Soul Sisters

It was Fantasy Football for theater types, a chance to bring three newly minted local stage legends together for a heart-to-heart, in which affinities were revealed (you never know who’s taped up till you ask) and cultural bridges crossed — not so surprising when you consider their histories: Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, the cross-dressing enigma at the center of Doug Wright’s award-winning play I Am My Own Wife, hosted East Germany’s post-World-War II gay community at her famous Gründerzeit Museum and its basement bar. May Joon and Ann July, better known as the Methane Sisters, were ’80s girl-punk upstarts who imploded under the pressure of drugs and sexual duplicity, to reunite a generation later in the bright yet gentle sunlight of July’s sobriety `read William Razavi’s review of their triumphant Jump-Start tour, this page`. Drugs, S&M, prison, rebirth … in the end, it’s all rock ’n’ roll. They fondly recalled it all during a Sunday-morning junket in Southtown that included breakfast at Tito’s and a little Methane-engineered makeover at Jive Refried.

Ann July (left, aka Annele Spector) and May Joon (right, aka Monessa Esquivel) show Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (aka Gregory Hinojosa) how to add a little post-punk glam to her severe East-Berlin look, with help from Agosto Cuellar's Jive Refried boutique.

This interview stars Gregory Hinojosa as Charlotte, Annele Spector as Ann July, and Monessa Esquivel as May Joon.

Now you guys are biological sisters?

May Joon: No, we’re rock sisters. How long we been doing rock’n’roll? Seventy, 80 years?

Ann July: Feels like it. We met in 1978, started our music career together in ’81, and broke up in ’89, and now we’re back together.

What was the cause of the breakup?

AJ: There were many reasons for the breakup, but the one for me was that she was fucking our manager, Sunshine Free Bernstein. He was the love of my life. He was the svengali. She was upset because I was making more money than her in the contract, he had negotiated for me to make more money.

So it was a revenge fucking?

AJ: Probably yes, absolutely.

MJ: I’m never gonna admit that.

Is this painful for you to talk about?

AJ: No, it’s fine.

MJ:We’ve dealt with it.

Have you all met Charlotte?

CvM: Nice to meet you.

So we were just talking about how …

MJ `to papparazzi snapping photos`: Get out of here! Go on!

Do they follow you around all the time like this?

MJ: I can’t let them know I eat, so that’s why I order later.

CvM: You don’t eat?

MJ: No, I like to order, but I never eat.

CvM: Why don’t you eat?

MJ: I would never be able to fit into anything like this if I ate.

AJ: All the vintage stuff is size 6.

MJ: I hate that. All those skinny freakin’ vintage bitches.

Charlotte, are you with an order?

CvM: No darling, I’m not. This is just my normal attire.

It’s very severe.

CvM: Well I’ve lived in Berlin all my life.

AJ: East Berlin?

CvM: East Berlin, yes. Have you ever been to East Berlin?

AJ: We weren’t allowed in there. They did not like our gig.

MJ: Apparently we had too much armpit hair for them. It was massive.

AJ: And the cock songs.

MJ: No, they didn’t like the cock songs.

CvM: Oh, in Berlin there are many clubs, like Club A-nal, that would enjoy that.

AJ: Ah, yes, the sex clubs.

And were they insistent on shaving underarms back then?

CvM: Oh my goodness, no. It was natural for women to wear …

MJ: I could grow that shit out and braid it …

AJ: But it’s a lot of men-only clubs, you know what I mean? They’re a little sexist.

CvM: Well, there was very much a mixed crowd in some of those bars. There was lesbians, I had many lesbian friends who were very wild and free and had great style like yourselves. But for me it was very different. I felt I had to be more conservative, yes, more restricted. But it did not mean I did not allow myself to have fun. I had my fun, too, yes.

MJ: that sounds like fun. We should all go, like right now. Can we go right now?

Can you talk more specifically about the fun?

CvM: Well, let’s see. Once the wall came down and we were able to go to West Germany, there were all types of clubs. I mentioned the Club A-nal, and this was very fun club to visit and they ahd gays and lesbians there, and they also had leftist punks. And we also engaged in karoake, and this was a lot of fun for everyone, yes.

MJ: It’s like a little gay retreat.

CvM: It was absolutely.

AJ: Club Ass?

CvM: Club A-nal, absolutely. You take from it what you will, yes.

MJ: I like the sound of this.

You two aren’t technically lesbians, are you?

AJ: No, well, I’m bi.

MJ: For a short period of time.

AJ: Well, in prison you have to get with somebody because it’s fucking boring in prison. So you have to be with someone in prison. So my girlfriend there was Veronica, but I’m a cockmaster.

CvM: Ooh, a cockmaster. What is that, a cockmaster?

AJ: I control the cock.

CvM: Well, you should come to East Berlin. I am the cockmaster there.

AJ: You are?

CvM: Oh, yes, absolutely.

AJ: And then `May Joon’s` a shameless cockmaster as well, but she usually has a bigger cock than the people she’s with.

MJ: People are cock envious. I have a huge huge huge cock.

CvM: Are you a transvestitite?

MJ: I am.

CvM: Ah, well we have so much in common you and I, we are like sisters … I don’t know too much about your story. Tell me about the Methane Sisters. I did not know you were a transvestitite. You are so beautiful, it’s like looking in a mirror.

AJ: We could put a little blush on you, so we’ll work on that later.

CvM: You know I am a transvestitite and I just decided I do not need all the makeup.

AJ: Low-tech.

CvM: But it looks wonderful, your makeup. Flawless, darling, absolutelyflawless.

MJ: Thank you.

CvM: But I decided it was not for me, I did not need it. In my country, there was so much going on that I did not have time to put on lipstick or wonderful colors.

AJ: It takes work. That’s like a seven- or eight-hour ordeal.

CvM: So you have a huge cock. Is that what I’m hearing? Is that correct?

MJ: People are just envious of it, and people think that I don’t have a huge penis, and I have to pull it out sometimes and show them …

CvM: Well maybe later you will show it to me. I’ll show you …

Waitress: Would you like something to dirnk?

CvM: Oh, I’ll have some coffee please. Do you have Schlatten-kuchen?

Waitress: I’m sorry?

CvM: Coffee mit schlatten-kuchen?

Waitress: I don’t know what that is.

CvM: Sprechen zie Deutsch?

Waitress: No …

CvM: Well, just coffee then.

Waitress `to May Joon, who earlier had ordered a shot of tequila`: We can’t serve liquor until noon. Sorry.

AJ: I had a feeling. I’m sorry sweetheart.


AJ: They have these laws here.

MJ: What can I mix with? Oh, you have that lemonade here. That’d be great.

Are you carrying?

MJ: I carry all the time. You have to.

CvM: What are you having?

MJ: Something that you might enjoy, if I can find it through this mane. `She produces a mini bottle of Monopolowa Vodka.`

CvM: And what kind of fur are you wearing?

MJ: This is polar bear.

AJ: So our story is, we met in the late ’70s, I was a pop-song writer for Donna Summers, Earth Wind & Fire …

CvM: Ah, Donna Summers. She was very popular in Germany.

AJ: She recorded Love to Love You in Germany and so `May Joon` was my assistant, and there was just something about her that I loved, so I was trying to do a girl band, and I wanted her to be in my girl band, so we did punk, New Wave in the’80s. We broke up in the ’80s and we’re back together … We’re like sisters, we’re best friends. I’m her fag-hag. I can be your fag-hag. It’s what I do.

CvM: I have many fag-hag friends, too, we have to stick together.

MJ: I’m too glamorous to carry my own shit, and she does it for me.

If we `talk about` prison for a moment, I think that’s an area where Ann July and Charlotte could connect.

CvM: And what were you in prison for?

AJ: Um, the first time I was in prison for possession of drugs, in Reno, Nevada … Cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. Triple threat. It was just a miscommunication. But then, the second time, I was in prison for assault. I tried to choke a woman with her own hair. She just pissed me off, and she had this really long hair and I just wanted to kick her ass, and so got the hair around there, and just kind of …

CvM: How brutal.

AJ: … impressive, and I got two years for that.

I bet that’s harder than it looks.

AJ: It is a challenge, because eventually the hair starts to come out.

MJ: Yeah. I need to teach you this technique I have.

AJ: No, no, no. Those days are over. I do yoga, and I meditate, and I’m not looking forward to going back to prison ever again.

CvM: Well, I would not recommend it, either.

AJ: How were you sent to prison?

CvM: Well, when I was 15 years old, I killed my father with a rolling pin. Yes I did, and it was very brutal. My father, he was a Nazi, and he was very militaristic, and he was very dominating, and he abused my mother, and he basically verbally would abuse us, and I just got to the point where I wanted to protect my mother, and he locked me in the bedroom one day, and I decided I had had enough, and I found the rolling pin and I beat him over the head.

MJ: He deserved it.

CvM: Yes …

Charlotte, you have the prettiest eyes. Tell me about the first time you put on a dress, and I’d love to know about the first time `May Joon` put on a dress, too.

CvM: Well, I was I think probably about 13 years old and I was visiting my Tanta Luisa who lived in East Prussia, and at the time I did not know that I was who I was. I just found clothes in my Tanta Luisa’s closet, and my Tanta Luisa, she was a lesbian. I did not know this at the time, but I noticed she never wore women’s clothes, she always wore boots and jodphurs, and she dressed like a land inspector, and she raised horses on a large farm. And so I was coming to East Prussia ,and I looked in the closet, and I saw clothes that were girl’s clothes, and I thought, what is this doing in Tanta Luisa’s closet? I do not know, and so I put them on, and I looked at myself in the mirror, and I realized in that moment that this is who I was, this is how I felt the most comfortable. From that moment on I decided that I would not wear pants anymore and I would learn to be comfortable in my own skin, and I felt like myself in women’s clothes. As you do darling, right?

MJ: My mother, she was a nightclub stripper in Las Vegas when I was growing up, and my dad was in the military, and he took off a long time ago. My mother had fabulous clothes: wigs and boas and lashes and everything that you can imagine under the sun. And I think I was about 6 years old when I got into my mother’s stockings, and the neighborhood boys — I would always want to be the mom and they would be the dad, just play house for maybe hours and hours. But I enjoyed wearing women’s clothes, I loved it, just like you said…

CvM: And what about your father? I told you I murdered my father because he was very brutal.

MJ: Physically I’ve never seen him before. He left, he was in the miliatry, that’s all I know, and I’ve seen pictures of him. Usually, whenever I see an older military man somewhere, I think that that might be my father, but I don’t know, I’m not really worried about him. Maybe sooner or later when we get our contract he’ll come out of the bushes asking for money.

So you’re getting a contract?

AJ: We’ve recorded the new album, we’re on tour promoting the album, Hot Bitches with Female Itches, so we’re doing the club circuit, but we’re really trying to get into arenas — like Verizon Wireless, that would be great. But you know the queens love us more. And the rock clubs, because our old music is punk … Maybe we could play in East Berlin.

CvM: I would love to have you. You know, in my basement I have an old bar called the Mulagritze. It was a very famous restaurant at one time owned by homosexuals.

MJ: I’d like that. It’s where we started.

CvM: They would love you there, the women and the men, they would love you. Und zen the sadomasochists or whatever.

AJ: We’re ready for that.

CvM: Especially now, since the wall has come down.

AJ: Beer, they serve beer before noon.

MJ: Thank God.

CvM: Oh, yes, I have the antique porcelain beer machine in my bar downstairs, yes, I have beer whenever I want it, I don’t have to wait till noon.

MJ: I think we were separated at birth.

CvM: I think so, too, darling, yes.

AJ: I think this is when worlds collide …

CvM: We must go to the restroom you and I and exchange glances, no?

MJ: It’s going to take some work getting it out of there, but I’m OK with that.

AJ: It’s taped up.

CvM: I know, I have the same problem.

Explain your show to Charlotte, so that when you come and perform at her bar …

CvM: … I will know how to promote you, yes.

AJ: … OK, our act. We have two different eras of our music. So right now we’re really into techno, techno and house music, so we just have you know a DJ and that’s it. But we also like to take it back old school and have a live band. We go either way.

MJ: Do you have hot, oily, sexy men in Germany?

CvM: Oh, yes. I know very many sexy men that visit the museum all the time and they would always come. And we have many clubs. I think you would fit right in, yes.

MJ: Because we would like to have two hot, oily, sexy men on stage with us.

CvM: Well, who wouldn’t?

AJ: That’s how we feel. The more oil, the better.

MJ: Would they mind having their bodies catch on fire for the finale?

CvM: Well, it would depend on how much they had to drink, I think.