Byrd Watchers Take Note :: Robin Goes Live
It's not unheard of to meet Manhattanites who've never been to the Statue of Liberty, or have no patience for the huddled masses of Times Square. But there's one local institution that has the power to stun and amaze tourists, while continuing to command the attention of longtime residents.
As much a part of New York as the island's solid bedrock foundation, the brightly lit, deeply sexual, uniquely sweet, and hypnotically watchable "The Robin Byrd Show" has been playing continuously since it premiered on Manhattan Cable in 1977.
Raised in New York City, host Robin Byrd's adult entertainment career began with a big bang-when the "Ms. All Bare America" contest finalist shot to fame as one of the stars of the porn classic "Debbie Does Dallas." Byrd went on to make numerous adult film in the late 70s and early 80s-and brought her firm grasp of the business to the "Byrd Show," in the form of erotic performances from adult film stars, followed by good-natured interviews (as well as her signature boob-tonguing, crotch-cupping antics). Each episode features Byrd in her trademark black crochet bikini and white fingernail polish, on a set with a large, heart-shaped neon sign that bears the name of the show.
Although viewers are able to call in, Byrd and her guests could only be admired from afar...until last December, when "The Robin Byrd Show Live!" brought the legend's bawdy program to The Cutting Room for an adult variety show that puts a classic burlesque spin on what cable audiences have been eating up for decades. (The show was reviewed here.)
Edge spoke with Byrd, in anticipation of April 13's very first all-male edition-a Midnight "Men 4 Men LIVE!" performance that follows the 10pm "normal" stage show (which features strippers, adult film stars, burlesque dancers, comedians, musicians, celebrities, novelty acts and other uncategorizable sexy performers).
Already booked for the all-male edition: adult impresario Michael Lucas, king of Boylesque, Go-Go Harder; contortionist Topher Bousquet; bad boy Rowan; drag stars Brenda Dharling, Prada G Major and Jada Valenciaga; hot newcomer Francisco; the male cast of Off-Broadway's Let My People Come, and a rare appearance by 1990's go-go heartthrob Mark Allen.
EDGE: What can audiences expect from you onstage, that they aren’t getting from the TV show?
Robin: I never had a live audience [in the studio], so now, not only can they see me, but I can see the people. I’m me, and I do the things I do best, being me. I use the energy of the room, of the club. It’s a give and take.
The show we do at The Cutting Room is like a vaudeville/burlesque, an old Havana, 1950s-type of show, before Times Square turned itself into Disneyland.
EDGE: For those of us who never made it to Times Square or Havana during the 1950s, what does that mean?
Robin: It’s a lot of tease, a lot of burlesque. Everyone has elaborate costumes. It [their act] is really thought out, as opposed to coming on and just taking off their clothes. The music is well thought out, too. Everybody has their own act, with their own music and their own style; bluesy, jazz, it’s the whole gamut.
I’m bringing that uniqueness back in the form of tease. The tease is more pleasing instead of, okay here I am standing here naked. It’s more of the striptease burlesque, with lots of costume pieces that come off. I’m bringing sexy back, one G-string at a time. After everybody performs, everybody goes onstage and I interview each one of them. I ask the questions that the audience is thinking.
EDGE: How many times have you sang [your signature tune] "Baby, Let me Bang Your Box?"
Robin: Well, there are 365 days a year, and I’m on every day for two hours a day and have been for 36 years, so figure out the math and it’s...in my lifetime, it’s an infinite number.
EDGE: Where’s the oddest place you’ve heard a fan sing it to you?
Robin: That’s my line. That’s my song. So it’s everywhere. From New York City to LA to Canada to Brazil to Europe, people know that song. They come and whisper it to me.
EDGE: Social marketing campaigns come and go, but your safe sex message has been consistent over the years. Why is it still front and center?
Robin: I still am on it [the safe sex message]. I’ll always be on it. Even in the live show, I’m always asking people if they have their condom and dental dams. It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart, because the fight against AIDS is not over. It’s not been cured. If you’re going to have multiple partners, it’s inexcusable to not have safe sex.
But I don’t put it in your face and show you all the people who died because they had unprotected sex. I say, if you’ve lost a love one, or if you don’t have a loved one, you have me.
So it’s nothing new for me. The message is there, it’s always been there. The young kids think there’s a pill for everything. They think they can have unprotected sex, but that’s not the way it is. So I will always tell people to have safe sex and use dental dams and mutual masturbation-whatever it takes.
EDGE: You’re often smiling when you bring up that dental dam, always joking and keeping it light, even before and after an erotic performance. Is the stage show like that, and why?
Robin: The spontaneity of it all is a reason people come [and keep watching]. People like having the unknown, and sex? Sex should be fun. It shouldn’t be thrown in your face like, oh, here’s a cumshot. And it’s not just about sex [the act].
It’s okay to have sex, it’s okay to not have sex. The humor of mine is, see, it’s easier to take a pill when there’s cherry coating on it. So I give you a little syrup, a little cherry juice, so to speak. And that makes it okay and fun rather than ooh, I’m doing something really nasty and perverted and I’m going to get punished. It should be fun, and that’s what I want to do. I want to turn you on and tuck you into bed before you go to sleep at night.
EDGE: But only if we’re watching.
Robin: We’re on [seven days a week] channel 70 [Time Warner cable], 10-11pm. So you can go to sleep with me and you can wake up with me, from 5-6am, seven days a week, on channel 79. Early birds and late birds. You never know what I’m going to do next, so stay tuned. Follow me on robinbyrdnyc and I’m on Facebook.
Men 4 Men LIVE! happens Saturday, April 13 at midnight. At The Cutting Room (44 East 32 Street, between Park and Madison). Tickets are $20. For more information, visit www.SpinCycleNYC.com.