Those glorious lips are puckered. Sandra Bernhard is back in Toronto to seduce us yet again with her looks, her music and her state of the world address. She plays Massey Hall on Sun, Jun 22 in a benefit for Pride Toronto. She also hosts the fourth annual Pride Toronto Gala and Awards on Jun 24 in the Distillery District.
“Toronto’s one of my favourite places,” she says in that unmistakable, sexy drawl. “My brother and his family live up there. I love it a lot.”
Now some of you may be scratching your heads at the infamously caustic comedienne talking about family visits instead of, say, dancing topless with some hot baby dyke. But a long-term relationship and motherhood seem to have gone a long way in mellowing the diva.
It’s easy to call up all sorts of fabulous life chaos for a kid whose mother had the balls to call Laura Bush a cunt onstage. But life chez Bernhard these days actually sounds pretty normal. Bernhard has a strict no TV or internet rule for 10-year-old Cecily, who she’s raising with girlfriend Sara Swtizer in their New York home. Mom makes sure to never stay away for more than a week at a time and feels that taking her daughter on tour would be too disruptive. It may be hard to reconcile with the 1980s party machine, but Bernhard is clearly a loving, hands-on parent.
The actress feels her engaged parenting nurtures a sense of intellectual curiosity unusual in a kid Cecily’s age. “It’s about guiding your kids into music and literature. Plus she’s always around people who are having cogent, interesting conversations. It’s made her more conscious than a lot of kids have an opportunity to be.”
It’s also bred a sophisticated taste in entertainment. “Her favourite documentary is The Making of Company with Elaine Stritch.” You can hear Bernhard smiling over the phone. “She’s loved that since she was four years old.”
It seems like a fairly sedate lifestyle for the former wild child, but Bernhard wouldn’t have it any other way. Mostly.
“I like New York a lot,” she says, “but sometimes it gets a little claustrophobic.” Trips to her house in LA let the performer stretch her legs a bit, as does frequent touring. She’s still flying high from a recent 20th-anniversary remount of her breakthrough hit Without You I’m Nothing, and will be arriving in town fresh from a gig in Seattle.
Bernhard’s coy about discussing the material she’ll be performing at Massey Hall, but fans of her dead-sexy take on Prince’s song “Little Red Corvette” can be assured that the diva will deliver. “It’s the thing I’ve always done and I love,” she says. “It’s more my song than Prince’s at this point.”
You can be sure the savvy gal will also hold forth on the latest in US politics including which Democratic challenger will win her vote.
“I’ve made my choice to support Obama,” she says. “I would love it to be a woman but Hillary’s not the right one. She’s all wrong.”
When asked about the main issues facing voters — particularly queer voters — Bernhard bypasses strictly partisan community politics to take a larger view. “The human condition addresses all these things,” she says. “Gay or straight, it’s all about people surviving day to day.
“Things are really difficult for people without money. If you don’t have any money you’re fucked. Eight years ago we had a chance to make changes but, instead, a lot of people chose war and fear and paranoia.”
Bernhard was one of the few public personalities to speak out against the warmongering propaganda that was so fashionable just a few years ago. A 2006 appearance on the View made headlines when the comedienne cracked a joke about Mariah Carey that made Star Jones nearly burst her stomach staples in rage and then clashed with rightwing airhead Elizabeth Hassel-beck over Bush and company’s agenda of stupidity.
Watching our girl rip Hasselbeck a new asshole was a world of reason to buy a TiVo.
“I called it like I saw it,” says Bernhard. “It was that kind of manipulative fake patriotism that I can’t stand.”
Unlike many celebs who hastily recanted any criticism of the administration (ex-gal pal Madonna scrapped an antiwar video for her song “American Life”), Bernhard stuck by her guns with very little fallout. She believes it’s because she has no record company or controlling body to answer to. “It’s easier when you do your own thing and call your own shots.”