Bernhard riffs on rock, reality and 'all the other stuff'

In two cabaret-style Portland shows, Sandra Bernhard, the actress-comedian with the tsunami-sized lips, will dish out scary-smart commentary about life post-9-11 along with the rough-'n'-ready '80s-style rock she adores.

There may be flashes of Bernhard's oddly tender side, too, in which she shares stories of motherhood or Jewish mysticism.

It's hard to know what mood she'll be in. But those lucky enough to have seen her before know what to expect: your average bicoastal cabala-studying bisexual homegirl searching for signs of intelligent life in America.

Bernhard spoke with the Tribune from her home in NewYork City.

Trib: What's funny now?

Bernhard: Well, obviously, our government. Everything spun out of post 9-11 paranoia is captivating me. That's really it on the American front.

On a personal front, the kinds of things that propel me every day: having a daughter, being in a relationship and meeting up with friends, the crazy little things that happen on the street. You know, life, how it takes us along depending on the day. It's kind of a loose weave of the personal and the global.

Trib: You're an outspoken Democrat. Have you decided on a candidate?

Bernhard: I was really getting behind Howard Dean, but it's obvious that's not happening anymore. I think (John) Kerry's a decent guy.

I like Kerry's wife, too. I think she's chic and fabulous. They look like they're very happy together, and I like the way she drapes the scarf over her blazers, which seem to match his tie. She does it with a total flair that is divine.

Trib: She's super-rich.

Bernhard: Yes! And we love that. Rich women are always so comfortable in their own skins.

Trib: We weren't really going to get an attention-grabbing first lady from Dean.

Bernhard: That's for sure. No, there was not a chic moment happening.

Trib: You're skinny. Are you an Atkins or Palm Beach type?

Bernhard: The only thing I've really ever done is a yeast cleanse. I'm doing one right now. It gets the yeast out of your body; you take a lot of the buildup out. Supposedly it works. You take a lot of supplements.

But I've never gone on a serious diet. Weight shows up from time to time, on my ass more than anything. But hey, J.Lo will tell ya, your ass really can't be big enough.

Trib: Should Martha do hard time?

Bernhard: I can't really figure it out. I think certain people invite resentment at a certain point, and she's obviously one of them. It's very American. She's a success story, and she's all about the home.

But I like everything that she represents. I love her magazine. I think she's fabulous. The level of indiscretion is pretty minor considering Enron. I hope they're easy on Martha. She's OK.

Trib: What's your take on TV's latest reality show, 'The Littlest Groom,' in which dwarves find spouses?

Bernhard: I think all reality TV has got to stop. It's a freak show, and it's sucking the intelligence out of the American public. It's disgusting. I don't have any more to say about it.

Trib: What's up with Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and the cabala?

Bernhard: I think they stopped by to get a red string. And the meaning of the red string on the left wrist is to keep away the evil eye; it is not to absorb your own negativity. It's to absorb other people's envy, jealousy and hatred and to protect your own physical being. It's been misrepresented.

But you can also get red string from little old ladies who stand around in Jerusalem selling them on the corners. It's kind of an ancient thing. I think they just came to get a little added shtup of protection. I don't think they're studying.

Trib: What can people expect from your new show?

Bernhard: I've written some new songs. I'll do some new covers and some of my fabulous '80s rock 'n' roll classics. I think I'm sounding great, so there's that, and all the other stuff woven together.

I love Portland. I always have a great time.

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