I first spoke with John Epperson, a.k.a. Lypsinka! last summer when he was gearing up to present LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, but due to an injury he had to cancel the run of the show. Now, he's all healed up and taking the stage at Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) from January 20-23 in a new show An Evening with Lypsinka's Maid!
In this rare cabaret appearance, we get to meet the face and man behind Lypsinka with an evening of light-hearted standards and lesser-known theatre songs. He will tell anecdotes about some of the famous and infamous he's encountered along his show biz journey. Click here for tickets!
1. It's great to catch up with you John! Last time we spoke, you were about to do LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, but due to an injury you were not able to do the run of the show. When you injured yourself, were you ever afraid that you might not perform again? I was very afraid at first that I might not be able to play the piano again. What happened was I had the flu that was going around NYC late April/early May, 2015. I was on my way to my doctor for the second time that week! I was walking because his office is only 9 blocks away. I said to myself, "At least you can stand up straight and try to look like you're not sick." So I held my head and chest up, and the next thing I knew I was toppling forward because I had stepped in a sidewalk pothole almost exactly the shape and size of my shoe, and I wasn't looking down. I fell on several parts of my body and had various injuries, including bad swelling of my left hand. I didn't break a bone, I sprained a ligament, which can be worse. It took a long time to heal.
2. Now you are performing a very special show at Feinstein's/54 Below from January 20-23 entitled An Evening With Lypsinka's Maid. What made you want to reveal the man behind the persona for this show? Lypsinka first became successful in the 1980s and ever since then people think I can't do anything else. But I also play the piano and sing. And I can actually talk and tell a story! So I want people to know that I am multi-talented and not a guy who ONLY lip-synchs in a dress! This is also one of the selfish reasons I was recently in ONCE UPON A MATTRESS.
3. What do you think will surprise fans most about this show? The above! And that I am a vulnerable human like everyone.
5. What is one story you can share with us that won't be in the show? I know a hilarious story about Nancy Reagan, but maybe I shouldn't say it. Maybe it isn't true! But it sure is funny.
6. If Lypsinka were to come to this show, how do you think she would like it? She would like it through a martini haze.
7. You are a classically trained pianist, which you will be playing during this show. What initially made you want to become a pianist? Let's clarify. I won't be playing classical music in this show. My older sisters studied piano and I would watch them and listen to them. One day I just sat down and did it. My mother was impressed and took me to my sisters' formidable teacher. I took to it and blossomed. As I look back, I realize one of the reasons I loved it was, it gave me an identity. It also gave me escape. And later it gave me real adventure and a way to finance my Lypsinka career.
8. What does playing the piano give you that performing as Lypsinka does not? The Lypsinka lip-synched performances are "cold and artificial" in nature which is part of their appeal. Playing the piano and singing is a "warmer" experience.
9. If you had to do it over again, would you have gone the same route you went? There are some days, some moments, where I think I would not have. But hindsight is 20/20. There are some moments when I regret not having more formal training for musical theatre, which my niece is getting now. On the other hand, by not having formal training, and by not pursuing a traditional career, perhaps I created something unique.
10. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called "One Percent Better" where through my own fitness regime, I am inspiring people to improve their life by One Percent everyday. If you could improve your life by One Percent Everyday, what would you improve? I always try to be kinder to people, even though I know some people are not always kind to me. NYC is not known for its kindness, but there are pockets of it. (I am not always successful, admittedly.) I also try to be generous as much as I can be. Not always with money, but in other ways. Now, as for my own fitness regime, it's not going to get done while I sit at this computer answering your questions! Thank you!
John Epperson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, a long way from the exciting worlds in which LYPSINKA travels: movies (Witch Hunt with Dennis Hopper, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Wigstock: The Movie, Angels In America, Kinsey,Another Gay Movie, Another Gay Sequel); television (HBO specials Sandra After Dark with Sandra Bernhard, andDragtime; George Michael’s video Too Funky, PBS’s The United States Of Poetry and special features on the Mommie Dearestand Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? DVDs); fashion (appearing in the Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles shows of haute couture designer Thierry Mugler, modeling for Valentino, Pauline Trigere, Barneys New York, and launching lines of cosmetics for Prescriptives, MAC, and Isabella Rossellini); advertisements (The Gap, LA Eyeworks, Naya Spring Water, Ilford Film); theater, including I Could Go On Lip-Synching!, The Fabulous Lypsinka Show, Lypsinka! Now It Can Be Lip-Synched, Lypsinka! A Day In The Life (New York Theater Workshop, two Drama Desk nominations, including Most Unique Theatrical Experience; revived in 1993 Off-Broadway at The Cherry Lane Theatre), Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching, Lypsinka Must Be Destroyed!, Lypsinka IS Harriet Craig!, Lypsinka! The Boxed Set (2001 Drama Desk nomination, Washington, D.C. Helen Hayes Award win for Outstanding Non-Resident Production / Outstanding Lead Actor nomination, wins for Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Best Sound Design and L.A. Weekly Theatre Award for Best Solo Performance); and special events (such as Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly, on Broadway with Bette Midler, Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone, and London’s Meltdown Festival curated by Morrissey).
Formerly a rehearsal pianist at American Ballet Theatre, John’s theatrical career was launched in the mid-1980s when he wrote the book, lyrics and music of Ballet of the Dolls and Dial "M" For Model at La Mama ETC. The year 1999 brought Epperson’s dramatic stage debut in Messages for Gary at The New York Fringe Festival. In 2004 John appeared Off-Broadway in The Roaring Girle with The Foundry Theatre. The same year he was the subject of a stage festival at DC’s Studio Theatre, which included his autobiographical piece John Epperson: Show Trash, As I Lay Lip-Synching, and his play, My Deah: Medea for Dummies, the Medea tale set in The New South. Also in 2004 Epperson played "The Stepmother" in the New York City Opera production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater. The play My Deah opened in an Obie Award-winning production Off-Broadway in October 2006 and is now published and licensed by Samuel French. His acclaimed Off-Broadway show The Passion of the Crawford, a fantasia on the personality of Joan Crawford, toured to California, Florida and Washington, D.C.
Lypsinka launched the 2007 Spring collection of MAC Cosmetics centered around the Barbie doll. Epperson’s version of James Kirkwood’s infamous play Legends! was produced at Studio Theatre in DC, Summer 2010. In 2014 in New York City, John devoted himself to a unique challenge for a solo performer by performing three of his shows in repertory under the umbrella title LYPSINKA! THE TRILOGY. John and Lypsinka are the subjects of an Emmy-winning television documentary for PBS. He provided the preface for the Rizzoli photo bookPersona, and is the author of a new screenplay Happy Everything. John has also written for The Guardian (U.K.), The New York Times, The Washington Post and Interview and The Daily Beast.