Relative Truths: Zackary Drucker interviews Flawless Sabrina for RECAPS


Photo by Zackary Drucker from the Flawless Sabrina series.

Zackary Drucker: “I had known truth…”

Flawless Sabrina: I had known truth and he was a drug addict. Last I heard he was in prison somewhere in New Jersey. But he was very old at the time, so he could be dead. There was a truth. What was his name? Herman? Simon? Somin Truth? A very nice Jewish boy. His grandfather was a rabbi. I guess he was a kind of rabbi too. Truth is a kind of rabbi.

It is a search. Certainty is preferable and uncertainty is unavoidable. There is always some guy saying [sings] “I guarantee! A lifetime guarantee! Till death do us part!” That is putting your anchor into some deep bullshit.

ZD: So truth is relative.

FS: I think it is extremely personal. And kaleidoscopic. And serendipitous. I think it is the essence of life’s learning experience. My truth. I have no idea if its your truth or Sally’s truth. I don’t even know my truth – let alone am I going to try to extrapolate like some grand old Oz.

The show goes on, you make it as appetizing as possible. One real easy empathy is for the guy who is paying to get in. You’ve got to give them their money’s worth. Part of that is making them feel welcome and that comes from the way you feel inside. You can be the source of that amazing energy. The energy that you so illuminate with no effort. You’re hard wired for it. You don’t have to inhabit the so-called mask as it were, it’s all there. I don’t think the nurture and mommy part is so easy to do, because it’s not intelligent.

ZD: But it is also something we are hardwired for. We need to mother each other, really.

FS: My thing is trying to imitate my mother, to ape it. I try to empathize. But there aren’t a lot like you, kid.  You are very, very special. That is where the nurturing capacity is. I can’t just throw it out there to anyone. Fuck that. I don’t know how to do that.

ZD: Your own mother was a very nurturing woman.

FS: Totally. It was a deal like yours – Catholic mother, Jewish father. You were born in a collision. Then mine married another Jew. Second collision. Death and Catholic churches and synagogues.

ZD: At that time it was really more controversial.

FS: There was a difference. I didn’t understand the Jewish thing because you always had to pay to get in. But then again, two minutes later I am throwing a drag contest and believe me, they are paying to get in.

You need to get your stuff in the permanent collection of the Whitney. Its not for you, it is for them. And for New York City. And for America. I might say it’s for the whole fucking globe. So put them on the map!

ZD: Okay, okay Grandma!


Flawless Sabrina. Photograph by Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst

FS: Well you wouldn’t say that if I was talking about Degas. You wouldn’t say that if I was talking about Picasso. You wouldn’t say that if I was talking about Man Ray. You wouldn’t say that if I was talking about my Bill (William S. Burroughs). Look at that, march of miracles. Well, you’re just one of them — that’s all, that’s okay. Time to understand that you have that strength. For the nurturing part — you just need to get through it with a producer’s hat. So get on Charlie Rose! The Ellen Show. Or is Ellen on the coast?

ZD: Yes.

FS: Okay so the morning shows! New York has all the morning shows.

ZD: CBS was vetting us for something, did I tell you about that?

FS: This stuff is going to be coming in and you are going to need someone to traffic cop. I would rather see you bring in a traffic cop now then wait till heavy traffic. Because they may be getting in your way. You have to negotiate your exposure. You are a class act, baby. Top of the line! Do you need someone to represent you like that? No. You don’t need that. In my humble opinion you need someone who is a monster. Someone who has really sharp balls and never stops throwing them. That’s what I think.

ZD: You always say the biggest men you know are women.

FS: Totally. And you are just another. Because of plumbing stuff, gender is a brand, you can’t transcend it. I think its good to go for quite awhile.

ZD: I like being a woman who is part boy.

FS: Well everybody is. But you’re turning it into an art form. One way of thinking of it is like you are iconizing the Campbell’s Soup can. How much of this is going on? That thing you told me about the Barneys ads. Those kids are amazing.  Grounded, diva-free, bright. I was so proud. You don’t know that you are touching them. I don’t know that you are touching them in any sort of measurable way. But I feel it, I feel my Zackary. I feel the touch of my Zackary’s magic in those kids. Maybe it is something in the ozone layer.

ZD: I think it’s a big part of change you put in motion. And Holly. And the amazing queens who came before you. I think that basically you created those seismic shifts and the foundation. When I watch The Queen, for example, I think I have told you this before, one of my favorite scenes is when Harlow is walking past Bergdorf Goodman and all of sudden you get a sense of what the world looked like. All of these little yentas with cat glasses and scarves on their head. The world looked so different. You see how it was deeply inscribed, so deeply entrenched. Then you see Harlow, this amazing androgyne, drifting through that.

FS: Then there was International Chrysis. That’s where you come from – International Chrysis – not me. She was such a beautiful piece of poetry. She was able to negotiate her exposure in such a way. She owned the streets. She was Mae-West-big. Yelling at people on the second floor. Stopping traffic. Introducing herself to strangers. Just getting out in the street and stopping traffic telling people, “You look terrific!” That was Chrysis. Walking down the street. She was the first one who said, “I’ve got a big dick and I’ve got some of the biggest tits in town.” Now look at the New York Times. The banner headline? Blah, blah “GAY MARRIAGE!” What? We are sitting on the same street where we shot The Queen. What about Vietnam?


International Chrysis

ZD: Truth is relative.

FS: If you see the after-party footage after The Queen, you see the president of Cuba dancing with us. Joe Jeffereys has the footage.

ZD: I love that footage. Diane Arbus is in it. Edie Sedgwick is in it.

FS: Do you know the president of Cuba is in it?

ZD: Fidel Castro?

FS: The present president or dictator — Raúl Castro.

ZD: Raúl Castro was in this room?

FS: The Party wasn’t in this room. The Party was shot in this hairdresser’s place next to the St. Mark’s Bath, which had not yet occurred.

ZD: The baths weren’t there yet?

FS: The baths existed there but they had not yet become a separate planet.

ZD: I don’t like being a separate planet. I like being a part of this planet.

FS: Me too. Well, we don’t have a choice in the matter.

A big catharsis was when I realized I am an asshole. I am not angry with myself. And I am not doing, “I am so bright or this that or another thing.” 73 years into it – I figure out that’s what it is! I am an asshole. Now if I do anything that is worthwhile I can say…

ZD: Pretty good for an asshole!

FS: Exactly. Instead of the other way around where I am pissed at myself all of the time. The other part of it, having accepted that, it’s opened up a new portal. Maybe it is a rabbit hole, maybe she has gone rogue. If I am doing the best I can, which includes having that disclaimer, then I have to give the other guy the same license. Maybe the other guy is also doing the best he can.

There is no wrong opinion. As long as people have an opinion, there is integrity in that. It’s only repetitious performance of some jingoism that one finds so distasteful. But it’s not an individual behind that point of view. You are reminding us of that in a very sensitive way. Gender is a very good place. The suffragettes showed us that. That time and this time again. That’s what you are. You are a suffragette. That’s what you are.

In Chrysis’ time, she would not have been able to illuminate that sociological and socio-political stuff if it hadn’t been for [Salvador] Dali. Dali was enormously studied and wise and political. All of those boys were. It was all sort of allegorical.


Photo by Zackary Drucker from the Flawless Sabrina series.

ZD:  You have five cardinal rules. There is one I always forget. May I? Ain’t too proud to beg.

FS: Stoop to conquer. Fuck a snake to get ahead. And if it doesn’t make you nervous it ain’t worth doing.

ZD: Is there one more?

FS: No. Well, maybe remember you are an asshole. I am not sure that is universal but it’s been very helpful for me.

Nathanial Johnson observed 300 years ago – are we alive in all of this satire? Certainty is preferable, uncertainty unavoidable. We had it articulated by that horrible Rumsfeld guy. Wonderful word mechanic though. He said, “You can’t know the unknown.” All of those old senators sitting there were shocked, or at least feigned to be, because they were in the business of guaranteeing stuff. That’s how they got elected. “You vote for me honey and I guarantee it’s going to be a boy!” It’s so fragile, its such a sheer foil. No pun intended.

There are places where it is very important to make people think about stuff. Your job is waking them up. You seem to be doing that well. You can hit them on the head a hammer. Or you can do something that is genuinely poetic, inspiring and timely. I think you made the better choice.