I’d seen Grady West perform as gargle-voiced, gleefully hopeless chanteuse Dina Martina many times since he first unleashed her on the world in 1989 but, for me, he cemented his reputation as a demented wit with one offhand remark during a show several years ago at On the Boards. An audience member groaned at something Dina did on stage and West, unscripted and in character, turned to the person and said, “Oh, honey, I feel your pain,” then, after a pause, added, “Or, as the French would say, I feel your bread.”
For those of you who wisely took Spanish in high school, pain in French means bread (although it’s pronounced something closer to pan). The idea that West would bother tossing off something so fabulously ridiculous let me know—though I’d never really had any doubt—that Seattle had far more on its hands than a man in hypnotically unflattering drag. With his Kabuki-on-crack makeup, he is a sensei of the surreal.
West has long since conquered New York with his indomitable never-was, would-be, has-been alter-ego and he still sells out local shows. Which is why I’m giving you fair warning that if you haven’t yet experienced Dina (or if you have and want to see her again), tickets just went on sale for a sort of “greatest hits” performance called Dina Martina’s Cherished Chestnuts. Go hear her sing. And feel her bread.
For information on the 2009 Dina Martina Christmas Show, click here.