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Justin Vivian Bond talks couch surfing in the West Village and beyond in 1994

Justin Vivian Bond
Photograph: Courtesy Justin Vivian Bond

[Editor’s note: In this week’s cover story, five NYC icons look back on their first year in New York City. Here’s alt-cabaret star and artist Justin Vivian Bond on moving to the city and throwing sex-positive parties.]

I moved here in June of 1994. I had a great life in San Francisco, but I had bigger dreams, so I had to be in New York. I was basically couch surfing for almost the first year. I spent quite a bit of time with my friend Victoria Leacock in her duplex on 9th between Fifth and Sixth. A friend joked that I was the only homeless queen she knew who was staying in a duplex off Fifth Avenue. But such is my life, you know? It was pretty glamorous, looking back on it.

I tried to get a lay of the land, because I didn’t want to get sucked into the wrong scene. Finally I started to vibe in the East Village with people like Mistress Formika and Sherry Vine. I liked the stoner queens as opposed to the ecstasy and cocaine queens you would find in the big clubs. I went to Jackie 60 quite a lot, where I met a lot of my friends. And my favorite party was, of course, Squeezebox at Don Hill’s. It was drag queens singing live rock & roll music with a band, and that was my fantasia.

Mario Diaz asked me to host a club called Cream at this bar called Cake on Avenue B. The first night we had a Big Load Contest where we had everybody go into the bathroom and jack off into condoms. We numbered them and weighed them on a drug scale, and at the end of the night, whoever had the biggest load got some sort of stupid prize like a double-headed dildo or whatever Mario could get someone to donate that week. I had to go into the bathroom with all these drunk people and make sure they weren’t cheating, and sometimes I had to help them. But I did what I had to do. I’m a professional!

I was into sex-positive activism at the time, because a lot of my friends were sick, but they also really loved sex. I wanted to do things with a whimsical quality, to make sexuality fun and light. So I did do a lot of sex-positive stuff, even though I was barely getting laid myself. It was a lovely gesture on my part, I think.

As told to Adam Feldman

The holiday show Justin Vivian Bond: Manger Danger! Jesus as a Weapon and a Tool is at Joe’s Pub Dec 14–23 (425 Lafayette St; 212-539-8500, joespub.org)

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