Gorilla Queen Swings at Judson Church

Gorilla Queen Swings at Judson Church

A hypermasculine man with the build of a football player, Norman Marshall was the last person one would expect to be involved in Gorilla Queen, whose cast included a young George Harris III, soon to be Hibiscus. “I’m so butch that this reviewer said that I was ‘the male version of Nick Nolte.’ Anyway, here I am playing Queen Kong—in the middle of all this silliness, craziness—and I had a great time.” Like many Off-Off-Broadway actors, he had never been in a play or had any theatrical experience before he walked into Judson Church for an audition. “I just decided, ‘I think I’ll try acting.’ I had no idea what the hell it was all about.” Tony Zanetta—an Off- Off-Broadway actor who began working with David Bowie as his tour manager during his Ziggy Stardust period—recalled, “Gorilla Queen’s writing was so insane. Insane. It was really out there. Taharahnugi White Woman sent my twenty-year-old self into hysterics.” That character was played by a man dressed in a sarong, and during one gag he shocked another character by showing his hairy chest: “What’s the matter? Ain’t you never seen a white woman before?” Director Larry Kornfeld said of Gorilla Queen, “Campy, hell, It’s downright homosexual!” Musing on the ways that intellectuals and theorists have followed the lead of the downtown’s underground theater movement, Kornfeld observed, “Binaries were being used in those productions, and they were being torn apart, deconstructed. Deconstructing binaries—gender binaries, racial binaries—was starting way back then, through performance. Theorists always came second.”

From Chapter 13 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square S, New York, NY 10012