Billy Lykken: Sacred Monster Returns

| June 15, 2017

Billy Lykken

Sacred Monster Returns

By Rob Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Billy Lykken

“Some people thought of me as just that guy who followed Rick Skye around. And, when they heard I was going to be doing my own act, they said, ‘Oh, little Billy is finally doing a show.’”

Boy! Did he ever take the plunge and make a splash in his show and with his self-created show biz grand persona, the hilarious and outrageous Sacred Monster. It was a long time coming. And it’s coming back again at the Metropolitan Room on Saturday, June 24 at 4 pm. Asked what he remembers most about his auspicious debut, he replied, “I remember crying. It took me so many years to get the chutzpah to do it.” Indeed, the young man who’s been performer Rick Skye’s partner probably seemed no more than tag-along in the audience—before, during, and after Skye’s gigs at Don’t Tell Mama, shyly and smilingly hanging out while the more ebullient Rick was on stage as Liza Minnelli, with or without cohort Tommy Femia as Judy Garland, with Ricky Ritzel on piano. Their Saturday nights at the venue were many and drew big crowds for years. Some of us knew that “little Billy” might be harboring a desire to perform and had seen him late at night, at an open mic, dip his toes in the cabaret waters and sing a number. Ritzel gave him a spot in his the popular series he hosts, Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway.

“Watching Rick and Tommy so much” was his schooling and motivation to come up with a way into his own performing choices. “They don’t do anything ‘small.’ That’s the kind of show I like. And Ricky Ritzel IS show business.” Clearly, Lykken can be likened to a sponge who absorbs what he’s immersed in. But he didn’t want to impersonate one famous star, like Liza or Sinatra or Piaf or Elton John. His idea was to invent someone who could be the best worst of all big-personality characteristics and star trips with no expiration date, insulated from reality, living on leftover love from fans.      

The return of the Sacred Monster show, which will include new material, is a treat I’m looking forward to after having witnessed its earliest incarnation. “I want to inhabit the character,” he states, showing his serious intent about the broad personality of a gender-fluid fictional performer who epitomizes the kind of self-anointed “legend” living on past wisps of Vegas glory and assuming/demanding worship and adulation. Think of histrionics and diva dramatics that would make Shirley Bassey or Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond seem subtle.

Billy Lykken

“I don’t mind being associated with the word ‘drag’; I’m honored,” states Billy when I bring up the “D” word in relation to his character with glam make-up and flowing costume, but with his own short dark hair and no attempt to make the body seem that of a woman. (In fact, the slim, fit fellow sports an outfit that reveals a fair amount of his decidedly male chest, no bazooms in sight.)     

About Billy the Kid: He says he grew up in “the least show-bizzy family imaginable” in Seattle. “My mom was a nurse and my dad was a fisherman.” He remembers his dad taking him on fishing trips to Alaska, trying to interest him in that sport. Billy didn’t take the bait. “I’d be sitting on top of a fishing boat, all alone, listening to Judy Garland” recordings on a portable device. He loved live recordings and YouTube-available clips from old TV spectaculars of other stars, many before his time: Sophie Tucker, Frances Faye, Eartha Kitt, and comedienne Totie Fields. “I always liked the live versions of their famous songs, where the whole thing is about that last note. Or Barbra Streisand with her pot of tea and the flowers on a little table. Patti LuPone speaking of herself in the third person—I think that’s hilarious. And Bette Midler, who can make you laugh, laugh, laugh—and then cry at the end. I wanted to do that.”

He’s been encouraged by Skye, who directed the batty show right off the bat and consults on changes. And musical director/pianist Yasuhiko Fukuoka is a major asset. “I met him at an open mic four years ago. He’s the perfect accompanist and he is really meticulous. He encourages me to go crazy and be as outrageous as possible.”

Billy Lykken, who may be morphing his stage name into just being known by the surname, has a giant poster up in the waiting area when one first enters the Metropolitan Room—same size as Marilyn Maye’s! He will also be part of the gay-focused The Q talk show at Don’t Tell Mama on June 22. It’s all starting to happen, but has certainly not gone to the talented guy’s head. He still wonders if he could have had the nerve to do a show just as “himself.” But, doing it as his alter ego uber-egotistical character, he figures, “I can can do it if I’m in on the joke.” But it’s no joke that he’s created a Monster who is a hoot and a very entertaining shooting star, with a subtle message to others (and himself): “Get over your fears.”

Billy Lykken
Sacred Monster
June 24 at 4:00 pm
Metropolitan Room
34 W. 22nd St., NYC

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Category: Cabaret Features, New York City, New York City Cabaret Features, Regional

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