Self-described “jackee of all trades” Alexis Blair Penney has a voice like an angel, makes music like Crystal Waters, and has a wicked sense of style that’s a mix of Eurythmics-era Annie Lennox, louche ‘n loafered 80s California prep, and 1997 Gwen Stefani. A San Francisco local celebrity known for his weekly anything-goes “High Fantasy” party at drag bar Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, Penney has recently been garnering buzz outside of SF city limits for insanely catchy house tracks culled directly from the CeCe Peniston/Crystal Waters/Kathy Dennis school of dance floor sassitude. Although Penney is more than au fait with the art of debauchery (just follow his Twitter), it’s clear that underneath that Patrick Nagel girl makeup is a softer, more contemplative side; to wit, Penney cites simple pleasures, yoga, and plants as inspirations. OAKAZINE caught up with Penney when he played PS1 with SSION in New York — getting so attached that we followed him all the way back to San Francisco where he gave us a tour of his hood. After the jump we discuss a typical day in the life, 90s house, and showbiz. — Photos: Ken Baldwin, Editor: Peter Berwind Humphrey
What’s your name, where are you from, and what do you do?
Alexis Blair Penney, from San Francisco, CA, I’m a singer/performer/dj/promoter/personality/weirdo.
Where did you grow up?
Lenexa, Kansas. A suburb of Kansas City.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a secretary, prostitute or stripper. None of those things turned out to be as glamorous as they seemed to me when I was a baby gay. I always harbored dreams of pop stardom, too.
When did you first start performing?
My parents are musicians, so I had various stints singing at church and I did a lot of puppeteering for my mom and her best friend’s kids music review (Joan and Sue’s Excellent Adventure!). We would literally write and rehearse the show the night before we would perform it, and just wing the rest. My mom would always say, “That’s show business!” totally un-ironically. I was pretty indifferent to it then, but now I can basically walk on stage and do about anything and feel totally comfortable no matter how prepared I am…which is a double-edged sword of sorts but I think it’s good. Thanks Mom. This was like age 10 and on.
What do you like best about San Francisco?
The drag queens, the DJs, and the fact that everyone is gay.
What’s a typical day in the life of Alexis Blair Penney?
Lounge in bed, listen to music (all day, every day, I hate silence), cook myself a huge meal, type on the computer, talk on the phone, look out the window, day dream. I’m pretty simple.
What’s a typical night in the life of Alexis Blair Penney?
Take forever putting on a face and trying on a million outfits then either walking to the club or hopping in a Homobile (all gay cab service in the Bay Area, you get em by text message, so chic), grab a tequila sunrise, and find a corner to hold court in, or sit at the bar and watch a drag show or text and enjoy the music, and dance a little if I’m feeling crazy. I’m always closing down the club, I never wanna miss anything.
Tell us a bit about what “High Fantasy” is.
It’s an anything-goes, all-in, everyone welcome party. It’s basically everything me and Myles (my co-promoter) love rolled into one: house music, drag, dressing up, cheap/strong drinks, gay seniors, weird 90s movies and dancing, with a vague fantasy and spiritual element to the decor. Lots of fake flowers, metallic silks and white tulle. It’s a magical space that will become anything you want it to be.
If you had to wear the same outfit, everyday, for the rest of your life what would it be?
Flowy slacks, a bra, a blazer, a rosarie on my wrist, a bindi and some pumps.
What’s your beverage of choice?
White zinfandel or a tequila sunrise.
Drug of choice?
Designer of choice?
Gaultier for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour.
Fashion icon of choice?
Grace Jones or Annie Lennox.
Performer of choice?
Someone who’s confident, humble, intelligent, well-spoken, natural, kind, adaptable and sells flaws as assets.
Describe yourself in five words.
Thinker, survivor, cloud, force, song.
Who’s your favorite person in the world? Why?
I guess myself?! Because I can always rely on myself no matter what happens.
We’re giving you a dinner party and you can invite any five people dead or alive. You can serve them anything in the world — we’ll make it happen. Who would you invite and what would you serve them? Who do you think will end up making out?
I would have a crazy, drug and wine induced threesome with Elvis Presley and Scott Walker while Stevie Nicks, Courtney Love and Marianne Faithful ate a sumptous feast, drank, watched, and laughed at us.
Describe the Alexis Blair Penney mystique in a sentence.
Run to the truth, not from it.
Freeform list of inspirations.
Music, sunsets, Madonna, ballads, lounge singers, drag queens, 90s looks, hysterical glamour, women who take what they want from life, yoga, simple pleasures, religious icons, plants, personal pride.
Top five favorite artists of any medium.
Madonna, Yoko Ono, I wrote down Andy Warhol but then crossed him out and put Valerie Solanas, Ella Fitzgerald, Cody Critcheloe.
La Bouche, Crystal Waters, or Cece Peniston?
I’m planning to record my first full-length record, get in really good shape, maybe write something more substantial than a blog and keep living my beautiful life and enjoying every moment.
Make up your own question and answer it.
Q: Why do you do what you do? A: Why not?