TOM: Thanks! I’m really happy to be doing the show so close to home. I live in Greene County, outside of Catskill, (and I was born and raised in Orange County) so having a gig practically in the ‘hood is a real treat. Some of my friends who couldn’t make it to the show in New York City are going to come up this Friday, so it works out really well.
BGHV: OK, the question everybody asks us is, does Tom get naked in the show? Do you?
TOM: LOL! I suppose I should have expected that. No, I don’t take off my clothes in the show. Although, metaphorically speaking, I strip bare. I think people will be very surprised at Canned Ham. It’s not just a stand-up routine where I recount my experiences working as Gus Mattox in the porn biz. I talk about all aspects of my life: my work in showbusiness (I’ve done two National Tours of Broadway shows) composing music for movies and television, working as an escort… And I also talk a lot about my personal life with my husband, Bruce, who died of AIDS.
BGHV: Yes, you do get quite personal in this show. Was that tough?
TOM: No, not at all. For the show to have any depth it also had to have truth. I’ve been sharing my life with ya’all for quite while now, through my blogs and interviews, etc., so putting all this down on paper (and then on stage) seemed like the natural progression of things. And, true to the show’s title, I am a natural-born ham, so anytime I can yammer on about myself I’ll do it.
BGHV: The other question we get is, does Tom really play the accordion in the show?
TOM: Again, “LOL!” Yes, I really do play the accordion. And trumpet. And piano. My director wanted to incorporate all the instruments I play in to the show, but it would be a royal pain in the ass carrying and assembling—and disassembling—10 instruments every night, so we narrowed it down to those three. Music has always been a major part of my life so it was obvious to me from the start that this show would include some of that as well. Why just talk about performing in 42nd Street or Cabaret when I can actually do it? And let’s face it, haul out an accordion on stage and it’s a guaranteed laugh.
BGHV: When do you leave for the Canned Ham tour, and where will you be going?
TOM: Ah, the million-dollar question! As for “where”, the idea is to take the show anywhere and everywhere. We’re working on the itinerary now and things are slowly but surely coming together. “When” is a more complicated question. The original plan was to do two shows in the city and then hit the road. But—how to say this without seeming immodest—it went so well in New York that we’ve decided to try to get together a short run of the show there before the tour. We managed to raise enough money to get it off the ground and we’re looking around for the right venue and time frame. It’s because of that that I’m still around and can do the show with you guys!
BGHV: Finally, the morning after your show – Saturday, October 17th – Is the Hudson Valley AIDS Walk in Poughkeepsie. During “Canned Ham” you speak about the death of your partner as a result of HIV/AIDS. Will you be joining the walk on Saturday?
TOM: Unfortunately, I can’t. But I would like to make a contribution. I usually sign photographs after the show and just hand them out for free, but I thought on Friday I could ask for a buck or two donation and it will all go to the AIDS Walk. Hopefully we’ll have a nice crowd so it will amount to something.
BGHV: Thanks again, Tom. Really can’t wait for the show!
TOM: Me, too! See you all there!
Tickets will be available for $15 at the door for the show this Friday, October 16th. The Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center is located at 12 Vassar Street in Poughkeepsie.