Backstage at Escuelita night club with Harmonica Sunbeam
Harmonica talks about going to high school with Queen Latifah and about other celebrities, who come calling on Harmonica at Escuelita.
LF: Did you know Queen Latifah back in high school?
Harmonica Sunbeam: Uh-huh. We hung out. Sitting in the lunch room, with her rapping and doing the beatbox, and stuff like that.
Wolfgang Busch: You did beatbox?
Harmonica Sunbeam: No, her. And years later, for her to be this, you know what I mean, this woman of all this: where she started with just a little rapping, to her own TV show, to producing, directing – it's just wonderful, wonderful. Spokesperson for all these commercials. Wow! It makes you know that it can happen to the little people, because everyone thinks that, "Well, it all happens overnight." And I think it's a journey, and that journey makes everyone humble. And in that, there are going to be ups and downs and trials and tribulations. And it just keeps you humble.
LF: Did you know that Queen Latifah did a video where she had vogue dancers? She hired Willi Ninja for the music video for Come Into My House.
Harmonica Sunbeam: I've seen quite some stuff, because she's always been gay friendly. Even in some of her lyrics, you can hear some gay slang. In some of her earlier lyrics, you hear some gay slang, which shows that she was in touch with the community. And then we lost – she lived in Jersey City for some time, and we would run into each other – and we kind of lost track with each other, and stuff like that. But it would be nice to hear from her.
LF: What kind of celebrities come visit you hear, to see the show?
Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, we've had a few and far between – just people in the industry, like there's a stylist that comes every once in a while, his name is Phillip Bloch. And also Frenchie Davis has been here in the past, Freddie Jackson. And people just pop in. You know, I try not to make a scene, because I know when I go somewhere, and I'm just trying to enjoy myself, I don't want to be noticed. And some people don't mind, and some people do mind. The director of Noah's Ark comes through every once in a while, as well as the cast members of Noah's Ark.
Wolfgang Busch: What's the director's name?
Harmonica Sunbeam: Patrik-Ian Polk.
LF: Where did you find influences in your stage performance and in your music?
Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, comedy wise, I've always been a fan of Carol Burnett and Rita Rudner. And show-wise, there's a lot of great female entertainers that I feel really give a show and put in 110% into a show, like Tina Turner, and who just go all-out for their audience. And that's my aim each and every time I get on the stage. I'd rather not do a show than half-way do a show, because the audience will never understand. If I came out, saying, "I'm not feeling that great tonight, so I'm not going to do this, this, this, and this." Some people will say, "O.K., we understand. You give us 120% each week." But there will always be somebody in the audience who will say, "Then, bitch, why did you come out?"
LF: You don't only play in New York?
Harmonica Sunbeam: No, I go wherever the money is.
LF: Where have you gone that's been interesting for you? Where has your career taken you?
Harmonica Sunbeam: To Bermuda. To Manchester, England; there's a festival up there called It's Queer Up North. And I've performed in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, as well as Lyon, France.
LF: Lyon, France?
Harmonica Sunbeam: Yeah, because I tour with a dance company called Evidence.
LF: When you go on the road, do you do your show from here over there, or do you do something else? With Evidence, you are doing dancing?
Harmonica Sunbeam: No. My friend, who is the choreographer and director, Ronald K. Brown, he wrote a piece called, Dirt Road: Morticia Supreme's Revue. And I play Morticia Supreme, and I host the show. And I kind of like fill the audience in as to what is going on, with the dance piece. So, basically, when I travel, I'm either doing my own one-woman show, so to speak, or I'm a guest or a part of a show with other people involved.
LF: For all the time that you've been here at Escuelita, over 10 years, obviously you have a very loyal following. How does that feel to have people who are very loyal to you, follow you, and support you?
Harmonica Sunbeam: It feels wonderful. It's nice to know that you have people on your side, people who care, people who will be there for you in more ways than one. Even some of the, quote-unquote, fans, I develop friendships with them on a more friendship level than opposed to me entertainer, you fan. A lot of people invite me to their different family events, and I can't always go because of my own schedule, and they understand that, as well, but it feels nice that people want to get to know more of you than just the stage persona.
Read the next installments of this exclusive interview:
For another unique experience with Harmonica Sunbeam, please watch the independent documentary, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch.
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