Conchita Wurst on André Heller’s ‘Menschenkinder’ – Channeling Tom Neuwirth – Part One

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Conchita Wurst appeared on the Austrian TV program ‘André Heller’s Menschenkinder‘ recently. And, although I watched the show when it aired, it wasn’t until yesterday I was able to read an English translation. And it was then I realized Conchita Wurst didn’t sit down with André Heller at all. Tom Neuwirth did.

Because ‘André Heller’s Menschenkinder‘ was special as, for all intents and purposes, it was Conchita Wurst in the wig, the make-up, and the feminine dress. But when you listen to the words she speaks, it’s more him than her. Albeit still in Conchita’s high German, but definitely him.

And for me, someone who has spent a year and a half peeling away the myriad of layers these two people hide beneath, it was a new twist to what we usually get from Conchita. A sometimes one-dimensional figure when it comes to interviews simply because, as she doesn’t exist off stage, it’s difficult for her to talk about things she doesn’t experience.

But when she brings in Tom Neuwirth, and allows him to speak through her, that’s when the new ground covered in just this one hour is quite phenomenal.

And so I’m going to write this one in a series of vignettes, with just my thoughts on things I noticed about this the most.  And, I’m going to split it up into two parts, to be able to cover more of it.

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Conchita Wurst channels Tom Neuwirth

Let me explain the most important thing you need to understand here, before I go any further. Because while I say it’s Tom Neuwirth speaking here, it is and it isn’t.

What it really is, is Conchita Wurst channeling Tom Neuwirth. So the thoughts are his. But she is giving them a voice. And a voice through her character and her personality. Not his.

Think of it like being in a seance, where the spirit medium calls the ghosts of the dead and allows them to speak through her.

Except, in this case, the spirit medium is Conchita and the spirit, Tom, is very much alive. Just behind the scenes, staying hidden from view. (I’ll pause for a minute while you get your head around that one, and then we’ll continue).

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The dream world of Tom Neuwirth

I have spent the last year and a half writing about Conchita Wurst, because that is who stands on a stage and sings, gives interviews and is Europe’s most famous diva. And, at this point, I know her quite well.

Tom, on the other hand, I don’t know at all. Except for those occasional times when he pushes aside the shield that is Conchita, and appears for the briefest of moments. And then…he’s gone again.

But two things I have always known about Tom Neuwirth, before Conchita ever even spoke about them.

Much of his life is lived in a world he has created in his head (I’ve lived in mine for as long as I can remember, so it’s easy for me to recognize someone else who does the same). And he has a tendency towards high drama.

Both of these things are extremely noticeable in ‘André Heller’s Menschenkinder‘.

Because it’s in the way she speaks, how her pace is slower and calmer than it normally is, and how she’s constantly looking upwards while she thinks of how to explain what he himself is telling her to say.

Because, while she is talking, he is in that elaborate dream world in his head, looking around, admiring the view, laughing at the things he finds delightful, surprising even himself with some of the things that are appearing, and then deciding what he’s going to allow her to showcase to André Heller’s audience, and what he’s leaving hidden exactly where it is.

But what is intriguing about the world inside his head, and the fantasy and drama that is pervasive throughout this entire conversation is that, in a person who is less complicated, less intelligent, less creative and less of a genius than Tom Neuwirth (and, yes, that boy is a genius and I will never think otherwise), it could come off as somewhat arrogant, pretentious and unbelievable.

And, sure, Tom certainly has a slight tendency towards arrogance now and again — let’s face it, most artists do (I’m a writer, and I’m just about as arrogant as they come sometimes) — but that arrogance isn’t annoying because it’s tempered by all the other lovely things about his personality.

The charm, the delight, the intelligence, the vision, the humor, the incredible ability to see things in his head and then create them in real life, the stubbornness, (yep, that boy is stubborn, but I personally love that about him as it means he believes in himself), the intense vulnerability and, of course, the astounding talent.

And so, that world inside his head and that drama he always talks about? Utterly believable and absolutely lovely. Slight arrogance and all.

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An introvert

Conchita Wurst is an extrovert. Tom Neuwirth, on the other hand, is an introvert. Someone who prefers his own company to just about anyone else’s (I’m with you there, Tom). And, for those who only know Conchita, and especially for those who don’t bother to look beyond the surface, I’m sure that’s probably quite a surprise.

But, before you decide being an introvert is a negative thing, let me say it isn’t at all. And it really has very little to do with being ‘shy’.

Instead, it’s more about finding it difficult to be around other people for a long period of time without wanting to get away by yourself so you can recharge your batteries and think. Because introverts tend to think more than anyone. How do you think they come up with all the amazing things they do?

And it’s also about shrugging off that ‘personality’ most introverts armor themselves up with before they leave the house, and simply being themselves. Alone, and at peace, and without anyone to judge them

Interestingly too, introverts make up about 60 percent of the ‘gifted’ side of society, and Tom is most certainly that.

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And, of course, him being an introvert is evident right from his childhood and his days in the attic to the present day and his return to an attic of sorts with the “little tower chamber”, his new home, and the place where he now lives much of the time while Conchita lives her life out in the world.

And Tom being an introvert is particularly apparent in Conchita’s conversation with André Heller, where she talks about him eventually refusing to serve drinks to guests in his parent’s guest house, preferring to be alone in his attic instead.

“My brother took the path of gastronomy and was integrated into the guesthouse-life and I actually sat in the attic all day long and did – as promised – repair broken clothing items and build my own dream world!”

Because having to be around all those strangers, all of that time, was more than he could bear.

Now watch Conchita Wurst on ‘André Heller’s Menschenkinder‘ to see some of what I’ve been talking about, and I’ll be back tomorrow with the second half.

And, of course, leave any comments in the Facebook comment box below.


About Michelle Topham

I'm a Brit-American journalist, former radio DJ at 97X WOXY, and Founder/CEO of Leo Sigh. I'm also obsessed with music, anime, manga, and K-dramas. Help!