Boys Do Cry
08.18.11 5:00 AM ET
Becoming Chloë Sevigny
So, I play Chloë Sevigny on the Internet.
It all started so innocently. In 2002, I was doing a sketch-comedy show, because that’s what adults with problems do: we put on wigs and scream. I was trying on various hairpieces for a character I was playing named Natalie, a 13-year-old sexually aggressive sociopath obsessed with snickerdoodles. I tried on wigs named Sharon, Janet, and Evening. But after I slapped one fateful mop of blonde hair upon my head, it was written. I said to my friend, “I look like Chloë Sevigny.”
“Who’s that?” he asked. “Ugh, keep up! She’s the indie It-girl, a festival darling, a Sundance moppet, the star of Gummo and Kids and Boys Don’t Cry, and she’s always dirty and wearing couture!” And then a few weeks later, I saw a desperate post-9/11 ad from the city of New York that sounded something like, “Hi, I’m Nathan Lane! Come to New York! We have Shubert Alley and Susan Stroman and Sbarro! No terror here!”
So I put up a monologue in which Chloë Sevigny was trying to get people to visit her New York and referencing the weirdest, most elitist, awesome, fuck-you kinda places. I mentioned Batcave, Twilo, and Tilda Swinton—yeah, it was that long ago. I was fascinated with that downtown world: so avant trash, full of homeless snobs, and trust-fund disco shits. Chloë just seemed to represent that world to me. She was—and still is—way cooler than I am, and way cooler than you are, too.
Anyway, from time to time, I’d play Chloë onstage, always starting with “Good evening, America. I’m Chloë Sevigny. It’s recently come to my attention that there’s tension in the Middle East,” or “It’s recently come to my attention that I love summer,” or whatever. The point being that when something is brought to Chloë’s attention, it’s instantly valid and important. Chloë name-drops nouvelle cuisine, hip-hop culture, high fashion, Indie film—and in doing so, legitimizes and celebrates herself for being in-the-know.
Over the years, she became more of an original character than an impression. The real Chloë is notorious for wearing beige and houndstooth and orange, matte lipstick, and sarcastic chunk wedges. My Chloë is as if you took all of that and threw it in a blender with some anime, crystal meth, and Goodwill. As the real Chloë Sevigny began to become more famous, more subdued, more Old Hollywood glam, I decided to keep my Chloë in the world of FischerSpooner, microdots, and Natasha Lyonne. Occasionally, I will steal from the real source—I mean, she has said many times that her favorite label is Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquière—how can you fucking top that?
A little over a year ago, my friend Jim Hansen told me he wanted to make some videos of me doing Chloë. So we did. Jim has a great sense of humor and visual style, and we made a series of bits, just to make us laugh. Over a few months, they became an Internet hit, and I’m truly still in shock. For years, I’d pitched Chloë to comedy shows and networks and producers, only to be told that no one would get it. I tried to explain that that was the joke, but that’s really hard to say without sounding like an asshole.
Anyway, it’s awesome and weird and touching that so many people are into it. I’ve had countless people ask, “What does the real Chloë think of these videos?” We have several friends in common, and all I had heard was that she said that she hadn’t watched them because she has really thin skin and didn’t want her feelings hurt. While I don’t think my videos are mean-spirited at all, I completely respected her stance. I mean, how weird must this be for her?
However, last December, I went to a lavish holiday party, with free vodka, RuPaul, and guess who? Countless people were coming up to me and saying, “She’s here! Oh, my God, go talk to her!” What am I going to say? “Hey, I play you!” Ewww. And what would she say to me? I just tried to have a conversation with my friend Tim, but I kept feeling a blonde indie-darling presence swirling around me. At that moment, it hit me: Holy shit, I’m really fucking nervous! I’ve been playing this person—for laughs—for eight years now, and my character is so removed from this real person standing in front of me. Yet, it’s not. Have I made her cry? Does she think I’m stupid? Or crazy? Is she creeped out? Should I apologize? I mean, I haven’t done anything terrible, but neither has she: she’s not Sarah Palin or Mel Gibson. Sure, she’s ridiculous and pretentious and weird, but she’s also awesome and unique and just an actress who didn’t ask for a struggling sketch-comedian dude to devote his life to playing her. Right now, we’re just two people at a party, circling each other like dick-hungry dogs, wondering who’s going to make the first move.
Finally, my friend Mike approached her and said something to the effect of “Hey, my friend plays you, and he’d love to meet you.” Then he literally dragged me across the room to meet Ms. Sevigny. We kind of just stared at each other for a while, and I said, “I hope you know how much I love you. Thanks for being you: you’re awesome.” Then, she gave me a big hug and made my Chloë face at me. That bitch has seen my videos! She’s doing me! Then we wildly laughed and hugged again and talked about vodka. She was the definition of cool, wearing a retro denim jacket, over a leather mini-dress, smoking a Merit Ultra Light, with unwashed hair and a homeless boy-date.
After realizing that she wasn’t going to throw her cocktail in my face, or punch me in the asshole, or simply ask, “Why are you doing this to me?” it came to my attention that I really like this person. My friend Darryl approached us and took a picture. And then I said, “I have to go, but it was so great to meet you.” I needed to keep it brief, so that I didn’t come off like a skin-wearing murderer or, worse, a starfucker. And she grabbed me by the back of the head and kissed me four times on the face. We never talked about my videos, which, I think, is a good thing. In five minutes, we traded mountains of nonverbal communication, and I think we were both a little relieved.
A few weeks later, she was interviewed in Entertainment Weekly, and she talked about meeting me. She said I was “very charming and very nervous.” Well, yeah, I think we both were. And she said that I don’t dress or sound like her, and she doesn’t see a connection between my character and herself. Which is totally valid. I get it. I think it’s always dumb and pointless for actors to describe their own work and their process and all that shit, but I will say this: I’m doing parody, I’m sending up a world, and I happen to look a little bit like Chloë Sevigny. However, my Chloë and the real Chloë are two very different people. Sometimes we just happen to go to the same parties.