Justin Vivian Bond's new memoir. Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels (The Feminist Press at CUNY), is an insightful account of the multi-talented performer's early years in suburban Maryland, and this slim and witty volume gives the reader an idea of how these early events that shaped the person who would thrill audiences around the world as "Kiki" (of Kiki and Herb fame) as well as Justin Vivian Bond.
Bond frames the book with the revelation that Michael Hunter, a former teenaged lover, was recently arrested for impersonating a narcotics officer under the code name "Tango." Bond then retraces this clandestine love-hate relationship back from its earliest beginnings.
While the story is decidedly humorous, it's also a sometimes shocking story of pre-teen gay sexuality that is rarely told in public. Indeed, Bond's early sexual dalliances with neighbor boys (not only Michael; there was also his older brother) was the subject of much scandal in the community.
Even in his early years, Bond showed a flair for being provocative and unconventional in other ways, from trying to start a burgeoning "Kids Lib" movement, which was strangled in its grave by an angry neighbor lady who believed that children shouldn't be liberated, to telling a Cub Scout den that the person Bond would most like to be in history was actress Sandy Duncan.
In its own way, Bond's story offers a perfect balance between the earnestness of an "It Gets Better" video and the lunacy of a John Waters film, while still being deeply relatable to much of its readership.
ON THE SHELF: Producer Mitchell Maxwell tells the story of an unforgettable summer theater season in Plymouth, Mass in his new novel Little Did I Know (Prospecta). Actor Hal Holbrook has released another memoir, Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain (FSG). Designer and stage technician Drew Campbell offers a new easy-to-read handbook about technical theater in the modern age with Digital Technical Theater Simplified: High Tech Lighting, Audio, Video and More on a Low Budget (Allworth). Finally, TCG has two new play anthologies, Oh, Wild West! a trio of plays from the Chicano/Latino performance troupe Culture Clash, and Version 3.0: Contemporary Asian American Plays featuring works by Julia Cho, Chay Yew, and Diana Son.