RSVP: Singer Anohni Talks Her Monday Service at the Pyramid Club
From V120, singer Anohni and photographer Marti Wilkerson discuss the singer’s early performances at New York’s iconic drag club, the Pyramid.
Anohni: We performed as Blacklips Performance Cult, every Monday starting at 1:00 am. Marti took this at our third show at the Pyramid.
Marti Wilkerson: That night was my first time seeing the Blacklips Performance Cult at the Pyramid Club. I’d met Anohni just that week when she handed me a flyer for [that night’s play], “Revenge of Blacklips.” The lateness of the hour, the strange plots, the club going on around us—it was like a tawdry jewelry box.
A: Our flyers said things like, “Be beautiful, worship the devil.” I invited all sorts, in bars or on the street, to come and perform. It was about as underground as [you could go] at that time. Pretty quickly, we grew as a collective. Some of the more enthusiastic members started calling us a “cult,” but there was nothing satanic about us. It was the time of Jesse Helms and art censorship, [and] AIDS was still in full force. We were saying “Fuck you” to what was happening in our community.
MW: One night [the show] would be Charlie’s Angels, reinterpreted as the Manson murders, and the next would be something out of a silent film—a beautiful procession, to contrast with the horror. It swung between extremes.
A: The plays were a free-for-all: some amazing, some terrible. You never knew.
MW: Some of the plays had a mockingly religious element; one was called “The Ascent into Heaven,” with “sassy Jesus” and “Gothic Mary.” Many ended once all the characters had killed each other. But the very last thing, I distinctly remember, was Anohni would sing a song—something beautiful and ghostly.
A: The first night Marti came, I remember I sang one of my own songs, “Blue Angel.” My stage name was “Fiona Blue” in those days. [She] was my way of assuming more confidence… It’s not something I talk much about, but [she had] a more aggressive performance style. We were all really into gender expressionism and pre-war Berlin—that sense of a decrepit cabaret. We were obscure, still on the periphery; the audience was generally a toothless assortment [laughs]. I was still grappling with my [sense of self] onstage. I was really young, but I wanted to create a sense of heightened feeling in the room. Like Joey Arias as Billie Holiday as opposed to mainstream drag. It was like an athletic pursuit: getting a room full of drunk people to cry in three minutes.
MW: Anohni’s song would bring a closure and catharsis to the evening. Her voice, even back then, really affected [us]. By the end of “Blue Angel,” we were all in tears. It was otherworldly. The Pyramid was our sanctuary.