A Starr Is Born: A Firebrand’s Tiki-Bar Talk Show Celebrates Two Years

Rew pic #1Susan Keyloun

A day after a play based on the life of Coca Crystal and her cable-access show “If I Can’t Dance…” winds down its run at the Metropolitan Playhouse, an entertainer who might just be the Coca’s present-day counterpart will celebrate the second anniversary of her own underground talk show, “ReW & WhO?”

Rew Starr’s quirky two-hour internet show, blending live musical performances and interviews, tapes in the back room of Otto’s Shrunken Head (and occasionally at Branded Saloon in Prospect Heights) most Wednesdays. Next week, to mark two years, there will be special shows at Otto’s on Monday and Bowery Electric on Tuesday.

The Warholian premise of “ReW & WhO?” is that each guest receives 15 minutes of fame (literally). The guests are a broad spectrum of East Village talent ranging from drag queens to lounge acts to published authors to museum curators.

Wide-eyed and with boundless energy, Rew resembles a glam-rock Vargas pin-up. Not one to interview her subjects with measured indifference, she has a knack for getting them to admit their follies, true loves, and addictions. She’s gotten Richie Ramone to talk about his former backstage urinary antics and present love of gardening, and Angie Bowie (former wife of David) to confirm whether Keith Richards did, in fact, write “Angie” for her. Not bad for a 15-minute segment.

The granddaughter of a vaudeville performer who is said to have sang with Jimmy Durante, Rew was born in the Bronx but grew up in Westchester. “I always wanted to be from the city,” she said. “My grandparents were all from the Lower East Side and I felt ripped off. I moved here as soon as I could.” The move came after stints at a Connecticut boarding school, college in Maryland and London, and a short time running a skin care salon in Philadelphia.

These days Rew, who asked that her real name not be used, teaches glee club at various Lower East Side schools, but despite a lifelong desire to be a singer, practicing her craft didn’t come naturally at first. “I was shy, and never was able to sing in public,” she said. “I had a soap-on-a-rope microphone and sang like crazy in the mirror, though.” After she moved to New York, she began writing songs with a friend of a friend from her Philly days, and has performed in various bands every since.

One of them, she said, features drummer Billy Ficca, of The Waitresses and Television. “That was amazing for me because The Waitresses were the band that made me realize that performing is what I wanted to do,” she said.

But it’s her internet show, currently supported by donations, that she hopes will eventually pay off. Rew describes herself as a tireless self-promoter and “an Internet slut: always posting, posting, posting.”

“My Web show has taken over my life and I have no idea what I’d be doing if I wasn’t on the Internet constantly,” she said. “The negative side is everything is free, so I am still figuring out how to make it all into a business.”

At the end of our time with Rew, we asked her one of her own stock interview questions: “Would you like to share something the world doesn’t know about you?”

“I am just a person who believes in a happy ending,” she said, going on to mention her brother, who died of AIDS in 1989. “I believe my brother is somehow producing this show from heaven because I never knew I’d be doing this.”