Call Answered: Jimmy James: "DIVAS ARE FOREVER" + "Fashionista"
Known for his global hit song "Fashionista," Jimmy James is returning to Provincetown this summer with his show DIVAS ARE FOREVER. When I found out about Jimmy James, I was thrilled to channel my inner DIVA to get all the juicy details on this show & the artists he impersonates/pays homage to. I was also excited to sew up every stitch on "Fashionista."
DIVAS ARE FOREVER will be playing Pilgrim House in Provincetown, MA (336 Commercial Street) through Labor Day Weekend at 10pm. Click here for tickets!
1. This summer you are returning to Provincetown with your one-man show DIVAS ARE FOREVER! What made now the right time to come back to Provincetown? I moved from NYC to the West Coast (LA) in 2010 and concentrated on doing work there. Whenever I live in LA (I hate to admit this) I get very lazy about traveling to the East Coast. I have a car and sunshine and nice California Cafe Lifestyle. I went back to P'town last summer after not going for eight years! I thought I was forgotten, but the love they showed me was like Judy at Carnegie Hall. I got choked up nightly. I felt very blessed and grateful. I guess after 35 years in show biz, you carve out a certain place for yourself if you're lucky enough. Kinda how we all love Marilyn Ma. We admire her talent and her ability to hang in there for so long. There's respect for longevity in this very tough business.
2. What do you love about performing there? I'll do about 50 shows in P'town this summer. After a couple of rehearsals, the show gets loaded in and that's it. I don't have to travel. I stay in ONE place and the audiences come see me. This situation makes for tight shows. I also have sophisticated and diverse audiences in P'town -- Gay, Lesbian, Trans, Straight everything...P'town is special in that way. I love it. If only I could bring people to witness, we TRULY can all get along. And it's fricking gorgeous here. I'm surrounded by art, water, beaches, music, shows, dance music, restaurants and The Christmas Tree Shops in Orleans and Hyannis! Cape Cod is beautiful in the summer.
3. With the magnitude of shows that play throughout the summer in Provincetown, why do you feel audiences should come see your show? Bitch, because I'm good! LOL! Because I do tricks with my throat? LOL...Seriously, my shows are perfectly designed for a vacation audience. It's Fun, Musical, Comedy and Performance Art.
4. How did you decide you wanted your show to be a tribute to the DIVAS you love? All the Divas I do represent are part of my record collection that is Diva-centric. I wanted to revise and revamp the show I developed in 2005 in New York City, which won me the MAC Award and The Backage Bistro Award. I toured a lot with it and is my most successful show ever. Back in the day when I impersonated Marilyn Monroe, she was in Act 1 and Act 2 is where I did the Voices: Cher, Barbra Streisand, Eartha Kitt, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Bette Davis, Karen Carpenter, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Elvis too! And more....I wanted to celebrate my 35th Year in Show Biz with all my Divas with me.
5. Who were the first 3 DIVAS you just knew you had to pay homage to? My girls when I was very young were: Diana Ross, Cher and Barbra Streisand. These 3 made me who I am today -- Colorful! LOL!
6. Have any of the DIVAS come to see one of your shows? If so, what did they think of your impersonation? Rest her soul, Eartha Kitt. I opened for her in Las Vegas for a corporate event (early 2000s) and also at the Myerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD (1991) and I performed WITH her at a private party in NYC. She had a great sense of humor. To me she always knew she was "Eartha Kitt" and didn't take herself too seriously, although she took injustice against humanity very seriously. She was very bright. I think she spoke five languages!
7. Has there been a DIVA you've had to remove from your show? Well "remove" sounds a little mean...lol. I've put the "side" based on the fact I don't have enough time in the show. Typically, I only do one hour shows. I did Norah Jones for a hot minute, but I had more Voices loaded in and I had to put her aside. But they're never set aside from lack of love. I ONLY impersonate people I love.
8. What are one or two funny stories you can share with us about a mishap taking place at one of your shows? One time the track for my Judy Garland "Over the Rainbow" malfunctioned, so we lost the music. I played it off as Judy saying "I guess the munchkins are running the sound tonight..." then I preceded to sing the song acapella. The audience was so quiet. By the end of the final big note "Why can't I!!!" I got a standing ovation. Pretty cool.
9. Let's quickly talk about your mega-international-hit anthem "Fashionista." What made you want to write this song? What doors opened for you that were closed before this song became so big? I worked hard for that. It belongs to me, unlike impersonations, this is my baby. It climbed to top 10 of the Billboard Dance charts (from my album Jamestown). But before writing THAT global hit, I wrote about 50 other songs that I thought were good but didn't take off. Jeez, I recorded in closets and toilets all over Manhattan! I had wanted to get into dance music since about 1991. When I toured with "Marilyn & Voices" in dance clubs all over the U.S. I would visit all the DJs and hangout with them and talk music. I've always loved dance music. I like euphoric dance music with nice lyrics and beautiful vocals - real songs set to a beat.
I wrote "Fashionista" when I was at my rope's end. It was do or die. One last chance. It was Fashion Week in NYC and I used Andre Leon Talley (Editor at Large at Vogue at the time, 2004) as my muse. So you could say I'm channeling him in the song. Then it took two years to get released. It's become an underground classic now with over 30 million views from fan-made videos on YouTube! I think young people know me for "Fashionista" and perhaps people of a certain age know me more for "Marilyn and Voices"...lol. It's all good, I'm very grateful.
10. I have a feature called "I Can See Clearly Now," where I try to clear up misconceptions. What do you feel is the biggest misconception out there about "Jimmy James" that you would like to clear up right now? Rude assholes have literally said to my face ", you had to stop doing Marilyn because you gained weight..." That's 100% false! I retired my Marilyn act after I turned 36 -- the age she was when she died. I have EXTREME INTEGRITY for my art. Out of respect for MYSELF and respect for Marilyn AND her image I wanted to move on and EVOLVE as an artist. The passing of time is the biggest enemy when you impersonate someone so beautiful and iconic who dies young. I gave Marilyn all my youth and in return she let me have my dream of becoming a nightclub performer and seeing the world. I can't say I was "possessed" but something DID have a hold on me all those years that I impersonated Marilyn. I spent my youthful psyche kinda living in the past that I was not born in to. I was relieved to end it. I was eager to move on and make dance music. I also wanted to redesign my show to focus on my ice Impressions rather than being a "drag" act for the rest of my life. Anyway, why get in drag if I already look like a full time woman anyway? What's the point? Don't get me wrong, I still paint my face like a hooker on stage and wear cute custom made clothes for stage. But getting in "drag drag?" No. I think Judy Garland was quoted as saying, "Why be a second rate version of somebody else, when you can be a first rate version of yourself."
More on Jimmy:
Jimmy James started his show biz career in 1983, playing small clubs & casinos. In 1986, after playing to packed houses & rave reviews in New York City, he found his way to Provincetown, falling in love with P’town as P’town fell in love with him! Now, Jimmy returns to reclaim his place in Provincetown history as one of the most successful & longest running performers ever.
Also a prolific songwriter, Jimmy wrote & recorded the global hit “Fashionista" (from his album Jamestown), which climbed to the top of the BILLBOARD Dance Charts. The dance anthem has over 30 million views on YouTube, from fan-made videos world-wide & has been licensed for film & television.
Jimmy has performed for celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg, Elton John, Boy George, RuPaul, Eartha Kitt, Patty LaBelle, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Allred, Bob Mackie, John Waters, Joan Rivers, Rich Little & Joan Collins, to name-drop a few.