Robin Byrd has been turning audiences on for more than 30 years with The Robin Byrd Show on cable TV's leased access. Now Robin is bringing her TV show to the stage with The Robin Byrd Show Live at NYC's famed Cutting Room (44 East 32nd Street, between Park and Madison) every Saturday night at 10pm! Similar to her TV show, The Robin Byrd Show Live boasts a host of talent from burlesque dancers to strippers, comedians to musicians, and celebrities to novelty acts. Click here for tickets!
1. The Robin Byrd Show has been on cable access for more than 30 years now. What do you feel your secret is to having such endurance? Just me being me and paying my bills to Time Warner [laughs]. I'm on leased access which they deem commercial use. I've always been on commercial use and we recently downsized because they changed the channel. Originally we were on Ch. 23, which was Ch. J, then we went to Ch. 35 then they changed us to Ch. 79. When they did that, the other producers that were on that channel didn't have much of a show, they only had commercials. I had the programming and they put the commercials around my show. They figured no one was watching so they all left. They left me interspersed between big blank spots. What I did was I changed all my shows to 10pm. I got rid of a lot of the other shows like Byrd Brain and Men4Men because The Robin Byrd show has a lot of men on it anyway and that's what people loved. So I thought, hmmm, everyone watches TV at 10pm, so they could watch me and go to bed early and not blame me for getting to bed late or they could get up early and watch me at 5am. I'm on Time Warner Cable 10pm everyday, and every morning from 5am-6am. Now with The Robin Byrd Show Live at The Cutting Room, I'm on 10pm there too, so it all coincides.
You can either watch the news at 10pm or you could watch me. Take your pic...you could either have nightmares about killings and robberies or you could be turned on and tucked in with me into fantasyland.
2. Prior to The Robin Byrd show you were working in the adult film industry, most famously known for Debbie Does Dallas. Why did you initially want to work in the adult film industry? I'm a creative person. To make a long story short, I ran away from home, took a GED, went to a two-year college (Manhattan Community College) and took up film (real film). I got involved in video because I wanted to be creative, not in front of the camera, but behind the camera. I wanted to make a change in the world, so when I continued on to a four-year college (Baruch College) and took some classes at the School of Visual Arts, the nude models were so boring that I decided to do some nude modeling for some extra money. I thought, "I will be there with my smile and inspire the artists." I did the nude modeling for the same reason I did film. I love sex.
A lot of the people I was having sex with were in the adult film industry. There were the East Coast people and the West Coast people. The East Coast people were all my friends, my orgy buddies. One of them was an agent who said to me, "Right now you are giving your sex away for free, you might as well get paid for it." I thought I could do that. I'll learn how to "act" and do this. Back then, the adult films were films, had some story line to it, it wasn't just turning the camera on and having sex. In my career, I've only done 13 films, films not videos.
I just wanted to inspire people to enjoy sex. Back in 70s, the adult films were more educational that recreational. They were made to teach people how to have sex. That's why I started doing it, plus I was getting paid to have sex. It's not like I was getting pimped out. I was doing something I enjoyed and if you enjoy something other people enjoy it while they are watching it.
3. What made you stop acting in the adult film industry? I stopped acting in it because there's always somebody younger, cheaper, and prettier. Just fill in the occupation and this applies to any occupation today [laughs].
4. Do you ever feel working in the adult film industry prevented you from doing anything you wanted to career wise? I don't believe it did. I believe what really prevented me from moving further in the entertainment world is the fact the people in those positions that can give you that work were Byrd watchers and what they did while I was on is stuck in the back of their minds. Traci Lords and Ron Jeremy have done things beyond adult film, but the suits are like "Robin Byrd, oh no, no, no." I always think that there's this invisible sign outside every door that says "No Robin Byrds." I feel I bring something out in people that is the nasty and that is what is in their heads. I don't think it's the fact I was in adult film movies because all films today have sex scenes and nudity. Maybe some people don't find me talented enough, but I'm certainly entertaining enough, so I think it's more in the person who makes these decisions than me.
Me: I get it. They can only see you as this one thing.
Robin: Right. That's totally the opposite of what I taught people. Don't put people in a folder. You are not that porn person. You are not that writer person. You are just a person. It's tough to get advertisers on my show. My average viewer, eats, sleeps, and drinks, so why can I get advertisers from Coca Cola or Arby's (R.B. are my initials [laughs] and Carson Kressley, who's currently starring in NEWSical the Musical, always jokes about that, hey RB or here comes RB (like Arby's)). While some of the original suits are no longer there, it's the children of the suits who were watching my show, who might give me a chance, but don't, so it's sort of like the suits are still up there.
5. What made you initially want to start The Robin Byrd Show and what has been the best part about hosting the show? I wanted people to have an alternative for adult entertainment, something different than The Tom Snyder Show, The Dick Cavett Show, or The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. It's late at night, let me turn you on and tuck you in or as Michael Musto calls me, "The Mr. Rogers of Adult." Let me tell you your bedtime story. If you don't have a loved one, you always have me. I really mean that. People come up to me and tell me, "I really did have you because I was coming out of a bad relationship" or since my show was in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and today, so many people lost their loved ones to AIDS and they didn't have anyone anymore. I was always telling people to get your rubbers and have safe sex. I was reminding you to brush your teeth, put on your pajamas whether they are silk, satin, or leather, and if you were in the closet it's okay, stay in the closet. Don't come out of the closet if you don't feel comfortable, stay in there with your suits and your ties and your shoes and your skirts. It was okay to be who you wanted to be. No one else was saying that. I didn't say those things because nobody was saying it; I said it because that is what was in my heart. Your heart is really what guides you in this universe. If you listen to your heart, the universe will have everything mapped out for you. That's how I feel and how I live. I do channeling with clairvoyant and one time she was channeling Arc Angel Michael and he was saying through her "You have to bring humor into the darkness." That didn't make sense to me for a while, but I recorded it and download it every once in a while, I listen to it and now it makes sense. I'm bringing humor and my stuff to The Cutting Room every week, at night, humor to the dark.
6. That's a great segue way. What made you want to bring The Robin Byrd Show to the stage and what does your live show give your fans that your TV show does not? Me, live in person. Touch me, feel me, give me a hug and I'll hug you back. With the push forward from Spin Cycle, run by Chip Duckett and Ron Lasko, they brought me out of semi-retirement. When the Cutting Room was being built, Chip called me and told me there was an opening on Saturday nights at 10pm and did I want to do my show live. Chip has done a great job of getting people to both be on my show and attend. He's a great promoter!
The TV show is in your face nakedness. The stage show is more of a tease. I'm very respectful to who may be coming who have never seen me before. I want to bring sexy back. I want to bring tease and titillation back or dickillation. I do perform some wardrobe malfunctions on the talent, but I'm very respectful of the venue.
7. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing The Robin Byrd Show live? I hope they walk way with joy, warmth, and want to come back to see another one. I said it earlier, but I feel like I'm bringing sexy back and you can't hold me down.
8. What did it feel like to have your show and you parodied by Cheri Oteri on SNL? Amazing. It felt like I arrived somewhere, I'm not sure where, but it felt like I arrived somewhere. She did three different skits in three different episodes. In the past before SNL actually came to me to do me, they had done "The Chicken Lady" and I always thought that sounds a lot like The Robin Byrd show, but they're not really saying that because they're not ready to do that. It's great to be on a national show. One skit is funnier than the next one. Cheri got me down so well. I actually made reference to Cheri's impersonation of me at last week's show because I made a movement that made think of it. Cheri had put her lip-gloss on and rubbed her lips together and then looked up into the sky because that is what I did, but what people don't realize is that I look up into the sky on my TV show because that is where my monitor was located. My monitor was not over the camera; it was off to the side. I would always look at my monitor to make sure I was centered and the sign was centered behind me; I was directing in front of the camera, but nobody knew that. Her interpretation was hilarious. The costumes she wore were perfect as well as the sign they used.
9. You have had roles in movies with two of my favorite entertainers…Sandra Bernhard in Without You I’m Nothing and Michael J. Fox in Life With Mikey. What was the best part about working with both of them? Michael J. Fox is such a sweetheart. We did that film in January, 10 degrees below zero. I don't wear fur, but they had me in a fur coat in front of the Melody Theatre (which doesn't exist anymore). I get my residual 2 cents every so often from SAG [laughs]. He was a big fan of mine. I love when they play it in the summer time; it reminds me of all the great fun we had. I had my own trailer for the movie, which was great. The trailer said "Bambi" on it (because that was the character I played) and we were filming in Times Square (and it was the seedy Times Square) and the tourists were walking by with their kids and this kid goes, "Mommy look, Bambi." When I heard that I opened the door and was like, "Hiiii," just because I wanted to bring humor and the mother whisked the kids away. It was so funny.
Sandra is always a hoot to work for. I'm in the shower scene (the famous shower scene) with Naomi Campbell. We had a lot of fun making that film. Sandra has asked me to do a few things together. We did a pilot in London with Tom Jones. Sandra was very generous, flying me into London for one day to film this pilot. We haven't done much in a while together, but it would be great to have her come do my show here at The Cutting Room.
10. What have you learned about yourself from your career? That I'm persistent. That I am still myself and I'm not any different on stage/TV than off of it. I'm consistent being me. I've also learned I'm ahead of my time. I joke that maybe one day I'll catch up to myself. I'm understanding and patient.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? That's funny because I've never received any advice. I've never been given any guidance. I've always built myself and my life. I am my own project. The best advice I could give is don't forget to breathe and let it flow.
12. You have been on a long search for your birth parents, with many obstacles blocking your way, the unwillingness of your adoptive mother to reveal that information and the sealed birth/adoption records. What initially made you want to find your birth parents? How have you found the strength to continue the search? I'm self-made; I built myself. I don't need anything from any family, but I believe in gay rights, women's rights, human rights and birthrights. You have a family. You know you're grandmother, grandfather and you know let's say they have gout, not just for health reasons, but just because. I just feel we're living in 2013 and I believe birthrights should go without saying. That's what continues me to voice out about it. My adoption records were sealed and New York State is one of the very few states that continues to maintain sealed records. What's the big deal?? It's just wrong. We have a lot of rights these days, but we still don't have birthrights. I have a right to know where I came from and that's what keeps me going.
12a. If you found your birth parents, what would you have said to them or asked them? I actually did find my birth mom, but she never admitted it. She actually went (in a high pitched voice) "It never happened. It never happened." She reacted so vehemently, so I knew it was her. All I wanted her to do was to fill me in on our medical history. But because of the way she reacted to me, I didn't push it, but I did know it was her.
14. Favorite skin care product? Neutrogena body oil light sesame and Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face.
15. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would fly or transport.
More on Robin:
Robin Byrd is an American former porn actress and the host of The Robin Byrd Show, which has appeared on commercial use cable television in New York City for over 30 years.
At the time of filming the porn classic, Debbie Does Dallas Robin was living in New York. After taking some college classes in marketing and advertising at Baruch College City University of NY, she attended The School of Visual Arts and worked as a nude model for art classes. Her adult entertainment career was launched when she was a finalist in the "Ms. All Bare America" contest and subsequently starred in porn films during the late 70's and early 80's.
After guest-hosting on a leased access cable show called Hot Legs, Robin changed the name to The Robin Byrd Show in 1979. The show has aired continuously since. Each episode features Robin in her trademark black crochet bikini and white fingernail polish, on an all-red set with a large, heart-shaped neon sign that bears the name of her show. Male and female porn stars and strippers appear as guests and perform fully nude stripteases, sometimes also taking calls from viewers. Robin and her guests also frequently engage in on screen play by the end of the episode. Celebrities from outside the adult entertainment industry such as Sandra Bernhard, Mark Kostabi, Michael Musto, among others have also been guests on her show.
In 1999, Richard Avedon photographed Robin for a feature in The New Yorker on famous and influential New Yorkers.
In 2000, Robin was a featured performer in the long running Off-Broadway production of (Shakespeare's Mid Summers Night Dream) called The Donkey Show produced by Jordan Roth. BMG released a CD called Lie Back And Get Comfortable - Robin Byrd presents Latin love songs to make love to.
Robin hosted several events during Gay Pride Week 2003 in New York. One was a frank discussion titled "Sex in the City" that featured a panel of academics, activists and physicians who explored the meaning LGBT sexual culture and health in New York today. Marc Juris, formerly of Fuse TV famously plastered Robin Byrd on New York City's bus fleet as part of its re-branding.
In 2005, Robin performed & hosted the absurd weekly "Speedo Bulge" contests at the Fire Island Pines Pavilion.
In 2012 Robin Byrd returned to the Stage with the weekly hilarious high-spirited bawdy The Robin Byrd Show Live variety show @ The Cutting Room 44 East 32 Street, Park Ave. Fun & Fantasy is back in NYC.
As of 2013, The Robin Byrd Show continues to be aired on Time Warner Cable seven nights a week, unscrambled, and uncut.
Robins show, filmography, and personal appearances have made her a local celebrity and to some extent, a national and international one. She is a frequent presenter of adult entertainment, Gay Pride, AIDS awareness and animal rights events. She also appeared on VH-1 in the I Love Series and on MTV's' New Year's Eve Top 100 Countdown.