Raven O, a nightlife staple for four decades, bows out
As a beginning artist, Raven O had two roommates in gender transition and was planning to follow their lead. “We had a band called FDR Drive, and one day during rehearsals I realized I was up to go to the bathroom, and trans women don’t do that. I had a moment of clarity: I was doing this for the wrong reason – because I received more positive attention as a woman than as a man. “
We can expect a similar frankness in an upcoming memoir on the adventures of Raven O in New York. “Kate Rigg, one of my Hanai sisters, writes it with me,” he said, using the Hawaiian term to refer to friends who are mostly adopted as siblings; he has a bunch of them. Raven O arrived in New York City at age 18 and, according to his account, spent most of the ’80s and early’ 90s homeless.
“When it was cold I would find a place to sleep, usually by going looking for a guy,” Raven O said, with a neutral smile. “I was also a whore; I sang for my supper, but if I needed the money I would do what I had to do. Usually I would have sex if you let me sleep in your house and feed me and maybe give me money. Then drugs became a factor – crack and crystal meth. He gradually began to party less; he and Deutzman even swore not to drink alcohol two years ago. “We just decided, we’re done,” Raven O said. “My big weakness now is sugar. And I have a fried chicken fetish.
There will likely be less personal reveal on an album Raven O recently recorded with bassist Ben Allison, another longtime collaborator. It will be titled “Piece of Sky”, he said, after one of the two original songs; the other tracks include standards and “some surprises, contemporary songs that we turned into jazz songs”. Painting, an old hobby that Raven O took up by hosting the Cirque du Soleil show “Zumanity” in Las Vegas, will provide another creative outlet. Arias was the originator of the Circus part, “and Joey said, ‘If you ever give up acting, you should paint.’ I said I would never stop playing, but here we are.
If stem cell therapy worked well enough, Raven O wouldn’t rule out a comeback. “But I would never do it so intensely,” he said. “In Hawaii, I can let nature take care of me. My older brother told me you gotta come home and leave the aina – the island – heal yourself. And he’s also a tough guy.