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Amy LamÃ©: interview
Part memoir, part eulogy to Mama Cass Elliot, Amy Lamé has roped her family into providing their insights for her one-woman show
Although I interview Amy Lamé at Eat & Two Veg because it’s handy for the BBC studio, our vegetarian lunch is particularly fitting as many people on the scene first met Amy when she was fresh off the boat and earning a crust dishing up veggie dinners at First Out.Amy’s trademark foxy ’50s librarian glasses come over all rosy at the memory. ‘Everyone there was involved in creative projects and helped inspire me to put on my first show “Gay Man Trapped in a Lesbian’s Body” at the ICA. A TV producer saw the show, gave me a job on “Gaytime TV” and things just snowballed. It’s funny how all these little bits come together to make a career and it’s like: How did I get into this malarkey? So I wanted to go back to a one-woman show to see whether I could still do it or not’.
Her new show is called ‘Mama Cass Family Singers’ in honour of another big-boned lady, the angel-voiced ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot. But it’s not just another tribute I take it? ‘It’s not me being Mama Cass. It’s not me singing covers. It’s the story of me being a child star in America and living the American Dream (until it turned round and bit me on the ass) and the family fall-out, all set against a backdrop of classic Mamas and Papas tunes. I call it a misremembered memoir because there’s a lot of truth, there’s a lot of made-up stuff, but it’s all presented as if it’s the truth and I leave it up to the audience to decide’.
Amy has fingers in many pies these days including radio, TV, travel and food writing, modelling and, this summer, filming ‘Gay Prom’ which is due out next year and follows the build-up to the UK’s first gay prom. Was it all glamour, limos and ballgowns? ‘No. I was brought in to deal with some stroppy teenage lesbians who turned out to be the sweetest things on Earth and, although it sounds like another tacky reality show, it was a huge success and a really worthwhile exercise.’ Talking of reality shows, Lamé gained national TV coverage in ‘Celebrity Fit Club’ and lost three stones and, I reckon, a bit more since? ‘Yes, but I was always happy the size I was; I hate it when people say, “You must be happier now you’re a size 18 rather than a size 26”. And it’s just not true. I was a happy person really fat and I’m a happy person medium fat’.
Does her fuller figure mean she feels a particular connection to Mama Cass? ‘I’ve always been interested in her because my mom was a huge Mamas and Papas fan but also because my siblings and I used to taunt each other that, “You’re going to die choking on a ham sandwich like Mama Cass.”’
I wondered when the ham sandwich was going to come up. Of course we all know the old joke that if Mama Cass had given Karen Carpenter the ham sandwich they’d both be alive today, but ironically, didn’t Mama Cass die a bit peckish according to the post-mortem? Amy concurs: ‘That’s one thing that is true in the show. The fictitious part is woven in so seamlessly you’re not sure what to believe by the end of it but that’s all rright. That’s messing with people?s minds. I like that!’
OK, it’s not a tribute show and it’s not a true story so what is it? ‘It’s funny but not a comedy, it’s dramatic but not a play and it’s arty but I’m not screaming into a light bulb.’ And it’s not stand-up? ‘Well, I do stand up to tell the story! But my extremely high-maintenance family are also in it, although on film. I interviewed them each in isolation so they don’t actually know what they’ve said about each other. There might be a huge family row but that would be nothing new, to be honest. They’ve not seen it yet and have no clue what I’ve done to them. I may be an involuntary orphan by the end of the show.’
But she hasn’t talked her family into going on stage with her à la Ursula Martinez in ‘A Family Outing’? ‘Absolutely not, I’d want to kill them all!’ And, of course, Ms Martinez and her parents famously appeared nude… ‘I promise not to get naked on stage. That might entice a few more people to come to the show!’
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