Justin Vivian Bond

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Justin Vivian Bond
Birth name Stanley Huffman Bond III[1]
Born (1963-05-09) May 9, 1963 (age 51)
Hagerstown, Maryland
Genres Alternative, cabaret
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, drag queen
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1989-present
Associated acts Kiki and Herb
Website justinbond.com

Justin Vivian Bond (born May 9, 1963) is an American singer-songwriter, performance artist, occasional actor and Radical Faerie. Described as a "fixture of the New York avant-garde",[2] Bond came to prominence playing the role of Kiki DuRayne in the drag cabaret act Kiki and Herb from the early 1990s through to 2004. Assigned male at birth, Bond is transgender[3] and prefers the gender-inclusive honorific Mx. (in place of Ms./Mr.) and pronoun v (with vself instead of her/himself).[4]

Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, Bond went on to study theater at Adelphi University before moving to San Francisco after graduating in 1985. It was here that Bond met Kenny Mellman, and they began a cabaret act together, which would eventually lead to them creating the characters of Kiki and Herb. Bond designed Kiki to be an elderly alcoholic woman who would perform covers of pre-existing songs in her own distinct style. Bond decided to bring an end to the Kiki character in 2004, subsequently embarking on a solo career, being featured in John Cameron Mitchell's film Shortbus (2006) before releasing the EP Pink Slip (2009), followed in 2011 by the album Dendrophile and publication of the memoir Tango: My Childhood Backwards and in High Heels.

With a musical voice, self-described as "kind of woody and full with a lot of vibration",[5] Bond has received numerous accolades for performing—winning Obie (2001), Bessie (2004), and Ethyl (2007) awards, while also earning a 2007 Tony nomination. Bond performances have been described as being "hilarious, heart-wrenching, vulnerable, sardonic, Wiccan, and world-weary all at the same time."[6]

Early life[edit]

Growing up in the remote suburbs of Hagerstown, Maryland, Bond's experiences with being queer began at an early age. After starting elementary school in 1969, Bond's preference for female playmates was viewed by teachers as abnormal behavior.[7] It was during the first grade that Bond began wearing v's mother's lipstick, something which she put a stop to as soon as she found out.[8]

Bond has described feeling "invisible" in high school.[6] The local Church of the Brethren served as an early creative outlet, where Bond sang in the youth choir.[6] Bond was active in community theater, performing in Brigadoon, Kiss Me, Kate, and The Sound of Music with the Potomac Playmakers. Bond began voice lessons at age 13, pursued a theater degree at Adelphi University, graduated in 1985, and later moved to New York City.[6] Bond's 2011 memoir Tango discloses a psychiatric diagnosis of adult attention deficit disorder, which helped explain much childhood behavior.[9]

Kiki and Herb: 1989–2005[edit]

"Kiki and Herb met in the Eerie Childrens Institute in Western Pennsylvania in 1934. By the time they were in their late teens they were playing professionally on the Burlesque Circuit where Kiki, who had just given birth to her first child - a bastard named Bradford - was billed as "The Completely Insane Miss Kiki DuRane". In 1957 Kiki and Herb released their first LP "The Hazy Days of Kiki" to universal indifference."

Part of the fictional biography for Kiki and Herb.[10]

Bond is best known for the role of Kiki DuRane, one half of the lounge duo Kiki and Herb. The character of Kiki is a "boozy octogenarian"[5] and bitter chanteuse known for her raucous and edgy medleys of unusual song covers. Bond performed the role in drag, alongside Kiki's piano-playing sidekick Herb, played by Kenny Mellman.[11] The Kiki and Herb cabaret act came out of the queer activist and underground scenes in San Francisco, with initial performances in the 1990s at Eichelberger's. Bond moved to New York City in 1994 and the act developed, the duo went so far as to create a fictional biography.

Kiki and Herb became a successful stage act, leading one of Bond's interviewers, John Russell, to remark that Kiki had become "an icon to rival Hedwig."[5] One of those particularly influenced by Bond's act was Jake Shears, who would go on to found the band Scissor Sisters, largely inspired by the Kiki and Herb Christmas Show. Bond and Shears would become friends, with the Scissor Sisters being invited to support Kiki and Herb at The Knitting Factory club, and the latter later returned the favour when the band went on their first big tour after their eponymous debut album (2004) went platinum in the United Kingdom.[6]

Kiki and Herb in 2006

The show, fronted by Bond, met with more critical acclaim with each successive appearance and developed a cult following. They performed extensively, namely in London's Soho Theatre and Queen Elizabeth Hall and New York's The Knitting Factory and Carnegie Hall, as well as a host of other venues worldwide. Their show Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway was nominated for a 2007 Tony for Special Theatrical Event.[12] After over a decade of performing as Kiki however, Bond decided to give up the stage act, later relating that "it comes to a point when you think, well is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?... I decided it was time for a career change."[5]

In addition to Kiki and Herb shows, Bond performed with backup band The Freudian Slippers until 2001. In 2004 Bond appeared in Imaginary Heroes alongside Sigourney Weaver, singing at a Christmas party.[13]

Solo career and Shortbus: 2006–2008[edit]

Performing with the House of Whimsy Players at The Kitchen in October 2006, Bond staged Re:Galli Blond (A Sissy Fix), "a self-penned musical spectacle of transgender oppression and uplift."[2] Bond also appeared in Paul Festa's Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006).[14]

Bond was featured in Shortbus (2006), a film directed by fellow Radical Faerie John Cameron Mitchell. In it, Bond played the mistress of ceremonies at the eponymous avant-garde salon Shortbus, appearing in the final scene singing "In the End", written by Scott Matthew. One journalist commented that this expressed "in just one scene that heightened sense of simultaneous hope and despair in post–9/11 downtown New York City."[6]

In June 2006 Bond also appeared in a one-off informal show When David Met Justin at London's Bush Hall, during which Bond chatted and shared music with English cabaret performer David Hoyle.[15] In December 2008 Bond appeared in the Tiger Lillies show Sinderella on London's South Bank, and is credited in the band's album of the same name.[16]

Pink Slip, Dendrophile, and Silver Wells: 2009–present[edit]

Moving on from the role of Kiki, Bond began writing lyrics, and although nervous about doing so, was encouraged by songwriting friends Our Lady J, Taylor Mac, and Jake Shears. The resulting five track EPPink Slip came out in June 2009, featuring four original songs ("The New Depression," "May Queen," "The Puppet Song," "Michael in Blue") and a cover of Radiohead's "Arpeggi/Weird Fishes". Bond described the decision to release an EP rather than a full-length album: "I had this goal of getting something out and I wasn't really sure how. So I decided I was gonna put an EP out to demystify the process." Pink Slip was recorded at Le Poisson Rouge and Bond hoped income from the EP would help fund the recording of an album.[5]

In July 2009 Bond made an appearance on the Logo TV comedy series Jeffery & Cole Casserole, playing a Catholic nun who serves as the principal of the show's all-girl Catholic school.[citation needed]

The new show Justin Bond: Christmas Spells opened in December 2010 at the Abrons Arts Center, New York City. Based upon the short story Dixie Belle: The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written by Bond's friend, the novelist Kate Bornstein, the show "imagines Huck Finn as a tranny hooker in a brothel in New Orleans after the Civil War. It's written as a letter Huck writes on Christmas Eve to Tom Sawyer to catch him up. So I start out as Huck, who's now Sassy Sarah working in Madame Violet's Parlor of Elysian Delights."[2] Starring as Finn, Bond sung Christmas carols as well as original songs; other characters were performed by the drag troupe Pixie Harlots.[2]

"As for Vivian, that's my self-given middle name. Justin is a very male-identified name, and I wanted something that would balance it. I had an uncle named Vivian Francis. He was a wonderful person, but he changed his name to Victor. He didn't like being Vivian. But it's fine with me."

Justin Vivian Bond, 2010.[2]

Soon after, Bond decided to clarify Bond's identity as a transperson, including hormone treatment in order to feminize Bond's appearance,[4] although not undergoing gender reassignment surgery, telling one journalist that "I like my penis, and I am keeping it, but I am creating a transbody—a physical record on my body and a medical record that I am a transgendered person."[6] Bond also adopted the middle name of 'Vivian', subsequently identifying as "Justin Vivian Bond" instead of "Justin Bond".[2][4]

The April 2011 release of Dendrophile, Bond's first full-length solo album, resulted from a collaboration with pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett of the band Doveman.[17] Bond had chosen the title based on a personal interest in dendrophilia, the sexual attraction to trees. Dendrophile contained a mix of original compositions and covers, with Bond telling one reporter that "I wanted it to be sort of like an early-'70s folk-pop variety album, because my favorite singers are people who aren't easy to pigeonhole, like Judy Collins, who introduced me to the music of Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen, old British folk songs, contemporary pop songs and show tunes. She refused to be stuck in one genre."[17]

Bond starred as Jackie Curtis in Jukebox Jackie at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club between May and June 2012. In July 2012 Bond released the album Silver Wells featuring covers of songs made famous by Ronee Blakley, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell, Mark Eitzel, Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weill, among others. In late 2012 Bond released a fragrance, a signature "transcent" called The Afternoon of a Faun, inspired by the French poem and modernist ballet of the same name.

Recognition and influence[edit]

Bond was namechecked in the 1999 Le Tigre song "Hot Topic" from the band's eponymous debut album.[citation needed]

Discography[edit]

Title Year Format Notes
Do You Hear What We Hear? 2000 Album Performed with Kenny Mellman as Kiki and Herb.
Kiki and Herb Will Die for You: Live at Carnegie Hall 2005 Album Performed with Kenny Mellman as Kiki and Herb.
Pink Slip 2009 EP
Dendrophile 2011 Album
Silver Wells 2012 Album

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Director
2004 Imaginary Heroes Kiki Dan Harris
2006 Shortbus Justin Bond, host of avant-garde New York City salon named Shortbus. John Cameron Mitchell
2006 Apparition of the Eternal Church Kiki Paul Festa

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2009–10 Jeffery & Cole Casserole Principal Agnes Season 1, Episode 4: "The Election"
Season 2, Episode 4: "The Becky"
2010 Ugly Betty Manna Wintour Episode 13: "Chica and the Man"
2012 She's Living for This Vself "The Justin Vivian Bond Episode"

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bond, Justin Vivian (2011). Tango: My Childhood Backwards and in High Heels. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 978-1-55861-747-6. 

News and magazine articles[edit]

  • Pitillo, Angelo (6 April 2011). "Genre Bender". Paper. New York City. Retrieved 25 September 2011. 

Interviews[edit]

  • Voss, Brandon (July 2009). "Justin Time". The Advocate. New York City. Retrieved 5 August 2011. 

External links[edit]