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Details / March 1996

Q&A
Mim Udovitch


Details: Do you remember your dreams?

CH: I can remember some dreams I had when I was three or four -- scary dreams. In one dream I was afraid of our furnace. To me it had a face on it, and I would never go down to the basement alone, because I was so afraid of it. And in this dream I was watching the television with my dad and my brother, and the furnace came walking into the room and it had pink-and-white icing all over its face. It had been eating Hostess cupcakes -- or no, you know those Snowballs that have the pink-and-white icing? It had that all over its face, and it just scared me to death.

Details: What a great dream.

CH: Yeah, well, let's not get into analyzing it, you know. It was the dream of a child, it didn't traumatize me. I'm still here.

Details: And you can face down a Hostess Snowball any day of the week.

CH: No problem. Roll in the Snowballs, man, I'm not afraid.

Details: Is it as much fun to sing the national anthem at the World Series as it looks?

CH: Yes, they asked me to sing the national anthem because it was in Cleveland, and if they can use me as a mascot for rehabbing the city in any way, you know, I did leave the country in 1973, I wasn't there to lie down in front of the bulldozers myself. And just for the strangeness, it was kind of worth doing.

Details: Did you know the words?

CH: Oh yeah. About ten years ago, when we were on tour, I noticed this great sort of wave of American patriotism started -- because you don't see it in any other country in the world, just ordinary households putting up the flag. So when we'd go to bars after the show, I'd offer up a nice crisp hundred-dollar bill to anyone who knew the national anthem, just to prove the point to myself that no one could sing it. We did a whole coast-to-coast tour -- I was offering two hundred for the second stanza and nobody even got through the first.

Details: You're right about the flags. I've never thought about that. Maybe it means...

CH: Hey! We're gonna have a barbecue tonight!

Details: Probably. I'm afraid I was about to propose something a little more intellectual and boring. How has being a parent changed you?

CH: It's increased my understanding of the human condition, and that's really my main interest. Human behavior is endlessly fascinating to me, because it's so hard to understand. The female nature, the male nature, what it's all about. And I've got to know -- I refused any painkiller on my last childbirth, because if I'm gonna go there, give me the whole package. I want to know everything.

Details: Eek. And did it hurt more than anything?

CH: Well, yeah. But it's a good lesson in the nature of material life, because it truly is suffering, although I think the principle of life is to enjoy it, and I think one's principles are worth living, fighting, and dying for. And not just the hedonistic type of pleasure, but the enjoyment of being alive, the humors of the day.

Details: What covers would you like to do?

CH: I'm not gonna tell you. Someone will read it and get there first, and you know, find your own covers. We always do a lot, though, because I'm lazy, and I love doing other people's songs, and I can't write that good. You know, I can't write a song like Radiohead's "Creep." I can play it, though.

Details: "Creep" is almost like an answer song to "Brass in Pocket."

CH: I noticed that too. When I started playing it and I got to the "You're so special" part, I thought, Hey, I think I've sung something like this before. "Brass in Pocket" is just me trying to write like "The Boys Are Back in Town." And people think that person is me, people think I'm a real hard-ass. I like "Creep" 's reversal of the "Brass in Pocket" lyric, because I don't really have that kind of confidence, but it's a rock tradition and I'm very traditional when it comes to my rock, I'm a purist.

Details: But it's not just the lyric -- you can hear a lot of heart and soul and mind in the voice.

CH: Yeah, I think so. I think the voice is very revealing, and very seductive too, the voice gets me every time. I mean, if you're gonna ask me what's my favorite part of the male package, is it the forearm or whatever, it's the voice.

Details: What's your second favorite part?

CH: The ass. But more often than not, the most I can get is over the telephone, so the voice becomes all-important.

Details: Do you remember your first kiss?

CH: Yeah, I was taken onstage at a Jackie Wilson concert. They used to drag girls onstage out of the audience.

Details: That was your first kiss? That is so cool.

CH: Yeah, real cool, but at the time it kind of bummed me out, because I was white and I felt like maybe I shouldn't have been there, there weren't any other white people in the audience, just me and my girlfriend. And I was shy, I'd never been kissed, I was horrified. Everyone else was screaming to be picked and I was just trying to hide, but my white skin was a dead giveaway. I had no camouflage, so the guy dragged me up there and Jackie kissed me, by God.

Details: Do you remember what you were wearing?

CH:Yeah! Penny loafers, not Bass Weejuns, but I was, you know, still hanging out in the art room, so I was trying to look smart. And I had this cheesy low-waisted polyester dress that had this sort of A-line navy blue skirt on it and then red-and-blue horizontal stripes with a polo neck. It was pretty cool, actually. And I had my hair exactly the way it is now, and the same makeup.

Details: It's a look that works for you.

CH: Jackie liked it.

Details: Exactly. Though as a performer you haven't ever worn skirts or dresses.

CH: Though now I'm wearing sleeveless shirts. I don't look good as a girl.

Details: Well, you do look good as a girl. You're a girl, and you look good.

CH: But I like guys' clothes. They fit me better.


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