Kiki and Herb (Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman) are an American drag cabaret duo. Bond portrays Kiki DuRane, an aging, alcoholic, female lounge singer. Mellman portrays her gay, male piano accompanist, known only as "Herb."
Although Bond and Mellman are only in their late thirties, their characters are, according to their elaborate fictional biographies, more than seventy years old.
Overview[edit | edit source]
First Wave: 1989 - 2004[edit | edit source]
Bond and Mellman began performing together in 1989, and created the characters of Kiki and Herb in the early 1990s.
Their act alternates between musical numbers and long, seemingly inebriated monologues by Kiki. The musical numbers, often medleys, draw on an enormous range of popular music, from Broadway musicals to Nirvana and from Britney Spears to REO Speedwagon.
Kiki's monologues are largely comedic, but often become stridently political. Kiki regularly attacks the Reagan administration, the Bush administration, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, network news, and has even called for the assassination of President George W. Bush on a number of occasions. Bond has emphasized that, while he and Mellman are political "lefties," Kiki's views are far more extreme than their own.
In 2004, Kiki and Herb gave a "farewell" performance at New York City's Carnegie Hall. The one-night-only show was titled Kiki and Herb Will Die for You and featured a number of celebrities, including Sandra Bernhard, Isaac Mizrahi, Jake Shears, Michal Cavadias, and Rufus Wainwright. The show was recorded, and released as a two-disc album, titled Kiki and Herb Will Die for You: Live at Carnegie Hall.
Second Coming: 2004 - Present[edit | edit source]
Their retirement didn't last long, however. In 2005, the duo reunited for a tour of select U.S. cities titled The Resurrection Tour. A European tour followed, as well as two short documentary films about the duo that screened at a few film festivals.
In the early summer of 2006, Bond and Mellman announced that Kiki and Herb would make their Broadway debut in August. After a handful of preview performances at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia, the show, titled Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway, debuted for a four-week run at the Helen Hayes Theater on August 11. Reviews were mostly favorable, including a glowing assessment by Ben Brantley of the New York Times. 
The duo began a run of Sunday-night shows at Joe's Pub in New York City in January 2007, and will tour the United States in the Spring and Summer of 2007.
Fictional Biography[edit | edit source]
Early Years[edit | edit source]
Kiki DuRane was born at some time in the early days of the Great Depression. Her birth name was not Kiki, but it remains unknown, due to the fact that her parents lost her birth certificate and forgot her given name.
At a young age, Kiki was deemed to be mentally retarded, and her negligent parents gave her up to a state-run institution in Western Pennsylvania, known as the Erie Children's Institute.
It was there that she met a foundling known only as Herb. At the institution, he was referred to as "Herb E," due to the fact that he was the fifth "Herb" to arrive at the institution (the first was "Herb A," the second was "Herb B," and so on).
The two met in 1934 and immediately formed a bond. They soon began performing music as a part of their rehabilitation, with Herb assuming piano duties and Kiki handling vocals. By their late teens, the duo were able to escape the institution and begin playing on the burlesque circuit, marketing their act as "The Completely Insane Ms. Kiki DuRane."
Before they left the institution, Kiki became pregnant under mysterious circumstances. After she escaped, she gave birth to her first child, a boy named Bradford.
Showbiz Beginnings[edit | edit source]
Kiki and Herb toured relentlessly for years, and released their first LP, a torch-song record called The Hazy Days of Kiki, in 1957. According to their official biography, it was met with "universal indifference" by audiences.
In this period, the duo first started to rub elbows with showbiz royalty, including Grace Kelly, Louis Edward Walters, and Billie Holiday, who ominously warned Kiki that "a white man will fuck you, but he won't buy you dinner."
To her great dismay, Kiki didn't understand the meaning of this aphorism, and in 1960, she married a white boxer named Rudy Mansbach. She left performing and became a housewife, giving birth to her second child, Coco, that same year.
Kiki didn't take well to the claustrophobic nature of being a homemaker. The marriage was a disaster, climaxing with an incident in which Kiki stabbed Rudy a number of times in the arm. He survived the attack and eventually dropped all charges, but the couple separated soon afterwards.
Triumph and Tragedy[edit | edit source]
However, Herb's life was turned upside-down when a newly divorced Kiki demanded that he return to touring with her. Herb acquiesced, and the two were soon playing a major comeback show in Monaco at the behest of their old friend, Princess Grace.
The pair released a new album in 1967, Kiki and Herb: It's Not Unusual, but their tour was cut short when tragedy struck on the French Riviera. Coco, then only 6 years old, joined Kiki for a ride on a yacht, but while Kiki was making a business deal below deck, Coco fell off the boat and drowned.
Kiki sank into a deep depression. She traveled to Vietnam, where she thought her son, Bradford, was serving in the US Military. However, she found that Bradford had lied to her, and was not there at all.
Upon returning to the US, Herb urged Kiki to return to music, but she claimed that she didn't feel like she could sing, after the tragedy. Herb allegedly responded by saying that, if she couldn't sing, they could do a spoken-word record. Around this time, they met Gil Scott-Heron, and, inspired by his work, they made a comeback record in 1972, called Kiki and Herb: Whitey's on the Moon.
Despite this return to the studio, the 1970s became a turbulent decade for Kiki, who fell into a haze of drugs and depression. During this period, Kiki claims to have gone through a "disco phase," but that phase has not been well-documented.
In the mid-1980s, Kiki's family (mainly her sister and her son) staged an intervention and put her through rehab, which she has since described as "a nice little vacation."
Yasaweh, Miss D, and DCFS[edit | edit source]
After being released, the terms of her parole demanded that she get a steady job. Accordingly, she moved to Baltimore and began to work at a convenience store, where she was visited often by an employee of a nearby Popeye's Chicken franchise. Figuring that he was there more to see her than for the Mr. Pibb soda he invariably bought, she decided to pursue a relationship with him. The man, who was named Yasaweh, ended up fathering Kiki's third child, Miss D. Miss D was biracial, due to the fact that Yasaweh was an African-American.
Yasaweh was arrested while Miss D was very young, on charges of drug possession (Kiki staunchly claims that the marijuana found in his car was not his own, but was instead "for [her] nausea"). Given the increased drug sentences under the Reagan administration, Yasaweh was imprisoned for a long period of time, and lost touch with the mother of his child.
A few months later, Kiki found out that she had Cancer. Fearing that Miss D would be unable to survive without a mother, she made the dubious decision to sit the child on her front porch and tell her to fend for herself while "mommy sweats this cancer out." Using a case of vodka and an electric blanket, Kiki crawled into bed to cure herself of cancer. Somehow, the Department of Child and Family Services found out about the incident and took Miss D into foster care.
In the late 1980s, Kiki's cancer went into remission, and Kiki and Herb hit the road once again. More properly, it can be said that they hit the deck, as they found a regular gig performing aboard the Princess Cruise Lines. They worked there successfully for a number of years before being asked to leave by the management.
Second Coming[edit | edit source]
By that time, it was the mid-1990s, and Kiki and Herb found themselves in New York City, where the burgeoning retro-cabaret movement embraced them as cult heroes. They played shows across the New York club scene for years, and released a Christmas album, titled Do You Hear What We Hear? in 2000.
By 2004, the pair decided to call it quits, but not exactly of their own volition. According to Kiki, a set of concert promoters told the duo that they could play Carnegie Hall, but only under the condition that they agree to die afterwards. They accepted the offer.
The concert was an enormous success, but Kiki and Herb found themselves unable to die as scheduled, due to the fact that Kiki's sister, Candy, took ill and had to be taken care of. After a while, everyone decided to forget about the death-deal, and the pair opted to tour Europe, instead.
In 2006, they were offered a spot on Broadway. Although Kiki claimed to have appeared on Broadway before ("I challenge anyone to prove that I haven't been on Broadway," she stated in a July interview on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show), it was their first headline gig on the Great White Way.
In 2007, they did a number of Sunday-night gigs at Joe's Pub in New York City, and will be touring the country in mid-2007.
Real-Life Discography[edit | edit source]
- 2000, Do You Hear What We Hear?
- 2001, Sleater-Kinney's "I'm Not Waiting", Calling All Kings & Queens sampler album track on Mr. Lady Records
- 2004, Kiki and Herb Will Die for You: Live at Carnegie Hall
[edit | edit source]
- Official site
- Official MySpace page
- Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway at the Internet Broadway Database
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