Kenny Mellman is tall and quiet, a watcher and waiter. Justin Bond is even taller, also looser, not at all quiet, and at this moment, in a hideaway greenroom upstairs at the Cherry Lane a couple of hours before showtime, his long, mimetic, half-made-up face twinkles with dots of glitter like a Van Gogh sky.
"I'm Kiki, you're Herb," Justin Bond said to Kenny Mellman at a hipster bar in San Francisco one night ten years ago, "You drink Scotch, I drink rye." Then they went on and did their thing, Bond as an old, used up, sharp-tongued, seen-all, done-all nightclub chantoosie named Kiki DuRane, Mellman as the patient, psychically wounded Herb at the eighty-eights. Indeed, when the song-and-salt act of Kiki & Herb hit New York City in the mid-nineties, its first venue was, in fact, Eighty-Eights, Erv Raible's late lamented cabaret on 10th Street, just a few blocks north of the Cherry Lane's crook'd-elbow little Commerce Street.
"Then," says Kiki/Bond, "we were at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, at 10th and Hudson, for about a year. Outgrew that. Moved to Flamingo East, 13th and Second Avenue. Outgrew that. Moved to the Fez [in NoHo]. Then to Westbeth, in 2002. Really enjoyed being in a theatre. Went on the road to develop the show — Philadelphia, Washington, London — and now we're here, on the most charming block in New York, in this historic building, founded by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I love Edna St. Vincent Millay."
You burn your candle at both ends?
"Exactly," says Bond. "God knows." Justin Bond was born May 9, 1963 — "if you want, you can make that 1966" — whereas Kiki tells us she "was born at the height of the Great Depression . . . a very dark time in this country," and talks about the New Deal, "government for, not in spite of, the people."
Kenny Mellman, born on Sept. 6, in the momentous year of 1968, nods affirmatively while silly old not-so-silly Kiki says, "Our shows have always been very political. This is the reason to do them."
Mellman speaks up. "Before we ever met, we were both doing political theatre. The writing, the music" — lovely old standards camped up — "that's not important. Politics are important."
"It gives us our motivation," says Bond. "We have this voice." Their show is called Kiki & Herb: Coup de Théatre. A nonconformist redhead named Millay would certainly have dug it.