talks to the cripgay performer
and uncovers some post-interview truth.
Last year, a friend of mine turned me on to Greg
Walloch. He's here, he's Queer, and he's got CP! Last year a film
about his work, incoporating documentary and concert footage,
toured the festival circuit. When it was released last year on
DVD as "Fuck The Disabled" I
reviewed it for BENT and posed the question, "Is America
ready for a gimp on crutches armed with jokes about blowjobs,
Harlem junkies and dumb-as-a-post circuit boys?"
Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing
Greg Walloch during the run of his show, White Disabled Talent,
at the New Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.
audiences responding differently here in San Francisco than they
do on the East Coast?
GW: It's always interesting
to perform in different places, from city to city or country to
country, because responses are different everywhere. I mean, some
stuff seems to be universal, but I definitely think that cities
have certain energies and attitudes about them. San Francisco people
seem to be really friendly and warm. Not that people on the East
Coast aren't, but there's just a different energy. I would say that
people in New York . . . there's always that thing of being on a
schedule and being in a hurry, things are a little more "slick-ified"
in a way.
In some ways I feel like
New York audiences are a little harder, so it's a good place to
really cut your chops. But I've experienced really hard audiences
and really wonderful audiences in both types of places.
talk a lot about living in Harlem, the experience of that. I could
identify. Having just spent several years living in Oakland, CA.
I have had that same experience, where people are hesitant to come
to my neighborhood, based on their own perceptions of the city.
GW: The lesson for me
about living in Harlem is that people are people everywhere. The
image that Harlem has is undeserved. It's such a beautiful place,
with such an amazing community of people. It was challenging to
work on the documentary element in the film. I'm a storyteller,
but in those sections of the film, someone else is the storyteller,
putting things together. That was tough, because I wanted to make
sure that Harlem-I have unique experiences being a white, disabled
gay man living in HarlemI wanted to make sure that Harlem
wasn't misrepresented in some way.
The way I use Harlem
in my show is very funny and light, and I hope it conveys a positive
message. I wanted to make sure that stayed intact in the film.
just called yourself a storyteller, as opposed to a comedian or
performance artist. Is that how you conceptualize yourself and what
GW: I never really considered
myself a comedian. I don't work in a very traditional joke-telling
style. The work is funny and the material is funny. Most performance
artistsmy best friends are performance artistswell,
the term conjures up such a vast array of images that it's hard
for people to get their mind around what exactly a "performance
I do think that "storyteller"
describes most accurately what I do. I stand up there and tell stories,
so in the most basic way, it's an accurate, accessible way to describe
what I do.
other performers do you draw from or get inspired by?
GW: I love David Sedaris.
I love Spalding Gray. Sandra Bernhard is another person who I think
is really wonderful. In a lot of ways, Laurie Anderson is a sort
of very unique storyteller, she uses her voice in very interesting
ways. It's those types of people whose work I am attracted to and
to go back for a minute to the documentary portions of "Fuck
the Disabled" and what you said about giving up control, what
was that like?
GW: It was interesting,
because I love performing and I love being onstage. My favorite
part of the film altogether is the stage time; I think it's really
great. The documentary part, the reality component . . . it was
hard for me. It was hard to give up that control, and to have cameras
around. I didn't really like having cameras in my private space.
The film tells a certain
story with the reality footage, but I don't really feel like it's
the full story. It was hard to give that up and go with it. I think
what's most representational and most true in the film is what I
say onstage. It was intense to have cameras in my personal space.
they there 24 hours a day or . . .
GW: They weren't there
24 hours a day, but they were there often. All the shooting was
done at once . . . all the stage stuff. So, the days that they were
shooting, they would follow me around for the rest of the day.
said that certain parts of the film don't tell the whole story.
Are there parts that you would change, looking back at the experience?
GW: I was most critical
of the stage stuff, because I know in my head all the stuff being
shot. Of the footage onstage, there were certain performances that
I might have picked over other ones. But, it's been a couple of
years ago now, so all it really does is give me the opportunity
to create that in the future, do that in the future. I'm really
really glad I did it. It was so much fun to do, and it just inspires
me to keep telling my story. R
you think there is such a thing as the "gay community" or the "disabled
GW: I do think that there
is such a thing as the disabled and/or gay community, but I think
that what I'm striving for in my work is to show that those are
smaller parts of a bigger community, which is just a community of
people. We could point out many differences between ourselves. Those
are two big ones, and two interesting ones, but if we really sat
down, we could point out a lot of similarities and differences.
I think the important thing is to realize that we're all people.
you really see Stephen Baldwin's dick?
GW: I guess I mentioned
that in another interview . . . yeah. I talk about it a little bit
in the show. Yeah. He didI don't know what to say about it
He did flash it, but
I think he flashes it to a lot of people, so I don't think I'm special
in any way [laughs]. He
was on that "Celebrity Mole: Hawaii" . . .
That was my guilty pleasure a few months ago.
GW: Kathy Griffin talks
about having seen his penis, so I think that's the deal. He was
so great. He was amazing, a really wonderful, generous person.
you could be nondisabled for 24 hours, what is the first thing you
GW: Wow, that is such
a good question! Nobody has ever asked me anything like that before.
Wow! What would I do? That is such an interesting question. I haven't
really thought about that too much.
was thinking about it today, because I figured if I ask this question
. . .
GW: You have to have
your own answer. What is the first thing I would do? Wow. My head
keeps going to all this mundane stuff, like I would move all the
really heavy stuff [laughs] . . . I'd rearrange all the furniture,
do all the heavy lifting that I can't do now. It's funny how my
mind is going to all this completely mundane stuff.
first thing I would do is go out and buy a pair of really shinylike
patent leathershoes, and wear them around all day. For once,
I wouldn't scuff them and they'd be beautiful all day [laughs].
GW: I hear ya! These
are loaners from someone else. I'm on this shoe loaner program with
my problem with shoes, if I ever buy anything nice and shiny, five
minutes after I put them on I scrape the toe, and that's it.
GW: I like your answer.
Your answer's really good, that you'd buy some nice shoes. That's
What's more annoying: lap dogs, or rainbow colored everything?
GW: Lap dogs are fineyou
know, we can't blame the animals [laughs]. Rainbow-colored-everything:
I'm gonna say something not very good. I was walking around the
other day, down in Chelsea, and I saw all theeverything was
all so ghettoized and gay. In a way, it's really great, really progressive,
but in another way it just reminds me of girls on spring break in
Fort Lauderdale [laughs]. It's really kind of the same.
I can't decide if it's
all really political and fabulous or if it's exploitative. Sometimes
it straddles that border, that everything is so commodified and
wrapped up and ready to buy. That trendgay or notis
disturbing to me; whatever goes down, we're ready to wrap it up
and take it home, almost instantly.
That happened with September
11th, a really really tragic event, without a pause. The media had
it pre-chewed and spit back out, so you could take part of it with
you. Maybe that helps console people, but it's a disturbing trend,
I think. It's almost like more than the actual experience, people
want something they can hold and take home. So I guess my answer
is that rainbow-colored-everything is more annoying [laughs].
you have a drag name?
GW: No. I've only done
drag once and I don't even know what name I made up. I don't really
have a self-invented drag name. Maybe down the line sometime that
would be a whole different avenue of performance [laughs].
What I do as a performer
feels a little like drag already, it feels a little like reality
blown up a bit.
Heading back to my
car that night I was ecstatic. The show had been even better than
I'd expected, and Greg himself had turned out to be a thoughtful
and gracious interview subject.
As it happened, I had
parked in the Castro district of San Francisco. Lost in my own
thoughts, I came up from the Muni station, and made my way down
Market Street. I was thinking about what Greg had said, about
people just being people, about his experience of being a disabled
man, about the fact that no matter how badly I wanted them, my
disability will always make patent leather shoes an impossibility.
At the corner of Noe
and Market, four giggling little fairy boys were laughing and
posing and generally carrying on in the way that nineteen-year-old
twinky boys in the Castro usually do. I paid them little mind,
but when I passed by,
they immediately began to whisper and giggle and clutch at one
another. I ambled past them, and when I was about thirty feet
beyond the group, I heard someone behind me calling out.
I looked back over
my shoulder, and saw all four boys looking in my direction.
"Me?" I called back.
"Yeah," the spiky-haired
one answered. "Can we ask you a question?" He looked down at his
feet, and started to giggle nervously.
"Sure," I said, turning
"Well . . . we were
wondering . . . " He studied his shoes again. "Are you . . . gay?
I mean, we didn't know if people like you could be gay. Don't
take this the wrong way. I'm not trying to be a bitch, but, you
know . . ."
"I prefer Queer," I
One of the other boys
took a step forward. "I told them so!" he said a little bit too
proudly. "I told them your shoes were too cute for you to be straight!"
The others all started
to giggle and clutch at each other again. I noticed that two of
them held shopping bags from some of the gay tchotchke shops that
line Castro Street.
"Let me ask you a question
now," I said. "Are you guys on Spring Break?"
shrieked, immediately falling into gay-boy vernacular. "We are
tooootally here on Spring Break! This city is fierce! I, like,
totally wanna move here."
"Well, good luck with
that. Have fun and play safe," I said, continuing on my way, laughing
All the way home, I
couldn't stop thinking about how much my shoes really do say about
© 2003 Raymond J. Aguilera
Let us know what you
think of this BENT feature.
Raymond J. Aguilera
(at right, cheered on by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence)
keeps busy trying to finish his master's degree and enjoying a
faaaaaabulous suburban existence with his partner (at left). Writing
by Ray and Greg Walloch is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled
Gay Men and Their Stories," edited by Bob Guter and John
R. Killacky, Harrington Park Press, December 2003.