Give his and her regards to Broadway

Hagerstown native takes acclaimed drag cabaret show to Carnegie Hall

Hagerstown native takes acclaimed drag cabaret show to Carnegie Hall

September 12, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

A Hagerstown native's cutting-edge drag cabaret show earned rave reviews off-Broadway and beyond. Now Justin Bond's tragicomic character, Kiki DuRane, will storm the stage at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall.

Writer-performer Bond and pianist Kenny Mellman will star in "Kiki & Herb Will Die For You" at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19.

Justin Bond's parents, Stanley and Lois Bond of Hagerstown, have chartered a bus to travel to Carnegie Hall with about 25 family members and friends.


"I am excited, I really am," Lois Bond said. "He is so funny, he really is. You'd laugh your head off."

The outrageous Kiki - a self-described "boozy chanteusie" - and her long-suffering accompanist Herb are septuagenarian, alcoholic lounge singers "who never made it as lounge singers but never gave up trying," said Bond, 41, of New York. He belts out songs from artists ranging from David Bowie to Tom Jones to Suicidal Tendencies, punctuating each tune with stinging social commentary and political rants - "Kiki's not really a Bush supporter," Bond said. "Even though she's a drunk and she grew up in a mental institution, she considers herself to be something of an intellect."

Bond also drops autobiographical tidbits from the elaborate life he's mapped out for the fictional entertainers.

Bond and Mellman have been performing together as Kiki and Herb since creating the characters in the 1980s while living in San Francisco. The duo earned a strong following during their last decade in New York while refining their act in the Big Apple, London, Los Angeles, Germany, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. "Kiki & Herb: Jesus Wept" earned an Off-Broadway Theater Award (OBIE), and Bond and Mellman were nominated for 2003 Helen Hayes Awards (Lead Actor/Supporting Actor) for "Pardon Our Appearance."

But the pair's greatest mainstream acclaim thus far followed the opening last year of their Cherry Lane Theater show, "Kiki & Herb: Coup de Thtre."

"Slashingly funny, psychically unsettling," wrote a critic from The New Yorker magazine. The New York Times praised the "intelligently calibrated performance that runs an emotional gamut from searing heartache to purblind vainglory."

The Carnegie Hall farewell show is a dream come true for Bond, who described himself as an "outsider" growing up, a gay boy who aspired to make it big on Broadway while many of his peers dreamed of becoming sports stars.

"It's sort of unbelievable, really," Bond said. "A lot of people say it, but I'm the kid who did it."

Showbiz kid

Bond made his stage debut in the Potomac Playmakers' production of "The Sound of Music" in 1975. Playmakers' veteran Dick Hershey of Hagerstown remembers directing young Justin "Chip" Bond in that show.

"I gave him his first role and directed him in it," said Hershey, 80. "He was just a kid, came about up to my knees. We have a lot of kids in our shows. Some have talent, and he did. He had a real good, high tenor voice."

Bond, who earned a degree in theater arts from Adelphi University and studied classical Shakespearian acting at the London Academy of Dramatic Arts, continues to hone his vocal skills - in part to nurture his Kiki-battered vocal chords.

"Kiki screams like a banshee," Bond said. "It's not pretty."

Despite his character's many flaws, her "unfailing conviction that things are going to get better" tends to win the audience's heart by the end of the show, Bond said. "I find some level of redemption in that."

Outside looking in

Bond credited the love and support of his family and church community with helping him cope with prejudices he faced while growing up. The 1981 North Hagers-town High School graduate said he always felt like an outcast among his school peers but a loved member of his family and church.

"I always felt good about myself because I knew there were people who loved me," he said. "I always felt confident about myself because I felt loved, even though I felt the hatred directed at me."

His parents, especially, have always supported his life and career choices, Bond said.

"He knows that we love him and support him and always have," Lois Bond said. "I am so proud of him. He has worked so hard, and he's done so much on his own."

Bond said his family taught him the importance of laughing at situations he could not change. And if there's any part of Hagerstown in Kiki, it's the sharp sense of humor that the wry character's creator honed here, he said.

How would Kiki adapt to life in Hagers-town?

"There sure are a lot of bars," Bond said, laughing. "It could be a sort of a spiritual home for her."

Leaving on a jet plane

Bond will leave for a yearlong stint in London four days after the show. He will pursue a master of arts in scenography - the art of representing objects in perspective, especially as applied in the design and painting of theatrical scenery - at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

"I just realized I don't want to have a director for my own work in the future," Bond said. "I want to have more control over my work and how it's presented."

While he'll likely take center stage during future performances, Bond said he'd like to spend more time working behind the theatrical scene as a director. Will Kiki and Herb ever get reincarnated?

"I don't know," Bond said. "There's always the resurrection."

To learn more about Kiki and Herb, go to on the Web.

If you go ...

"Kiki & Herb Will Die For You"

8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19

Carnegie Hall's Isaac Stern Auditorium

154 W. 57th St.

New York City

Tickets cost $29 to $150. To order tickets, call CarnegieCharge at 1-212-247-7800, or go to or on the Web.

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