New York City personality Tym Moss knows entertainment. He's a singer, songwriter, musician, actor, writer, and producer-- clearly, a man who is not shy about being in front of an audience. The exuberant Moss is equally deft at shining the spotlight on his fellow movers and shakers. He is the self-styled creator and host of the popular internet radio show Artists Exposed With Tym Moss, which has been running weekly for the last five years. The show is dedicated to the worlds of arts and entertainment, with the LGBTQ community being his beloved targeted audience. As you may have guessed by now, Moss is also an ardent supporter for queer rights and visibility. The artist and activist took the time to speak with me about his provocative new song and video Buy & Obey, and his new show with Ike Avelli and Robbyne Kaamil: the titillatingly titled 2 Queers & A Bitch. (Now, if that title doesn't pique your interest...!) Moss also got very personal about what drives his creative endeavors. At the risk of sounding naughty (Is Santa Claus reading this?), it was a great pleasure to finally expose the man who has exposed so many others!
JR: Hi, Tym! Thank you for speaking with me. So, let's start! You recently came home from a trip to Miami, Florida. What did it feel like coming home to your beloved New York City again-- aside from being cold?!
TM: Hey Jed! So great to talk to you! Well, upon my return from this trip, I hit the ground running! I literally got off the plane at JFK, got my bags, and took the subway to a club in Chelsea to perform with 2 Queers & A Bitch. I put my luggage behind a sofa, schmoozed, performed, then grabbed my bags and finally went home. It had been a long trip. I went to Indiana, where I’m originally from, for Thanksgiving with family and friends. Then I made a two-day trip to take my father to Florida, where he’ll stay for the winter. Then went to Miami to see our mutual friend, Arnold Rodriguez, for a couple days. Great trip, but exhausting. But that’s the good kind of exhaustion. I was in seven states in a week. I love being back in New York City though.
JR: We're glad you're back too. Is New York the only city in America where you think you could live? What makes the Big Apple so special for you?
TM: I’ve lived here for over 30 years. So, it's home. Oh, my God, have I seen changes in this town. It used to be unlivable. Extremely dangerous, filthy, edgy, rough... Not just anyone could live here. But in a way, we had freedom then. That free choice seems to have been slowly stripped from us. Now, its nice, clean and safe…Sterile... Almost boring! (Both laugh) New York has become only about money. Anyone can live here now, if they have enough money. I love San Francisco too. If I didn’t live in New York City, I’d probably live there.
JR: I totally agree! I remember the good old days in the East Village, when you could get authentic African shea butter soap, bootleg movies, celebrity sightings, a complete Indian four course meal, smoking accessories, and a cheap trick to take home with you... and still have change from a 20. (SIGH!) So, congratulations on your new song and music video, Buy & Obey. You've dabbled in so many different forms of entertainment-- comedy, film, live theater-- but this is your first foray into music video. What was it like making it?
TM: Thank you so much, Jed. This is actually my second music video. The title track from my EP, Free Again, was my first video that came out a few months ago. They are both available to view on YouTube, by the way! I have to say, I’m having the time of my life. This has been such an incredible part of my journey. I love to sing, act, write, produce, host shows and events around town, and be a part of any other creative adventure that moves me. I’ve learned so much from creating these two videos. I’m always open to learning. Its my first time down these roads, and I’m enjoying the process very much: from conceiving the song, writing the music and lyrics, getting it produced, coming up with the concept of the video, and then finding the people to shoot it. I love to create things from nothing-- from an idea in my head. The art of making art can be very challenging, but it can be just as fun, because I try to keep my eye on the prize. One of my favorite things people say to me is “You can’t do that. Its never been done before”. My response is always “WATCH ME!” It just gives me more drive to do it. I try not to get caught up on the little stuff and problems along the way. I try to stay focused on the art and what I want to create-- to get it out of my head and into the world so people can see what I see. I’m still learning how to do that though. It’s a process. Basically, I’m just making the shit up as I go along! Oh, can I say "shit" on here? If not, please edit me. Thanks!
JR: (Laughs!) Yes, you can! I'm all about being uncensored and free! (Both laugh) Shit, now where were we? Oh yes... The song and video Buy & Obey carry a very powerful message: In America, we are purportedly the most free country in the world. But it does seem like we are also prisoners to the mainstream media-- always telling us that we need to LOOK a certain way, and FEEL a certain way, and ACT a certain way, and even THINK a certain way. And, as your song makes clear, they want us to SPEND a certain way too! What can people do to break that cycle, and start being who they were really meant to be?
TM: We have been put to sleep and basically brainwashed by Madison Ave advertisers and corporations. And what does it all come back to? Money and greed. From what I've seen, that is what is running New York City and much of our nation. When I was a kid and riding on that same trip to Florida with my family, you could tell when you entered a different state. Kentucky had its own stores-- its own flavor and look. Then Tennessee and Georgia were all different. There were slight variations of cultures on stops along the way. Now, every exit on those massive interstate highways are all exactly alike. Walmart, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, etc... They’re all the SAME. The corporations have conditioned us to think that is progress. And no one seems to notice this. It’s familiarity. You know that the Big Mac in Iowa will taste the same as the Big Mac in Nevada. So “Buy it, don’t change or try something new”. “Obey us. Do what we want you to do”. Personally, I love original, privately-owned restaurants, but they are becoming more and more rare and difficult to find. Our communities and cultures across the country have been raped by this corporate mentality. And, I don’t see it ending any time soon! The bigger they are, the more money they have to buy bulk, so they can afford to sell items cheaper. So: The public, who are also being strangled by the ever-widening gap of income inequality, are going to go where the prices are cheaper-- which, in turn, drive the small independent owners out of business.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on such a tangent again, but I see this happening-- and people, like cattle being led to slaughter, keep falling in line. It just pisses me off. Can I say "piss"? If not, edit me. (Laughs) Thanks Jed. (Both laugh)
Personally, I have faith in mankind and I think we’ll get fed up with the limited number of choices eventually. There are two movies, neither of which were Academy Award winners or anything, but which touched on interesting subject matter. They were They Live, which kind of influenced the title of my song Buy & Obey, and Demolition Man, which draws an interesting parallel to what is happening now. Another thing is the media playing on our fears and weaknesses: telling us “This is beauty. This is what you want. Buy this. It will make you happy." And it might make you happy temporarily, but we always end up feeling empty again. I’m trying in my own life to decide what makes me happy, not what someone else tells me will make me happy. Here's an example: We have bought in on the notion that shaved male bodies is beauty, especially in the gay male community. I’m not sure when that happened, but all of a sudden every man thinks he has to shave his body and manscape. I believed it for a minute too. But I am taking back my own likes. I like a man with some hair. Hairy chest, legs, et cetera... I’m being true to my own likes, not what society dictates to me what I’m supposed to like. That was a waking up point for me.
Now, to answer your question about breaking that cycle: I think awareness is the first step in changing the way we think. When you become aware, you can make a conscious decision to change the way you think. When you change your thinking, you change your actions, which changes your behavior, which can change your destiny. Take control of your life and your thoughts!
JR: Wow! Thank you so much for that! That's a lot of food for thought-- and definitely from a privately-owned restaurant rather than a fast food joint! And yes, in case it isn't perfectly obvious, I agree that men should be proud of their body hair. Gentlemen, RELEASE THE FLEECE! (Both laugh) But anyway... I've always said that you were one of the busiest men in New York City. I don’t know how you even find the time to take a piss... Oh, sorry!... Anyway, I remember how you had something going on in four out of the five boroughs of New York City-- all in one day! What drives you to stay so busy with your art and activism?
TM: (Laughing) Yes, I do have my multi-borough days. I’ve hosted Staten Island and Brooklyn Prides for the past few years. I've performed in the other borough’s Prides and am very active in the LGBT community throughout the whole city. If I can help in any way in our community’s evolution, I’m glad to help out. So that is, many times, what takes me to the outer boroughs. What drives me? I’m discovering who I am and what I want. I’m 55 now. Up to the age of 45, I was doing what everyone else wanted me to do. I did not do anything I desired. I think it had to do with growing up being told that it was wrong to be who I really was. “Boys don’t play with dolls. Boys play sports. Boys like girls. Blah, blah, blah...”. I tried to fit in and do what I thought I was supposed to my entire life. But I was untrue to myself and so unhappy that I ended up with an extreme 20-year drug and alcohol addiction. Not 20 days, or weeks, or even 20 months. Twenty years. Two decades of my life. Oh, and by the way, Lindsey Lohan is an amateur! (Both laugh) But it really is quite a miracle that I’m here today talking to you. I almost died several times. I cannot even describe or even accurately recall just how dark, lonely, scared and empty my soul was. There was nothing left of me. I had lost all my memories. I had lost my being. That first year of rehab was no joke. Frightening, unknown, confusing, painful, all alone... The most difficult time of my life (wiping tears away). But at the beginning of rehab, my memories started to return, and one of the first memories was “I’m an entertainer! That’s why I moved to New York!” I grabbed a hold of that thought and that helped-- along with numerous therapists and counselors along the way-- to pull me out of that abyss of darkness. As soon as I committed to follow my True passion and get back into entertainment, the most miraculous things started falling into my path. I’m a walking miracle and testament that if you follow your True passion, the Universe will supply and help you find your way.
So, that is why I try not to let little things bother me. I’ve been to the lower layers of hell in this life. I’m focusing on all the good things now, the fun things, the things I truly want. And I’m having the time of my life. One of my mantras is “The first half of my life, I created a living hell. Now, in the second half of my life, I’m creating my Heaven!”
JR: Wow! Thank you for sharing. Hopefully that will be an inspiration for so many others who are struggling to find their true calling in life, or who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. So, on the subject of entertainment... For your weekly internet radio show Artists Exposed With Tym Moss, you've interviewed hundreds of movers and shakers through the years. It must be hard to pick which ones were your favorites, but I'll ask anyway! Who was the most memorable personality you've featured to date?
TM: Oh my God. I’ve talked to so many incredible people from so many walks of life. I can’t even remember them all. I’ve covered a lot of Red Carpets and celebrities. Uhm... Everyone is always so cool in their own way. A very memorable moment for me was when I got to meet Mariah Carey-- although I did not get to interview her. They were rushing her through. She was fabulous though. Lynda Carter was very cool. She was Wonder Woman, for God’s sakes! I love Laverne Cox, Deborah Harry, Michael Musto, Edie Winsor, Levi Kreis, Ari Gold, Bianca Del Rio, Michael Urie... oh God, there are so many more.
One woman I was so impressed with that really touched my heart deeply was Ruth Coker Burks, also known as “The Cemetery Angel”. In the 80's and 90's during the height of the AIDS epidemic-- when so many families were turning their backs and abandoning their own sons who were dying miserable deaths-- Ruth Coker Burks, who had inherited a large portion of a cemetery, was right there holding their hands and heads. And she would be with these lonely gay men till their deaths, and then give them a proper burial in her cemetery. The compassion that this beautiful woman showed is unparalleled. Please Google "Ruth Coker Burks" and check her out. She truly is a Living Angel. I was so grateful to get to do a brief interview with her and get to know her a little.
JR: She sounds like a real unsung hero of our community. Thank you for telling me about her! So, on Friday, December 9th, you'll be starring in 2 Queers & A Bitch with Ike Avelli and Robbyne Kaamil at New York City's famous cabaret hotspot Don't Tell Mama. What surprises can we expect from the show?
TM: Oh my God, Jed. This show is so much fucking fun. Can I say "fuck"? Eh, you know the drill! (Laughs). Ike Avelli and Robbyne Kaamil are both incredible comedians. I’m a singer. We take turns doing our individual acts for ten minutes each and have live comedy sketches in between. Its always so much fun and the audiences love it! We have comedy, music, video sketches, and even prizes and giveaways. We’re happy to be here in New York City doing our Christmas show that night, so make your reservations! We will also be at Transmission in Jersey City on Sunday, December 18 at 7PM. We’ve taken it out on the road and are scheduled to be all over the country in 2017. We are sponsored by Uberlube. We love Uberlube! So please come out and see 2 Queers & A Bitch when we’re in your town. Check us out at 2queersandabitch.com!
JR: Ah, Jersey City! "The sixth borough"! That show sounds like a fucking riot... Oops, sorry Tym! So, it looks like 2017 is going to be "The Year of Tym Moss!" Now... for the eighth and final question: Anything else you want to tell your fans?
TM: Thank you everyone, so very much, for all the love and support I have received. Sometimes I have those voices in my head that say “I don’t know if anyone is even watching or caring.”... then someone will reach out to me, sometimes people I’ve never met, who will say how I inspired them in some way. That makes it all worth while. I honestly feel like I’m just getting started with my career. I’m just warming up. I’m just discovering who I truly am and what I truly want. I had a small role in the film The Garden Left Behind, a movie about the trans community. It will be in the Cannes Film Festival. Keep an eye out for that! An off-Broadway show is in development called Stories and I am one of 7 people in which our stories make up the plot. Its very intense! And the crème de la crème is an intense and funny musical called Junk, directed by Rick Leidenfrost, which is in development. The stage version is scheduled for the fall and we will begin shooting the film shortly thereafter. The writer, Michael Penny, insisted I star in it, with another actor, after I did a reading for him last winter. It is the most challenging and rewarding role that I’ve ever done. I’m so looking forward to this! And, I’ll be hosting the video lounge at the LGBT NYC Expo again and probably some of the Prides in outer boroughs. I may even be performing at a Pride in your city too, wherever you may be reading this!
I’ve got so much more I want to do and create. Film, television, theater, music, radio, and new forms of media that we still have to discover. I’m open to it all! Go to my website at TymMoss.com and follow me, Tym Moss, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, IMDB... and subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’ll leave you with one of my other mantras about my life’s journey: “The first half of my life I was a supporting role in everyone else’s realities. Now, in the second half of my life, I’m the STAR of MY reality!”
JR: Now, that's a mantra for us all! The best holiday gift we can give to both ourselves and everyone around us is LOVE! Thanks again for speaking with me, Tym! Now excuse me while I put on my Santa costume and find a nice warm chimney to slide up... uh, I mean DOWN!...
(All photos courtesy of Tym Moss)