Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.
JoJo Baby is a self-titled documentary sponsored by Clive Barker about the life of the Chicago artist and club kid. JoJo talked to ChicagoPride.com about his experience with the project.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) I watched your film last night was really impressed. How was the whole experience?
JB: (JoJo Baby) Well, you never think that when you meet one of your heroes that they are going to like you, then to want to share you with the world, it is too much. I loved Clive Barker for such a long time.
JN: That must be surreal.
JB: All my friends said that I would end up on the silver screen and we knew it would have to be with Clive Barker or John Waters.
JN: How did you meet Clive Barker?
JB: Because he was one of my heroes, I heard that he was coming to town with a gallery show at the Packer Schopf Gallery. I go thinking I won't be able to afford his pieces but spent some of my rent and bought one of his drawings. My friend got sick and I couldn't meet him. The next night was the 25th anniversary of Hellraiser at the Music Box. Sal-E and I dress up as Cenobites and had no luck meeting him there either. The third night was a book signing and I was next in line when he took a break and I was thinking I am never going to meet him! I was crushed. After the break he sat down beside me and I gave him a shirt that I had made for him. He loved it and asked if I would design costumes for a movie. I said, "I will do it for free!"
JN: That is an offer I am sure he could not refuse.
JB: My friend told him that he should come see my gallery and I couldn't believe he actually showed up. He spent four hours there with me at my space. We talk about art, magic, all of it. He said that I would be hearing from him again. That was on a Sunday, he calls on a Tuesday and says he doesn't want clothes now but something bigger. He offered to produce a documentary about me. He wanted to send a camera crew tomorrow and I asked if I could clean my house first.
JN: That is like a dream.
JB: It was a weird thing. Every time they wanted to film Chicago just had the worst weather. They filmed me February of 2007 and we had a blizzard. I was wearing my Birkenstocks but they are stacked so I call them my Birkenstacks and kept my feet high and dry.
JN: After watching the movie I felt like I knew you a little better. I have taken pictures of you for years with various publications but this was a rare opportunity for a look inside.
JB: I can't tell you how many times I invite people to my gallery and no one ever shows. They must think they are going to be dipped in wax and put on display.
JN: You were in the Flatiron building in Wicker Park. Did you move?
JB: Yes, my landlord said I wasn't commercially viable for the corner anymore and raised my rent. So they put my on the third floor rear of the building.
JN: So you are still in the same building.
JB: Yeah, but everyone thinks that I am gone though. It's weird because the movie is coming out and my gallery is still not set up.
JN: There is an after party after the screening at Reeling correct?
JB: Yes, at Berlin. I wanted it there because I have always felt safe at that space. It's where you are allowed to be a freak.
JN: You put up an art instillation there?
JB: I put it up yesterday and I am tweaking it today. I put up a portrait of my friend Silky Jumbo who used to be a stilt walker at the clubs here. Instead of making it will stilts I made a ten-foot doll.
JN: Is Halloween your favorite time of year?
JB: It used to be because it used to give me an excuse to dress up. Now Halloween is every day. When I first learned about Boy George I wanted to be able to do that and now I do.
JN: Have you ever met him?
JB: Yes, I have. He said that I reminded him of one of his friends Leigh Bowery. I didn't know who that was and he said, "Why don't you read a book!" It is funny that we were doing the same works at the same time. We were just at opposite sides of the planet.
JN: You have always been creative since you were little.
JB: Yeah, my mother taught me how to cook and sew because she never wanted me to depend on a woman. My mother always said, "He may dress funny but he is a good kid."
JN: How is your health?
JB: I still have to be tested for cancer for the next two years. I have had two surgeries and radiation treatments. My T cells have gone up so that is really good. I am doing more charity work now. I am with The Abbey of the Windy City Sisters a facet of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. We try to raise awareness for AIDS and HIV. I am trying to raise money for the CORE Center because that was the one place that helped me during my darkest point in my life.
JN: Are you going to make money off this documentary?
JB: Well, they will know about my art for sure. Some of my art is not for sale because it is portraits of friends. I would rather have a show that tours. If someone wants my apartment then fly my apartment there.
JN: I want to see this gallery in person after watching the movie.
JB: Please do, my door is always open.
JoJo Baby is part of the Reeling Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival and premieres Saturday Nov 6th at 5:00 p.m. at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N Clark St. with an after party at Berlin Nightclub, 954 W Belmont Ave. Visit www.reelingfilmfestival.org for details and ticket information.