MAME in China
When I was managing The Beat in Australia in the mid 1980’s, my “drag” alter ego was “Mame Dennis” – even though I never actually dressed in drag. Mame was simply my alter ego — fun spirited galavanting globe-trotter with fabulous hats living in an Art Deco world. (at the time, I was a Patrick Nagel fan and collector)
Rolling the clock forward a couple of decades, to sashay away the craziness of China life, my Beijing based business partner, Douglas Evans (formerly Managing / Producing Director of San Diego’s The Old Globe, and CEO of both The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and the Stamford Center for the Arts) and I filled out our dream cast adopting more alter egos from the principle characters in the musical MAME. The freezer stocked to the brim with vodka loving Doug playing the lush Vera role, and I (of course) continued to play the over-the-top hedonistic Mame role.
At a League of American Theatres & Producers cocktail party at Jerry Herman’s house in Los Angeles in the late 90’s, I first told Jerry about my love of my alter-ego and my days at The Beat — we had some good laughs about it all. He later stopped by my theatre guild office to kindly do an on camera testimonial for my new company launch. I saw him again for drinks in about 2004 when I told him about our China antics, and his reply was “that’s gorgeous – you coax the blues right out of China” – so with the approval of the composer and lyricist, this amplified our alter-ego characters.
Our staff each became characters in MAME, my assistant, Wang Chao became young Patrick, Doug’s assistant Zhou Li became Agnes Gooch, Doug successor, Jan Kallish became Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside and so on with Dwight Babcock, Gloria Upson, Ito, Sally Cato, Mother Burnside etc… It was fun to confuse business partners and Chinese to speak in cross dressing ‘Mame code’.
To this day, we still call each by these names.