Joey Arias

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Joey Arias
Joey Arias, at the 2009 HOWL! Festival in the East Village
At the 2009 HOWL! Festival in the East Village
Other namesJoseph Arias, Joe Arias
Known forDrag artist, cabaret singer, performance artist

Joey Arias is an American artist based in New York City, best known for work as a performance artist, cabaret singer, and drag artist, but also as a published author, comedian, stage persona and film actor. He also goes by the names Joseph Arias and Joe Arias.

1970s and 1980s[edit]

After high school he sang with the rock band Purlie, which had a 1973 single on Capitol Records, and then had a stint with improvisational comedy group the Groundlings.[1] In 1976 he and his best friend Kim Hastreiter - who would later co-found Paper magazine - drove across country in a pickup truck and moved to New York City.[1][2]

Arias eventually got a job at the Fiorucci designer clothing store. He and other store staff like Vincent Gallo, performed (danced and modeled clothes) in the shop windows. While working at the store he became friends with alternative musician Klaus Nomi, for whom he sang backup vocals and designed sets and costumes. On December 15, 1979, Nomi and Arias appeared on Saturday Night Live accompanying David Bowie for a live performance of three songs: "The Man Who Sold the World", "TVC 15" and "Boys Keep Swinging".[1] While in New York, he also performed with Ann Magnuson in a band called Strange Party which recorded and performed in various night clubs. Upon Nomi's death, Arias became executor to the Klaus Nomi (Sperber) estate. A tribute to his friend is held in Berlin every year, and the documentary film The Nomi Song was released in 2004. A film on the life Arias shared with Nomi was in development in 2010 with Alan Cumming slated to play Nomi.[3]

Arias, who is openly gay,[4] gradually became involved in the burgeoning 1980s New York performance art scene, appearing regularly at Club 57 and other downtown venues. During these years he also began a career in cabaret, channeling the vocal style and mannerisms of Billie Holiday.


In the early 1990s, Arias covered the songs of Holiday in a show titled Strange Fruit which ran for over a year at the Astor Place Theatre on Lafayette Street in New York City and received a positive notice from John Lahr in The New Yorker.[5]

The 1990s also saw Arias perform in weekly shows at Bar d'O, an intimate lounge in the West Village of New York City. Regular guest performers at Bar d'O included Sade Pendavis, Daniel Isengart and Flotilla Debarge. The evenings have inspired annual reunion shows each December at Indochine restaurant and became the subject of a 2011 documentary film produced by Bobby Sheehan.[6]

2000s and 2010s[edit]

In 2003 Arias moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to star in Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino.[7] In addition to starring in the show, he co-wrote two of the show's songs. After six years, Arias returned to New York where he starred in Arias with a Twist, a collaboration with puppeteer Basil Twist at HERE Arts Center. Produced by Barbara Busackino and Tandem Otter Productions, the show received a positive review from Ben Brantley in the New York Times.[8] The show has toured to Los Angeles and Paris and spawned a "docufantasy" film of the same name which premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival in 2010.[9]

Arias with a Twist: Deluxe, a revamped and expanded version of the show, returned to New York for a limited run at Abrons Arts Center from September 14 to October 16, 2011. Arias' relationship with Abrons began in October 2010 when Joey Arias in Concert marked Arias' first concert appearances in New York in over a decade. Based on the success of the show, Earl Dax collaborated with Josh Wood who produced Arias in concert at New York's Town Hall on April 21, 2010.


Arias continues to perform in venues such as Joe's Pub and Feinstein's/54 Below.[10]

In 2019, his archives, which also include material relating to Klaus Nomi, were acquired by Harvard's Houghton Library. A finding aid to the collection is available online:


Film credits include Big Top Pee-wee; Mondo New York; Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; Flawless; To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar; Wigstock: The Movie and the 2016 film The Zanctuary, by the Spanish director José André Sibaja, and co-starring with Amanda Lepore & Sophia Lamar. He appeared in the German documentary Wie ich lernte die Zahlen zu lieben/How I Learned to Love the Numbers (2014) by Oliver Sechting and Max Taubert. In 2012, he was interviewed in the documentary feature film Jobriath A.D..

Christmas with the Crawfords[edit]

Arias portrayed Joan Crawford in New York and San Francisco productions of Christmas with the Crawfords, an original holiday spoof tradition since 1992 of Christina Crawford's book Mommie Dearest.[11][12] The San Francisco-based production premiered Off-Off-Broadway at the Grove Street Playhouse in 2000.[13] Arias also starred in a 2001[14] and 2015 revival of the play at the Chelsea Playhouse.

Personal life[edit]

Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he was six when he moved with his family to Los Angeles.[1] In 2014, Arias married his long time partner, Scottish artist Juano Diaz.They were divorced in 2017.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Colman, David (2011-10-05). "Joey Arias of 'Arias With a Twist'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  2. ^ "Remembering the 1980's New York Performance Scene with Joey Arias". HISKIND Magazine. 2017-02-11. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  3. ^ "Klaus Nomi Movie In The Works!". Village Voice. 29 April 2010. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  4. ^ Kaufman, Sarah (October 21, 2004), "The Daring Young Man Off the Flying Trapeze", The Washington Post, retrieved 2007-11-06
  5. ^ Lahr, John (August 22, 1994), "Arias on Holliday", The New Yorker, retrieved 2011-11-08
  6. ^ "Bar d'O". imdb. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  7. ^ Friess, Steve (November 11, 2003), "Heavenly host", The Advocate, archived from the original on June 22, 2008, retrieved 2007-11-06
  8. ^ Brantley, Ben (June 19, 2008). "Effigies and Aliens Cavort in a Cross-Dressing Wonderland". New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Arias with a Twist". imdb. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  10. ^ Frisby, Troy (May 5, 2017). "BWW Interview: Sherry Vine & Joey Arias Chat About the Evolution of Drag and Their Stripped-Down New Show at Feinstein's/54 Below". Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  11. ^ Nichols, JamesMichael (2014-12-05). "'Christmas With The Crawfords' To Premiere In NYC". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  12. ^ "Joey Arias, Chris March, and Sherry Vine Star in Christmas With the Crawfords". 2014-11-24. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  13. ^ Winship, Frederick M. (2001-12-05). "Christmas With Mommie Dearest". UPI. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  14. ^ Portantiere, Michael (2001-11-26). "A Very Crawford Christmas". Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  15. ^ Nichols, JamesMichael (2014-10-26). "After Dark: Meet Joey Arias, Drag Icon And Nightlife Legend". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  16. ^ Murphy, Tim (2010-10-07). "Scene City: Happy Birthday, Joey Arias". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-27.

External links[edit]