It’s a rare opportunity to sit down with a star before everyone knows about them. But on a fire-hot summer morning in Los Angeles I got the chance to meet three such ladies: The Apple Sisters, a 1940s variety act performed by Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekka Johnson and Sarah Lowe. Ripping a page from vaudeville, with Hepburn accents and Betty Boop moves, these gals are subversively funny, sexy and just plain weird. Described by the LA Times as “Sarah Silverman meets The Shaggs”, it’s impossible to conceive a more apt description.
Fresh off a win for Outstanding Original Music from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards in late September, and boasting a new entourage of managers, agents and lawyers to support them on their move to Hollywood, these sisters are on a fast track to fame. Deborah Stoll gets to their core.
Kimmy’s Los Feliz apartment. The ladies are bright-eyed despite the early hour. They hungrily tear off hunks of apple bread (true, true), smoke cigarettes and drink coffee while someone’s boyfriend wanders around dazed in boxer shorts in the background.
There’s a video on your website called “Sea to Shining Sea”–was this inspired by your move to LA?
Kimmy: No! We made that two years ago for a show called “Hollywood Here We Come”. But the thing is, a lot of the plots we write for The Apple Sisters come true. For instance, we just did this Hawaii show–“Ship Shape Shenanigans”–and now these two girls [pointing to Rebekka and Sarah] are going to Hawaii. And we wrote the Hollywood show and two years later, here we are in Hollywood! Oh! And in the war show we did, we all twist our ankles and then Rebekka twisted her ankle.
Sarah: And we wrote that I wore an eyepatch in the show, and I got poked in the eye with a sharp stick and had to wear an eyepatch.
Kimmy: We need to write a show where we make billions of dollars.
So what was the impetus to move to LA?
Kimmy: We did the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal last year–there are three sketch groups that get in from America and you get ten minutes on stage for two nights–and from that we got our managers and our agents. We’d been doing shows for a year and a half, busting our ass and these ten minutes on stage got us this whole team!
Rebekka: We’d been talking about coming out here for our careers for a while and when we had this whole support system it seemed like the right time.
So how’s it been going?
Kimmy: Yesterday you couldn’t have picked a better day to be with us. We pitched Hugh Jackman’s production company, Seed-
Sarah: We met with Paramount-
Rebekka: And then we recorded in Ryan Gosling’s studio!
Sarah: When Ryan walked in, all our voices went up three octaves.
Kimmy: And our piano player, who’s very gay, his voice dropped three octaves.
So what happens when you “pitch someone”? What does that mean?
Rebekka: Between last September and now we have a full understanding of what we can offer, of how we can turn The Apple Sisters into something profitable.
Kimmy: Because right now, it’s not.
Rebekka: We’ve figured out what our product is and how we could make a movie, a TV show, a tour, an album-
Sarah: And a book!
Rebekka: That’s in addition to us wanting to be actors separately and write projects and punch-up scripts…we have it all mapped out. Every time we get together it’s planned; half an hour to talk business, one hour to write this, one hour to write that–we have to be organised.
Kimmy: I’m the most anal about the schedule.
[Everyone looks doubtfully at Kimmy.]
Kimmy: I am!
And because none of this is paying yet, you still have to make your rent.
Kimmy: I work at The Varnish (a hot new speakeasy in LA) and the rest of the time I’m at the Amda Café serving students for nine dollars an hour.
Sarah: And right now I’m in "Jersey Boys" in Vegas.
Rebekka: I do a voice for a new Comedy Central show called “Ugly American” and I teach and waitress.
Sarah: Sometimes we don’t have to work because we’ve gotten commercial money or TV shows but-
Kimmy: Now is not one of those times.
Rebekka: It’s never been enough that we don’t have to go back. I’m looking forward to the day I can throw out my aprons.
Kimmy: I’ve already thrown mine out and I’m like “why did I do that?”
Sarah: I’ve never thrown mine out.
Rebekka: I’m ever the optimist and always the realist–I’m gonna keep them to remind me.