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Musty Chiffon
More Than a Woman: Hard-working diva of drag Musty Chiffon brings his/her cabaret show to the Santa Cruz Art League on Friday night.

Photo by Jason B. Gavann

Dini Lamot has created a classic star in the person of Miss Musty Chiffon--but Musty's much more than just a pretty face

By Traci Hukill

MUSTY CHIFFON, the cabaret diva, looks born for the part. With her glossy black shoulder-length hair, creamy pale complexion and pouty lips painted siren red, she's a bombshell in the image of Jane Russell. Yes, that's right--our dainty beauty measures an impressive 48-30-41--after her reduction. And those dusky come-hither eyes! You can see in the studied but graceful flourishes of her gloved hands and in the way she glides around the stage that she's gorgeous and knows it.

"I've been in drag since I was, like, 2," says Musty's off-stage alter-ego, Dini Lamot, from his home in Provincetown, N.J. "My parents and my cousins used to dress me up, so I guess I've kind of been conditioned into it."

But don't mistake Musty Chiffon for just another guy in a dress lip-syncing Eurythmics songs. For one thing, Musty charms her fans with a dark, sultry baritone that can raise the roof or send shivers up your spine. And unlike most drag queens, she writes her own songs--good ones, including "I Want to Be Like Jackie Onassis," an early-'80s hit that launched Lamot's old band, Human Sexual Response, into minor stardom.

The song wasn't the joke some people assumed it was. "It was total glorification," insists Musty. It pleased her immensely to hear that John-John liked the song, although Caroline, always more difficult to please, walked out.

Vocal and songwriting abilities aside, Musty's musical gifts aren't all that distinguish her from hordes of drag queens strutting around onstage and flirting with audiences. Her philosophy about her act widens the gap as well.

"My show is not a drag show," Lamot explains earnestly. "It's cabaret. I just happen to be in drag. I'm not out there wishing I was a woman." Well, then--what about those dresses?

"I just love the whole glamorous atmosphere of the '50s and '60s," Lamot confesses. "If you ever get a chance to see a Russ Meyers film, all the women are very voluptuous. Farla from Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill is one of Musty's role models."

Named for the fragrance of an old chiffon gown Lamot discovered in a vintage clothing store years ago, Musty also counts Jackie O among her inspirations, though whether the late socialite would approve of Musty's comportment is a topic for speculation. One Halloween, Musty co-hosted a costume party with Candy Samples and Elvira. The three eventually wound up in Playboy together, a development that hardly fazed the seasoned performer.

As her act gains recognition--she's toured across the country several times now--Musty finds herself breaking into a new rank of venues. Her latest coup is landing a show at L.A.'s prestigious Cine Grille, a house where performers like Tony Bennett take the stage on a regular basis. She performs frequently at the New York cabaret Eighty Eights, as well as Squeeze Box, a club where she takes the stage with a full band at 3am to an audience of "wild 22-year-old kids." She loves every bit of it.

"The show is really an emotional roller-coaster ride through the '60s and my life," Musty reflects. The lineup spans a wide variety of musical styles, although Musty usually puts a torch-lit, languid spin on songs, providing a strong thread of unity. Accompanied by pianist James Followell, she roams through a repertoire encompassing originals, as well as numbers like "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "Magic Carpet Ride," "Goldfinger" and, perhaps the crowning achievement, Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" rendered into a touching ballad by dint of Musty's magic.

Funny, entertaining and chatty--she changes outfits four times onstage while still talking to the audience--Musty is adamant about the universal appeal of her show. "It's a show for everyone," she stresses. "I don't gear my show toward anyone in particular. My audiences range from young kids to very old people." She thinks a minute, then says the first negative thing in a half-hour conversation.

"I'm so tired of separatism. Here [in Provincetown], it's Women's Week right now, and next week is going to be Single Men's week. It's like, why can't we just have People's Week?"

Musty Chiffon performs on Friday (8pm and 10pm) at the Santa Cruz Art League, 526 Broadway St., SC. Tickets cost $10 and proceeds will benefit the Santa Cruz Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgendered Center. For more info, call 425-5422.

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From the October 24-30, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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