Thursday, June 29, 2017

Campari America Spirited Connections Interview Series: Alan Cumming

It is with much excitement that I share the latest interview in the Campari America #SpiritedConnections series with the one and only Alan Cumming

When I found out that I would have the privilege to interview Mr. Cumming on this here little blog, I was nervous and excited (but mostly nervous) about what to ask him.  It was incredibly daunting to come up with questions to ask a man who has been featured in every publication under the sun, and has won countless awards ranging from Emmys to Tonys to Independent Spirit Awards.  But there have been more than awards for his acting; he has also won accolades for his humanitarian work, his involvement with the community, and literary awards for his incredibly raw and personal books. (If you're feeling like an under-achiever right about now - I get it.)  He is a true inspiration - someone who cares about people: their ability to be different in what ever way they choose and to live in a world without judgement or persecution. 

After receiving the responses back from Mr. Cumming it was incredibly clear to me that we all have something to learn from men like him.  He is a man with a wide and diverse range of passions, and yet, laser focus about how life should be lived: unapologetically

Without further ado, Mr. Cumming on Campari, authenticity, and a little bit of mischief.




Gastronomista:  Mr. Cumming – first of all - it is a great pleasure to interview you for my #SpiritedConnections series in partnership with Campari America.  I have been a fan of your work for many years from the silver screen to the stage to your work as an activist.  What inspired you to become involved in philanthropy and can you tell us a bit more about the organizations you work with?

Alan Cumming:
  I’m Scottish and I feel I am genetically programmed to fight injustice anywhere! Seriously though, I do feel that growing up in a country whose values are all about trying to ensure that no one slips through the cracks, and looking out for each other, where profit is not always society’s goal – that really forms you, or, it has me, and because of the platform I have, I am able to make a difference.


Gastronomista:  You have been notoriously outspoken about your sexuality throughout your career.  How do you think that being so direct and open has inspired those in the LGBT community?

Alan Cumming:  I don’t see that just being honest should be defined as notorious or outspoken. Actually, I wish I didn’t have to talk about my sexuality as much as I do. It would be great if we got to a place where people from the LGBTQ community didn’t always have a prefix referring to their sexuality and were thought of as humans first. They would never say ‘Straight Actor – Ben Affleck,’ would they? But until we live in a world where there is true equality for LGBT people, I will continue to answer questions about my sexuality without shame.


Gastronomista:  In your opinion, why is philanthropy and awareness especially important for the LGBT community (especially now)?

Alan Cumming:  We’re living in a perilous time. I think that’s pretty clear. Nothing is for sure, and we can’t rely on the advances that have happened for us recently. In times of uncertainty, and with a leader who is as fickle as Trump, it’s all the more important for us to be visible, loud, and with resources. We mustn’t be complacent. All of the good stuff that’s happened of late could easily go.


Gastronomista:  Your recent book, Not My Father’s Son, has won accolades from humanitarian awards to literary awards, to awards for narration and storytelling.  What has been the most amazing part of the journey of writing such a personal book?

Alan Cumming:  I realize that books have different stages. You write them for a reason, and during the writing, you realize the real reason you’re writing them. Then when they come out and the public engages with them, they become something else again. The biggest revelation for me about “Not My Father’s Son” was what a positive effect it had on so many people. My speaking out about an abusive past gave people confidence to deal with theirs, and it also gave them hope. That’s been the most amazing part of the process.


Gastronomista:  How did you get involved with UNHCR, an organization that safeguards the rights of LGBT refugees, and what has been the greatest takeaway from your time as an ambassador for the program?

Alan Cumming:  UNHCR basically contacted me after they saw me retweeting their articles on refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. I feel so strongly that we have to reassess our attitude toward refugees, toward immigrants, and toward the other. We cannot turn our backs. People are fleeing from terror and have nowhere to go. My trip to Lebanon with the UNHCR was absolutely mind blowing. A third of the population of that country is now refugees. A third! Meeting with an LGBT group and hearing their stories of suffering under ISIS only renewed my passion to help in any way I can.



Gastronomista: What inspired you to open a bar (aptly named Club Cumming), and what has been the most surprising thing you have learned through the process.  

Alan Cumming:  Well, it doesn’t open until the middle of September, but the reason I got involved is because I’ve been throwing Club Cumming pop-up parties after my concerts and actually Club Cumming started in my dressing room at Studio 54 after Cabaret. I think I’m just really good at having fun and helping other people to have fun, mainly because I’m not judgmental. I think people enjoy authenticity in any walk of life. This bar is an extension of that ethos. I want it to be all genders, all ages, all sexualities – anyone who’s willing to leave their judgment and prejudice outside and is up for some mischief.




 Gastronomista:  What are your favorite bars right now?

Alan Cumming:  Actually, my favorite bar in New York is the one Club Cumming will replace! Eastern Bloc in the East Village. I’m also a big fan of the Boom Boom Room at the Standard. It’s just the most New York-y of the New York places to go for a late night drink.


Gastronomista:  If you could visit any bar anywhere in the world, at any point in history, what bar would you visit?  Who would you have a drink with?

Alan Cumming:  I’d love to have been in Havana when Hemingway was out on a tear. I love that city and I love how passionate he is. I bet he would be a great drinking companion.

Gastronomista:  This series is sponsored by Campari America; would you mind sharing a recipe for one of your favorite cocktails to make at home?

Alan Cumming:  You take some vodka, some ice and some soda water, mix them all together, and enjoy. I’m a man of catholic taste.



For more, follow Alan Cumming on Instagram or Twitter, and his latest Spotify Mix for Pride Week.


All photos provided by Alan Cumming.


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