On Saturday August 1st, Tokyo Closet Ball had its first online streaming show, no live audience. The entire show can be viewed on YouTube. To promote the show, one of our performers asked everyone to answer a few questions, which he would then post on his blogsite. We also had the option of answering “in character” or as our everyday selves. I thought, well why not do both? I try to regard Triesste as a real person as much as possible. She has her own email address. This is the first time I’ve written anything for CDH speaking as myself when I’m not Triesste. It’s all meant as good fun even though part of it is totally factual. I hope you enjoy it.
Triesste and Skip Interview
Host: Hi everyone. We are going to be chatting with Skip and Triesste about Tokyo Closet Ball’s show on August 1st, and maybe get some insight into the journey for both of you that has led to where you are now. Thank you for joining us.
Skip: Thank you for having us.
Triesste: It’s a pleasure.
Host: Well, my first question is for Skip. What inspired you to be interested in drag? Pursuant to that, how did you get involved with Closet Ball?
Skip: How much time do you have? Just kidding-well I think it was always part of who I am. My mom’s side of the family has a lineage of intelligent, independent women going all the way back to my great-grandmother. I always felt that she was hoping for a daughter-then I came along. Then so did my younger brother. We have many relatives and a lot of them lived in Minnesota, where I grew up. There was a lot of pressure to honor the family. I started thinking about it seriously while I was living in Taipei, this would have been the 1990s. After I moved back to New York, I went to a few clubs in the region. I had no idea what I was doing. I found a few online sites that connected people in the crossdresser/trans community. When I came to Japan, I dressed up for Halloween but that was it.
Two other things to understand is, that I come from a music-oriented family. Many of my relatives play an instrument or did in the past. My brother is better educated musically than I am, he plays guitar in several bands. I have played live as a band member and a singer-songwriter-guitarist for-um…a few years.
When Closet Ball started in 2013, I had already been playing at that club for years. The other point is, that I REALLY like karaoke. I have a couple of friends; we go back to when I first came to Japan. We had a custom of dedicating part of the evening to songs by female artists. The unspoken rule was, no key changes. It had to be the same as the original or we didn’t do it. When Closet Ball started, at first, I was like, no way, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed as if all the elements were coming together. I went to the first show with a wig and boobs, fully expecting to be running for my life all the way to Narita with an angry mob chasing me. Instead, people were so nice, the audience was actually paying attention. For the next show, I went all in, totally dressed and the rest as they say, is herstory.
Host: Thanks so much for that Skip. My next question is for both of you. How different are you from each other? I mean, are you both basically the same person?
Skip: Well-Triesste, do you want to say…
Triesste: Sure-well I think Skip is the sweetest guy in the world. Everyone who knows him knows that. He is reliable. But he’s also-you know, I don’t mean this badly…
Skip: No, it’s fine.
Triesste: He’s also kind of…predictable. He’s not into crowds. I think if he could, he would have a workshop several kilometers under the Earth’s surface that no one knew about. I like to be where things are happening.
Host: I see-okay, thanks Triesste. Skip?
Skip: Well she’s partly right. I do have a workshop several kilometers under the Earth’s surface. But the air conditioning crapped out, I can’t do anything there at the moment. Anyway, besides taking up 80% of the closet space-I’m not kidding-our love lives are very different, for a very simple reason. Triesste HAS a love life. The only dates I’ve had recently are the kind you would put in a bag of trail mix. She is also a lot more adventurous than I am. If I could, I would like a dream partner who I think is great. She experiments. If she brings someone home, it could mean anything for dinner-steak and potatoes, vegetarian lasagna, live rats, bird seed…
Triesste: That was ONE time…
Host: Okay, let’s leave the details to the imagination shall we-next question is for Skip. Do your friends and family know about Triesste and your performances? Are they supportive?
Skip: Well…yes and no. And maybe. I have tried to be really careful about telling people I think are okay with it first, then for people who may or may not be okay, I don’t make an effort to hide it but I don’t bring it up. If I think it’s not okay, I just don’t talk about it. About five years ago I decided to tell my parents. I showed my dad a photo of three girls at a TCB show. I’m not sure if he understood that I was the one in the middle. We lost him later that year. From what my mom tells me, it would not have gone over well. I’ve never spoken about it with my brother. We talk music, being on stage. I don’t bring up TCB. The maybe part is those who know may bring it up to those who don’t. I don’t swear anyone to secrecy. Several photos have been posted on FB without my permission. I just tell people they are for special events. Then I send trained hounds after the posters…
But let’s be honest-I could pick up the phone and say hi, it’s me-um……here is the situation. I dress up and perform for audiences on stage. Or, hi, it’s me-here is the situation. I dress up and perform for customers for Albanian sex traffickers-those announcements will have very different reactions.
Host: Oh yes. Okay, next question is for Triesste. How do you prepare for a TCB performance?
Triesste: Oh, I’m glad you asked about that. My girlfriends have been really helpful, and I’ve learned so much. It’s funny-this is 2020, but I know about the kind of pressure women still deal with. I don’t think it’s fair to say, oh well I don’t have to worry about that. I can just put on an outfit and take it off. I think when women come to see a typical drag show, they have a great time watching the performers. Mostly they don’t identify with them. I want to bridge that gap. I’m single, but I want to say, I’m right there with you. I still like to have a few drinks, but I don’t do soft drinks. I’ve mostly cut out candy, desserts, and junk food. I’m not only the longest serving member of TCB but also the oldest.
I usually start preparing several weeks before the show. First is choosing songs, and next checking to see if a karaoke version is available. Two weeks out, I study the song, learn the lyrics. One week away, I listen to the karaoke version. Sometimes it’s different from the original. I may have a little wine or something the day before a show. The day of the show I eat as little as possible. No cheese. No sweets. Preferably no meat or cold liquids.
Skip: I’m not as extreme if I’m playing my songs.
Host: Thanks Triesste. Next question is for both of you. If you could, would you do TCB as a full-time job?
Triesste: Skip, you can-
Skip: It’s okay, go ahead.
Triesste: Such a gentleman-I told you before, right? Well for me, yes. I know that it’s hard to do the thing you love the same way when it’s your job. I also know that, sooner or later the haters will crawl out from wherever they live. It’s hard. But I do this for the people who know and love it. To be honest, I thought about wiping Skip off the map permanently-sorry hun. But Skip already has an impressive collection of bigotry and discrimination in his life. I would feel terrible about adding more.
Host: Thanks Triesste. Skip?
Skip: Off the map permanently?………..whaaaaaaa? sorry, I didn’t…..she didn’t tell me. Where was I-oh right. Well I’m more like no. I started performing my songs way before TCB. I have quit more than one band because we’re only playing hit songs. That’s what Triesste does-no disrespect-
Triesste: None taken luv. We both know the business.
Skip: Well I totally get the appeal. But in the long run I would like my own music to find an audience.
Host: Thanks Skip. Well it has been really great to have you both here. Any final comments?
Skip: Love you. Don’t forget who is paying for those outfits.
Triesste: Love you. Don’t forget why you have fans.
Host: Thanks everyone!