Suzanne Muldowney is a special breed of performance artist. For over 40 years, she has been creating and performing interpretive dances based on historical, fictional, and original figures and characters. The most famous of these is her portrayal of Underdog, not as a bumbling idiot, but as a heroic archetype.
I first met Suzanne in 1991 or 1992 at a live taping of “Beyond Vaudeville” at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City. Though she was already known derisively as “Underdog Lady” from her ill-fated appearances on Howard Stern, I found her fascinating and moving. Since then, we’ve maintained a sporadic friendship, often through our mutual friend Phil Dejean of the Manhattan Neighborhood Network program “Checkerboard Kids.” (If you’re a ska fan, check it out.)
Last month, Phil and Suzanne invited me to a taping of her performance and Q&A for “Checkerboard Kids” in honor of the 55th anniversary of Underdog’s premiere. I got some good shots of Suzanne in action, as well as some good selfies. We had lunch before the taping, and Phil got a couple photos of me with Sue after the show as well.
If you’ve only encountered Suzanne Muldowney as “Underdog Lady,” I hope you’ll take a look at her face and the controlled movement in her body, even at age 66. (She turns 67 today.) She’s a trained dancer, with a background in classical ballet and influences as diverse as Anna Pavlova and Isadora Duncan. To continue practicing her art for 40 years, even as people continue to make fun of her for her artistic choices, demonstrates a vision and commitment of the highest order.
Some the shots I took at the taping are below. Click to enlarge.
Happy birthday, Suzanne. And thank you, Phil, for being a stalwart friend to Sue for so many years. I’m lucky to know you both for so long!