He launched the first drag superstar onto the Top 40 charts, with RuPaul’s 1992 hit “Supermodel.” He deejayed outrageous nights at the Pyramid, the Roxy, and Michael Alig’s “Disco 2000” free-for-alls in the early ’90s. And he led the charge with the ascent of the Electroclash scene in Williamsburg in the early part of this decade, working with acts like Chicks on Speed, FischerSpooner and Peaches. And now, with the release of his new party album, Club Badd, with a fresh crop of talents he found on the Internet, and a guest-appearance from a trusted “Disco 2000” cohort, Amanda Lepore, Larry Tee finds himself surrounded by yet another groundswell of new music in Brooklyn, from Santigold and MIA in Bushwick to indie darlings like Chairlift and Telepathe in Williamsburg. Speaking of the latter, Tee was bemused to find out he stills has a pervasive impact on the local scene: “Telepathe hate me, by the way,” he said when BlackBook caught up with him and nightlife icon Amanda Lepore to discuss Club Badd. “They think I brainwashed the W.I.T. girls.”
Of his collaboration with the W.I.T., Tee says the girl group solicited his help. “They came to me and said, ‘We don’t know nothin’ about music—we can sing, but we don’t want to write.’ But Telepathe thinks I was brainwashing them and they didn’t get to express themselves creatively because of this evil mastermind named Larry Tee. I just read this somewhere and I was like, Oh my, god! I still have an influence on Telepathe and how they write their music? I like them though. I should send them a note that says, ‘I heart Telepathy.’”
Larry, I read that you wanted to make Club Badd the “sickest workout album.”
LARRY TEE: Totally. I was talking to Amanda last night, actually, saying that friends of mine have seen her working out before, which is obvious from looking at her body—she’s in perfect shape. I wonder how she does it.
How do you do it, Amanda?
AMANDA LEPORE: In what way? How do I look beautiful while working out? I have this precondition that I don’t sweat; I have to go to the steam room to sweat. I have that advantage, so if I want to wear full-on makeup I can. Sometimes people exaggerate and say I have heels on when I work out, but I never have heels on. Well, maybe once in a while, like, if I came in and wanted to do just weights or if I didn’t have sneakers with me.
Club Badd is so fun. What’s the overall concept?
LT: I’m stuck to the Internet all day long. I get all of my music, my information, and my videos from the Internet. For this album, I decided to find Internet sensations and try to work with them to create something out of the ordinary. And I’d always loved the video “Shoes” by Kelly. So I got in touch with Geoffrey Sharp, who has 38 million hits on his MySpace—not a great singer, but someone every Goth and Emo girl in the Midwest totally loves. Also, I kept reading about Roxie Cottontail, so I contacted her. Basically, they’re a bunch of Internet icons and brands that I tried to do something different with. To be honest, if I never hear another dance compilation I’ll be okay. Unless they’re breaking open the genre, it’s pretty predictable.
Amanda, let’s talk about your single on Larry’s record, “My Pussy.” What’s that about?
AL: That’s about my vagina. But I think it’s also a celebration of freedom and happiness, because, obviously, getting a vagina was a great deal of happiness in my life. Straight people like it, gay people like it—everybody likes it because it’s a great thing, to be happy with yourself and, you know, accepting yourself. Plus, it’s so easy to remember. How could you forget “My Pussy”?
LT: Can I ask, Amanda, what you thought when you heard Perez Hilton was going to do “My Penis,” after your classic song?
AL: I was so flattered, because I always check out Perez, and Perez has always been so kind to me through my career.
LT: I met Perez because he wanted a copy of your song.
You’re the great connector.
LT: Essentially, Amanda’s pussy brought me closer to Perez Hilton.
What do you think of Perez’s “Penis” song?
AL: I think my vagina is prettier than his pee-pee, even though I haven’t seen it.
Last night, Larry, you asked Amanda if you thought Perez would have been a club kid back in the “Disco 2000” years.
AL: I definitely think so. Don’t you, Larry?
LT: He reminds me a little bit of Michael Alig.
Do you mean that he has a murderous streak in him?
LT: No, he works too hard. He doesn’t have time.
AL: I don’t think so. You can tell, though, he was probably harassed as a kid and his escape was the Internet, gossip and things. I think that a lot of the club kids could relate to that because we were outcasts and nerds who didn’t fit in. And kids look up to people who change things, if they’re being harassed and having a hard time. I mean, I could have moved away and gotten married, but instead, I said, I’m the number one transsexual in the world. And I’ve seen the change: One time, when I performed in Ohio, there was a drag contest, and there were all these transgender college kids—girls becoming boys, with hair on their face and their legs, and they were able to go to college. Years ago, I needed a tutor at home just to finish high school.
Amanda, you recently told me a bit about the best ways to train a man. Can you explain?
AL: I was always really soft, because I thought that’s what guys liked. But I think that the more you tease them, the more they like you. Men love bitches.
Your first job in New York was as a dominatrix, correct?
AL: When I first moved to New York, my roommate at the time was doing that, and she said, “Oh, you can make a lot of money doing that.” And I did. It was sort of like acting. I think it helped me later with the David LaChapelle stuff because sometimes it was written out in a script, exactly what they wanted. And sometimes they would ask you to do really crazy things. There was one guy who would get off talking about the time, so I would have to saying, “What time is it? I have this appointment,” and, “Oh, now the bus is late.” And then there was this other guy who brought pies in from the bakery, and I would have to throw pies at him.
LT: Remember that song “Useless”? You actually inspired a line in that—“Lipstick…I put it on, I take it off, I put it on”—because you told me an amazing story about this guy who just liked to have lipstick applied over and over and over again.
AL: He would say, “Don’t take any off. Just keep putting it on and apply it again!” By the end of the hour it was just ridiculous.
Since then, you’ve become a nightlife fixture.
AL: That’s because I’m like a lamp—I light up the place.
How has the current economy affected the New York nightlife scene?
AL: When there was more money around, I made less money. I make more money in the bad economy. I think probably because I’m such a fantasy thing. People want to look at me to escape.
Larry, what was your first job in New York City?
LT: I first came to town with RuPaul, Lady Bunny and Lahoma Van Zandt, a whole gaggle of fantastic drag queens at a time when New York was suffering. A lot of the local talent had been eaten up by the AIDS crisis. We showed up dressed colorfully, like clowns, at a time when Charivari Black was the ruler. It was literally like the entire town was in mourning. As soon as I got here, Michael Alig put me to work. We did this party at the Pyramid Club, and no one came but a couple of our friends. We did these great drag shows with Ru and Bunny. Michael hired us all, and took us to the Tunnel to do the celebrity club. So I definitely owe Michael a thank you for that. He was very good at spotting new talent, for sure.
Did you stay in touch with him, after the murder and his imprisonment?
AL: I wrote him a letter once, but it’s really hard. I understand in drug circles that stuff like that is common, but moralistically, I’m not a violent person, so it’s really hard to deal with.
How about you, Larry?
LT: I had to work through that one a lot because I’m a drug addict and I’ve been in recovery now for 11 years, and a lot of the things I did while I was high are not things that I’m particularly proud of. He was so high that I don’t think the Michael Alig I really knew, the one who helped everybody out so much, was the same guy who killed Angel.
Larry, one of your songs is called “Agyness Deyn.” Why do you think we’re so fixated on her?
LT: I shouldn’t say this, but I will: She lives right underneath me. After I finished the song, I saw her eating across the street and she said, “I just bought a loft over here. The big red building right there.” And I said, That’s my building! But I just couldn’t bring up the nerve to say, I have this crazy song about you on my album, and it sounds like a bunch of bees chasing Mr. Oizo down the street! But I did leave a copy with my doorman to give to her, so I assume she knows now.
No reaction yet?
I don’t think she can react, because people will say, “It’s too crazy for me, but Agyness likes it. God, what is Agyness about?” When Kate Moss doesn’t say anything, it’s mysterious and we can only project upon her what we think she’s like and how smart we think she is. Agyness knows the same thing—she’s better off when she doesn’t talk.
What was your most outrageous night out, ever?
AL: For me, it was probably at this fashion party, where David [LaChappelle] took my dress and wouldn’t give it back to me—I was completely naked for the first time. I think Stephanie Seymour was hosting the party, and those girls didn’t really like it because all these photographers were going crazy. And then David took off with Naomi Campbell, so I was there alone, naked, with no clothes.
I haven’t seen any new photo shoots from David in a while. Are you still working with him?
AL: I just did a photo shoot with him in Hawaii, so there are new pictures of me giving birth. I don’t understand it totally, but he’s very into paradise, the afterlife and religion, because the Three Wise Men were also in the photo shoot. It’s very different from the pop culture things we did before. It was more of a miracle birth—I think I was supposed to be the Virgin Mary, but because I’m a transsexual, it was a miracle.
Finally, Amanda, can you tell me what your new perfume smells like?
AL: It has real Cristal in it, because when perfumer Christophe Laudamiel met me, I was drinking champagne and celebrating at a birthday party with Pam Anderson and David LaChapelle, so he wanted to put that in there. And it has flowers, with the red of my lips, and white for the skin, and yellow for my hair. So you should probably talk to him about the ingredients.
LT: It doesn’t smell like pussy?
AL: No, it definitely doesn’t smell like pussy, but it’s very strong. When I go to the gym, people know I’m there before they see me.