Notorious LES performance artist Rev Jen isn’t your typical ordained clergy-lady. For one, she’s just released a book called Elf Girl, which includes anecdotes about her mis-adventures in drugs, her litany of crazy jobs from wannabe MTV VJ to 7-Eleven employee, and her quirky activism with the Dance Liberation Front against the Cabaret Law—did you know it’s been illegal to dance in New York City since the 1920s?!
She’s also been running the Lower East Side Troll Museum out of her apartment since 2000. I guess it seemed like a good idea after she collected over 400 of the creepy things. Her museum features rare exclusive shit like a two-headed troll she calls the “Mona Lisa” of the museum. It's open to the public by appointment, but good luck getting in, especially if you are a child or not a famous person like her friend Jonathan Ames, the writer and creator of the HBO series “Bored to Death.”
Rev Jen just founded a movie company called ASS Studios (short for Art Star Scene) with her boyfriend and collaborator Courtney Sell. People got tasered at the first screening. The next screening is at the Bowery Poetry Club this Sunday. It supposed to be tamer, but we doubt it.
Rev's pure DIY, art-fueled lifestyle only reminds me that I was born way to late to enjoy the LES in its prime… not that Rev has fallen out of hers. Which is why I reached out to her and her man Courtney for a little chat. I’m hoping some of their attitude will rub off on me (and that they will ask me to be in one of their movies).
Your book talks all about the crazy jobs you used to work. Are you still working a ton on the side?
Rev. Jen: I still work at the Tenement Museum two days a week. I won’t say what days because I don’t want anyone visiting me there! I sell paintings, I sell stuff on eBay… I just kind of scrape together a living. I write for Penthouse and Art Net sometimes. I used to write fan sites for Viacom and The WB. I can whip out 500 words about a shitty TV show faster than anyone on the planet.
Elf Girl is your third novel, how is this one different from the others?
What we really wanted the book to be about being an artist. Obviously I’ve had tons of romantic relationships and stuff like that, that didn’t make it in. My last book Live Nude Elf was all about the sex-experiments that I did. I feel like people pay so much attention to sex, so it was good to leave all of that out.
The next book I’m writing is more about relationships and sex and stuff. I’m writing two books at once right now.
One day I’m going to write a book called Being Avant-Garde Sucks and it’ll be all about how when you’re truly avant-garde you do everything first, and you never get any credit or money for it. But you don’t bitch about it. Becuase, then you’re not really avant-garde.
Now that you’ve finished writing Elf Girl, are you performing a lot?
Well, I do the Anti-Slam, and Courtney and I are making movies. We started a motion picture studio, called ASS Studios and we have made a ton of movies within the course of six months.
Courtney Sell: Yeah, three major ones that we’ve been screening, and then we’ve done shorts.
R.J.:One of the movies that we made is called Sinful Bitches, and I play a landlady. Faceboy and Reina Terror, the burlesque performer, play a lovely young couple that is looking for a place to stay in New York City, and they stumble upon the Troll Museum. I have this Bozo red wig on, and I’m just a creepy close talker. Oh! And the world famous Mangina, plays my son—he wears prosthetic vaginas and he’s a great performer. He’s in a bunch of Jonathan Ames’ books, so he’s also a literary figure, I suppose. When Faceboy, the character that’s the nice young husband, goes out to look for work, we get his wife addicted to heroin and prostitute her. It’s a sleaze fest.
I wrote a screenplay for a movie called Satan’s Bitches that we’re going to shoot soon. We need a budget for that. There’s a Catholic schoolgirl masturbating to a Justin Bieber picture in Teen Beat. Faceboy and I are going to play a couple of stoned out Satanists, it’s a good solid script. Normally, I’d just be like let’s just shoot something, but I want to have good costumes for this.
Courtney, do you act in them as well?
C.S.:No, I direct. Jen and I have the same distributor, and we met up in April, and just started making movies. Really just hit the ground running. We had our first screening at Bowery Poetry Club, and it ended in people getting tasered.
CBS Local told people to come. It was number two on their list of things to do, number one was to see Michelle Obama talk.
So there was old people there, being chased down with tasers because one of the bands that played after our movie had stun guns and tasers, and they were getting the audience.
Whoa, what band was this?
R.J.:Jugger-Nut. They’re actually fabulous! I think they’re going to take off. They’re going to be top of the charts by the time this comes out, I’m not even kidding. Yeah, they were in SPIN magazine, they’re getting some notoriety. I mean, you go around stun-gunning your audience and you’ll get some notoriety. Well, they lost their stun gun, so maybe it’s less dangerous to see them now!
C.S.: Needless to say, it was an explosive launch party for the film production company! I was just saying that we have a policy now that if you want to be in one of our movies, you just need to climb up the six flights of stairs.
R.J.:We've made a bunch together… mostly short movies including Elf Workout, Rev. Jen Junior's Elegant Fashion Show…
C.S.:Bitches of Bowery, a video for Moby.
R.J.: Yeah, we did a video for Moby’s metal band Diamondsnake. The song is called “Lost.”
Jen, it seems like you never really turn down the chance to stick it to the man. Have you been involved with any of the Occupy Wall Street stuff.
I haven’t mostly because I work all the time. Even if I’m not at the bookstore, I’m working on my art. Me staying home and doing art is better than me being an extra body down there, but I like it when people shake things up. I do have many friends down there who are working very hard to do something. I don’t know what the actual objectives are, so to me that’s a problem. I’m very objective-oriented.
Me and Faceboy did a Occupy W. 12th Street. We wore rainbow unitards and carried signs that said things like “I’d like a sandwich” and “5 + 1 = 6,” and we had a list of demands. One of them was “recognize micropenisa as an independent state.” Our whole thing was like, let’s just make fun of everything and maybe take a little hot air out of some of the bullshit.