ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF RUFUS WAINWRIGHT
I made all of the images in the gallery below with Rufus on August 3 2010 in both New York and Boston. I met Rufus at his Chelsea apartment, where he did his morning piano playing (a private concert just for me - very nice!) and we eventually headed out to Penn Station where we caught the Amtrak Acela train to Boston. This was Rufus's tour for his beautiful "All Days are Nights" album. In his first set, he played the album in its entirety, dressed as a character from Richard Wagner's "Parsifal". The album is a beautiful tribute to his late mother, the acclaimed musician Kate McGarrigle. Its a dark deep set performed without applause. Rufus then took a break, returning to the stage in brighter garb, playing some of his audiences favorite songs. As anyone who's seen Rufus in concert knows - he's an extraordinarily gifted artist, and a joy to watch. Was happy to spend the day with him, and share with you here on my website in photos. - Tim Hailand Los Angeles July 2023
As soon as I met him, I wanted to inhabit the flesh of his body. I wanted to feel what it was like to be him, maybe just for one day. I’d met incredible people before, but my curiosity was never as intense as it was with Rufus. His looks, youth, genes, talent, intellect and swagger … I wanted to pierce it all, stick my mental penis into him to gain entry, and then walk down the street as a twenty-first century dandy, dressed in an exquisitely tailored, flower-printed suit and writing a Rufus Wainwright song in my head. The truth is that I fell in love with Rufus, much like I once did with a young David Bowie. But with Rufus, I knew I’d never feel compelled to seduce him, at least not in the physical sense. My times with Rufus are about as sexy as I can handle these days, every minute together feeling so electrically charged. I live for music, and I know that Rufus will go down in history as one of the greatest musical figures of all time. And though I’ll never really know what it feels like to be him, I am blessed to know what it feels like to be around him, these days often just for one day here and there. Tim, through his photographs, has captured the feeling in his way … and I, through this little poem, will try to capture it in mine.
Rufus wakes up early for an artist
Even when he goes to bed late
He likes whatever I fix him for breakfast
As long as the coffee is great
Rufus treats me like I am a major star
Or maybe more like family
If saying star might go too far
Rufus prefers the tub to the shower
And can get himself ready in less than half an hour
Whatever room he occupies is a mess
Clothes strewn everywhere
But he could not care less
And whether we’re dining or taking a hike
We always talk and talk and talk
‘Cause he knows that’s what I like
His dear mother Kate taught him well
His dear dad too, in his way
And I assure you any day spent with Rufus
Is never a typical day
Love, Cherry Vanilla 2010
Let me paint you a picture: twas the last day of a very successful American tour with my sister Martha as special guest. That evening's performance was in the gorgeous historic Paramount Theater in Seattle, Washington. In the morning I had had to make my way up by train from Portland Oregon, rush to sound check, pack up various knick knacks acquired during my travels and say goodbye to the crew. In my haste, I had not taken the time to contemplate the meaning of this particularly momentous occasion.
And there was a lot to contemplate.
Our dear mother Kate Mc Garrigle had passed away only seven months earlier from sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Arcangelo, my sweet little baby nephew of 9 months was on the road with us providing divine light during what for everyone, because everyone loved Kate, had been a major run in with death. Aside from that days hurried nature getting in the way of my thought process - an interview at the train station, the careening majestic scenery of the Pacific Northwest, the usual dressing room "stake out" upon arrival- I believe that the act of me not pondering this day and therefore not admitting its emotional weight, was a wondrous natural function. A function availed by the physical process of mourning, which, like a Dutch Canal, had set in months earlier and only when I could handle certain issues and felt emotionally safe to do so, would engage a type of mystical turnstile, releasing the waters of sadness and thus causing the painful but necessary deluge of bitter tears to , as they say, "cleanse the soul" . Mid-day Seattle traffic was not an ideal place for soul cleansing and frankly if the deluge had happened before the show there probably would not have been a show at all. That day I was a restless automaton forging forward in mindless haste towards night, and as night fell, before the concert, I developed into the role of self makeup artist, gazing into the mirror (very Snow White Evil Queen) in order to finally graduate to the holiest of roles: doomed musical warrior engaged in a great, and thankfully spared to my knowledge, futile battle with emotion.
After a fantastic opening set, Martha wistfully returned to her son looking as if she had escaped from the most elegant of modern day balls and immediately exposed a breast in order to feed her enraptured child, adding a heightened sense of elegance to an already very chic stage outfit, very Fellinni. Of course the image of myself in white makeup with dark hollowed out eyes walking through the corridor in a 17 foot long black silk gown with cock feathers, blazing crystals and Shakespearean tights, a stunning outfit designed by my great friend Zaldy..... that added a bit of movie magic as well. The show had begun, the plank was set, and we were walking
My section of the evening was in two parts, and the first set went off without a hitch. aided by the outfit and also very much by the marvelous 30 foot Douglas Gordon eye video visuals projected behind me. I also believe that the fact that I had now famously asked the audience NOT to applaud while I was on stage as this tormented character had, as instinctively expected, created an area of great calm and comfort for me to relax into, thus for the audience creating a better performance in general. I could just go out there, sit at the piano and eventually get lost in the music along WITH the public: sans claps, sans "now we have to entertain the people of the State of Washington", sans "who is it out there tonight that I really have to impress?". It was all about the songs.
Anyway, now with the first part done, I, acting very very sad, walked offstage, went to my dressing room and changed into the more commonly known cheerful "Rufus the showman" by aid of a now beautifully faded from use (sweat and tears baby, sweat and tears!) fantastically gaudy bright red suit by my dear friends Viktor and Rolf, had a smoke, walked back into the dark light of the hall and returning to the stage for the second half of the show cultivated the applause I so rightly deserved! Beaming from ear to ear, blissfully unaware of the treachery about to set in. Martha, half way through my second set, came out to sing with me.
I've been writing this text over the last month or so and every time I scroll down in order to review my work I make little corrections along the way, here and there adjusting, changing what exists, a type of revolving fixation and always, I always stop dead in my tracks at this point of the tale. But there's only so much correcting one can correct before being corrected, and eventually you have to hold your breath and just dive in, so here we go.
I began by first introducing Martha to rapturous applause and then thanked her for coming out on tour with me. With this thanks, a small but vital emotional pin was removed, and the doors of the canal were slowly but surely opening. The instant that gratitude sprung from my lips a deep tremor from inside my soul registered in the front of my conscious mind, and quickly i started singing in order to evade what I immediately knew was a galloping emotional catastophe, oncoming, rising to grab me. a kind of wild predator not seen, but horrifically sensed in the distance. But The deed was done, there was no escape. Both of us, little trembling McGarrigle Wainwrights, were ultimately foiled, trapped, bound and about to lose it in front of 2000 very intent onlookers. We had to lay down our necks and take it. From my eyes it seemed that the stage had been flooded with tears. The material was a big component: the first song at that point of the set that we sang together (cursed set lists!) was a french version of Moon Over Miami I once learned off an old Josephine Baker album. This I had done years earlier in my teens and was, for all intents and purposes, the firstnumber I'd arranged for my sister and I to sing together. And it was probably, in a sense, my mothers favorite thing in the world.
This is where it gets difficult. When I say "favorite thing in the world" in trying to relate to you about who our mother was, I really mean it, literally: It was most probably absolutely her most favorite thing in all the wide world. There was nothing to her more beautiful and precious then the sight and sound of her two magnificent children singing together, and this little french ditty, perhaps in its unassuming simplicity and subtle charm, was the apex of a wondrous dream of hers that throughout life was always just a hand grasp away from reality. A dream where there was no fighting, no intense rivalry, no broken hearts and failed ambitions, just a boy and a girl, two siblings, two soaring souls rising together and singing in perfect harmony, and in french to boot! By the end of the short piece both of us had erupted in tears and neither could really sing anymore. But of course, like the true rabid showbiz mad dogs we are, we just kept hooting along and finished the show. My already unusual voice took on the characteristics of a dying automobileand I'm not sure how Martha did it, cause she was standing up, but I had to keep the black and white of the keyboard as my main focus in order to concentrate and not collapse, as years earlier I remember having to do when extremely drunk, staring at a black and white tiled floor in order not tothrow up everywhere.
One day I will ask Martha what she had to do physically to withstand the train wreck we were sustaining, cause God knows I couldn't look back at her, that would have been absolutely fatal, and for my tastes, a little too much movie magic. So, there you have it. Something to read while you look at these beautiful pictures by Tim Hailand. I'm not sure if what I've written is very good, at the present stage of this long sad process of losing my mom, in terms of communicating my actual feelings, I seem to inhabit several alien personalities and kinda skip between characters in order to avoid the constant firing squad of grief. Be it Lulu, Rufus, Judy, often in the end I sound like whoever it is who will get me to the end of the day somewhat unscathed.
And finally, the photos in this book are not from that fateful day. They are from the very first day of the tour in Boston when Martha and I were about to embark on a journey across the country which aside from the last gig in Seattle, was completely lovely, light and enjoyable and totally perfect. Thanks Poun!
- Rufus Wainwright New York December 2010