Irwin Keller was such a nice, polite, presentable suit-and-tie homosexual when I met him 20 years ago. Then a University of Chicago law student, the Niles native was an earnest young activist who helped draft the city’s landmark gay-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance before heading to San Francisco to work for an AIDS assistance agency. But Sodom by the Bay prodded Keller to move in a new direction–from legal eagle to cross-dressing musical artiste. As cofounder of the Kinsey Sicks “beauty shop quartet,” Keller has parlayed what began as a party joke into an improbably successful full-time career. The Kinsey Sicks–who take their name from researcher Alfred Kinsey’s controversial sexual-behavior scale, on which six means exclusively homo–have released three CDs and delighted audiences off Broadway and across the continent (they’re especially popular in Puerto Vallarta). Onstage Keller is transformed into Winnie, the Jewish mother of the group, who advises listeners, “Don’t Be Happy–Worry.” Ben Schatz, another renegade lawyer-activist, is slutty, sewer-mouthed Rachel, a charismatic mix of Bette Midler and Cher. Chris Dilley, possessed of a virtuoso falsetto that might have made him a mainstream pop star 40 years ago, is Trampolina, and Jay Guevara is soul-singing Trixie. The group (returning to Chicago this week following its local debut last fall at Davenport’s) combines a lavender sensibility with a blue sense of humor. Blending campy spontaneity and slick professionalism, they adorn their often raunchy and usually politically incorrect song parodies with intricate, remarkably well-tuned a cappella harmony singing. They’ll take your breath away with their musical skill–if you’re not already breathless from laughing. Friday, April 18, 8 PM, McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, Park and Fawell, Glen Ellyn; 630-942-4000. Saturday, April 19, 7:30 PM, Circuit Nightclub and Rehab Lounge, 3641 N. Halsted; 773-871-7610.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Null.