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Bridget Barkan’s Tipsy Talk with MAN-ee and MargOH!

“We are more than our bodies, we are energy and that energy isn’t defined by relationships, or status or ownership in anyway.”

Bridget Barkan

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Photo credit Jose Girona

Singer, musician, writer, actor, New York City native, and icon in the making, Bridget Barkan, is taking the world by storm with her latest solo show, The Love Junkie, “the story of one woman’s journey on the road to recovery from sex, love and codependency addiction.”

An accomplished artist who has been acting on stage and screen since childhood she has in recent years toured as back up vocals for Scissor Sisters and sings on a regular basis with the legendary performance artist Joey Arias.

MargOH! Channing and MAN-ee Champagne have toasted their way through the worlds of NYC cabaret, burlesque and theater steadily over the last 7 years performing everywhere from Don Hill’s and Stonewall to their debut at 54 Below in 2013. They met up with Bridget at one of their favorite spots in the East Village, La Palapa Cocina for a little Tipsy Talk.

They sucked back numerous delicious hibiscus margaritas and before MAN-ee had to prop MargOH! up to leave they had discussed everything from the complex nature of addiction to Lady Gaga’s backstage secret. And along the way a sing along of the theme song from the 60’s/70’s children’s show “Banana Splits” which Bob Marley may or may not have lifted a melody from.

MAN-ee &MargOH!: First and foremost – congratulations, lady! You are enjoying some well-earned success. We’re so happy for you!
[MargOH!: I know I say this a lot but – I’ll drink to that! I’ll drink a double to that!]

M&M: We were in the audience at Joe’s Pub for the premiere of The Love Junkie. Blew us away, girl! Seriously amazing work. Now let’s get into the meat of this – recently we were talking to a friend about their own journey through addiction and recovery. We talked a lot about “loss” and “discovery” – that even though discovering one’s voice and one’s strength is a joyful moment there is also a certain mourning that takes place at what you are losing. Anything you recognize in that?

Bridget Barkan: Oh holy Goddess, yes the mourning is brutal. You are losing your ignorance. And the bliss that goes along with it. But after a while, you realize the bliss of addiction has such a gory after math. So once you’ve made the choice to change your life, there is no looking back or you just try not to. Like the Sumerian tale of Innana and her descent to the underworld. She had to be willing to let part of herself die for another part to be born. And that rebirthing process is extremely painful. You let go of your fantasies and you start seeing the reality.

M&M: Yes, an incredibly intense process but important. Is there anything in this journey that completely surprised you?

BB: I guess, withdrawal and how that manifests. I went through withdrawal from intimacy last year. I didn’t know why I was waking up sad every freaking morning with no will to get out of bed. There was a cool surprise though, seeing how much my heart was connected to my body. Obviously, we are, right?

M&M: Totally. The emotional manifests itself physically and a lot of times people don’t even recognize what is happening. Obviously love is not a new addiction but I feel like we’re living in a society that is really fostering the growth of love junkies. A, um, “friend”, was on Grindr recently and received a message that said nothing but “horny. fuck now?”. Not “hi” or “what’s up?” – nothing else, just an addict on the corner desperate to get a fix. Are love junkies more common now because of technology like Grindr, Growlr, OKCupid, Tinder, etc. or are we just more aware because of that?

BB:Its’ just exposing what’s already there. That desperate desire to be loved, to be wanted, needed. I joined Tinder and though I’ve only gone on one meet up, every swipe to a mutual like, is as if we had a full term relationship and then when we don’t actually meet up, its ok. That was the purpose of our connection to just validate each other. So it kinda sums it all up.

M&M: Sure. It’s technology exposing our humanity and the bundle of emotional needs we require. Some of it beautiful really – even in the darkness of desperation and fishing for validation, the beauty of emotion is startling.

Love Junkie. It really is a rollercoaster ride of a show, as you say – which we love. You so willingly deconstruct yourself and your experiences and present some really pure universal truth. That obviously means making yourself incredibly vulnerable. Do the “voices” and characters ever just take over or are you always in the driver’s seat? Are there moments on stage that really scare you?

BB: Every time I walk out on stage and see people there to SEE me, really see me. I feel like I’m jumping off a plane and I could die or land safely with this huge triumph to log in my life book. I also feel like I’ve walked into the scariest audition of my life. And immediately, all my negative voices are attacking. I get to be a mess in this show and I designed in that way, because thats how it feels inside. About mid-way through my journey in the show and mid-way through the actual show, I can hear the Goddess voice more and I believe in myself more than I did before I walked on stage.

I actually want to scare myself more. I want to take more risks. I want to be even more honest on stage. I have turned my OCD from boys to this show…so I do feel like I’m running it all. So I like when there are moments Im caught off guard and just improv, thats when I feel the presence of my higher self and something holy.

M&M: You really take it there. It is scary but you take it there and bring us with you. You are uniquely your own artist yet we see shades of Lily Tomlin, Janis Joplin, Gilda Radner, Jill Scott, Bette Midler, Penny Arcade (one of our personal heroes) and even Donny Hathaway when you perform. We can be inspired by other artists and learn from them or become versions of them and sometimes that’s a hard line to walk. Aretha Franklin counts Judy Garland as a huge influence yet they are very different artists, for example. We’ve really been blown away by your ability to balance other’s influence and your originality. How do you walk that line?

BB: Its like putting yourself on a healthy artistic diet but not regurgitating what you have ingested.  Its about allowing your influences to just come through you and manifest in your art in a new way. I have definitely imitated people before which never felt right and eventually it morphed into something else because I couldn’t lie to myself or others. When you are in a learning phase, things do come through you sometimes without even knowing it. Its so cool that you said Donny Hathaway…wow, how did you feel that? That’s so dope, he is one of my most favorite souls.

MAN-ee: He’s one of my favorites as well. I think it’s that both of you reveal yourself so willingly in your art. There is a pure connection between your heart, your experience and your music when you’re on stage. There is a sharing with the audience that is just really authentic and it resonates strongly. I love when an artist is able to tap into that power.

MargOH!: Luckily all of my extra super-stardom came after I blossomed into voluptuous womanhood – until then I was just the daughter of a poor fishmonger from Bangor, Maine. Which comes with its own challenges, Bridget, darling. But you really started your show business career as a child. And we’ve heard so many tragic and sad stories of former child actors who were never given the tools to carve out a life, creative or otherwise, after their early success. What in your life has made that different for you?

BB: Fishmonger’s daughter? You must tell me more, MargOH! Well, I never got famous as a kid, not nearly as successful as the kids I grew up with. I think thats probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I have no doubt in my mind that I would have become way more fucked up, addicted to more than just men and I would have probably killed myself. Hahah…I think I was divinely saved from a life of child star dumbing down. I would have never gone to college where I became an activist, where I discovered the poet within me. But who knows, maybe there is an alternate reality where it would have all been ok too. They say who you are, is who you are…well, whoever they are.

M&M: Yes, true,“whoever they are” – that’s a very Judy Garland philosophy, which seems appropriate here. So any favorite moments from your early career? Any good T to serve from behind the scenes??

BB: This is an embarrassing story. I was in this kids choir full of kid actors called Children to Children. We would sing at the UN, songs like We are the World and stuff. At this one event, we held these little tree’s while we sang and talked about mother earth. We were on a break and Tatiana Ali from Fresh Prince and her little sister were in the choir and we were sitting on the edge of the stage. I thought her little sister was so cute and I wanted to play with her but Tatiana was kind of mean and told me that I couldn’t and kept ignoring me so I hit her in the face with the tree. AH! The tree of life! Well, it was a long time ago but that’s how I remember it. I really thought she deserved it but it was totally not a cool move, obvi!  That was the last time I sang in the group. Oh and some more present T, Lady Gaga sings Whitney Houston songs backstage, when she warms up. Shh…

M&M: We never really liked her on Fresh Prince anyway. And for the record we might have hit Lady Gaga with a tree branch, too.
We really loved the Esquire article on your dad, Mark Barkan, and his role in creating the first psychedelic album, Psychedelic Moods. What professional influence has your dad had on your career?

BB: My dad used to take me to the studio with him. I’d sit at the sound board and look at all the buttons. I was there when Olivia Newton cut vocals. I was there when he was producing a song for Cissy Houston and Luther Vandross. Whitney actually came to that session and I asked her to babysit me! She was just about to release her album and said she was busy. I just loved her and had such a girl crush. So yeah, music was everywhere all the time. Its like our religion, our way of connecting. Til this day I call my dad if Im stuck on a lyric. He also always shares his songs with me too. He still writes almost every day, and he’s going to be 80 this year. He made writing a job so he always finishes what he starts and thats very inspiring.

M&M: And can we just say what he probably hates and has been said a million times but – the Banana Splits theme?! DYING. As Elizabeth Taylor once said to Larry King “wha-whaaaaat??” Can we just have a sing along RIGHT NOW?!

 BB: Of course, bitches! [at this point we all bust out our best “tra la la, la la la la”’s – the lady next to us on her fourth martini is singing along but other than that the bar fails to join our merriment but no matter we’re makin’ up our own mess of fun and it’s lots of fun for everyone, anyway] 

You know my dad almost sued Bob Marley, because its the same melody as Buffalo Soldier’s Ay ya ya ya…But he didn’t cus shit its Bob Marley! Play them next to each other, its like note for note.

M&M: Love that! The Banana Splits just got even sicker. Ok, let’s dish New York City. You’re a Native. How has that shaped your creative vision? What do you most treasure about being born and raised here? What do you absolutely hate about the “new” NYC?

BB: I am such a born and raised NY snob! I take so much pride in that fact. And often find myself wanting to protest anyone that plans on moving here. I grew up in the 80’s/90’s here when it was still grungy…not to quote my show but why not, “when Times Square was dirty not Disney.” It was so vibrant and rebellious. I felt the sexual revolution around me. So much music on the street and dancing and hookers everywhere, even on my block in midtown. I was totally enticed and excited by it. I love that I can walk around and almost everywhere I go I run into someone I know. My roots here are strong and a part of so many different worlds. I have such an eclectic group of friends, all ethnicities and backgrounds, from the projects to the penthouses. I am most proud of that. There was no separation for me in my cafeteria of life. I am friends with the drug dealers, the fairies, the activists, the dancers, the musicians, the young mommies, the freaks, the artists, the oldies, the goodies, the runaways, the skaters, the millionaires. I’ve been in lots of different worlds and they all meet here.

I hate the loss of mom and pop shops and the endless amount of Starbucks, banks, Dunkin Donuts, nail salons. Its ridiculous. 7 elevens are for highways and so are IHOPS! Its insane. I remember when my favorite bookstore, Collesium closed and they opened a Chase there and it was just miserable. The chain stores are chains around us. Tying us into big business and putting even more power into the hands of the elite. I miss the feeling of the east village in the 90’s but whats funny is, I know every generation misses what the east village was like, it will just continue. Those high rises they’re building there makes my skin scrawl. It’s not a village anymore, its a glass and metal graveyard. But change is constant. How do we stop it? For one thing, I am doing my best to stop shopping at those places and supporting smaller local businesses.

M&M: Yes – enough with the goddamned banks! We lost our favorite little Italian family owned market to a bank and it still pisses me off when I walk by the spot a year later.

We performed in a show at Stonewall a few years back and Ana Matronic was the host. We had such a great time with her before, during and after the show!

MAN-ee: She got me to do my first shot of Maker’s Mark – it was Love!.

M&M:We were fans before but left completely enamoured. Clearly you have a special relationship – watching her watching you during your Joe’s Pub show last month was like watching a VERY proud parent – what has it meant to work with her and the Scissor Sisters?

BB: Ana is my sister in every sense of the word. When we were on tour, she always had my back and still does in so many ways. She is such a good soul. I told her about so many ideas I’ve had and she would always buy me books or put me on to artists/music that she thought would inspire me or guide me in the direction I wanted to go in. Her brain is an endless library, I look up to her and look things up in her hah. ALL the Scissor Sisters have been really special people and influences on me, as artists and people. They are so good to everyone they work with. Its refreshing to see successful people not be assholes.

M&M: Now let’s talk tipsy. Favorite happy hour spot in NYC? Favorite outside NYC?

BB: Hmm Happy Hour…I don’t drink that often it makes me too horny, especially after work seeing all those men in suits and ties, I can’t handle it, I want to act out the movie Secretary and drop the documents.

MargOH!: Favorite cocktail?

BB: Jameson and ginger.

MAN-ee: What topic of conversation would you say always comes up when you get together to party with your friends?

BB: Boys, God, art and food. What else is there?

M&M: Nothing! Peanuts, tortilla chips or goldfish?

BB: Goldfish because it makes me feel like I’m in summer camp.

M&M: Who would you most like to belly up to a bar and share a couple of cocktails with that you haven’t yet?

BB: I would love to make out with James Franco, I mean hang out with James Franco OR…Laurie Anderson, hang out not make out. But I wouldn’t say no to her of course!  I want to know this woman. I love her work and her vision.

MargOH!: Mmmmm, James Franco. That’s a cock…tail I’d love to sip, too. Cheers, darling!

MAN-ee: You made a really beautiful statement on social media recently: “Love each other. That’s it. I am quieting my own judgments today. My own desires. Comforting the child within that still wants to be recognised. Honouring the joy I feel when I help others shine. There is nothing like feeling the power of community. Listening to the Goddess voice within, that says, ‘Yes, girl, just say yes.’ “

And I have to say that really touched me and spoke to me at a time of struggle in my own creative pursuits and has lingered with me. What final words on love would you leave with us before we settle up the tab and head on home?

BB: Ah love. Well, I hope I find it one day. If you’re reading this and you’re a mixed nut, have a job, your own apartment, a healthy diet, no student loans and great laugh, holler! Hmm, I realize not many men qualify for that right now. Ouch. No for real though. I am finding that love within my community can be so fulfilling that I don’t miss the empty space in my bed. I don’t want it to stay that way but I really believe that if we put love into the world in a way that we are giving back and coming from gratitude. If we are using our need for connection to create change, to be active, to love an abandoned animal, to offer support to a homeless teen. I believe that the other love will find you. I think its just about remembering who we really are. And we are more than our bodies, we are energy and that energy isn’t defined by relationships, or status or ownership in anyway. Its just love, a movement, an unexplainable beauty and I want to stay in that space and hopefully attract the right person to share it with.

M&M: Kisses to you, Miss Bridget! Thank you for sharing some tipsy talk with us – let’s meet up again soon!!

BB: Love you!

Catch Bridget in The Love Junkie at Joe’s Pub in New York City on May 31. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetBarkan and download her music on iTunes.

MAN_198MargOH! Channing and MAN-ee Champagne have toasted their way through the worlds of NYC cabaret, burlesque and theater steadily over the last 7 years performing everywhere from Don Hill’s and Stonewall to their debut at 54 Below in 2013. “MargOH! Sings the Booze”, produced at The Duplex last year, was nominated for a 2014 MAC award and their previous show “Tipsy” (originally produced at Dixon Place) was chosen for the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In July they will mark their 20th anniversary together with a show in the annual HOT! Festival at Dixon Place, the oldest continually running GLBTQ festival in the world.

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