The multimedia performance artist is surviving the pandemic with vitamins and loud music. Oh, and she’s also digging a hole to the center of the universe.
Quarantine Coping is our series about how local creatives are filling their time — and shelves — in the wake of COVID-19 isolation.
Even before our once-in-a-century pandemic, Los Angeles performance artist Jibz Cameron, aka Dynasty Handbag, was no stranger to freaking out. On stage, her comedy often collides with tragedy as she dons smeared Crayola-bright lipstick and misfitting leotards.
The zany Cameron hosts the beloved Weirdo Night at Zebulon, now on hiatus due to the lockdown. The monthly event features a vaudevillian line-up of special guests which in the past have included megastar Jack Black, an improvised operatic singer and a drag king named Charles Galin. And no Weirdo Night is complete without a performance by Dynasty Handbag herself, of course. The nights have developed a devout following and Cameron’s multimedia performances, which span from L.A. to New York, have gained critical acclaim, made the singular Jodie Foster laugh and even spawned a Dynasty Handbag stick-and-poke tattoo from, as Cameron says, “a queer dirtbag in the U.K.”
These days, she’s quarantined at her Highland Park abode pounding vitamins, listening to jazz, getting curious about mushrooms and avoiding Netflix’s “Tiger King.” She’s also raising money with postcards she illustrated — along with other notable L.A. artists including Peggy Noland — for National Bail Out. The organization aims to raise funds to bail out black mothers from jail so they can spend time safely at home with their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been good to do something other than freak out,” Cameron says. “I’m not really into performing online, although I miss Weirdo Night and that community so much.”
She also has a pilot for FX called “Garbage Castle” in the works, and she’s collaborating with artist Sue Slagle on a live performance based on James Cameron’s “Titanic.”
“I play all the characters, including Jack who is an octopus that stows away on the ship disguised as a ladies’ hat,” Cameron says. “It’s about climate change and capitalist disaster and the horror of progress. I think they all might get a virus though, or get stuck in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Just spitballing here!”
We caught up with the comedic artist to ask how’s she dealing with quarantine and for any tips on what to read and watch while we’re all stuck at home.
What are you stocking up on?
I can’t hoard things. They don’t last. I will eat all the snacks immediately and then just wipe my butt all day long and then it’s all gone.
What’s an activity you suggest to fill time?
I’m digging a hole to the center of the earth with a compostable spoon. It’s really time-consuming, but the days just fly by. I’m hoping to get to the perpetual rave down there that is shown in the documentary film “Matrix Reloaded.”
Any recommendations for art or music to check out during this time?
I am in a jazz crack right now. I am listening to Betty Carter and Sun Ra. That makes me feel happy. But also listening to lots of old angry music that helps me safely feel my rage — Dead Kennedys, Danzig, Public Enemy, Melt Banana. I like to listen to music really loud. It might be my favorite thing in the whole wide world.
Also, the movie “Fantastic Fungi” was great — about how mushrooms can save the world. But who cares! We are not a solution-oriented society. We don’t have mushroom for that under fascism.
What about books or podcasts you recommend?
I just read James McBride’s new book, “Deacon King Kong.” It was excellent. Now I am reading “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck again, which helps me get perspective on my tiny life and the suffering of humanity through the ages. It’s such a beautiful story. I also read my friend Lindsay Sproul’s new young adult lezzie teen novel which was fun and triggering.
Podcasts stress me out because I think about how much work they are to make. I hate it, but I listen to “The Daily” because I am obsessed with how Michael Barbaro sounds like he’s sped up [times] 2 and I try and practice talking like that: I’mgettingprettygoodatit.
What shows are you binge-watching?
I gobbled “Too Hot to Handle” up quickly. I have been every single one of those horrible sex-addicted idiots on the show. I’m not as dumb as they are though, so I’m still superior. I didn’t watch “Tiger King” because I can’t watch animal abuse. I am down for a woman tied up in a basement anytime though.
Any tips for making things during the quar?
Make your own hand sanitizer: 1 liter nail polish remover or dog pee, 1 scant hot chili oil or passive-aggressive pod feelings.
Make your own sourdough starter: Put flour and germs in a cup and watch it rot. Then turn it into self-satisfied bragging material.
What other things are keeping you sane?
I’m not clear on the difference now, or have I ever been?