One of nightlife’s best-known, most fun and reliable interviewers–who’s spoken to pretty much every person in nightlife and way beyond, and even found time for yours truly–Eileen Shapiro is a genuine treasure. Life-to-its-fullest living and endlessly positive, this punk rock, queer-friendly scribe of Get Out Magazine is finally breaking out as a novelist, with a book that looks like a rocking good time. Baby interviewer Thotyssey gets schooled by the Maestress!
Thotyssey: Eileen, how are you? You’re the queen of nightlife interviewers, so this is quite an honor!
Eileen Shapiro: Thank you…and the honor is mine.
I was interviewed by Get Out, which was a blast! The man that did the interview, David Dubin, is a long time friend, and an excellent writer. Much better than myself, since he is an English teacher for 30 some-odd years. It was fun being on the other end of a microphone!
How long have you been with Get Out, now?
I have been with Get Out now for nearly 5 years…wow, didn’t realize that. I also write for a UK pop culture magazine entitled Louder Than War for a little over a year now, and I blog for Huff Post (Queer Voices and Entertainment) for a little under a year.
Oh wow, so you’re a bona fide freelance journalist! How long have you been a writer, in general?
I feel like I’ve been writing all of my life. I use to write for The Star Trek Giant Poster Book, and I had a best seller called The Star Trek Federation Medical Manual, under my maiden name Eileen Palestine….it all started there.
You were a Trekkie!
I was! I also wrote for a Star Wars magazine.
I kinda feel like nightlife and sci-fi are two very similar worlds. You’ve interviewed so many amazing people over the years, from the drag queens and DJs and gogo boys we all know and love, to A-list celebrities. Do you have an all-time favorite interview?
I loved interviewing everyone, but some of my most fun interviews were: Rick Springfield, Peter Marc Jacobson (Fran Drescher’s ex), Melissa Etheridge, Brook Shields, Bianca Del Rio, Lady Bunny.…oh my God, there’s just too many!
Oh, and Johnny Hazzard…I loved him to death. Along with Michael Musto. Jennifer Hudson and Annie Lennox were very cool too. One more, Sandra Bernhard, I’ve interviewed her 8 times. Gee, are you sorry you got me started?
What a list! How did you get into the niche of interviewing?
Well, I always wanted to interview Adam Ant, so I figured if I started writing, that maybe one day that would happen. it hasn’t yet, but I did get to meet him, and he used one of my reviews on his DVD sleeve!
I would wreck Adam Ant in his prime!
Just so you know….Adam Ant is sexier now!
Impossible! Okay, maybe. So who was your first Get Out interview?
Tell me a little about the Bunkhouse. What was that experience like?
The Bunkhouse….well, I loved it! it was like adopting 500 gay kids. I got to hang out every night with my favorite community .If the owner didn’t sell the property, I would still be doing it.
I still do gay events in the city sometimes with the magazine, and on Tuesdays at Off Key Tikki on Long Island, and I still do Miss Gay Long Island, a 49 year old drag pageant every summer.The Bunkhouse has brought me life long friends, which is the best thing ever.
So, let’s get to the beginnings of you. I know that you’re a native Brooklyner, and, I believe it was a gay cousin that introduced you to the nightlife. What about it appealed to you so much?
What is there about gay nightlife that isn’t fun? It’s happy, it’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s explosive, exciting, colorful, pretty…need I continue? I consider myself so lucky to be involved in gay nightlife in any way possible. It’s just something I was born to do.
How do you handle the cruisier elements of the scene?
I can cruise better than anyone! I was engaged to a gay man, he taught me (we didn’t like the same men, so it worked). I’m so use to it by now, I barely notice it.
I live with Colin, my gay soulmate, so once again it’s around me quite often. The way I look at it is, I don’t have to commit to anything, so it’s like looking in from the outside. There are so many facets to gay life….I love them all!
What’s your favorite nightlife destination, both in the past and also today?
I love Cherry Grove…Colin and I have a house there. I don’t have a favorite bar in the city, and if I did I’d be afraid to admit it, as the other bars might get mad! I guess it depends on the event. At the moment it’s the Monster, since I’m having my book signing there.
That’s fair! What’s your favorite band, or singer, or genre, or whatevs?
Adam Ant, of course!
Also fair. What’s been your craziest hairstyle or color?
Gee… in or out of drag? Right now my hair is blue and pink, with a hint of purple However, I use to wear Liberty spikes! I love big hair.
Do you wanna punch people who say that women of a certain age should dress a certain way, and have a certain lifestyle?
Nah, I don’t care, I’m my own person. I can guarantee you that their lives are aren’t as fun as mine! I feel bad for people like that.
How do you usually approach who might be a good subject for an interview? Do you just go out and see who looks amazing or performs amazingly, or do you poke around social media to find buzz? Or do you just do what your editor says?
I am lucky…all of the magazines that I write for give me free reign. Mike sometimes requests a favor, but I work with many great PR people who request interviews for their clients. I get 29 emails a day with requests…or I interview people I like and find cool or amusing or talented or interesting. I never refuse an interview, by the way. It’s about people’s lives. Also, I’ll never write anything mean… ever. No one has the write to judge anybody, not even the press. I just write down the facts, and let the readers form their own opinions.
That’s a good system! I see you often ask subjects what their favorite color is. Is this just to be fun and silly, or do you think it reveals a greater truth about people?
[Laughs] No, it’s so when Carlos designs the article, he can design it in their favorite color. That’s so they will like it before they read it That’s a trick….but it is a fun question!
Oh my gawd, I feel like I just uncovered the secret of the universe!
Actually, [there’s] not really [a rivalry]. I love the Odyssey people to death, and I just recently met the new owner of Next. We all get along, and so do each of the publishers. New York is a big place, and there’s room for all of us.
Was it a nice moment, getting that special achievement award from your magazine at the Get Out Awards recently?
Yes it was! I really appreciated it. Mike Todd is a really nice man; he’s very appreciative and humble. No matter where my writing takes me, Get Out will always come first.
Aw, sweet! You’re a mom and a grandma, and frankly you must be considered the coolest grandma in the world. Are you gonna take your grandkids out to the bars when they’re of age?
What do you mean, they know the bars better than I do, especially at the Grove! it’s their favorite place to go In the world. Kacy’s only 1, but he’s learning! They all love their Aunt China.
Let’s talk about Precious Little Devils now! Is this your first novel?
What made you decide that now was the time to do this?
Can’t be sure. I’ve been playing with the idea for awhile. Actually, I wrote the screenplay first, then the book.
Oh that’s the way to do it now! What’s the plot, without spoiling too much?
Let’s just say it’s very rock’n’ roll, with gayness, romance, drama, and competition. It’s an easy and fun read, so I’ve been hearing. They say authors are the worst at describing their books, and I’m a prime example!
Yeah it sucks to describe your own work, but that sounds amazing! I’d read that! And it’s such a great accomplishment to finish a novel, congratulations!
Now, are you ready for all those basic bitches out there in nightlife–and beyond–to get all offended (or braggy) because they assume that your characters are based on them?
Ha! But they are! At least some of them. They better watch it, my loosely written autobiography comes out next year and they are all in it!
You’ve all been warned! Your big book signing will be at the Monster’s happy Hour on July 31st, 7-9pm! That should be so fun for everyone, are you gonna do a reading or something?
A reading. It’s gonna be a party! I have lots of really cool people coming down to celebrate!
Are you worried that apps and social change are going to wipe out gay nightlife someday?
Nothing will wipe out gay nightlife…it’s strong. Those apps will get boring and annoying. They aren’t colorful, they aren’t alive, and I think it’s just a phase. Gay nightlife might take hit, but it will never be gone!
Okay, final question: you always seem so happy and positive and productive, and still free-spirited. What’s the secret to happiness, you think?
It’s probably mental illness–really! But, negativity and sorrow are just wasted energy. Every problem has a solution. I hate having to answer to people, so I don’t. It’s just that simple. You only live once. It’s not a dress rehearsal, so don’t waste time being sad. It’s not even healthy. Look at a bad situation as a challenge, and act accordingly!
Words to live by, from a lady who’s written quite a few of them! Thanks so much, Eileen!
Eileen Shapiro’s new novel “Precious Little Devils” is available for purchase at Amazon and other online retailers. She’ll host the official book signing at the Monster on Sunday, July 31st (7pm-9pm). Eileen is the featured interviewer weekly for “Get Out Magazine,” and her writing also appears in the magazine “Louder Than War” and also “The Huffington Post.” Eileen can be followed of Facebook.