The inwardly delicate nature of outwardly courageous people always surprises me, no matter how many times I notice it in myself and others. Philip Huang is fearless, balls out, practical cynicism.
And yet, my heart flutters a little when I think of his vulnerable side. Even still, in a street fight, I'd put my money on Huang. He's got some of that stuff bubbling.
Make no mistake, Huang will be the first fag on the moon.
He frequents anti-gay demonstrations holding a No Fags on the Moon sign. Yes, it’s confusing.It’s just confusing enough to take the air out of a serious homophobic protest.
Huang is a model turned actress and an all-around troublemaker. He received an East Bay Fund for Artists grant and was a resident at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.
“If nothing else gets said at my wake when I die, let it be said that I was the first artist to give myself a pap smear onstage in Oakland Chinatown.”
On YouTube, you can watch him at Lake Merritt, asking random pedestrians if they think that the new fancy glass church - Cathedral of Christ the Light - resembles female genitalia (below - contains graphic material).
Though Huang’s performance persona is loud, brazen and full of sarcasm, the Huang that I conversed with was measured, polite and surprisingly gentle.
The interview was our first meeting, but there are things that came out of that discussion that I won’t be putting in print, for reasons that only Huang and I will someday understand.
Before Huang joined the panel presentation at the Dynamic Adaptability Conference in San Francisco, his friend took him aside and said, “Philip, I don’t know what you’re planning to do, but there are lots of important people here. There are lots of major foundations from all over the world and every executive director of every arts organization. These are the people who are going to be reviewing grants for the rest of your life. Don’t be too crazy.”
Huang reassured his friend and proceeded to tell the audience of said executive directors that he wasn’t interested in helping them become more culturally relevant.
“If you are dying out, it’s because you need to die out, a forest fire needs to sweep through the forest and clear you out.” He then gave a hands-on, mini-tutorial on fundraising. He had the sedate, refined spectators on their feet, yelling and waving dollar bills like they were at a strip show. I know, I was there. I covered my mouth, choke-laughed, catcalled and almost fell out of my chair.
Huang doesn’t hate the people who make up the establishment.
“Arts administrators are good people, they’re lovely people. But for me right now, they’re the enemy.”
“I started a theater in my own house, and I put together the first home theater festival. About two dozen artists, some with really established careers, put on shows in their own house. I want to tell theaters, ‘We don’t need you. We don’t need these well put together, well packaged plays that cost $35 and nobody enjoys anything. We don’t need you.’
"Performers get paid about 5 percent to 10 percent of the time when they perform, the rest is all pro bono," Huang continued. "I tell performers to do a show in their house. Keep everything that they make. No middle man. There’s nothing that an institution can promise to give you that you can’t get for yourself. Even legitimacy.”
Huang was raised by his grandmother in Taiwan until he was 8. He moved to the Philippines with his parents for a year, then Phoenix, Arizona, and eventually landed in Los Angeles. Huang laughed: “I’m the cautionary tale - this is what happens when you bring your kids to America!”
If you’re working out at 24 Hour Fitness on Webster Street and you see a pretty man and a blow up Jaguar outside on the sidewalk, you’re about to experience Huang’s “Witness to Fitness” performance art. The show is coming soon to a gym window near you.
In my view, No Fags on the Moon translates to “I wish you would! Try it ... try and stop us!”