Sandra Bernhard dares us to behold her in all her glory: she is a defiant, self-made beauty queen, a queen who knows that confidence is everything. In the body- and image-obsessed town of Los Angeles, Bernhard has managed to foster a... [more]
Sandra Bernhard dares us to behold her in all her glory: she is a defiant, self-made beauty queen, a queen who knows that confidence is everything. In the body- and image-obsessed town of Los Angeles, Bernhard has managed to foster a steadily thriving career as an astute and wickedly funny cultural commentator and entertainer. She maintains an intellectual distance from Hollywood's shenanigans, and then swoops down just as a good story shows itself. She consistently hits show business where it hurts, but does it with love -- and always for its own good.
"My parents wouldn't join the country club; my mother, being an artist, thought it was pretentious. It's because of this that I never had a nose job and consequently became the girl I wanted to be." The girl she wanted to be had nothing to do with the brand of beauty that so utterly obsesses the media. Even from the earliest memories in her first book, "Confessions of a Pretty Lady" (1988), the lanky woman with the misshapen nose shines as a wit with a good head on her shoulders.
In her 1998-99 show "I'm Still Here...Damn It!" Bernhard berates supermodels, sneers at celebrity pomposity, and skewers "waif rock." But she also shows her spiritual side, recounting the birth of her daughter with sincere tenderness. Most importantly, she reminds us that she interests us because she holds back, because she stays underexposed. She is right. She could be richer, more famous. She could easily have stayed closeted -- or become a spokesperson for the gay community. But her sense of celebrity has never been an easy one.
Throughout her performances and books, Bernhard gathers threads of stories from her childhood, young adulthood, and celebrity years. She deftly blends autobiography and fiction into tight little tangents. And sometimes she tells hilarious bold-faced lies Ã la Diana Vreeland's "DV." In "Confessions of a Pretty Lady," she recounts a blind date with Isaac Bashevis Singer and its aftermath: "He called me for weeks on end, but I told my maid to pretend I was out on the Coast. He was just too needy, and I felt I couldn't be there for him. It broke my heart when the necklace from Cartier arrived, with a note reading: 'In all my years of magic, never have I been as bewitched. Keep the necklace forever. Say nothing and I will know how much you care.'" Bernhard's work is full of gems like these, elaborate fakeries that nonetheless reveal truths in the things they don't say.
In the end it is Bernhard's "realness" that keeps her irresistible. Her shows are like conversations with your most entertaining friend. Sandra, a knockout show woman, is also a master at intimacy. Her clarity, frankness, and attention to detail are the marks of a great hostess. She serves up the dish with love -- and keeps the guests wanting more. [show less]