INTERVIEW : OUR OLD PAL MICHAEL CAVADIAS AKA LILY OF THE VALLEY
Though you would never know it by the title or lead image of this post — actor, singer, DJ and performer Michael Cavadias is not, in fact, old. He is young, he’s fucking beautiful and he’s FULL OF LIFE. Michael aka Lily of the Valley (to some from a certain era) is one of New York’s most treasured gems, and we’re honored to both know him and host him on the decks in our lobby on a regular occasion. Never were more seductive tracks dropped mere inches below such a winsome mug. At long last, we asked Mister Cavadias to tell us a bit about his life story and his work. Catch him tonight in the Ace New York lobby and come bask in his glory yourself.
I spent a few years in the 90’s performing and working as “Lily of the Valley.” This name came from an improv when I was living with Antony (of…and the Johnson’s) when were were at NYU theatre school back then. Lily was a delusional woman who believed that dozens of angels were living on her toes and giving her messages. But the character changed considerably after that and Lily became an umbrella character for many different creative pursuits. She performed weekly at the Blacklips Performance Cult at the Pyramid in dark little plays and then at Squeezebox with a rock band many many times. It wasn’t traditional drag in any sense but a bit of a natural femininity and etherial presence. It was a great time exploring that character and working with so many inspiring people like Antony, Page (who passed away in 2002) and Dean Johnson (passed away in 2007). People who taught me so much about how to be your authentic self.
As an actor my favorite job would have to be working with Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr. & Tobey Maguire in Wonder Boys. I played Tony/Antonia Sloviak who was Robert’s date to a faculty party but he ditches me for Tobey and then I have a couple scenes with Michael Douglas. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much and met some wonderful people like Jane Adams (Happiness, Hung) who is one of my closest friends to this day.
I can’t say I’ve had any truly nightmarish auditions — I suppose just times I was called in for things I just wasn’t right for. In the past few years, I’ve been concentrating on producing more of my own work. A show I wrote called “The Mystery of Claywoman” (directed by Rob Roth) finished a successful run in 2012 at Abrons Art Center and I performed as Claywoman at The Meltdown Festival in London in August, which Antony curated. Rob and I are also finishing a film called “The Doctors” where I play an evil physician. Other than that I’ve been working in other people’s projects a lot lately. There is a great scene of performers and actors, writers Downtown right now like Cole Escola, Erin Markey, Stephen Winter, WIll Janowitz, Antony & Rob Roth. All of whom I’m really excited to be working with.
DJing is actually a great way to tie everything together. I’ve always been obsessed with music. I’ll fixate on an artist and play their songs over and over again like a meditation. I’m fascinated by the progression of artists through their careers and how they change. I love looking at a DJ set as almost a score for a historical documentary on music, trying to weave the songs together so that the relationship between different songs of different eras and artists can sort of comment on each other as though there’s a narrative flowing throughout the night. Not that the listener would necessarily pick up on that, but it’s a fun way to put it together in your head.
We love you Michael, Lily and everyone else on your toes.
We started to have a talk about Minor and Ansel, and she began to tell stories about these younger friends of hers, who in her opinion couldn’t properly take care of their health — she was 91 at the time. Then she began to gossip about Ansel and what a prude and tight-ass he was. “He’s always showing off,” she said.
Ansel had done an advertising campaign for Yuban coffee, and they used one of his Yosemite pictures on the outside of the can. Ansel sent a five-pound can to Imogen, and the coffee was excellent, and she figured, “Well, I now have to pay him back.” So she put a bunch of earth in the can and some seeds and sent it down to Carmel with the directions, “Just add water, Ansel. Here are some beautiful plants for you.” He did as she directed, and the plant came up strong and healthy. And then one day his buddy the sheriff came to visit in his home and looked at it and said, “Ansel, what are you doing growing dope? You know I can arrest you for this.” Needless to say, Ansel then got on the phone to cuss her out. She just thought it was hilarious.
Photographer Abe Frajndlich on his first meeting with prankster and photography legend Imogen Cunningham, and her punking of Ansel Adams, in his book Penelope’s Hungry Eyes. Imogen’s spiritual kinship with painter Georgie O’Keefe is the subject of one lens in the Seattle Art Museum’s Elles exhibition — a look at work by seminal female artists, up through February 17. If you need a place to stay while you’re here, let us know.