Hail The Queen
Author Embraces her Inner Oddball
Carlip has led a life less ordinary.|
Carlip crowns herself Queen of the Oddballs (Harper Paperbacks,
2006; $13.95 softcover) in a breezy memoir that recounts memorable moments from
her colorful life. This jill-of-all-trades from Los Angeles has enjoyed brief
stints as a stalker (of Carole King in the summer of 1971), starfucker (with a
Xanadu dancer and a soap opera actress), rocker (as lead singer of Angel and the
Reruns, seen in the 1984 film Bachelor Party), screenwriter Skirts, a derailed
dance musical that was supposed to star Debbie Gibson) and author (Girl Power:
Young Women Speak Out, a forum for teenagers to express themselves). Oh, and she
can juggle, too. Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, sums it up best on the book
jacket: "Hillary Carlip's life will floor you
. Her book should be mandatory
reading for anybody contemplating fabulousness."
Radosta: What made you decide to put your life into a book?
Carlip: I had started writing personal essays and performing them in spoken
word venues, and I just saw how people really respond to personal essays, which
to me is like a mini memoir. People can see themselves in material that's so intimate
I was really inspired by that whole genre and actually started
a literary Web site, FreshYarn.com, and just got really swept up in that whole
world and from that I thought, "Ah, it's time to put these stories out there."
What were some of the stories that especially resonated with audiences?
Well, one of them, which I will be performing in Portland, is the title piece
of the book, "Queen of the Oddballs," about my experience winning The
Gong Show. I'm not only reading the piece in Portland but also performing my Gong
Show-winning comedy juggling song, live and in person!
I'm curious what it was about your upbringing that allowed you to be such a free
spirit from such a young age.
My parents were very supportive
they were lovely, kind, generous people,
but they were like that to the mailman, to the neighbor's maid, to everyone. So
it was always kind of like, "Hello, what about me?" And I think from
early on I just felt like I had to do things to not be invisible. I'd take on
these different personas to feel like I was someone interesting enough to be noticed.
The first piece in the book is about me pretending to be Holly Golightly when
I was 8 years old and smoking cigarettes on the school playground and getting
suspended from the third grade. Besides being sent to a child psychologist, there
was some affirmation in that when, shortly afterward, I got picked out of everyone
in my school to appear on Art Linkletter's House Party. So there was some subliminal:
"This behavior might be OK. I was rewarded for it!"
A lot of these stories seem almost too good to be true. Especially in light of
the James Frey debacle, did you have to prove anything for the fact-checkers?
The great thing was I have all this ephemera and pictures and letters. But also
I've kept journals and datebooks for decades, so I could tell you, like, what
I've done every day since I was 13. So a lot of material was culled from my journals
and things like that.
What are you working on now?
Mostly, I'm just promoting this book full time. I will be doing a Fresh Yarn anthology
bestof book. I've been starting to speak a lot of places just to inspire people
to take a different path, think "outside the box," as they say-although
that slogan is now so "in the box"- and let their oddballness thrive.
Do you think gay people have an especially hard time with that because they get
told that they're abnormal and that it's a bad thing to be abnormal?
I think so. It's really interesting. You know, a lot of people writing the great
memoirs are gay authors-David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, there is a new book
out which is wonderful called I Am Not Myself These Days [by Josh Kilmer-Purcell].
Because of the situations we were faced with, we're more likely to go inside and
look at these stories that we have to tell.
CARLIP reads from Queen of the Oddballs 7 p.m. May 17 at Barnes & Noble, 708
S.W. Third Ave. She'll also appear on OPB's radio variety show Live Wire! 7 p.m.
May 18 at Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave. Tickets are $15 at the door
or $12 in advance from the boxoffice or Ticketmaster.