Sandra Bernhard lets ’em rip — on DL black men, crazy Christians and how the financial crisis is the best thing to happen to America
While the economy collapses, many of us are desperately seeking lightning rods of wisdom.
Whether it’s tearing Sarah Palin or the Bush twins a new one, Sandra Bernhard doesn’t pull punches. And after 9/11, the funny Jewish intellectual says she got Dixie Chicked — and was essentially blacklisted in Texas.
Now as we dive deeper into recession, Dallas is in for a bargain. On Saturday, Bernhard returns to Big D for a suprisingly intimate and affordable chance to hear her as she plays the Rose Room.
With her pal Dallas radio jock Jack E. Jett introducing Bernhard promises to deliver an improv act and some songs.
Dallas Voice recently caught up with Bernhard, who was at her New York home.
Are you preparing any rants about the economy — and whom we should throw stones at? No. Everyone should just throw stones at themselves.
So, everyone must get stoned? [Laughs] Yeah. And everyone needs to stop blaming others and take on more responsibility.
Can we rant about our current financial situation? It’s the same thing I’ve been saying for eight years. First, George Bush stole the election. And because of 9/11, everyone just stood there with their thumbs up their asses. To me, 9/11 was a total manipulation. And to this day, I don’t fully buy it.
We knew 9/11 was going to happen — we had the intelligence, and nobody heeded the warning. But everybody just brushed that under the rug. Then we got into Iraq. Then George Bush wins again, narrowly….
It’s the nature of politics. People are finally realizing that they have a voice. I don’t understand why they had to be kicked in the teeth for eight years to get the point.
Are you afraid to criticize Obama? Why would I criticize him?
He’s against gay marriage. Plus that inauguration crap with Rick Warren while Bishop Robinson got shafted. I don’t think that’s the issue. The gay community needs do what they did since Prop 8 passed. Start organizing. Everybody who has fought any battles — whether it’s the black community or whomever— has had to fight. Now we have to fight. Marriage is a state-to-state thing, and it will evolve. And I don’t think Obama will ever stand in the way of that.
Obama is a black man. I mean, most black men are in the closet. They are on the DL, honey. It’s a cultural and religious thing — a Jesus thing. And everybody needs to wake up to that shit.
Should gays hand Obama’s ass back to him and say, "What’s your beef with gay marriage?" It’s fine if people want to tell Obama, "We’re going to effect these changes — and don’t stand in our way."
But until everyone gets past this religion thing, nobody is going to be on board.
Do fundamental Jews ever irritate you? No. They don’t bother me. Anybody who takes the Torah literally is out of their minds. It’s written by man — it’s man’s definition of morality. God wasn’t sitting up there with a big chisel and hammer ….
So it’s just the Christians? They’re fucking crazy. [Laughs.] Everybody is nuts, Jesus Christ.
What’s the truth that you’re speaking to power in 2009? This is the message: Get up every day, and do what you can to change your life — change your consciousness. Power up on an emotional and spiritual level. Take responsibility for your actions. Enjoy your life by embracing what you already have.
Has the financial crisis impacted your world? It’s affected everyone. I think it’s the best thing that’s happened to this county. People have to stop looking to material things to find happiness. We need to stop making movies about women who have traded their intellect for shopping — women who have spent the last 10 years resculpting their bodies by injecting chemicals and having surgeries. The whole consciousness has been wrong.
When it comes to fashion, Dallas could benefit from a sensible bitchslap. I pick from a wide variety. Friends give me stuff to wear. I like things I just buy off the rack. There have been so many great things on sale. I’ve bought fabulous dresses.
And great shoes. I bought two pair of Manolo Blahniks on sale for $450. This is a time to buy stuff and capitalize on great sales. I can’t tell people in Dallas how to dress. They’ve got their own weird — kind of like, big, big hair and big things happening. It’s a big place.
Mix it up — go high and low. It’s about good taste. Like Michelle Obama — she mixes J. Crew with new cool designers. She knows how to mix it up.
Did having to tighten your belt surprise you? Honey, I’ve always lived below my means. Since I was 18 and making my own money, I’ve never — ever — owed one dollar in my life. That’s my whole point. Live at the level you can live, and be comfortable. If that means not being grand and cooking at home every night and doing what you go to do, then that’s what you got to do.
And don’t have 10 kids. Have one or two kids. That’s enough. Be a great parent to one kid instead of a lousy parent to 10 kids.
Besides listening to Suze Orman, are you looking for lightning rods of wisdom? Yeah, myself. If I already haven’t given you enough stems of wisdom…..
I don’t need to look to anybody else. I look at my girlfriend and my daughter — we’ve never lived ostentatiously. That’s the best advice I can give — live below your means. If that doesn’t resonate, I don’t know what does. That’s what Suze Orman tells everybody. But I’ve been saying it for 20 years — when we were in the middle of having these, like, big, fabulous extravagant moments. I kept saying to everybody, you know what? Don’t go there — you don’t need a $5,000 purse.
You were ghetto fabulous before it was fabulous. You know it.
Your Dallas gig will be dramatically intimate. And for die-hard fans, it’s only $20.
Over the holidays. I just did a week at Joe’s Pub in New York. And it’s only 155 seats. I did some of my best shows in those settings. People like to be up close.
I just have one request: That people aren’t completely drunk or high on drugs. Can you just wait until I’m done performing? Sometimes these late-night gigs bite you on the ass because everyone’s so fucked up. If you want to hear what I have to say, don’t talk while I’m talking. And don’t be falling all over the place while I’m trying to be the star.
When I’m done, do what you want. When I’m onstage, please, shut up, and listen to me. And don’t make me have to say this when I’m onstage.
SATURDAY WITH SANDRA
On Feb. 21, Bernhard peforms a midnight "Carnivale" show at The Rose Room Theatre at Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Tickets, $20 (includes $10 cover to S4). Rose Room cast performs at 11 p.m. Proceeds benefit AIDS Arms and Resource Center of Dallas. 214-526-7171, PartyAtTheBlock.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 20, 2009.