a shawl or a tarp. One does not sheath them in rayon and present them to the world as if they were the afternoon's catch. Really, I'm sure under all that makeup, your face looks like a bottom of a river delta, just like mine. I only hope you did not resort to injections, at your age. Willert referred to me as "Klingon" for an entire year after I got a hold of a stray box of medicine. I have no idea what he meant by that, but he is a good boy.
As for your songs, well, darling, what is there to say? I had to raise my voice, loudly, before anyone would answer my question about what in God's name you were singing up there. Finally a nasty child of perhaps 40 glared at me and released a few titles. I have never heard of "Radio Face You Bitch" and "Jesus Christ, Don't Believe the Hype," and I do not wish to hear them again. Apparently you sang "Crazy" by someone called Gnarled Bark and not Patsy Cline, but I couldn't tell the difference one way or the other. And is anybody really supposed to know who Mark Eitzel is?
But, good Lord Kiki, how did the audience applaud? Perhaps it was from sheer gratitude that they could finally go home, or maybe they were all participating in a collective wager. Possibly someone had heard about your infamous run at Robber's Den in '46, in which you personally thanked each and every audience member with a private performance among the voluminous rats in the alley out back. Anyway, as the din rose to my perch high above what must surely be a bald spot under your frightful wig, I thought it was all rather odd, as if I had missed something essential about the whole affair. All this applause for a woman whose bosom, if it wasn't anchored in place like a compound fracture, would evidence a three-second delay, trailing the movements of her body like two dispirited pugs following a prostitute? I do not understand. But it does give me hope. I have been toying with a return to stage for 45 long years, and the world, or at least San Francisco, is clearly ready.

Lastly, on a side note to Herb: Your piano playing is dazzling. If you want accompany a real star, I suggest you scale the walls of the Foothills of Serenity. Lights out are at 7, but the sun doesn't go down till after that, as you may know. I often retire for the summers, so check the coma wing. Just prepare a martini, disconnect the ventilator, take my hand, and hit me thrice over the head. After a few rehabilitation exercises my brain will start transferring signals again, and I'll be ready.

Now give me my painkillers and get the fuck out of my room.

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