‘Precious Little Devils’
Book Signing at The Monster, July 31, 7 to 9 P.m.
By David Dubin
Always flitting from one fabulous event to another, Eileen Shapiro, Get Out!’s own intrepid interviewer, is hard to nail down for a chat about herself. We were able to get her to sit down for a few minutes at the dock for the ferries to Cherry Grove, Fire Island.
As two of her nine grandchildren cavorted with a couple of drag queens, Shapiro answered a few questions about her new book as well as the glittered path that has comprised her life’s journey.
How did a nice Jewish girl like you, born in Brooklyn, become so immersed in gay culture?
You might have to wait for the next book for the answer to that, but in the meanwhile, I have a gay cousin, whom I love to death, who came out to me when we were 10 years old. He was afraid to tell his parents or his brothers or his friends. So he chose me.
What do you think he perceived in you that made him think that you would be a safe person to confide in?
We were very close.
You were 10 at the time?
As flamboyant and preposterous as you are now, you couldn’t have been at 10. What would we have seen if we had the privilege of seeing you at 10? Right now I’m looking at a woman with pink and blue hair.
And a hint of purple. At 10 you might have seen the same, perhaps different colors, but I dressed the same, I looked like a teenager, I carried a guitar over my shoulder most times and I painted flowers on my face. I dragged my mother and my grandmother to every rock concert that I could.
What did your parents make of you?
They really didn’t know what to make of me, but they were very lenient parents and just went along with the flow. It’s not like they had much of a choice. I was definitely my own person.
You were an only child?
I was. Maybe they thought it was normal, I don’t know.
You have been a nurse, an actress, a bar owner, a mother, a wife, a real estate broker, a writer. Which of those do you most identify with?
At the moment, writing, because the book just came out. However if the book hadn’t just been released, well, I think I would be looking for something different to identify with. I’ll always be a writer, because I was born with that desire I think.
How many grandchildren do you have, and would you be heartbroken if none of them turned out to be gay?
Nine, and yes, I would be devastated. But as long as they are gay friendly, I can live with it. They love Cherry Grove more than I do.
You have a social life that is probably exclusively gay oriented. I can’t even imagine you fitting in to the suburbs without it. I would think that if gay went away, and you were forced to live in a suburban life, it would be like a transsexual forced to live in the wrong body.
You’re right, great analogy.
You were married twice; you have three kids. Were you ever type of wife or mother that went to PTA meetings?
What’s a PTA meeting?
I know your second husband was a teacher, and all your children turned out to be teachers.
My first husband started out as a teacher as well, an English teacher.
It seems as though your children are more influenced by your husband as far as choosing a career path. How do you feel about that?
I guess they saw summers off and thought it to be a good deal. Unfortunately, the girls wear buns, one is a librarian, and I took them to Billy Idol, Run DMC, Rancid and Adam Ant concerts as tiny children, so I keep wondering what happened.
What happened to the first husband?
We got married when I was 16. I woke up a year later while I was in college and wondered what I had done.
So you got married at 16 with your parent’s blessing?
They made me a giant wedding.
It sounds like the wedding lasted longer than the marriage. Did you get married to get out of the house? Although it seems that you didn’t have to get out of the house; you were running the place.
He was a guitarist, the best I’ve ever heard. I played guitar since I was five, and I wanted to learn from him.
Wouldn’t it have been easier to just get a tutor?
It would have, but I don’t do anything easy.
Your new book is “Precious Little Devils.” Could you tell everybody in a sentence what they would be finding if they opened the book, what is it about?
It’s about everything fun in life, including rock ‘n’ roll, a hint of the ‘80s, a musical competition, a splash of gay, passion, romance and drama. I asked Michael Musto to read it, not for a review, but for an opinion, and he said he liked it a lot, and that it had drama, heart, music biz and color.
They say the best writers write from the experiences they know. Does it come from your own experiences?
It comes from the experiences I would’ve dreamed of having.
You were a musician. Did you play in a band?
I did. Several bands.
This was not your first foray into writing. You wrote “The Star Trek Medical Reference Manual” years ago. Where did that idea come from? Were you a Trekkie?
To a certain extent. I was in love with Leonard Nimoy, or Mr. Spock. To this day I’m not sure which. I met a guy named Ron Barlow who owned a Star Trek store in Manhattan called The Federation Trading Post. He was the editor of a monthly magazine titled ‘The Star Trek Giant Poster Book,” put out by Ballantine Books, which I began to write for. Then Ballantine Books wanted a medical manual, so I was going to nursing school at Long Island University at the time, and had somewhat of a medical background, so…
Did you get to meet any of the cast members?
I met them all, and my first celebrity live interview was with Leonard Nimoy. I met him while he was on Broadway doing Equus. I met William Shatner, George Takei before he was gay…
Do you take responsibility for that?
Ha! No, but that would have been interesting,
How are people reacting to your book?
So far favorably, unless they’re lying. But it’s really new. I mean, it only came out about two weeks ago. People haven’t finished reading it yet.
What is it about the gay culture that has drawn you in?
It wasn’t a choice. I ask people questions all the time when I interview them, about how or why they sing, or act, or entertain, and they tell me that there was never a choice. It’s just a path that God chose for me.
So that path is like the yellow brick road then?
Yes. However, I haven’t met the Wizard yet. Although Mr. Dubin, you come close to the Wizard.
Do you embrace or recoil from the term “fag hag”?
I live for that term, and I’m super proud to identify as one. The term “fruit fly” is kind of cute as well. I’ll answer to either.
Has that term become politically incorrect these days? I actually don’t know.
Some people don’t like it I suppose, but oh well. I like it.
Have you ever walked into a room, and because you do make a flamboyant appearance no matter where you are—I’ve never seen you in plain clothes.
I don’t own anything plain.
Did you ever walk into a room and say, “Oh boy, this is not my crowd”?
Yes. The Brown Osprey in Seaford. However, the people I was with wound up getting drunk, and we got to leave anyway.
Do you find that people around you often take to drinking?
You’re not an alcoholic, but you’re a carrier of alcoholism?
That’s coming from someone who owned a gay bar. How long did you own The Bunkhouse?
I think around seven or eight years.
Did you enjoy that?
Definitely. It seemed like a normal evolution at the time. If it wasn’t sold, I would still own it probably.
We were just interrupted during this interview by Adam Ant’s publicist. How often do things like that happen? Who would I be most impressed by if the phone were to ring again?
Who impresses you? Annie Lennox, Brooke Shields, Cyndi Lauper, Cheyenne Jackson, Rick Springfield, Jennifer Hudson, Bianca Del Rio, Melissa Etheridge, The Impractical Jokers, Fran Drescher, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders, Jody Watley, Sandra Bernhard, Spandau Ballet. I could continue.
The “Abs Fabs” girls, there is a little bit of you in both of them.
So I’ve been told,
Do you ever talk about your own sexuality?
If someone asks.
On a scale of one to six, six being absolutely straight, where would you fit?
I’m a six.
If you had a choice in the matter, would you have been born a gay man?
I still plan to in my next life. I will be the biggest, most flamboyant, loudest queen that ever lived.
Do you have a sequel coming out for the book?
Yes, because once you read it, you will want more. It’s already been written; it just has to be edited.
What keeps you up at night?
You seem to have a genius for reinventing yourself. When one door closes, the other opens, or you go in through the window. You always seem to have another project.
You have to do that in life to keep it interesting and relevant. Life is an exciting challenge. If it’s not fun, I try not to do it, and you would probably have more fun if you got on that ferry that’s about to leave…