When Bette Midler was filming “The Rose” in the late ‘70s, she said in an interview that the flamboyant title character was a composite of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Judy Henske.
“I was the only one who was unknown and still alive,” says Henske, a semi-legendary figure on the early-'60s folk-music scene for her eccentric persona and her full-throttle, bluesy singing.
Now Henske, 49, is returning to action after a two-decade retirement. She and her husband, keyboardist Craig Doerge, have developed their new songs, old standbys and a connecting monologue into a cabaret show called “Eat Plastic and You’ll Never Die.” They’ll stage it at Cafe Largo on Wednesday, with hopes of eventually taking it to Off-Broadway.
After Henske withdrew from performing nearly 20 years ago to be a full-time mother to her daughter Kate, Doerge established himself as one of rock’s premiere backing musicians, most prominently with James Taylor, Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
It wasn’t always an easy time for the brassy 6-footer. “It makes you kind of nuts,” the Pasadena resident says of her layoff. “And it was very hard on my loved ones as well. I mean, I’m kind of hard to take sometimes even on a stage, so think what I’m like at the breakfast table.”
Henske’s resurfacing began with a brief set at a Santa Monica club last year. “It was a disaster. I hadn’t been on stage for 20 years and I was scared.”
She and Doerge regrouped and developed the “Eat Plastic” show, which went over well when they tried it out at McCabe’s last March. Henske says her appeal now is the same as in her early folk days.
“I think I was really terrible when I started, but for some reason it didn’t make any difference. People still came to see me. Because I’m not a normal person, and that’s what they want to see. Someone who isn’t like everybody else.”