This actor, singer/songwriter, broadcaster and activist has been giving us the play-by-play on the red carpet for events in nightlife and beyond for some time now, while chatting it up with talent both new and uber-famous on his radio show “Artists Exposed.” Having recently wrapped up a major new film, he talks to Thotyssey about meeting Magneto and finding late success after a 20-year dark period he can barely remember. It’s the super inspirational Tym Moss!
Thotyssey: Hi Tym, thanks for talking to us!
Tym Moss: Hey Jim! Firstly, I just want to say that it is wonderful to be chatting with you. I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk with me. Congratulations on your GLAM Award!
Thank you! And the pleasure is all mine! Now, should I say Happy St. Patrick’s Day, or is this one of those grotesque ordeals that we wait out?
St. Patrick’s Day seems to have become just another day to party and get drunk. Do people even know what that day represents anymore? I haven’t really celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in years. So I would probably go with grotesque, since my experience of it is usually stepping over drunk and passed out people dressed in green after they’ve vomited on the sidewalks of New York City.
I’m with you!
It is always a fabulous affair. The glitziest night of the year! The reigning Emperor and Empress [of the Court] say goodbye with about a three or four hour display of performances, knighting and fanfare. I covered the Red Carpet: I interviewed Sir Ian McKellen and Academy Award winning screenwriter (Milk), director and producer Dustin Lance Black–whose mini-series last week, When We Rise, got critical acclaim. I also had a great time interviewing performers Sarah Dash and my good friend Peppermint, one of this season’s contestants on Rupaul’s Drag Race.
So what was the best part?
Getting to interview Sir Ian McKellen was my favorite. He is such an icon in entertainment. He was in Lord of the Rings, for God’s sake! X-Men! But I had to leave shortly after the red carpet to get to a dinner.
You’ve always been an enterprising entertainment journalist. Tell me a bit about the radio show you host, Artists Exposed, where you interview people in the nightlife and the art/performance world. How long has that show been running now?
Oh, my goodness… I think about seven years now. It’s built up over time. This weekend is Episode 389. I discovered that no one was really covering independent LGBT artists, and there was a whole universe of talent there! I kind of cornered the market on giving these artists exposure, so I called it Artists Exposed!
In addition to airing on internet radio stations, I’m videotaping my interviews now for a new TV network called UBC-TV, about to launch!
Artists usually feel very comfortable talking to me because I come at them more as a friend and colleague rather than a regular journalist. [That’s when] everyone in the LGBT community from activist organizations, nightlife award shows, the cabaret community, and special LGBT events wanted me to start covering their events, so they could get more exposure.
I have had the most amazing journey with this show. I now cover the GLAM Awards, Night of 1000 Gowns, and GLAAD Media Awards where I’ve met Mariah Carey, Kelly Ripa, Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), Deborah Harry, and many many other celebrities, politicians, LGBT activists and LGBT allies. People who are changing the world. I love what I do!
A little background is in order, I think! Where’s your hometown?
I’m originally from the rural Midwest. Believe it or not, I’m from Twelve Mile, Indiana! And not because it’s twelve miles long. It’s not even one mile long. I grew up at the corner of a beanfield and a cornfield in the 60′s and 70′s.
Wow! What was growing up there like?
There was no mention ever of “gay” or homosexuality. Boys had to play sports and girls got to play house. I was always different. I always liked ‘girly’ things. Playing with dolls, cheerleading, jumping rope… ya know, fun things! From an early age, I felt like I was wrong, broken or defective. So I stopped listening to my Inner Self, and tried to fit in.
It was a very lonely, confusing and frustrating existence. I tried to be like everyone else. I had a girlfriend in high school because that was what boys did. We loved each other and had an active sex life. I never even heard the words gay or homo [etc.], except when the other boys would call me “faggot.” I didn’t know what it meant. But I could tell by the way they said it that it was a bad thing. Imagine my surprise years later to discover that I had been a faggot all along and not known it!
So, what drew you to NYC?
I was the lead singer of different bands, and decided it was time for me to pursue a solo career. Back then we didn’t have the internet; if you wanted to be an entertainer, you had to go to New York or LA. So I packed up and left everyone and everything I ever knew, and moved to a filthy, dangerous, seedy New York City in 1982. New York was not the clean, safe, anybody-can-live-here-if-you-have-the-money New York that it is today. This was before Giuliani sold our soul to Disney. We still had freedom of thought!
I got manipulated into real estate (a long story for another time). I was constantly told that I had no talent, I would never make it as a singer, etc., so I should just stay in the real estate where I could make money. And after a few years of hearing that, I began to believe it.
Eventually, I woke up one day and owned the company. Twenty-five years-old, and I was strapped with a business in Manhattan. There went any chance of me pursuing my dream.
I hated every waking moment of my life, so I reached for drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. It grew to unimaginable levels over the course of 20 years (so much so that it’s quite a miracle that I’m even alive to tell this)… two decades of my life! Not 20 days, 20 weeks or even 20 months…. 20 YEARS! I cannot remember much of it. I lost all of my memories.
But after some extreme situations, I finally crawled into a mental health clinic and got the help I needed. When my memories started to return, one of the first ones was “OMG! I’M AN ENTERTAINER!” I had completely forgotten, for 20 years. So I grabbed a hold of that thought, and that was the driving force that kept me going through the darkest, scariest change of my life. After a couple years of rehab and relapse prevention, I’ve now been clean for over 10 years!
That was a lifetime ago. I cannot, or even have the slightest desire, to ever return to that dark hole I crawled out of.
That’s an extraordinary and inspiring story!
What do you think about today’s NYC? It’s gone so far in the other direction since the days when you first arrived, it might as well have fallen off the map. It’s so expensive and corporate, and it’s virtually impossible for an artist living here to thrive. Has the city become officially uncool, or even unlivable?
In many ways, yes. It has become so stale. We have been programmed to follow suit, stay in the lines, don’t question authority. That is what corporate thinking wants: for people to be hacks and drones.
Right now, New York is turning into every other cookie cutter town across the country. There are McDonalds, 7-11′s, Dunkin’ Donuts and banks at every turn. The privately owned independent stores (which this country was built on) are getting run out of business and replaced with major corporations.
So do you think the future looks bleak?
I do feel that we as a nation are going through a major shift. And it may not be pleasant; it will probably hurt. Every birth or rebirth has its pain. We are going to decide what we will tolerate and what we will not as a people. And that will direct us into our future.
I vote to let love guide us, not fear. I lived in fear most of my life. It’s dark, scary and lonely. We need to step out into the unknown light and trust. Believe me, it’s much more fun, and there are so many more opportunities out where it’s light!
It’s time we wake up and dare to be our unique individual selves. That’s what we were put here on Earth for: to be our True Selves.
Sorry. I got a little preachy there!
Preach! This all is reminiscent of your song, “Buy and Obey,” which kinda reminds me of the spoken word recordings that Ginsberg and Burroughs did in the 90s. But you’ve also recorded some fun, dancey tunes, like “Free Again!” What generally inspires you, musically?
I draw inspiration from many different things. Since I got my life and mind back, I’m happy most of the time. It usually takes quite a lot to get me down. So I can find a song in just waking up sober in the morning, or walking to the store. Walking, talking, eyesight, etc are all really miracles if you think about it. We take them for granted, until they are taken away!
What “Free Again” is about is that we are all born free. We don’t care about how much money someone makes, or what someone’s skin color is. We are just happy being ourselves. We are pure!
As far as acting goes, you have several credits under your belt. What have been some personal highlights for you?
Wow, I’ve had quite a few! And I’ve got many, many more coming up, I’m sure! It’s so hard to explain–and I hope I don’t sound too corny–but they all contributed to where I am today, which is pointing me to where I’m going. Some of my more memorable acting roles:
- Playing a drunken DJ / Liza Minnelli Impersonator in the film Lady Peacock. I had so much fun with that.
- I played eight characters in Girl, A Lopsided Tree Won’t Ruin Christmas. My first Off Off Broadway show that I starred in, written and directed by Joe Marshall. That was very challenging. I played everything from a 13 year-old girl, an older female stripper that was now a socialite, a homeless drug addict, to Santa Claus.
- Another Off-Off-Broadway show was The Choice, where I played a straight, Jewish, father who was a cold-hearted industrialist.
- I played a quirky research scientist in the film Paranormal Asylum.
And there are so many others!
I’m hearing quite a bit about this new film you’re appearing in, The Garden Left Behind starring Michael Madsen and Ed Asner, about an undocumented trans woman and her mother struggling in NYC. That’s quite a cast, and a very topical subject! How’s the filming going?
Oh, my goodness. What an absolutely joyous experience. We wrapped a few months ago, it’s in post-production now. It is a full-length independent feature directed by the incredible Flavio Alves and produced by Roy Wol. I admire both of them dearly. It stars new comer, Carlie Guevara; what a talent!
I am so grateful to have been a part of this. Michael Madsen, Ed Asner and I only have small roles, but I loved being cast with such seasoned actors. I have very good feelings about this film. Like you say, it’s timely, it’s powerful, it’s dramatic and its moving. It is an amazing piece. I think people of all walks of life will be affected by this movie.
Another thing that I loved is that they cast trans actors. So many times, Hollywood has the tendency to go with known cis actors to play transgender roles. I was glad to see Flavio went with trans and LGBT actors pretty much throughout.
Please keep an eye out for The Garden Left Behind. It will be making the film festival circuit soon!
And there’s another big film project in the works as well, right?
I did an incredible stage reading last year for an amazing musical about an older gay man and a younger gay man called JUNK. It was the most challenging role of my life, so far. Well… they decided to make it into a film, and I’m going to be starring in it with Robbie Wayne! The writer, director and composer is the brilliant Michael Penny. His music is complex and sophisticated, and the characters have so many layers. We also have an amazing producer, Karl Starkweather.
I am soooooo incredibly excited about this opportunity, I can’t even put it into words. It is a very original and unique piece, unlike most things out there. I feel very good about this project too. I know its going to do very well. All of the right energies and people are coming together. Its like the stars are aligning for this to happen.
Sounds intriguing, congratulations! Did you ever think you’d see the day when actual out queer actors would be playing major roles on the stage and screen?
I know… the evolution of the LGBT movement in general. I am trying to shift my perspective right now. Because when I first came out, the LGBT community was underground, always in the sleazy part of town, so that was the identity most of us took on. That we were to be hidden, disgusting, etc.
Then our friends started dying, and we came out in public with “we’re here,
we’re queer, get used to it!” and had to fight and protest. And more recently, we are able to get married! We are actually considered interwoven in the fabric of American society now.
Up until recently, I had a victim type of mentality, like “Oh, why me” attitude. “These young kids get to do the things I always wanted to do,” type of thinking. Wah, wah, wah… But now, I’m trying to wear it as a badge of honor.
As well you should! This past season, you were busy with “2 Queers a Bitch,” a comedy troupe consisting of you, Ike Avelli & Robbyne Kaamil, performing at venues like Stonewall and Don’t Tell Mama, and you even took it out of NYC for a few gigs. Do you have any plans for more shows soon?
I had the best time with “2 Queers and A Bitch.” It was probably the highlight of this past year. Robbyne Kaamil and Ike Avelli are two incredible comedians, and then I added a musical flavor to make a very unique variety show. The audiences always seemed to love it! Unfortunately, as of now, we have had to put a hold on it. With three actively working artists, our schedules can be difficult to coordinate.
I love the Winter Royal Teas. They are variety shows, produced by Fire island Celebrity Chef Stephen Daniello. I sing and host, and we have special guests each month. This month our musical guest is Lovari, our drag queen is Shirley U. Jest, and our DJ is Ian Ford. Chulo underwear is usually there with their muscle models, but they are out of town. They’ll be back next month!
I also am hosting another show this month at Stonewall Tuesday, March 21 called Vaude Village. It is also a variety show, but different. It features three short comedy plays (10 mins each), and I’m in two of them. I also host and sing, and our musical guest is Dorothy Dobkowski. It’s a really fun night of theater, comedy and music. We change clubs each month.
What else do we need to know?
I want to bring new never before seen entertainment to audiences. And again, I am going to be working with the new and exciting Television Network called UBC-TV. All original programming. I’m so excited that we are able to try new ideas for shows. What a great opportunity. I’m so fortunate and thrilled at all the possibilities and creativity that is coming my way right now.
Tuesday April 11, I’m the musical guest for Ari Kiki’s show at Boots and Saddle. June 1, I’m hosting Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.’s LGBT and Allies Awards. Saturday June 17, I’m hosting, producing and singing in an LGBT music variety show called Over The Top.
I will be performing or hosting at most of the Pride events from May through July: Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan. I’m waiting to hear if I will be performing at Capital Pride in Washington, DC–fingers crossed. Thursday, August 3, I will be singing the National Anthem at the Staten Island Yankees Pride night. And I am creating a full cabaret show in the early Fall 2017!
And there are more shows, I’m sure, that I can’t think of. Subscribe to my mailing list on my website! I will let you know when and where I will be appearing.
You’re a busy man as always! I was wondering what advice you might have for a person who is is the end of their rope with addiction or depression: how can they get out of that awful cycle?
Coming from someone who has dealt with depression most of my life, my suggestion is seek help. If you know something is wrong, be proactive and reach out for help. If it gets extreme call a suicide hotline. There are people out there to help. Do not ever give up. There are times when it seems like there is no way out. You will get through this. In My Darkest Hours, I knew that I had no idea or clue of how to get out of the addiction, so I sought out professionals who could guide me through. I could not have made it out without them.
Find what you’re passionate about and enjoy it. Pursue it. Appreciate it. Especially for artistic and creative Souls, life can be very tormenting.It can seem like no one understands. A lonely existence.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. One has to learn to be your own best friend and trust your Inner Being. The life of a creative mind is unique and original. Therefore it will be lonely because no one has been down the path you travel. Dare to be the first. Embrace your uniqueness, accept your loneliness and solitude, and allow your creativity to come through. Try to find the Fulfillment of being an original. And above all, love yourself.
Beautiful! And now I must insist on ending things on a lighter note: what would your drag name be?
Oh, that’s a good question. Believe it or not, I never really thought that much about it. Something fun like Cuntilla or Luv U Longtime [laughs]!
Love it! Thank you, Cuntilla, and have a blast with all of these projects and gigs!