On the night of the premiere of Raven O’s new one-man show One Night With You
which opened in New York City’s Bleecker Street Theatre, the weather couldn’t have
been less in his favor. The sky had opened up and dropped a cold, deluge on the
streets of Manhattan. The kind of weather that keeps the winter weary wafting in their
warm upper West Side apartments -- after all who’s gonna trudge through the mud
sledged urban jungle to go downtown? If you’ve heard of Raven O, you would! You’
d be curious to check out for yourself if everything that’s been said about the man
and his music is true...you’d be anxious to find out for yourself if in fact the trail of
tattoos across his body actually do lead to somewhere special, but I digress.
There wasn’t an empty seat in the playhouse. The intimate setting, a cavalcade of
celebrities in the audience, and the draw of one of the city’s most profoundly
talented artists about to reveal himself as he’s never done before...you’re left to
wonder, how much more is Raven O willing to bare?
Raven O is a staple of the New York City night club scene.
Performing alongside such legends as Joey Arias at mainstays
like Bar d’O in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he has been able
to carve out a notorious reputation for himself as one of the
city’s more colorful cast of characters.
New York club culture has always found a way to affect and impact the social
consciousness, whether it was through pop art or the myriad personalities that
cultivated the underground art scene. Especially in the late 70’s with Andy Warhol
and his art movement; the city urchin artist was very much in vogue.
Keith Haring didn’t just uniquely
tag and graffiti the subway with
his ‘atomic baby’ he raised
awareness for the then
emerging AIDS crisis that many
comfortably swept under the
www.ambiente.us MARCH | MARZO 2010
RAVEN O | One Night Is Not Enough
by JC Alvarez
cover photo by San Sierra
If the city of New York were given to dressing up for a night on the town, picking a
persona reflective of all it’s vigor, intensity and sex appeal – the Big Apple would
choose to dress up as Raven O. The ubiquitous love child of Elvis Presley and Anne
Margaret, when Raven O performs it’s raw and powerful, real and sensitive – it’s
impossible to sit there and not feel the tremor in his voice warming against your soul,
or the feel of his hips grinding to the bass. You’re vetted and left to hope and wonder if
when he reaches out that hand in a final musical climax, if when he gives that daring
stare…is he looking at you?
I’ve never wanted the singular attention of a performer more than while watching him
But that’s part of his act. With his routine Raven O lures the audience in, enticing them
in much the same way that the Mad Hatter tricked Alice into staying at the tea party.
The revelation of the canvas the artist has made of his own body: Raven O is
impressively muscular and richly covered in tattoos, with brilliant dancer’s proportions
that are enhanced by swirls and thorns that vine across his sinewy shape accenting
the grace of
movements evoked in his play on stage. He moves like
a mischievous pixie, yet he’s agile as a cat -- moving
like a skilled predator across the stage hungry for the
adulation of the crowd.
carpet. Jean-Michel Basquiat revitalized the postmodern/neo expressionist art
movement as the first painter of African descent to become an international sensation
– but he crawled out from the otherwise economically deprived East Village and turned
himself into a media superstar! New York has had a way of birthing and inspiring the
most innovative talent and rebelliously influencing the turns socially that our culture
takes, but these are not things that occur by happenstance. For every action there is a
reaction and there is no artist more keen to evoke a reaction than a performance artist
like Raven O.
In his show Raven O reveals how he
bargained to win a dance competition in
order to win a trip to New York City -- he
understood that in order to turn his aspirations
into a reality he had to make it to the big city.
He won the contest, but the promoters of the
event hadn’t raised enough to get him a round trip ticket.
He took his chances and bargained on the one-way fare!
“I’ve been wanting to do it...I’d been
planning it. I had an outline in my
brain,” Raven began, as we
discussed the genesis of the
one-man show, “but I didn’t
want it to be a traditional
scripted kinda thing. It had to have
my own take. One component of jazz
music is improvisation -- it’s got a loose feel.”
The show delves into the evolution of Raven O
as a performer and finding his identity and creating
his now popular persona. “All the stories were improvised...
my bassist Ben Allison and I, have been playing together for
over 15 years...he knows me really well so he knew when to start
MIAMI RIVER INN
Miami Beach GAY
April 17, 2010
And you’ll find Raven O holding court right where he belongs: center stage, spotlight on!
For more on Raven O including upcoming performances and music goto
You can also follow him on facebook at www.facebook.com/ravenonyc
CLICK HERE for more JC Alvarez
Copyright © AMBIENTE MAGAZINE. Do not reproduce without citing this source
legendary Limelight, and that he didn’t always make the right choices when it
came to the men he matched up with. “It’s all my life!” -- the music and the
musing -- “is all interconnected.”
It’s when Raven performs the Johnny Cash classic “Reign of
Fire” that his performance shifts -- in that moment he rises
like a phoenix! “Everyone really responds to that song.”
Bathed in a crimson glow, he sings, after telling a story that
lead to the proverbial last draw in a past relationship.
“What’s really strange is, the story is rather funny -- but it’s
got this really dark undertone...it’s the polar opposite of
what the song is saying; the extremes that we’re willing to
go through when we’re in love with the wrong person.
It’s really fucked up.”
It’s fiercely courageous what Raven O has accomplished in his career,
culminating with his performance in One Night With You. There aren’t very many
artist who can look at the ugly in their lives and paint it into a pretty picture,
certainly not one worthy of entertaining -- much less comedic entertainment, but
he recognizes the irony in it all. “I can’t seem to sugar coat things, but I feel
really comfortable on stage. I’ve worked with people who’ve asked me to turn
things down, and I’ve been like fuck you!” And he has no regrets. “I’m extremely
happy -- sure there’s been a lot of pain...but just like anybody else. When I was
younger I would have hoped my life was one way, but as I got older I just
accepted that this was the way it was going to be -- you just keep moving
forward. I have the tendency to not look back on things.”
And as he looks forward Raven O turns to the next stage of his life as a
performer, as he puts the final touches on a new album project. This one much
more pop driven. He is currently in the studio recording some
mainstream original tracks. “This is so new to me! It’s been an interesting
experience creating pop music. My background is jazz, and I have to give up
a lot of control cause I’m not an authority on pop -- it’s a learning process! I’
m actually enjoying it -- it’s very trippy and I’m liking it!” That first single
should be making it’s way to the airwaves by spring.
It’s wonderfully inspiring and greatly ambitious, but there appears to be no
stopping the force of nature that is this entertainer, and in an era jaded by
the stagnation in creativity of the music industry, it’s refreshing to find such
drive and dedication like Raven O’s. “I have my moments of doubts, but I’m
an optimistic. I’ve surrounded myself with people who work as hard as I do,
and who believe in what I do -- they encourage me to say what I have to
say...do what I’ve got to do.”
In the meantime, he continues to wow the crowds as the emcee at the most
exclusive spot in Manhattan. You may have heard of The Box the infamous
east side haunt created by Simon Hammerstein (the man is credited with
saving NYC nightlife) is frequented by the glitterati and the Hollywood elite,
who pride themselves on exclusivity and the sort of devil may care
debauchery that is so necessary during these, our most trying times.
The economy may be kaput, but if you can get past Simon and into the party
than you’ll find Raven O doing what he does best on a weekly basis. “There’
s something for everybody -- the scene has become pretty segregated, but
at The Box anything can happen!” The feel of the room is reminiscent of
those more provocative and decadent days of Studio 54, but not just for the
bourgeoisie. If you’re lucky enough to get into The Box prepare yourself for
a feast of the senses. “The art world used to be a really major part of the
club scene -- not just a visual element, but musical as well.”
playing...but it was all by the seat of our pants!”
Intermixed with his song list, Raven O evokes the tale of how his
ambition to perform drove him to near extremes in his pursuits.
Arriving in New York from Hawaii with his one-way ticket, he found
himself often times sleeping on couches, on floors, and even on the
streets. He unabashedly admits that he suffered a drug addition,
and did what he had to make ends meet, including being among one
of the first go-go boys at the