Meet Jojo Baby, the person

Date: 
11/05/2010
JojoHallWay

JoJo's entry hall with his Greer Lankton doll on the right, attired in her wedding dress.

Inside Jojo Baby's live/work space, Gallery 352 in Wicker Park's Flat Iron Building, there is a narrow hallway overflowing with dolls, little sparkly red shoes, pictures and more. "I want you to be greeted by my first doll who represents my mentor,  Greer Lankton. Greer was part of the Andy Warhol Factory and worked with Jim Henson and the Muppets. She created the first Big Bird for the movie Follow that bird," Jojo says as he introduces her.

JojoMnky

Jojo holds a new acquisition from New Orleans. Mohair is embedded on the monkey, making it very realistic

Born to a Playboy bunny whose heritage included Lakota Sioux and a Greek father, Jojo's grandmother played the organ in the Chicago Theatre during the silent movie days and his grandfather made trumpets for Dizzy Gillespie and Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong.

It is easy to understand how his involvement with creativity began at an early age. "Our basement in Logan Square was filled with trumpet parts. I started making jewelry from them when I was young. My mother's godmother had a doll collection and I always nagged my mother to go there. My mother finally suggested that I start my own collection. Making toys was something else I did when I was little."

JojoBlonde

"I was one of the original Club Kids at thirteen. When I turned twenty-one, I told the club operators and they were horrified. Seeing someone all in blue, including makeup never gave them a clue about my age.

"I dropped out of high school and went to beauty school. My mother had taught me how to do hair so I ended up teaching the teachers. I became a beautician.

JojoVentr

"When I met Greer, I was eighteen or nineteen. We clicked on many levels. Her family forced her into a sex change at twenty. The parishioners of the church where her father was the pastor paid for her operation. They preferred seeing the pastor having a daughter rather than a gay son.

"I am having all the names people have called me tattooed on my body...timeless, fruitcake, love child... that one makes me sad. It reminds me of my mother... but I want to get one behind it of what my father called me...mistake number one. My father didn't want a homo sexual in the house."

JojoBlueHaired

Another of the many faces of Jojo

Jojo has four brothers, as he describes it...two good and two bad. One of the good ones is also gay. The two bad ones have beat up and robbed their father. They have stolen from Jojo too.

As a beautician Jojo, among other things, was the creator of the many outrageous hair styles of the champion Chicago Bulls basketball star Dennis Rodman in the late 1990s. Remember the leopard, tiger and camouflage looks? Those were all the creation of Jojo.

In 2005, however, Jojo's life exploded. He was diagnosed with testicular and colon cancer. He learned that he was HIV positive. His mother died. His lover of five years left him. His business partner put him in $7000 of debt by not paying his half of the rent for a year. And, he lost all his jobs.

How did you handle all that? "My then landlord said to pay the $7,000 when I could. Sam Zell (real estate mogul and Chicago Tribune owner) is a true patron of the arts. He hires artists for his parties to make them more wonderful. He paid me the $7,000 to perform at four parties.

JojoEvilClwn

"In the middle of it the chaos, I went to the Improv Olympics in Wrigleyville because I felt that the power of laughter would help me heal. I owe a big thanks to them for helping me to laugh my way healthy."

Now Jojo spends most of his time doing his art. "I am using this time on disability in a positive way, making art. Before I became ill I could make a doll in two days. But with HIV, I can have a whole day planned and not be able to do anything. I love making dolls but some people say my best art is myself. (His personas.)

"I'm trapped in this room. I don't have money to go anywhere. It is only when people want me to do jobs away from here that I get to travel. Funny to be on disability and be a socialite."

BBRChinese2009NY

During 2009 Chinese New Year celebration in the Boom Boom Room

Almost every Monday for for eighteen years he has played the Boom Boom Room at the Green Dolphin. "That is the longest running gay industry night in the world." In addition he performs at such things as the Fashion Mash. Some of his clothes were on display in the Chicago Cultural Center and he felt as though he was finally given recognition in his home town.

"Drag queen" is a label that has often been used to describe him.

Do you think of yourself as a drag queen? "No, I don't wear boobs and don't tuck in my (male parts). I think of myself as a monster. It's just that some monsters are prettier than others.

JojoSpace

"When I was going out a lot, people would ask me if I was Dennis Rodman's girl friend, now they ask 'Are you Lady Gaga?'  It is sad that people have to put you in a box. They have to label you. Because I change my look so often, people do not always know it is me.  I can be very beautiful and very ugly.  I think there is a beauty to being ugly. When I dress up, I call it putting on the Goddess."

You think of yourself as a male but you want to be seen as beautiful and you see beauty as a woman? "Yes, probably. I would watch my mother transform herself from a regular girl into goddess or a vixen  Watching her transform herself, I always wanted to be beautiful too."

What Jojo thinks of JoJo Baby the documentary and about his future will be in the second part of this story.

For more information: Greer Lankton, documentary website

 

 

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Comments

The best guy in town.

Jojo baby is the best guy/friend you could ever meet/hang out with so humble and fun to around. LOVE HIM!

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