MUSTY CHIFFON, SINGER, SONGWRITER, actor and comedian, brings her outrageously feminine costumes including flowing gowns and five-inch platform shoes — and her baritone voice — to Club Helsinki this Friday. At “Mistletoe Martinis with Musty” she’ll be joined by a line-up of talented friends, among them pianist Michael Holland, Rasputina, including cellist Melora Creager, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Jenny Baldwin and Alana Hauptman whom most know from her Warren Street restaurant the Red Dot, Chris and Lolly, and Sister Mary Gregory.
“It’s a chance for me to promote my friends,” said Dini Lamont, Musty’s off-stage persona. When he is not performing as an ultraglam diva, Lamont and his partner, Windel Davis, both in their 50s, run a bed and breakfast, The Inn at Hudson, on Union Street, which opened for business in 2006. The couple founded the Hudson River Theatre on Warren Street shortly after moving to Hudson in 2000.
Lamont and Davis met in Boston in the 1970s and started an a cappella group with friends, which at first sang country and western. The group morphed into a rock band and took the name Human Sexual Response. Lamont’s brother, Larry Bangor, sang and wrote many of the group’s songs, including “Jackie Onassis,” and “What Does Sex Mean to Me?” which remain popular on YouTube where a whole new generation has picked up on their message.
Many who followed the group during its heyday, when it toured the United States and played frequent gigs in London, still cherish their vinyl albums. The group’s sophisticated and irreverent lyrics sung to a Post Pop Art Rock beat, acquired an enthusiastic following in Boston between 1977 and 1982, when the band broke up. Since then, the members of HSR have reunited for several performances, including one in Hudson in 2008.
Dressing up, always an important part of his artistic persona, is something Lamont has loved since he “caught the fever for dressing up” when he was three and his female cousins used to outfit him in their communion dresses and parade him around their Bangor, ME, neighborhood.
After the band’s breakup, when he decided to perform a cabaret act dressed as a female and began searching vintage clothing stores for costumes, he found a chiffon dress. A scent wafted up from the fabric into his nostrils that his brain interpreted as musty, a light went on, and in that moment Musty Chiffon was born. Musty scored her first gig in Provincetown, where Lamont and Davis lived at the time.
“It was so much fun,” said Lamont of Musty’s debut performance.
The act was an instant hit, and Musty soon got bookings in Boston, New York City, Provincetown, Santa Fe, and up and down the West Coast from San Diego to San Francisco. Davis toured too, managing the costumes, which he designs, and handling lighting, including operating the all- important follow spot, and tending to many other technical details of the performance.
After several years of non-stop touring that included a sojourn in Hollywood, Lamont and Davis moved to Hudson and settled down. Lamont cut back to performing only a few shows each year in order to work in the recording studio and enjoy a more normal life. He discovered Hudson when he traveled here to work in a recording studio.
This winter, Musty will release a new album, “Dark,” that includes an arty and eclectic mix of songs. One offering from the album that Helsinki listeners will hear is a darkly provocative juxtaposition of two songs from two of her favorite Canadian song writers Chad VanGaalen and Leonard Cohen.
Lamont and Davis have lived in Boston and Provincetown, MA., Key West, Los Angeles and Vermont, but say they much prefer Hudson.
“It’s a great town. There are so many creative people,” says Lamont who finds “joy in living here and watching it come alive.”
One of the exciting developments in Hudson this past year is the opening of Helsinki Hudson, which moved from Great Barrington to a restored 1860’s factory complex on Columbia Street. The club, a longtime venue for music and other arts, attracted an audience from miles around to hear the likes of Pete Seeger, the Tom Tom Club, Nellie McKay, Norah Jones and a host of other luminaries.
“Helsinki is great for Hudson. They are really in it for the artists,” says Lamont.
The new Helsinki has a recording studio, spacious dressing rooms, a dinner theater, ballroom, and a restaurant with a state of the art kitchen run by executive chief Hugh Horner.
Helsinki’s Deborah McDowell, also from Bangor and a friend of Lamont’s, says she is thrilled to have Musty Chiffon come back just as the new space is opening the restaurant and starting to offer a full dinner menu.
Friend and fan Fayal Greene remembers when Musty performed at Bard’s Spiegeltent cabaret in the summer of 2009 and “attracted the biggest crowd that venue had ever seen.” Perhaps the reason for all the enthusiasm is that Musty won’t be channeling Judy Garland or singing in falsetto, or dishing out vulgarity. Her biggest strength, and what audiences respond to most, is that along with all her natural talent, she’ll be her own generous and delightful self.
For more information or to reserve a table for dinner contact: Heslinki Hudson at 405 Columbia Street, Hudson, New York 12534, 518.828.4800
Tickets can be purchased online by clicking on the blue box below the event description at: http://www.helsinkihudson.com/schedule.html