As raved about recently in a Cream review Bernie Dieter is just about every positive adjective you could throw at an artist: artistic, yes, but also gorgeous, fabulous, salacious, seductive, ironic, enthusiastic, humble, hilarious, hospitable and a whole lot more.
Dieter is the brains, brawn, bravado and brilliance behind Little Death Club, the long-running Fringe show that sees classic ‘Weimer’-style cabaret mixed in with modern – and always hilarious – humour.
Here, Bernie chats with Cream about the importance of fringe artistry and the beauty in celebrating difference.
Interview by Antonino Tati
Hi Bernie. Congratulations on a brilliant show. Little Death Club truly is next-level cabaret. Have you found the shows get wilder and wilder year on year?
Absolutely darling, especially here in Perth. You beautiful people love the filth, so we keep coming back!
The full show title is ‘Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club’. Just how involved and hands-on are you with the night-to-night running of the production?
I am very involved darling, it is my show. I feel a bit like a mother hen backstage, making sure all the performers and crew have what they need – which is mainly gin – and that there is a nice energy going into the show. But day-to-day I work closely with Tom from Dead Man Label who is our Creative Producer.
Some call ‘Little Death Club’ a modern style of ‘Weimar Punk’. Others say it’s debauched cabaret (or ‘Kabarett’). You yourself say it’s a series that gets to show off the talents of your “favourite freaks, punks and weirdos”. Does it do the show justice to pigeon-hole it?
I think the beauty of it is that it means different things to different people. I see it as a glorious celebration of difference, of the feminine, the masculine and everything in between, of strength and beauty and confidence. I think we need more of that in the world right now.
There is quite a bit of gender-bending in the show. Do you think events such as Fringe World more and more people to the blurring of genders? And why is non-binary gender-play a good thing?
I hope that Fringe – and Little Death Club in particular – open people’s minds so they can see that we are all beautiful, weird wonderful humans, and that whatever gender we subscribe to, we have more things in common than we realise.
“What couldn’t I leave home without when touring? Gin, ‘Lick My Pussy’ Tote bags, and probably more gin.”
One of the songs you sing is an ode to alcohol – in which you thank your ‘Oma’ (or Grandmother) for teaching you how to drink. Do you think alcohol and cabaret go hand-in-hand? And can strictly sober people enjoy the show?
Well my darling, as you know I do like a drink, and I think it does help some people to loosen up and be more open to having a good time. That being said, some of my best friends are tee-total and they can party harder and have more fun than most people. The show is for everyone that has a good sense of humour and the desire to engage with it.
All of the music from the LDC band is original, as far as I could tell, though there are a couple of nods to great music of the past from Rocky Horror to Roxy Music. What artists would you say inspire the Little Death Club soundtrack?
Rocky Horror Picture Show has been my favourite film since I was seven – although I never saw the orgy scene in the pool until I was 11, because my parents would always come in and stop the video before that bit – so that is a big influence of mine. The music in the show, as you say, is pretty eclectic. We try to write in whatever style suits the content of the song and we have collaborated with some great musicians. I have always loved Bowie and Queen and strong women like Siouxsie and the Banshees… The list is enormous!
Speaking of lists, what are three things you couldn’t leave home without when touring ‘Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club’?
Gin, ‘Lick My Pussy’ Tote bags, and probably more gin.
And what are three Fringe shows you’re aching to see, or that you would recommend our readers go and see?
The cast of ‘Yummy’ are some of my favourite humans – drag cabaret realness bursting with energy and so much joy. They are doing a late show this year as well, so don’t miss them! ‘A Simple Space’ is my favourite circus show ever: simple, stunning, beautiful. And of course the Briefs Boys always know how to have a good time.
Finally, Bernie, if, when you get to Heaven or Hell, and the powers that be say you can bunk with any artist you like, who would that artist be? And what would you say to him or her when you greet them?
One day I’m hoping to meet Dolly Parton so I can ask her to pass me the gin and tell me her stories, because as I always say, ‘Hell is empty and all the devils are here’!
‘Bernie Dieter’s Litte Death Club’ is on at the West Australian Spiegeltent, Russell Square, Northbridge until February 16, 2020 with the possibility of an extended season.
Get your tickets at http://www.fringeworld.com.au and be sure not to miss one of the all-time favourite shows of the Perth Fringe Festival.
Photography by Theresa Harrison.