HOMO NIGHT IN CANADA with Ali Eisner and the B-Girlz, curated by Mark Peacock, Friday (June 22) at 8 pm, Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). $20. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNNN
ali eisner isn't wearing any underwear.Do I need to know this? Probably not. But she tells me anyway, followed by a raucous, raunchy, I-dare-you-to-print-that laugh.Come to think of it, this little factoid is kind of significant. This fast-rising, frizzy-haired musician is riding high, fast and free these days.
To hell with any skid marks down below.
Her voice has been described as part Ricki Lee Jones, part Bonnie Raitt. "Someone even told me I sing like some dude, a guy," she laughs. "But my goal is to sound like me."
She's got four years of hosting kids' TV under her belt -- three with YTV's Brainwash, opposite stand-up Shaun Majumder -- as well as a stint with Lilith Fair, one in L.A. and a broken heart in Whitehorse.
Today, she's weeks away from signing a record deal. Virgin has been courting her for some time, and now other labels have also come calling.
We're sitting in the empty Buddies in Bad Times Theatre chamber, where, 30 hours from now, Eisner will host the first of two sold-out Strange Sisters lesbian cabaret nights.
"I don't like to prepare too much," she says of her hosting duties. "Shit changes. Someone might drop out. The audience might be tired. Or, hey, they might be rowdy and ask to see my vagina." And would she show it? After all, with no underwear....
"No way," she says, then reconsiders. "Well, only if the whole audience took me out for dinner first."
It's this kind of spunky spontaneity that's made her the alt scene's A-list choice for music and comedy gigs. It's also what's made her CV read like one belonging to someone twice her age.
Besides her appearance at Friday's (June 22) Homo Night In Canada, she's sharing an upscale, all-women lineup June 28 at the Bamboo with the likes of Jane Siberry and Salome Bey.
Eisner inhales the Buddies' air, then exhales dramatically. This is her moment. She's ready.
Lord knows she's waited for it.
She grew up restless and cocky in North York, which she's taken to calling Chapters City, after the ubiquitous bookstore chain. She fought with teachers at Hebrew school and hated that her public school didn't have a good arts program.
She began banging on pots and pans at age five, until her parents -- a painter mom and dentist-and-closet-comedian dad -- bought her a drum kit. Then a guitar. Then rented her a saxophone.
Watching Diane Flacks and Richard Greenblatt's hit play Sibs last year, Eisner laughed out loud when the young lesbian eked out pained and earnest songs on her guitar.
"I couldn't believe how much I connected with that moment," she laughs. "Here was this angst-ridden represso Jew world, and here was Diane singing about animals and freeing the earth. That was me writing in my parents' basement in the bathroom."
Her life changed when she took her guitar and her teenaged ass down to an open-stage crowd at the Free Times. The manager asked her back for a whole set, where she debuted a song about being in love with the Esso man, singing about wanting him to "pump me again."
"I was still in the closet," she laughs, "and wrote that song to throw a steak to my parents and grandmother."
After fiddling around at York for a few years, she quit, made new friends and came out.
"I was a volcano," she says. "You can fight it and fight it, but it'll keep coming back. Nature bats last."
She doesn't want to be in that place again, full of fear and doubt.
"I like being honest, being myself," she says. "I'm not scared of saying no if someone wants me to lose weight or wear lipstick." This could be an allusion to the record companies, which have been known to package artists in weird ways. Eisner's style, after all, is part Lucy from Peanuts, part hippie chick.
"Two words," she says. "Comfortable, clean."
Whatever it is, it's working. And so is she. She's recently finished a couple more lady songs.
"I just started writing about this last lady, the woman from the Yukon," she says, a tad shy. "One of the songs is called When The Bitch Comes Into Town. It's about being sensitive to people's feelings."
It's been six months since the relationship ended. Eisner is obviously still hurting.
But on the outside she seems all tough and bristly. She jokes about being pantyless, says her tits are real, even after a year in L.A.
And on the inside?
"Oh, I'm pretty mushy."