SAN DIEGO – There are few venues in San Diego where patrons can come to dine and drink, while watching an intimate music and comedy performance at the same time. Cabaret in the U.S. began to decline in the 1960s with the advent of rock concerts, television and comedy theaters.
Martinis Above Fourth is joining a movement to bring cabaret back and will introduce Hillcrest to the format with its new “MA4 Cabaret Series,” launching this Thursday, March 22, featuring “The Tom Judson Show.”
After touring the East Coast, Judson will bring his one-man show to the West Coast, for performances in Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs and San Francisco.
The new cabaret-style show is said to be reminiscent of the sparkling entertainments that were once found at every supper club in Manhattan.
Judson, who has appeared on Broadway, will croon the piano in a vintage tuxedo while singing an eclectic selection of songs from well-known to standards to some obscure gems.
Throughout the performance, Judson will pepper the musical selections with stories about some of the celebrities he has crossed paths with throughout his career.
In an interview with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, Judson named just a few of the stars that he has had a chance to meet, interact or perform with.
“I was in the show ‘Cabaret’ on Broadway and on tour for two years, so just naming the Sally Bowleses would fill a book,” Judson said with a laugh. “Teri Hatcher, Lea Thomson, Brooke Shields, Gina Gershon …”
Judson also performed with John Glover and Malcolm Gets, as well as Charles Busch and Alan Cumming, whom are friends of his that have guest starred in his cabaret show. He has also written songs for Ann Magnuson, played the piano for Art Garfunkel, and was in the only stage play directed by David Lynch.
“And the list goes on,” Judson said.
This isn’t Judson’s first time at Martinis Above Fourth. Along with the many stars listed above, Judson played piano in Varla Jean Merman’s “The Loose Chanteuse,” which stopped at Martinis Above Fourth in January 2011.
Judson said that performing with Merman was more fun than anything he has ever done.
“Jeff (Varla) is one of the most generous people I’ve ever shared the stage with, which stems, of course, from self confidence,” Judson said. “That’s why, if you’ve seen our shows together, I’m included in so much of the action.”
From porn star to mountain man
Much of Judson’s life-story is told in his one man show, “Canned Ham,” but he took a moment to share a bit of his background with SDGLN.
Judson moved to New York City from a small town in upstate New York to pursue music composition for the theater. He said he did a lot of off-Broadway work, which segued into composing for TV and movies.
This led Judson to start acting, which landed him touring gigs with “Cabaret” and “42nd Street.” While performing in “42nd Street,” Judson met Chi Chi LaRue, who he says invited him into the world of gay porn. Judson said he “did his time” in the porn industry, performing under the name Gus Mattox.
After that, he went back into mainstream theater, and eventually found himself as the cabaret artist that he is today.
“There were a lot of stops along the way, but I’ve omitted them for lack of space,” Judson said.
The performer did note that he has a handy side, living in a small cabin in the woods of upstate New York, which he built himself.
Judson promises that guests at Martinis Above Fourth on Thursday night will thoroughly enjoy his show.
“Ideally, you should feel like we’re sitting around my house chatting and I just sat down at the piano,” Judson said of the environment he tries to create during his show.
As for the reintroduction of cabaret into the San Diego scene, Judson says that Martinis Above Fourth is the perfect venue.
“It’s been my experience that a town’s cabaret-going is directly related to the number of appropriate venues,” Judson said. “I know that sounds a little simplistic, but cabaret generally doesn't work in a huge room. An intimate venue where patrons can be seated near the performer is the best-case scenario. And -- to my mind -- a real piano is essential. And guess what? Martinis Above Fourth fits both those requirements to a T!”
If you go
Showtime is 8 pm on Thursday, March 22.
Tickets to the show are $15, which include reserved seating. A $15 food/drink minimum will also be required.
Guests will be able to choose from Martinis Above Fourth’s full dinner and cocktail menus.
Martinis Above Fourth is located at 3940 Fourth Ave., second floor, in Hillcrest.
For more information and to purchase tickets click HERE.
Martinis Above Fourth's Cabaret Series will continue every Thursday night following with acts from Los Angeles, New York and beyond taking the stage. Click HERE or regularly check the SDPIX calendar for information about upcoming performances.
Left photos- Judson performing his "Canned Ham" show. Credit: John Skalicky.