Also, I now live in two places! I like to say that I’m bi-coastal, but really I’m bi-municipal. (Is there an adjective that describes bays? Bi-bayal?) I spend most of the week in a cute Santa Cruz cottage filled with cats and litter boxes, but I also have a tiny room in San Francisco that is basically my drag closet plus a fold-up bed (alternately known as “the annex” and “the cubbyhole”). I’m worried that The Earthquake will happen while I’m in the city and it’ll literally be Death By Drag. Sorry to be so self-centered.
HK: Not to be morbid about it, but I’m kind of obsessed with AIDS. Specifically, the earlier days of the gay men’s crisis in the US and the ways in which styles from that period have re-appeared but in a kind of superficial, or at least problematic, way. A lot of it was sparked by Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind
, and her haunting question about whether young queers wonder why we don’t see 60 year old versions of ourselves. I’m currently working on a portrait project exploring this — it is my first REAL project as a soon-to-be REAL ARTIST.
On a lighter note, I’m also obsessed with my cats, who are the best cats in the world, and no one else is part of this interview to say otherwise.
MT: How is life as a grad student in Santa Cruz? Have you been turned on to any amazing artists you didn’t know about? What are your faves to do in Santa Cruz?
HK: One of the coolest art groups I was turned on to are VNS Matrix
(pronounced “Venus”), which was this early Cyberfeminist group from Australia that put out all of this great writing and graphic material about things like the “Big Daddy Mainframe.” Feminists in (cyber)space! Unrelated, there were also a handful of interesting computer viruses that were created in the late 80s / early 90s that referenced AIDS, such as CyberAIDS and AIDS II — I’m doing more research on them now.
Favorite things to do in Santa Cruz include riding my seafoam green scooter (I’m getting my real license next week and got a second helmet, so next time you can come for a ride!), eating amazing Brazilian food, and driving to the pet store on rainy days while listening to my lesbian folk Pandora station called “Feeling is Healing.” I am not kidding about that last one.
MT: What are you reading right now NOT for school but cause you want to, if such a thing is even possible when you are in grad school.
HK: Does Facebook count? Honestly, it probably is possible to read novels while in grad school, but my decompression time generally consists of television watching and random stuff on the internet. You would not believe how many tabs I have open on my computer at once.
One of the last books I read for pleasure, though, was David Rakoff’s Don’t Get Too Comfortable, which I guess was a few months ago, right after he passed away. I’m still disproportionately devastated by his death — I always liked hearing him on the radio, but hadn’t really sought out his other work. But I literally cried several times reading the book and hearing him on the radio after. It’s cheesy, but I named my wifi network after him when I moved into my new place. Technology as memorial?
MT: Why ARE faggots so afraid of faggots? Or queers so afraid of other queers.
HK: Because faggots aren’t any better than anyone else. I once heard Keith Hennessy talk about an idea of “queer wounds,” and I think that no matter how queer and radical we are, we still hold onto memories and fears of rejection. And now we’re taught that there are very particular ways to assimilate — masculinity, marriage, etc. — that we have strange double standards to uphold. It’s funny, though, despite fearing and despising and feeling alienated by many faggots, I still tend to feel some kind of bond of family with even the nastiest dudes. I still want to aggressively hug them and stroke their hair and tell them it’s all going to be okay.
What is Lil Miss Hot Mess’s origin myth?
HK: You know, I’ve been meaning to construct something really heart-wrenching, but the truth of the matter is that in my early twenties I used to get wasted on fruity liquor and scream things like “stick it in me!” while trying to hold conversations in Spanish and Russian. After my friend’s pride party in New York, where I relentless insisted that this boy I’d hooked up with was “a bottom and he better accept it”( and then asked him for a “reprise”), the name was bestowed upon me. I am proud that I earned it.
MT: What is your sign and how is it totally wrong about you?
HK: I am a Capricorn-Aquarius cusp, but I think it is actually totally RIGHT about me! I’m sorry. I just recently read about what it means in this book by/for/about Witchy Womyn and it was DEAD ON. Capricorns are all about seriousness and order and Aquariuses are all about creativity and stuff, right? Sandra Bernhard has a bit where she’s talking about eating a hash cookie but “even when I’m fucked up I’m in total control.” I feel like that sums up Hot Mess in a nutshell.
MT: What television show would you most like to be a special guest on? What would your character be?
HK: Oh wow. This question is opening up a totally new realm of imaginative possibilities for me! I can never pick just one, so here are the first five options that pop into my mind (and someone please get me an agent!):
- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where I would play “the other slayer” or Willow’s girlfriend, and it would all be high camp and very Stevie Nicks.
- Ugly Betty, which was one of my favorite shows ever (I literally cried like every episode and once proclaimed that if I were on a dessert island and could only bring one thing with me it would be Ugly Betty), so I would obviously want to be the tacky Jewish girl who lives down the street. I suppose you could cross-reference this with The Nanny where I would play Fran’s cousin / Lainie Kazan’s daughter.
- The Golden Girls, in an episode where I was a long-lost daughter but they’d all slept with the same man and didn’t know whose daughter I was, but in the end they all adopted me as their own.
- Either The OC or Girls and I would probably be a tranny and sleep with some rich high school dude and there would be a scandal but then it would turn into an It Gets Better kind of situation in the end and I would win a GLAAD award.
- Any episode of Supermarket Sweeps.
MT: if Lil Miss Hot Mess were to market a perfume, what would it be called and what would it smell like?
HK: The only perfume I’ve ever worn was from a little tester I got the one time I shopped at Sephora, so I really don’t feel qualified to answer this. (After a long brainstorm, the best I came up with was “Crisp,” named after Quentin and that would smell like my grandmother’s bathroom.) BUT, I one time mixed boxed wine (Franzia sangria) with V8 Splash (the kind with the teal cap) and called the beverage “Champū.” So I feel like that sort of counts.
MT: Who is the wind beneath your wings?
HK: Oh dear. So many people in this beautiful city and beyond keep me going that I really can’t even name names here. In one of the Tales of the City books Armistead Maupin mentions “logical families” (as opposed to the biological variety) and I just love that phrase and it’s those folks who keep me going (and who know who they are).