DICK AND DUANE: TILL DEATH (from LAUGHTER!) DO THEY PART.
Throughout history, the art of comedy has persistently mined American culture to unearth new ways to make us laugh. Few of those sources of humor, however, have been as reliable as the bondage… uh, I mean, the “bond” of marriage. The decades have given us such husband-and-wife combos as George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky, Sonny and Cher, and Whitney and Bobby (Now, THOSE two were funny!). But isn’t it about time for a husband-and-husband comedy team? Meet performers Richie Cohen and Duane Tragis, who have that envied distinction of being the world’s only “marido y marido” comedic duo on the scene. Picture this: New Jersey, 1981. Teenagers Richie and Duane met, fell in love, and exchanged rings from a gumball machine. The two then formed a personal and creative synergy that is in full force in 2011. Dick and Duane’s comedy routine is a true Chinese buffet of a variety show: a little taste of everything. They give us reflections on the lunacy of our pop culture, to stories of their life together, and everything in between. Dick and Duane have delivered their unique stand-up comedy at venues ranging from downtown NYC clubs to Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in Washington, D.C., where their audience was hundreds of randy Leathermen and Leatherwomen. On their official website, http://www.DickandDuane.com, you’ll find biographical info, their blog, videos, and everything short of the couple’s favorite recipes. Oh, yes…There are also many eye-popping photos, showing Dick and Duane back in the pre-IPhone glory days of the 80‘s and in (nearly) all of their hirsute muscular glory in 2011. Here’s some advice: Make sure you watch the videos and read the bio first, because if you click on “Photos”, you may be on there for a while. (Also, get the wet cloth ready too!) Dick and Duane spoke about their life together as husbands and as performers… giving a whole new meaning to “balls and chain”…
JR: Hello, gentlemen! Thanks so much for talking with me. So, inquiring minds want to know: How do you keep the “flames of passion” still burning after 30 years?
D&D: Thanks for wanting to talk to us! But, you know, it’s not 30 years yet. It’s still only 29 years, 5 months and 2 weeks. But even after only 29 years, 5 months and 2 weeks, I don’t think it’s a flame of passion anymore, as it was when we were teenagers being each other’s first boyfriend. Now, it’s more like one of those electric fireplaces with the plastic logs encasing a simulated “fire” light. No, wait, it’s more like that 4-hour video of a burning Yule log that they show at Christmas on Channel 11. Very familiar, comforting and friendly…slightly monotonous yet campy and mesmerizing…without the chance of a stray ember jumping out and catching the drapes on fire. And yet, we don’t even have drapes!
JR: That must make for some very happy neighbors! (Laughs) According to your bio, the two of you met in 1981. Some of the biggest hit songs during that year were “Guilty”, “Slow Hand”, “Endless Love”, “What Kind of Fool”, “Whip It”, “Games People Play”, “Winner Takes It All”, and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. Do any of these songs describe the feelings you had when you first met?
D&D: Great songs, Jed! Well, it’s definitely not “Guilty” or “Games People Play” because we’ve always been very honest with each other…which I think is the secret to longevity: truthfulness, true love and deep friendship. But there is a song that answers this question perfectly, and it happens to be “our song” for that reason. We were in Duane’s car, making out all night on one of our first dates. We were virgins when we met; we never could get enough of each other, and all night kissing was never too much. I had just said, “We need to have a song”, just like in that “Seinfeld” episode, although “Seinfeld” wouldn’t be on the air for another 9 years. And just then, “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross started playing on WKTU and I shouted, “That’s it! That’s our song!” And it’s not so easy to shout while you’re kissing, so I think I get points for that, right?
JR: You sure do! Now, with any couple that has been together a long time, I am always fascinated with how they divide the household chores. For example, Which one of you does the cooking?
D&D: Duane does the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and litter box cleaning. We have a new addition to the family: our daughter, who’s an Egyptian Mau cat named Dawn after “Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway,” the TV-movie starring Eve Plumb of “The Brady Bunch“. Richie does the e-mails. We feel it’s a fair and balanced workload distribution.
JR: Sounds fair and balanced to me! So, out of the following audiences, which ones do you find to be the most fun: Chelsea muscle boys, drag queens, bears, Leathermen, lesbians… or closeted gay Republicans?
D&D: Well, you do know there are no “Chelsea muscle boys” anymore, right? Chelsea is a neighborhood of college girls, nannies pushing baby strollers, and formerly-suburban families. I don’t think we’ve ever done a show for an audience of drag queens. But we did once win “Star Search“, the drag contest at Barracuda. We did it out of drag and still won, which kind of pissed off the hostess.
D&D: A completely lesbian audience is probably not our target crowd, because we do get a little sexual in our act, and I think they might find it “icky.” We have had some of the best shows for bears and Leathermen, so I guess they win for most-fun audience. As for closeted gay Republicans…gosh, are there really closeted gay Republicans? We can’t believe that. They seem like such an honest and forthright bunch.
JR: (Laughs) Do you have a particular trademark joke or routine that always gets the crowd really crazy?
D&D: Each audience is different. We get the most requests to do our bit where we act out the song “Gloria” by Laura Branigan. But I think that anytime we drop our pants, it really gets them going. So, probably our “Mama Doll” bit where we…well, you’d have to see for yourself… Oh wait, you were at MAL so you did see that, Jed!
JR: I sure did. Whoa!!! I love the way you managed to shock a truly unshockable crowd. Out of all those colorful downtown NYC celebrities that you have worked with through the years, who was the most memorable? Why?
D&D: We would have to say Hapi Phace, who was the drag queen host of his own show at the Pyramid club. He gave us our first break by giving us a big block of his show one night to ourselves. We loved him because he was gracious, professional and kind. And a really ugly drag queen! We especially loved when he would come out on stage naked with his junk tucked. Who doesn’t love that?
JR: A pretty picture you inspired, indeed! Speaking about pictures: Those are some HOT photos you have on your site. Any problems with stalkers… uh, I mean, “over-zealous admirers“?
D&D: The only problem we have is when they don’t follow through and molest us. But actually, we do have a problem with people stealing our photos on-line and using them in their profiles on hookup sites like Manhunt, Gaydar, etc. That’s why we started watermarking our pics, which is a real drag, because we hate extra work. We could use a personal assistant to watermark for us.
JR: (All applicants for that position can contact Dick or Duane via http://www.DickandDuane.com.) Gotcha! Along those lines, what are your secrets for being in such great shape? And don’t tell me it’s just from a positive outlook on life and drinking a lot of water. I want REAL secrets!!!
D&D: We’ve been going to the gym since we first met at Rutgers in 1981, mostly because Duane was really into big muscle men and wanted us to look like that, too. But we were vegans for a long time and you just can’t get big on steamed kale and carrot juice. We asked a muscle guy at the gym what we were doing wrong and he said, “Ya gotta eat meat.” He took us to have Romanian steaks at Little Joe’s diner on 12th St. and after that, little by little, from working out hard and eating meat, our bodies grew. We hit the gym 5 days a week and really concentrate on proper form… when we’re not checking out the hot Italians, Latins & Arabs.
JR: That’s the secret, all you boys out there: You gotta beat your meat… uh, I mean, “eat your meat”! Now, if they ever make a “Dick and Duane” movie, who would you want to play the two of you?
D&D: We think it would be hilarious to play ourselves…you know, wearing cardigans and penny loafers for the early 80s, long wigs and makeup for our androgynous late 80s look, et cetera. Besides, we agree with the late Elizabeth Taylor, who tweeted this last year: “No one is going to play Elizabeth Taylor, but Elizabeth Taylor herself. Not at least until I’m dead, and at the moment I’m having too much fun being alive…and I plan on staying that way.”
JR: I couldn’t agree more! So, what can audiences coming to the Fresh Fruit festival Bears Out of Hibernation Showcase expect from Dick and Duane?
D&D: We think they should come to the show and see for themselves!