The Stunt-Shock Rockers In Dingleberry Dynasty Take The Lowbrow To New Heights With Their Mock Opera Jody
There’s a pair of giant handmade sperm costumes on the couch, a stack of fliers featuring photographs of hermaphroditic genitalia on the table, and the members of Dingleberry Dynasty are talking about how to self-administer hickeys, the amount of hair on various band members’ asses, tea-bagging, cooties, accidentally drinking each other’s pee, how to set farts on fire, and the reason why Baltimore’s favorite (read: only) shock-rock skit group has been off the radar for the past year and a half.
They’ve had a baby, you see. It’s called Jody. And it’s “a tragic mock opera” about a hermaphrodite. Kamsch, who plays Jody, and Ruben Dobbs, aka Velvet Thud (keyboards, guitar, vocals), have been letting this idea gestate since Dingleberry Dynasty’s formation back in 1995—long before Hedwig and the Angry Inch took stage and screen by storm.
“I used to do stand-up comedy for about three years back in Annapolis, and I was performing for, like, one person,” Kamsch recalls. “And I went to an open mic, and there were like 30 or 40 people, so I did the same jokes, and thought, well, music brings bigger crowds, so I started a group.”
“I knew Dixie through playing with my own band, and somehow he roped me into writing this rock opera with him,” Dobbs adds. “I joined his band assuming that we would immediately get started on this rock opera, but we started doing all these skit shows. One of our first, we told everyone that Gary Coleman was going to be there. We had this kid that looked like Gary Coleman, and we brought him in with all these bouncer dudes, and we had all these girls run up like they were trying to get his autograph.”
“And the ushers, like, ushered him out, and I got on the mic and said, ‘If you can’t handle Gary Coleman coming in here, he will leave,’” Kamsch cackles. “‘You don’t deserve Gary Coleman!’ And this was at a Chinese restaurant!”
Not for the politically correct or the faint of heart—and therefore, typical Dingle fare—Jody follows the title character from his/her illegitimate crack-deal conception to his/her 18th birthday, when he/she is meant to choose whether he/she is male or female, and instead becomes the leader of the Shims, an all-hermaphrodite rock band, before committing homicide and hitting Death Row. Sure, it’s Hedwig-esque, but Kamsch and the other Dingles feel that the world has room for two hermaphrodite rock operas.
“We’ve been trying since 2000 to do Jody, pretty much,” explains Kamsch, already notorious for onstage cross-dressing, potty humor, and spewing various fluids at his audiences. “We were done years before Hedwig, and then that came out, and I love it. I think it’s just amazing, I’m a big fan. We call Jody a mock opera, though, because we’re kind of poking fun at all the operas, or anything that falls into the category.”
“This is our way to get a Grammy and Oscar in the same year,” Dobbs says.
“A Groscar!” Kamsch adds, laughing. “We’ve been doing little rock operas for a while. Like Big Gay Ben, about a superhero who’s out to save Uranus, and we professional-wrestle in thongs. And we have a song called ‘Down Doggie’ where Ruben wears a dog suit and humps my leg. And we have a PSA song called ‘Brush Your Teeth’ where I brush people’s teeth in the audience.”
“After he’s brushed his armpits,” Dobbs interrupts.
“But this is the first full-blown theater project we’ve attempted,” Kamsch continues. “We have a rigging crew—I’m going to fly like Peter Pan. It’s my dream come true. I will die a happy man!”
“Honestly, though, the biggest challenge is working with Dixie Cup,” Dobbs says. “He’s pretty intense.”
All in their early 30s, the Dingles (who also feature Tara Donovan, aka Joy Juice, on backing vocals and tambourine; Ken Sproat, aka Buttercup, on bass; Bobby Colorado “as himself” on guitar; Dr. Tingle on drums; and Truck Stop on “phucking lead guitar”) take their special brand of humor very seriously. Led by Kamsch, who Sproat affectionately describes as “the cheese in the center of the Combo,” and “very in touch with his feminine side,” the group has opened for the All Mighty Senators, Corey Feldman, Vanilla Ice, and Kyle from Tenacious D. They have released two CDs of their skit rock (Greatest Hits and Doodie Calls), been involved in the Booty Ball (“a celebration of the tucchus”), and staged bizarre performances in the streets of Cannes during the Festival de Cannes for the past four years.
This time around, members donned hermaphrodite costumes and lured Cannes paparazzi to a theater space, where they screened a five-minute scene from Jody and handed out CD copies of the opera. They say they’re trying to get backing to perform Jody in India and Brazil (a popular sex-change operation destination), and ultimately hope to turn the story into a film—in the tradition of Tommy or The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“Make it into a movie, franchise it, put up McJodys everywhere,” Dobbs says, amid shouts from other band members about wanting to Supersize their McJodys. “As the old Dingleberry adage goes, let’s bump it up a couple of crotches, gentlemen.”
“In Jody, everyone is an antagonist,” Kamsch says. “Everyone in the whole world hates Jody, until it finds out that it’s OK. It’s OK to be a hermaphrodite. And it is. Jody’s like the Johnny Rotten of hermaphrodites. In rock operas, there’s always, like, a martyr. Like in Tommy, he actually becomes like a rock star. It’s just like that, going up the mountain kind of thing, the same old story.”
With lyrics like “We are not hexed/ we are the third sex” and “I’m a gift to you/ I combine the two,” Jody strives to combine a message of tolerance with its sexual shock-rock humor—a message that the members of Dingleberry Dynasty genuinely believe in, despite their flippant attitude toward the material. They’ve given the whole hermaphrodite thing a lot of thought.
“The Greeks and Romans did consider hermaphrodites to be a blessing from God,” Dobbs says. “And here, we refer to them as the third sex. There are a lot of historical factors. In fact, the part where Jody is born, and its mother is saying, ‘Cut it off,’ and its father is saying, ‘Sew it up,’ that actually comes from the stuff that you see on the Discovery Channel, where the parents of hermaphrodites make the decision for the kid, and it’s the wrong decision, and in Jody the doctor comes in with the voice of reason, saying no, you must let the child decide.”
“I think it’s really about an outsider trying to find a way to assimilate, and realizing that assimilation isn’t the answer,” Colorado says.
“Instead of just writing your basic set list and going out and performing a regular gig, this is a bigger project for us, to combine many elements,” Sproat adds. “We joke around, ’cause that’s us, but we’re serious about this, it has a message behind it. And that message is . . . don’t smoke.”
“No, no,” Kamsch interrupts excitedly. “It’s about embracing diversity. We want everyone to French-kiss diversity.”
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