The following article appeared in The Washington City Paper on April 25, 1997. You can see the article archived online here. It attempts to document Faith’s campaign cabaret performances in DC, where she was running for mayor. I took the photos at one of Faith’s Campaign Cabaret performances the same year.
Faith’s Campaign Cabaret
Faith is a star. Not coincidentally, she is also a perennial candidate. In ’96, she ran for delegate against Eleanor Holmes Norton (picking up over 1,000 votes), and she has run twice against Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry. Her current campaign slogan is “Vote for Faith in ’98.” She’s running for mayor—again. Severely encapsulated, Faith’s platform involves running Congress and the feds out of D.C. (known to her as the “Devil’s Colon”) and using all those beautiful neoclassical buildings as art studios, theaters, and concert halls, a transformation to be funded by big Hollywood stars. It’s easy to get Faith on a roll about her plans: “I’ve got this one program I call ‘Shoot It on Film Before You Shoot Your Foe.’ It puts Tony Bennett in Anacostia starring as a Catholic priest, teaching kids to make movies.”
Now 73, Faith started running when she lived in St. Croix, sponsored by her then-husband, a former attorney general in the islands. “I got fewer votes each time I ran,” she remarks. “You think they were trying to tell me something?” Before St. Croix, Faith played on Broadway in a series of musicals (“They were all flops,” she says with inspiring, unmayoral candor) before landing a role as Mazzeppa in Gypsy, the play Stephen Sondheim and Jule Styne wrote for Ethel Merman. Faith claims to have stolen the show (you’ll believe it if you ever rent the video—and supposedly they tamed down her bit for the movie) with a bump-and-grind number she developed in N.Y.C. burlesque parlors. In the movie version, she teaches Natalie Wood how to strip, sings “You Gotta Have a Gimmick,” and blows a trumpet. She also appears on my thrift-store copy of the Broadway cast recording.
Faith recreates her Mazzeppa bit in her weekly Sunday-night campaign cabaret at Mr. Henry’s on U Street (formerly the Andalusian Dog; show starts around 8:30), kicking the show off with a Gypsy video clip and a strip number that leaves little to the imagination and ends with her blowing the trumpet between her legs and sporting a “Free D.C.” sign on her butt. “It has deeply sociological significance,” Faith says from the stage. The oddly magical entertainment includes calypso campaign songs, reworkings of Evita tunes (“Don’t Cry for Me, Washingtonians”), Noel Cowardlike ditties by unknown songwriter John Wallowich, a Nat King Cole tune, and a rendering of Lord Buckley’s “vintage soul talk” number, “The Nazz” (aka Jesus of Nazareth). If you’re, er, lucky, she might forget to wear her pants when she roller-skates out in red, white, and blue for her campaign speech. Her husband, Jude, accompanies her skillfully on guitar and does an uncanny karaoke Frank Sinatra. When Faith forgets the words, Jude is there to help her out, and he fills in the gaps between her costume changes with smooth calypso and Fats Waller numbers—like a cut-rate João Gilberto. Filled with broad comedy and multiculti touches, the show is a mondo exotica throwback; imagine a gene splicing between Incredibly Strange Music doyennes Yma Sumac and Rusty Warren. And think what Faith would do if she ran the D.C. government.—Jeff Bagato