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Bad Girls Finish First 

The Goddess Perlman and O.

Wednesday, Jan 24 2001
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You, too, can be a goddess. No, really. Just ask the Goddess Perlman, frontwoman of the jazzy comic band O. Once upon a time the Goddess was a mere mortal, known as Susannah Perlman -- "a perfectly nice, normal girl from a nice, kind of normal, middle-class Jewish-American family" from Pittsburgh, swears her mother on the Goddess' Web site. So how does one explain Perlman's metamorphosis from a run-of-the mill kid, singing and dancing at bar mitzvahs, to the badass Goddess Perlman, a spirited, sultry diva who makes Sandra Bernhard look tame? Such a transformation would begin with a move to a major city like New York. Next up, explains the Goddess conspiratorially, is "saying what's on your mind, no matter how racy it gets." Complete the conversion by traipsing around fully naked, legs akimbo, wearing an enormous, unruly, untamed, uh, bush over your private parts. (The image is also the cover of her debut album, aptly called Beating Around the Bush.)

A former stand-up comedian, the Goddess is not above exploiting the shock value of such unkosher methods to get her message across -- the message being, "You can be a goddess if you want to be." She continues, "It doesn't matter what you look like. It's how you feel about yourself." Tame and crunchy as that objective sounds -- after all, she did tour with the innocuous teenage troupe Up With People -- it doesn't do justice to her outrageous live performances. Some have included comedy sketches of two tampons interviewing a vagina; others feature interactive elements, as when she passes out photos of Britney Spears and Gwyneth Paltrow for audience members to deface.

The self-described love child of Liza Minnelli and Mick Jagger peppers her droll, off-the-cuff tunes with acerbic social commentary, astute observations, and a feminist agenda. "I like to poke fun at the juxtaposition of the ideal and the reality, to bring hyperawareness [by] singing about things people don't usually sing about: the ugly girl, feeling awkward." For example, O.'s college radio hit "Ode to Ally McBeal" casts a critical eye at the unrealistic body images presented by Hollywood ("Eat Ally eat, get yo'self a Snickers bar/ Eat Ally eat, have yo'self a Big Mac"). Another single, "Perky Nipples," warns the girls of Friends that once "them ta-tas go south, say bye-bye."

With her longtime friend and collaborator, percussionist Brian Merriman, and the big-band sound of O. (a name that refers both to "orgasm" and to the sad, defeated "Oh" her mother releases when the Goddess explains yet another of her absurd antics), the Goddess puts on quite a production. Her unbridled love of the spotlight shows in everything she does, from her dirty monologues to her readings from her high school diary. All would-be goddesses should be thankful that Perlman's mother's lifelong desire to "marry [her off to] a doctor and move to Teaneck" has not yet come to pass.

About The Author

Lisa Hom

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