Multitalented performer Jimmy James will forever be in the glamorous shadow of Marilyn Monroe — and that’s not a bad thing.
Born in Laredo and raised in San Antonio, James spent the better part of the 1980s perfecting a spot-on impersonation of the late blond bombshell (breathy voice and all) and performed his act everywhere from Alamo City gay clubs and Atlantic City revues to daytime talk shows of the era (Donahue and Geraldo among them). His gigs even included private parties for celebs such as Elton John, Whoopi Goldberg and Joan Rivers. Although James retired his Marilyn act in the ’90s, it fortunately lives on via YouTube and made a humorous reappearance in 2017 when the Central African Republic unwittingly reproduced a photograph of James on a postage stamp paying tribute to Monroe. He threatened legal action and it’s since been taken out of circulation.
During extended stints working in New York and Los Angeles, James dedicated himself to developing vocal impressions of a wide assortment of recording artists including Eartha Kitt, Cher, Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond and Elvis. His multitasking interpretation of the Streisand-Diamond duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” is truly something to behold.
Speaking about his vocal gymnastics to the Current in 2015, James said, “It’s kind of unnatural — you’re not supposed to do that with your voice.” Ironically, it was with his very own voice that James landed his greatest hit — “Fashionista,” a slightly bitchy ode to fashion culture that climbed the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart for 12 weeks back in 2006. Minus Monroe, James’ many voices commingle to great effect in his genre-hopping live shows, which recently attracted the likes of “Pope of Trash” John Waters, over-the-top designer Bob Mackie and tennis hero Billie Jean King during a summer residency in the gay mecca of Provincetown.
As a Yuletide offering to his hometown fan base, James is setting up shop in the ballroom of the Bonham Exchange to celebrate A Legendary Christmas with support from Joan Riviera, a local comic and activist billed as the “Mexican Joan Rivers.” When quizzed for show teasers, James confessed that he’s been rehearsing “Last Christmas” by Wham and plans to enlist Rivers — and a wheelchair — for a rendition of José Feliciano’s holiday favorite “Feliz Navidad” performed in the raspy, exasperated voice of notorious Hollywood grinch Bette Davis.
$20 (all drinks $3 from 8-11 p.m.), 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, Bonham Exchange, 411 Bonham St., (210) 224-9219, bonhamexchange.com and brownpapertickets.com.
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