Funk icon and Parliamentarian George Clinton is in town this week to help raise money for The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. The original Atomic Dog, up from Tallahassee, Fla., where he lives with his girlfriend, dished dirt with amNY while he waited to have his new, short hairdo straightened and waved "doo wop style, like in the 1950s."
Have you ever been treated at a public hospital?
No, but I know how hard it is to get help if you don't have insurance. (HHC accepts patients regardless of insurance, ability to pay or immigration status.) I have 30 people in my band and most of them don't have insurance. It's a strenuous business. When you find out about the places that help, it becomes important to you.
The STAT campaign for the public hospitals is also flacking the "Guns Down/Life Up" program. Are you packing?
I don't have no guns now, but I used to hunt squirrels and rabbits and pheasants and deer - I'm a country boy! I had every kind of gun you could ever imagine - more than 800 guns! From BB guns to anti-aircraft guns. I sold 'em all around 1995-'96. I don't hunt no more: I go fishing. I believe in that amendment, but there's no need for all these guns in the streets.
You're 70. How many grandchildren do you have?
I can't count 'em all! I have 14 kids that I know of: One has 10 kids and the others have two or three. I've never even met a few of my kids. A few of them I've tried to find. [I just met] my son Warren ... three or four years ago, but we get along really well. If they're doing well and they look like you and you can have a relationship, you're proud of them.
How are you feeling these days?
Good! All musicians do drugs, but I stopped everything last year and the beginning of this year. My friend Sly Stone just went into rehab. You can't take care of your business when you're doing nothing but getting high!
So what music are you listening to these days?
I listen to all the music the parents tell their kids not to listen to: Lil Wayne, techno, rock 'n' roll - funk is the DNA in all of that. Eminem is still one of my favorite rappers. I look for the music of rebels, people who really break the mold.
I swear I remember seeing "George Clinton for President" posters. Did you run for president?
Ha! I put out my album, "Paint the White House Black" but I had nothing to do with those posters [in the 1990s]. I did do a commercial for [President Barack] Obama, though. We sampled his voice - turnabout is fair play!
If you go: An Interstellar Trip to Honor George Clinton is at the Apollo Theater on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. 253 W. 125th St., $30-$93.50.