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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bridget Everett Is a Face-Sitting, Dildo-Wielding, Alt-Cabaret Provocateur

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 4:01 AM

Page 3 of 4

C.S. MUNCY
  • C.S. Muncy

You ever see Sleeping with the Enemy?" Everett says onstage, referencing the Julia Roberts thriller about escaping an abusive relationship. She wraps herself in a black-and-red kimono-style robe, settles atop a stool and grasps the brown-bagged bottle in her right hand. "My childhood was just like that, up before the 'she gets away' part."

Everett describes her father dying years later "of that Patrick Swayze cancer." When she flew home to see him for the last time, she recalls saying, "I love you, Dad," as she left his bedroom.

"Marry money," he replied.

"I'd like to dedicate this song to everyone in the DDC: the Dead Dad Club," Everett tells the crowd. "Well, you'll all be there soon enough, so it's basically for everybody. Hit the track!"

Everett was born the youngest of six children in 1972 in Manhattan, Kansas, a college town two hours west of Kansas City. Appropriately, the city is nicknamed "The Little Apple." Her music-teacher mother encouraged piano lessons, voice lessons, and an appreciation for Barry Manilow. Everett rarely saw her father, who was an attorney. Though her parents didn't divorce until she was eight, they'd split acrimoniously by the time she arrived.

Everett was a popular student who participated in both traditional and show choir, and early on she knew that she wanted to dedicate her life to music. And that "The Little Apple" wasn't the place to do it.

She attended Arizona State University on a full choral scholarship, diving into the world of opera and its requisite Italian, German, French, Spanish and diction classes. "But my brain doesn't retain that sort of stuff, which is pretty problematic if you want to be an opera singer," she confesses. "It was one of the early red flags that maybe that wasn't the correct career for me."

The self-proclaimed wild child also preferred drinking and smoking pot over exacting firm self-discipline. "When I'm singing classically I can't drink coffee, I can't drink alcohol, I have to sleep nine hours a night to have that crystal-clear tone, and I just knew I didn't have that in me. I wanted to live my life both onstage and offstage."

Approaching the end of her twenties, Everett's most prominent gig was singing the national anthem before Phoenix Municipal Stadium's spring-training games. Otherwise she spent the mid-'90s partying, "going apeshit" in karaoke bars and "slipping into a lifetime of sadness."

Her circle of Phoenix friends comprised a druggy crowd. One night when things went too far, Everett passed out and was sexually assaulted. The attack spurred her into action.

"I needed a reason to leave," she says in hindsight. "It's probably not the right reason to leave, but I needed a push. I needed a reason to go to follow my dreams. I know that sounds stupid, but I didn't even know what my dream was. I just knew I wanted to be a singer. And living in Arizona, I wasn't finding my way."

Everett rented a Ryder truck and left town the next day. She hasn't set foot in the state since.

She arrived in NYC in 1997 and vividly recalls the first time a friend took her to a drag cabaret show called Kiki and Herb, a melding of monologues and medleys starring Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman. The show, Everett stresses, blew her Midwestern mind wide open.

"Growing up in Kansas, the only show biz I was doing was jazz hands," she says. "I was like, 'Holy shit, there's all these people who are super funny and larger than life and creative in a way I didn't even know existed!'"

Everett first saw then befriended drag queen Sweetie, drag king Murray Hill, and numerous other scene lynchpins who were "just doing weird and bizarre shit." The freedom, madcap craziness and loyal community spirit were intoxicating. Everett knew she'd found her calling. "It felt like people were doing exactly what they wanted to do, and there were no rules," she reminisces. "It still feels that way."

The next decade saw Everett waitressing at Ruby Foo's, a Times Square Asian restaurant popular with theatergoers; singing karaoke; and co-hosting, with Mellman, a variety show called Automatic Vaudeville. By January 2007 she'd built up to At Least It's Pink, an autobiographical show incorporating being from a small town, being a waitress and being a karaoke junkie. (Fans point to the song "Two for One Special," which describes a Planned Parenthood visit that results in Everett's discovering she possesses a double uterus — and thus requiring a second abortion — as a unanimous highlight.) She earned plenty of industry attention but failed to rocket to stardom.

At that same time, just a year after her father passed away, Everett's oldest sister, Brinton, died of bone cancer that had metastasized to her brain.

The two were close. Everett remembers Brinton as the sweet and sensitive sibling, and the member of her immediate family who most understood and supported her move to New York. Even when Brinton struggled through an ugly drug habit, she always called to check in and reconfirm her belief in her baby sister. Unable to conventionally verbalize her emotions, Everett wrote the song "Endless Road," a track on Pound It, as a way to honor and communicate with Brinton in spirit.

That loss, coupled with an uncertain future, left Everett deeply depressed. Sensing his friend needed a boost, Hill invited her to join his softball team, Team Pressure, which included regulars Horovitz, Covelli and Mellman. Joining Team Pressure, Everett says, was the major turning point that "picked me up and shook me out of my blues." Not only did the team become a second family, but it proved a boon to her artistic career. When Mellman and Medlyn got the bug to update Your Hit Parade, a radio countdown that ran from 1935 to 1955 before winding down on television in 1959, they invited Everett to co-host.

Everett credits her time with Parade — which ended in 2012 — as vital to hitting her stride as a storyteller. Three years in, however, she felt compelled to try something new. Something for herself. So she booked her own one-off show, then assembled the Tender Moments. Everett continued the two monthly Joe's Pub shows for about a year and waitressed as well.

"When I started doing things my way, things slowly changed for me," she says. "My life turned around."

Following Rock Bottom, Wittman's next-up dream directing project is a show co-starring Everett and LuPone. "I won't be singing showtunes," LuPone offers as her sole hint. "That much I can tell you: I blessedly won't be singing showtunes!"

This summer Everett will appear in Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow's film Trainwreck as a "horrible, oversexed wife from the suburbs." And further down the pipeline, Kathleen Hanna, formerly of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre (and a fellow Team Pressure teammate), wrote two seasons of a TV script called Bridget Rides the Bus. Everett and Horovitz (Hanna's husband) shopped the series in Los Angeles on two separate pitch trips; Horovitz insists the project remains in the works.

"Me and Kathleen were watching [the news]," he explains of the concept's origin. "There was a story about a bus driver in New Jersey that got arrested. She was driving kids to school, and they pulled her over. She had, like, a flask of rum beneath the seat and a Coors tallboy between her legs. We're like, 'There's Bridget's TV show right there.'"

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