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Entries in Drag (9)

Saturday
May202017

Call Answered: Aaron Carty: The Beyoncé Experience at Stage 48 NYC

If you are Beyoncé fan, then this interview is for you! While it's not with Beyoncé herself, it's with the next best thing...Beyoncé impersonator Aaron Carty, who leapt onto the London scene after his audition video for Britain's Got Talent went viral.

Now Aaron brings The Beyoncé Experience, a Beyoncé dance concert, complete with an astonishing all female dance crew, to the US on May 25 in NYC at Stage 48 in Hell's Kitchen (605 West 48th Street) at a fundraiser for Hetrick-Martin Institute, presented by Open Finance. Click here for tickets!

The Hetrick-Martin Institute is the oldest and largest nonprofit agency created to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth between the ages of 13 and 24. Their After-School programs invite youth to explore the arts, culture, tutoring, job skills, and health issues—with an LGBTQ focus. Their Supportive Services staff provides help in areas from housing to HIV counseling to family therapy, all tailored to the individual.

OPEN Finance is a volunteer network that combines the expertise of almost 50 financial services firms’ employee resource groupstodriveforwardLGBTequalityanddiversityinthefinanceindustryandbeyond.

For more on Aaron & The Beyoncé Experience be sure to visit https://www.beyonceexp.com and follow him Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vimeo!

1. Already a known entity in London, this May, you are making your US debut with The Beyoncé Experience as a fundraiser for Hetrick-Martin Institute at Stage 48 in Hell's Kitchen. What is it about HMI that made you go, "This is the perfect way to be introduced to the US"? It's really important for me to contribute to organizations that work with young LGBT people. It's such a difficult time of your life and organizations like HMI really make an impact. I feel my story of growing up as an awkward and shy teen, to then become a police officer turned Media Entrepreneur...and then Beyoncé impersonator goes to show these young people that no matter what difficulties you have going on, there is always a solution; and if you can't see it - organizations like HMI are there to help guide you.

2. How do you feel an organization like this would have helped you growing up? It took me a lot longer to come to terms with who I was, what I was and what it was I wanted to be. I also felt like I didn't have people around me who understood what I was going through or the thoughts I was having. The torture you go through wondering if you'll be accepted into society really dents your confidence. I was so introverted an organization would have had to approach me to help me - and this is what HMI do. They reach out to these young people and events like this help. One photo of this event on social media itself could help a young person.

Aaron Carty in his prior "The Beyoncé Experience" life as a Police Officer3. For 10 years you've been supporting the LGBTQ community in London and now you will be supporting us in the US. What do you get from helping LGBTQ youth as opposed to the adult community? I think I'm really relatable to young people. I'm not an adult telling them "you should do it this way." My message is all about expression of yourself - whatever that is. I have young people messaging me and coming to my performances telling me that I'm really bracing for doing what I do. The fact that they think it's brave shows that they've felt insecure about expressing themselves in some way. So we need to continue showing young people that your variety and individuality is what will really make you stand out for all the right reasons.

4. Now let's find out all about you, your love of Beyoncé, & The Beyoncé Experience. Prior to The Beyoncé Experience, you were a cop. What made you want to be an officer of the law and how do you go from cop to Beyoncé impersonator? It's a very slow and unknown process, although I wanted to become a cop because at the time, despite getting accepted to three universities it wasn't something I wanted to do. I couldn't see myself going to university not knowing what I wanted to actually do. So instead I joined the police, and it was the 'J' curve of life experience I needed to pursue anything else I wanted. It 'knocked the shy out of me' and really opened my eyes to the world.

I loved the job but quickly lost faith in the politics and bureaucracy; so I started using my days off to help media production companies. Seven years later I have my own successful company. This is what led to Beyoncé, owning your own business at 22 is hard work! It got to the point where I needed a creative relief...Beyoncé Experience was born! 

Aaron Carty in "The Beyoncé Experience"5. Was Beyoncé the performer who initially inspired you to become a performer or was there someone else first and then you discovered Beyoncé? I always pretended to be Mel B whilst dancing with my sisters in our house when I was younger. But it was really Beyoncé who I look at and thought - wow - what an inspiration, what a role model. I never expected to be a Beyoncé drag impersonator. If you would have told me five years ago, this is what I would be doing, I would have laughed at you.

6. What was it about Beyoncé that made you say, "I want to spend my life traveling the world as a Beyoncé impersonator"? I've never thought that - but it has been a welcomed organic process of just taking a very mediocre talent and training at it to the point where I can show it to people. But there aren't many black artists that sing, dance and produce such an amazing show. There really wasn't anyone else I could have chosen from to impersonate.

7. What has been the hardest part about impersonating her and what's the most fun? The hardest part is dancing for 90 minutes in heels. These routines aren't easy - they're grueling to learn and really need a lot of work. I always rehearse in heels, I don't want a surprise in wearing them for the first time on stage.

Peoples reactions to the performance is definitely what makes it fun. I don't think people really know what to expect from the performance and it definitely has the shock factor. To look at me, I don't think people would say, "That's a Beyoncé impersonator." Seeing their faces and watching their reaction is priceless. It's happened all over the world - seeing it live, really is the only way to experience it.

Aaron Carty in "The Beyoncé Experience"8. Do you know if Beyoncé herself is aware of you & your experience? If so, have you heard from her? I'm not entirely sure she does - we had such a great reaction to our Britain's Got Talent performance, I just hope I'm doing it some justice.

9. What have you learned about Beyoncé from impersonating her that you feel you would not know from just being a fan? I've learned that she works so f**king hard - like, harder than you and I know. As a fan you can sit back and enjoy the amazing performances, as an impersonator you get a tiny insight into the work that goes into it. I can't imagine how much work goes into the creative mindset of an album and a performance. There aren't many artists that can take the risks that Beyoncé has in her music, her messaging and her political stance. She won't play it safe just to sell records, she's expressing herself through her art in a way that she wants to - a message we should be telling young people today.

Aaron Carty in "The Beyoncé Experience"10. Let's play with some of her song titles to find out more about you. Let's start with "Sweet Dreams." What is something that has happened to you where you went, "Is this a sweet dream or beautiful nightmare"? and then what was the result of said event? That event would be becoming a Beyoncé impersonator itself. I was a police officer at 18, I owned my first media business at 22, never would I have thought that I would be performing as Beyoncé in front of thousands of people around the world. It's a dream I think many of us have thought about - and then been terrified by. The end result is a sweet dream, I've learned more about myself and the world doing this than anything else.

11. When have you been "Crazy in Love"? Right now! I brought my boyfriend to New York only this week for his 27th birthday as a surprise and then arranged for a professional photographer (he's an actor) to take new headshots around the city. I'm so crazy in love with him that I'm actually going crazy!!!

Aaron Carty in "The Beyoncé Experience"12. Who's your "Halo"? My instant thought is my mum, she's so honest, down to earth and normal. She's the only one I've ever opened up to when I've made some terrible mistakes in my life, she's never judged me and always supported me. Even when I've been in the wrong. I'm lucky to have her.

13. Have you ever told some one, "If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it?" HAHAHAHAHAHAHA - yes I have, but I'm glad they now didn't. I might be crazy in love now, but I think we've all been stupidly in love at some point haven't we. It's funny, when those ex's see you in the public eye and begin texting you again...I could easily send back a Single Ladies GIF, and I have. Slightly arrogant - but very true!

14. Let's twist up Beyoncé's song "Irreplaceable." What is something that you lost that you felt was "Irreplaceable"? Just like the song itself. There aren't any things in my life that at the time I thought were irreplaceable (most of them boyfriends) but you soon come to your senses and realize that they were in fact "replaceable" in a minute.

15. We both live in world, you in London with Brexit & me here in the US with that orange balloon in the White House, where are political leaders and climate are in flux and causing such stress, panic, & fear. If you were to "Run The World" as "The Beyoncé Expereince," what changes would you make? (Can you use any of her songs to illustrate your plan?) I'd firstly ask everyone to "Hold Up" a minute and really think about why they vote the way they do. Don't vote in anger and fear. I'd "Ring The Alarm" and get everyone in "Formation." It's us as the people who can make a difference. Stop thinking about "Me, Myself and I" and start thinking as a whole. It could be the "End Of Time" if we'are not careful, we all live in such luxury, we're not all a "Survivor," start working harder so you can pay those "Bills, Bills, Bills" and listening to those leaders with the "SuperPower" driving a "Partition" between us all. Everyone would be responsible for their own actions and stop playing the blame game, living their lives through their "Telephone" and begin making real change through action!

Aaron CartyMore on Aaron:

International Beyonce impersonator Aaron Carty is back, with a vengeance. Having burst onto the scenes at Sitges Pride 2014, wowing the judges on Britain's Got Talent and becoming a viral smash - making Alesha Dixon get up and dance, with Simon Cowell throwing a sly smile his way to closing Pride In London, Trafalgar Square 2015. He was memorably axed before making it onto the live show. Since walking off Simon’s stage this cop-cum-drag superstar has strutted on, amassing nearly a million views for his youtube audition clip, performing to a crowd of thousands at London Pride, and then independently putting on his own show The Protest at the iconic Troxy in London. Giving a truly Beyoncé dance concert experience, complete with an astonishing all female dance crew.

Tuesday
May092017

Call Answered: Sam Pancake: "Gilmore Girls" + "Hot Sweet & Sticky"

Sam PancakeGrowing up, my favorite pancakes were silver dollar. I couldn't wait to drizzle that maple syrup on, and eat them up. When actor Sam Pancake called, my taste buds heightened answered! With fork and knife in hand, I cut into Sam revealing all that went into the NYC premiere of his hit show Hot Sweet & Sticky as well as his role on Netflix's Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life as Stars Hollow's only gay resident!

In Hot Sweet & Sticky, Sam Pancake portrays three different show-biz strivers: "Helluva Bottom Carter," a vivacious southern drag queen with an agenda; "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," a tipsy, aging Grande Dame of the British stage and screen; and "Fritzie Zimmer," the self-proclaimed "world's oldest-living openly-gay stand-up comedian/chorus boy." With this trio of divas, severe costume changes, stellar lip-syncing, stunning wiggery, "songs", bitch-fits and laughter are guaranteed. This hilarious, self-penned almost-solo show also features Steven Wishnoff on the piano.

Hot Sweet & Sticky will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) May 19 & 20 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Sam be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My very first memory is of watching Mary Poppins in the theatre (IN RE-RELEASE!) at about two years old. My mother said they thought I'd fall asleep but I was standing up in my seat, riveted the whole time. That movie and Dame Julie first got me hooked, and later I was very inspired by so many of the funny ladies that came into their own in the 1970's: Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Stockard Channing and of course, Laverne and Shirley!

2. What made now the right time to make your NYC debut with Sam Pancake: Hot Sweet & Sticky? It was all very serendipitous: I've been wanting to do a show there for years, and Chip Duckett, Spin Cycle's co-founder, was able to get me a weekend in May, which is when I always take a theatre trip to NYC anyway -- but this year I'll not just be viewing, I'll be performing. EEK!

3. In Hot Sweet & Sticky you portray three different show-biz strivers: "Helluva Bottom Carter," a vivacious southern drag queen with an agenda; "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," a tipsy, aging Grande Dame of the British stage and screen; and "Fritzie Zimmer," the self-proclaimed "world's oldest-living openly-gay stand-up comedian/chorus boy." How did you come up with each of these characters? What part of you does each one represent? "Helluva" came out of me this way: Since the early '90's, I've always been friends and colleagues with so many drag queens, and I've done drag and played a lot of ladies in many shows; not just in sketches and videos, but also as "Blair" in Facts of Life and "Sophia" in The Golden Girls in the LA live-stage versions of those sitcoms. As drag gets even bigger, thanks to RuPaul's Drag Race, I thought, "Ya know, I'm an actor - I can do that too! If I was just going to be a lip-syncing "beauty" drag queen, who would she be?" And that's how "Helluva" was born last year. She represents the sweet, sassy, put-upon, but bossy Southern boy in me.

"Dame Peggy" came out of my general Anglophilia and obsession with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Judy Parfitt, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood and other legendary British stage and screen icons. In 2014 I was doing a play-reading in a Noel Coward festival and I somehow couldn't NOT do the character as Maggie Smith. I thought -- "I gotta do something with this lady!" and "Dame Peggy" then sprang from my heated loins!

"Fritzie" I first did in a skit with my sketch group Margot's Bush in 2001. Then he was an old hoofer/showboy/entertainer/slut who had retired from showbiz to become the world's most inappropriate therapist. I dredged him back up for this show because I realized he had a LOT more to say. He's now the world's oldest living openly-gay stand-up comedian and performer, doing his own "one"-man show (accompanied on piano by his ex-husband "Giacomo," played by Steven Wishnoff). "Fritzie" is the old bitter yet hilarious show-biz queen in ME, I'm afraid, who LOVES being on stage and performing his guts out, but also feels like he's never gotten his due because he was born too soon, so he kinda has a love/hate relationship with his audience. (but I ONLY LOVE my audience!)

Top Row (left to right): Drew Droege, Jackie Beat, Bottom Row (left to right): Sam Pancake and Sherry Vine in "The Golden Girls" at The Cavern Club Celebrity Theater4. Let's play with Hot Sweet & Sticky for a moment. When have you been "Hot, Sweet, & Sticky" all at one time prior to this show? Oooooo honey -- ya know I'll never tell that one! I will say that, because of my unusual surname, I have gotten a few sexual offers in my day that involve butter and/or syrup. I'm not kidding.

5. The description of the show continues on with this trio of divas, severe costume changes, stellar lip-syncing, stunning wiggery, "songs", bitch-fits and laughter are guaranteed. So we are going to break some of this down. Between "Helluva Bottom Carter," "Dame Peggy Wooten-Heifen-Smythe," and "Fritzie Zimmer," who is the bigger diva? The biggest diva is definitely "Fritzie!!" He's the angriest by far.

Sam Pancake, Photo Credit: Darrin Noble6. What is the one song you kill every time you lip-sync it? "Wheels of A Dream" from Ragtime, the Brian Stokes-Mitchell and Audra McDonald version. I tear it up (I like to think!) and it tears me up every time -- I end up on my knees sobbing.

7. What has been your biggest bitch-fit? When have you laughed your hardest? I don't have bitch-fits professionally speaking, really, unless it's on-set in a work situation where I see other people getting treated unfairly or harmfully. I'm a much better bitch on behalf of others than myself. Personally though, I'M A NIGHTMARE.

8. I can't interview you and not talk about you Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. For seven seasons you tried, waited, tried again, and waited some more to be on the first Gilmore Girls series. That never happened. Almost 10 years go by and then it happens, you find out that not only you are going to be on Gilmore Girls: A  Year In The Life, What went through your head when you found out you were going to not only be part of Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, but the role of "Donald" was written explicitly for you? Well, it really wasn't that dramatic of a reveal. An appropriate role never came up during those seven years, which was fine -- "that's showbiz, kid" -- and I was plenty busy doing other shows. When talk of the revival started, I knew that Lauren had planted the seed with Amy of me perhaps playing a part, and as negotiations bubbled along, it gradually became clear it would be a reality. The fun discovery came at the table-reads, learning along with most of the other actors what fun stuff we'd get to play. And when I saw I would be in all the Stars Hollow musical scenes with Sutton Foster and Christian Borle (not to mention Carole King and Sally Struthers) my tiny mind exploded.

Sam Pancake at premiere of "Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life"9. What do you relate to most about "Donald"? What is one characteristic of his you are glad you don't possess? Other than him looking just like me, I don't think "Donald" and I have a whole lot in common! Lets see: we both enjoyed the musical (for different reasons) so I related to that. He enjoys kayaking, I do enjoy canoeing...but we definitely have very different tastes in clothing. You'll never catch me in pastels outside of wardrobe.

10. How did it feel to be the only gay in Stars Hollow? EMPOWERING! I do hope "Donald" has a husband or partner in the next one, though. I don't want him to be lonely.

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I stay in my spiritual practice and meditate every day, and I exercise in some capacity (hike, gym, walk) nearly every day. That's what keeps me on track, along with gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude.

Sam Pancake, Photo Credit: Matt GorrekMore on Sam:

Sam Pancake is an American actor best known for his lead roles on Lovespring International and Kitchen Confidential, as well as recurring roles on Gilmore Girls, Will & Grace, Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He has also made memorable appearances on a number of popular television shows including The Mick, Transparent, Wings, Friends, The King of Queens, Fat Actress, Parenthood, Major Crimes, Cougar Town, and Charmed. His film credits include, Legally Blonde 2, A Holiday Engagement, Ready? OK!, Straight-Jacket, Girls Will Be Girls (with Coco Peru and Varla Jean Merman) and Jackie Beat's Scream, Teen, Scream.

Tuesday
Mar142017

Call Answered: Steve Willis: The Legend of Yma Sumac at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Steve WillisI love music videos. I love documentaries. I love live performance. I love learning about people. When you get asked to interview someone that encompasses all of these and then you find out they have worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment, you jump at the opportunity presented before you.

That's where Steve Willis comes in. He has made videos for Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and many others (including RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles). Now, he is premiering his "live documentary" cabaret show The Legend of Yma Sumac starring drag performer Scarlet Envy. Featuring many of Yma's greatest hits and never-before-seen footage of Yma, shot by Steve, The Legend of Yma Sumac will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from March 15-29Click here for tickets!

For more on Steve be sure to visit http://thestevewillis.com and Instagram!

1. This March you are premiering The Legend of Yma Sumac, starring Scarlet Envy. The show is described as a "live documentary" cabaret about the late star, whom you were friends with. How did you first come to meet Yma? What was it about her that made you want to be friends? What do you miss most about her? When I first heard Yma’s music I became obsessed and couldn’t stop talking about her. From the very beginning I treated her as news that must be spread. I had the feeling that more people needed to know about her. I was so shocked to find out she existed. So one of the people that heard me talking said she was making gowns for Yma and I begged her to introduce me. She took me to dinner with Yma and I asked if I could make a documentary about her life. She was totally interested but she also wanted help with her career and I eventually learned she wanted help with her life. She was quite isolated. Over the years the relationship developed from director of her documentary, to also include manager for live shows to personal assistant. We would spend long hours in her apartment listening to her new music and hearing stories of the past and the people that did her wrong.

I think what I miss about her is being around such amazing talent and her wise worldly ways. She was always full of good advice and she cared for people and animals. She had a magical quality with animals that was like nothing I've ever seen. Wild animals, birds for example, would come to her and she was acting like it was the most natural thing when it was extremely rare. I believe the power of her mind was very great, she credited her singing ability to her mind and believing she could do it. She taught me more about integrity, artistic integrity than anyone I've ever met.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac2. What made now the right time to mount this show? That's an interesting question because there are three people that were involved with Yma at the end of her life trying to do projects with her. All three of us, without communicating with each other, returned to our projects again at the same time, around seven years after she died. The seven year itch? I've read the human body completely replaces all its cells after seven years and therefore you are a totally new person. Maybe we all had to heal a little before getting back to work on our projects? The other two people are Damon Devine, who was Yma’s caregiver and friend. He is working on a book that I really want to see come to life and I want to help promote. The other is Thomas Lauderdale of the band Pink Martini. I introduced him to Yma to record a song and she gave him a great start.

3. Why is Scarlet Envy the perfect drag queen to portray Yma? What aspects of Yma do you see in Scarlet? Spencer Rothman, the editor of this project has gone so far and beyond helping make this show come to life, introduced me to her. He saw I was really struggling to cast the project. I went through so many options. The problem was...if I was making a show that says "Yma has the greatest voice in the world ever," then how do I cast a live singer? No-one can sing these songs. (if you are reading this and you think this is incorrect….please introduce me to the singer that you think can do this).

Also, if I was in the audience for this show, I would want to hear Yma’s voice. So, the only choice seemed to be to do a lip sync show. I did consider real women along with drag performers but when it came to lip syncing, I think Drag performers have a little more practice…haha. I was already following Scarlet Envy on Instagram, so I was a fan of her beauty. She has an old Hollywood glamor to her look. She’s a beautiful woman and not a girl. I wanted the person playing Yma to be an older version of Yma. When I saw Scarlet paint herself to look like Yma, the resemblance was shocking and exciting. She had to do it. Yma’s career suffered somewhat from being considered "campy" or "kitsch" so I carefully considered whether casting a drag performer was the right thing to do but in the end I decided that the gender of the artist on stage is the last thing anyone needed to worry about. There is no nudity in the show except the male dancers show a lot of side ass.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac4. Some of Yma's greatest hits were "Malambo No. 1," "Mozart's Queen of the Night," and "Claire de Lune." In rehearsing this show what memories come up for you as hear these songs being performed? Because it is pretty rare to hear Yma’s music out in the world, I look forward to hearing my favorite songs by her on a nice loud system in a public place. I never heard Yma sing any of these songs live but when I would drive her around I would play these songs and she would drum on my dash board and sing along. One of my biggest regrets is not filming these moments. The way she would sing on top of the existing song was incredible. She would do this with any song by the way, not just hers. It was always in perfect harmony. I don’t know musical terms that well but she would also counter the melody in a very interesting way. She was also a great percussionist. Who knew the dashboard of a car could add so much great rhythm to a song?

5. The Legend of Yma Sumac incorporates unseen footage of Yma that was shot by you. How did you decide what footage to pick? What was it like to watch this footage now as opposed to when you first shot it? When I first picked up this project five years after her death, I needed to digitize some pretty archaic video formats (the project started in the 80’s). When I first started watching the footage, I literally broke out in hives on my face. The experience of watching the footage was a overwhelming. I put it away again until now. This year, I also won a grant from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts for my feature documentary about Yma so I’ve been working on that as well. Chip Duckett knew I was doing this and asked me if I wanted to do a live show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, I wanted the live show to be a tribute to her so I picked footage that was happy and she looked great in.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac6. What do you hope audiences learn about Yma from attending the show? I want them to learn that she was a serious artist and had the greatest voice ever recorded. According to some experts I've interviewed, there are two other women who could sing the same scale as Yma and we know this from the music that was written for their voices but this was before the technology to record them existed.

7. What was the hardest/most emotional part of the show to write? What was the most fun part? The hardest part of the show was the end. Every time we would get to that part I would get emotional. It was a little embarrassing but luckily Spencer the editor is a friend. The "fun" part?…..did I say I had fun? Actually the whole experience has been fun.

Patti LaBelle8. In addition to Yma, you have made videos for numerous high profile artists such as Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles, amongst others. Is there a really crazy story that stands out from one of these shoots where you were like, "I can't believe that just happened?" Meeting Patti LaBelle was crazy and amazing and educational. She was the first big name person I ever directed. The record company guy took me to her hotel room and as we waited in the living room of her suite I was very nervous. From the bedroom she called out "Is that Steve Willis? I love your work!" I said "yes." She answered "Oh my, I look terrible and I don’t want to come out of my bedroom, I'm on my period." We all laughed and my nerves went away. She came out and we had a great meeting. I realized after what a pro move this was. She has probably met and intimidated many people and that's not the best place to start working with someone. Complimenting me and bringing herself to a human level was a great way to start working together.

Rebecca Romijn9. You also directed the documentary Wet Dreams with Rebecca Romijn about your attempt to approach Wet Design, the creators of the Bellagio fountain, to choreograph a fountain show of your own. What did you learn from this experience? Are there any secrets about the Bellagio fountain or fountain show that you can share with us that we, the public, might not know? That was an amazing experience. I was the first civilian to swim in the Bellagio Fountain. The film is about what we learned and the secrets of the fountain. It is on Youtube. So, if you want to know the answer to this question you need to watch the film 😊

10. What is something Yma taught you that you can share with us? She taught me not to compromise on your artistic vision no matter what. Once you have a clear vision, everyone can go to hell before you compromise on any small detail. I’ve never seen anyone hold to this more strongly and I've worked with many of the top people in the Film, TV and Fashion Industry.

Steve WillisMore on Steve:

Steve Willis is a filmmaker, photographer, and music video director. As a music video director, he has made videos for numerous artists, including Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and many others (including RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles). He directed the documentary Wet Dreams with Rebecca Romijn, and is currently working on a documentary about Yma Sumac, who he befriended in 1987.

Saturday
Mar112017

Call Answered: Miss Richfield 1981: 20/20 Vision at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

With her unique brand of humor, fun songs, and entertaining videos, I know my cheeks will hurt from the amount of laughter ensued after attending a Miss Richfield show and since 2006, I have been in constant pain. 

Now Miss Richfield 1981 brings her brand-new show 2020 Vision to The Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from March 14-16! In this show, Miss Richfield 1981 offers a survival guide for the new world we live in, helps calm any post-election panic, and provide tools to prevent the apocalypse! This is one show you can't afford to miss! Click here for tickets! 

For more on Miss Richfield 1981 be sure to visit https://missrichfield.wordpress.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Miss Richfield 19811. After seeing you several times in Provincetown, I'm honored to be getting to do this interview. Since this our first interview together, let's start at the beginning. How did you become Miss Richfield 1981? It was a beauty pageant July 4, 1981, on a simple plywood stage in Richfield, Minn. And like so many beauty queens, I won that title with my natural beauty, my booming baritone vibrato and a fire that horribly disfigured all 11 other contestants when Trudy Olson lost control of her flaming batons. I was the only contestant to stop, drop and roll, which is also how I do my hair. So after they hauled off 9 contestants to the burn unit, and a couple others to the morgue, I was the only one left to receive the lovely hand-glittered sash, shiny tiara, and a power lawnmower! Our local Ace Hardware is very involved in Richfield beauty!

2. What does holding this beauty title now mean to you as opposed to when you first got it in 1981? Beauty pageants became a focal point of my life, when a ninth-grade vocational aptitude test pointed me to a career in beauty or the fragrance counter at Sears. As I never could pass the math section of the Sears job application, a beauty career appeared imminent. Then winning the pageant was just the beginning, since the day after I received my beauty title, Miss Richfield 1981, the gals at my church started a fund to buy me a bus ticket to go someplace else. And for the last 36 years, every time I get back to Minnesota, there on the screen door of my trailer is taped another bus ticket for me to go someplace else! It’s embarrassing, they just adore me!

3. What is the best part about being Miss Richfield 1981 and what is the most challenging part? Has anyone every tried to de-throne you? I adore making new friends and I’m doing that with my hectic schedule this Spring, which includes San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Tulsa, Tampa, Philly, and your godless mecca, New York City – all before I head to Ptown for the summer at the Crown & Anchor. Well popularity has its penalties! But the traveling can be a bit of a minus, as I’m trying to find a boyfriend. And you know most single gals in my stage of life are more likely to be killed by a terrorist, than find love. So I’m thinking I might relocate to Iraq to better my chances. And as far as dethroning goes, I don’t have that concern since all the other gals got heavy.

4. This March you are presenting your new show 2020 Vision at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. What are you looking forward to most about bringing 2020 Vision to New York? My new 2020 Vision show has new music, new videos, new chatter, and most importantly a new message for New York in our new world! These are some strange times, my dears, so I want to offer people a message of hope – or at least survival! And I adore doing this show. It’s supreme happiness to hear the folks go crazy with my upbeat music, informative videos and audience interaction! It’s also always a bonus when I remember the words to the songs! And the Laurie Beechman is a wonderful facility that does not require you to be a Christian to attend the show. So bring neighbors, co-workers, friends or enemies! Just think about who deserves it, and bring them along!

Miss Richfield 19815. In this post-election world, how did you get the whereabouts to write a show about having perfect vision when we are living in a constant state of fog? You’re right on the money there! A life of beauty can be challenging; as a lot of time folks only see the glamour. They don’t see the weeklong Greyhound bus trips, where the only person I get to talk to is the driver – that I wrap my hair in toilet paper and sleep on my face – the duties of washing and polishing my balls during cold and flu season of Bingo. It can be a grind!

6. In this show, you are going to be giving some advice as to calm any post-election panic. What are some calming pointers that did not make it into the show you can share with us? That’s tough, as I generally don’t leave anything out. You may be aware, that I’m famous for cramming a 60-minute show into 90! That’s a lot of time to fill. But there was one post-election duty I did not include in this show. The day after the election I went behind my trailer and burned everything I owned that was orange – living room draperies, a bathroom rug, two sweaters, a leotard, and most of my dishware.

Miss Richfield 19817. You are also going to be providing tools to prevent an apocalypse. How do you know these tools will work and what apocalypse have you tried them on to know they are successful? First off, it’s probably too late to prevent an apocalypse, but I believe that you can always look your best in a bad situation. So most of my advice is a bit after the fact, sort of "since we’re all going to die anyway, let’s go buy shoes and a handbag!" And I am well versed in apocalypse experiences, mostly due to the Greyhound when the bathrooms are clogged up with adult diapers. You know that senior discount is popular!

8. What is something about Miss Richfield 1981 that you haven't revealed yet in an interview? Secrets? Alright just one: I do not wear make-up.

9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Math has never been my strong suit, so I’m not sure how much we’re talking here, plus I feel like my purpose as a beauty professional is to help other people make improvements. With that in mind, I’d like to offer your readers a word of advice from my mother, "You can lose your money, you can lose your lipstick, and you can lose your dignity, but if you pack a smile in your handbag, you’ll always be able to find a trucker to give you a ride home!" That is definitely more than one percent!

Miss Richfield 1981More on Miss Richfield 1981:

Miss Richfield 1981 dedicates her life to the friendly citizens and responsible merchants of her hometown of Richfield, Minnesota. This Midwestern maven is winning over theater and cabaret audiences around the country with an interactive format that combines homespun warmth and edgy improv, leaving audiences in hysterics with a truly original performance.

Miss Richfield’s national appeal includes riotous appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Today on NBC, as well as prestigious mentions, such as The New York Post recently honoring "Miss Richfield 1981 as the must-see act in Provincetown."

As well as sell-out performances throughout the country, including LA, Chicago and New York, Miss Richfield continues her sold-out reputation as the most successful act each summer at the Crown and Anchor in Provincetown, Mass. Miss Richfield also finds time in her busy schedule to headline for Atlantis Events cruises and resort vacations, the largest LGBT vacation company.

Monday
Sep052016

Call Answered: Lady Bunny: Trans-Jester! at Stonewall Inn NYC!

Lady Bunny, Photo Credit: Bruce GlikasLady Bunny is a living legend! She has been on my radar since the days of Wigstock and I'm thrilled to have been given the opportunity to speak with her. In what is probably one of my raciest interviews to date, Lady Bunny and I definitely take things to a new level!

We dish about her new one-woman show Trans-Jester!, the creation of Lady Bunny herself as well as her drag festival Wigstock, working with RuPaul, being a judge on Drag U, and a revelation that will make a lot of jaws drop!

In Trans-Jester!, Lady Bunny presents new parodies of selections from Adele, Rent and Bruno Mars punctuated by zany Laugh-In style zingers, as well as insightful social commentary, targeting the current overemphasis on political correctness. Lady Bunny breaks down some of the latest buzzwords that we're all supposed to remember for every for every occasion as we "evolve." Lady Bunny may also shock you with revelations about her own gender identity. "She" asks pertinent questions about cultural appropriation prior to declaring her undying love for black cock in a vulgar version of "Uptown Funk." Lady Bunny brings it on home with a show-stopping finale featuring two classics from Gypsy and Follies. The eclectic evening also resurrects songs by country star Lynn Anderson, Millie Jackson and even an original tune which pokes fun at the dating life of whatever sex it is you want to call this "Lady."

Trans-Jester! plays a month long residency at the Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher Street in NYC's West Village, the historic landmark where the Stonewall riots took place in 1969) through October 1! Showtime is 7pm Wednesdays-Saturdays. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lady Bunny be sure to visit http://LadyBunny.net and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. You just stared a month long residency at the Stonewall Inn with the return of your show Trans-Jester! What made now the right time to do this show again after just completing a three-month run of it? Well, Miss Graceful broke her little toe and was banished to wear flats for over a month. It's hard to read your audience when you're wearing Payless size 12 ballet flats! But we still had full houses when we were doing Monday-Wednesday shows, so it seemed unwise to end the show completely. Also, I had a lot of traveling to do this summer which was booked before the show kept getting extended. It was an extraordinary experience to perform at Stonewall while people grieved the shooting at Pulse. The community just sort of organically gravitated back to where it all started--Stonewall. Not the most chic venue, not the latest, but that's where gay rights began in this country. It was landmarked this summer by President Obama, so I think it's a great place to be on a stage asking: Have we got so many letters in the LGBTIQA that no one knows what that even stands for any more? How does a community which can't even name itself defend itself? I'm sick of the infighting over labels that goes on within our community when I'd much rather be fighting our oppressors--not each other. But this is all very high-minded talk for a show which is basically a raunchfest, with an overall theme of poking fun at political correctness gone wild. With the infernal Trump, political correctness is still in the news. But Trump and his followers use a shield of politically incorrectness to hide their racism and xenophobia. I'm coming from a liberal viewpoint opposite from Trump to bemoan the fact that we aren't allowed to laugh anymore. Or mock things which strike us as amusing.

Lady Bunny outside Stonewall Inn, Photo Credit: Jeff Eason2. In this show, Trans-Jester!, you will be performing new parodies of songs, hilarious, zany Laugh-In style zingers, and offer insightful social commentary. You also break down some of the latest buzzwords that we're all supposed to remember for every occasion. What is about a song or a situation, that makes you go, this would be great material for a show as opposed to just a brief laugh amongst your friends? I chose several pop songs to parody which contain lyrics referring to my own looming sex change--which is fictitious. So Katy Perry's "Roar" becomes my version of "Sore" and Britney Spears' "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A  Woman" takes on new meaning while a dildo swings from my crotch. Obviously, if you parody songs which are either hits now or treasured classics, you'll get the best results since everyone knows the original tunes' lyrics.

But the outrages over what we can and can't say is giving me new examples every month of everything from fat-shaming to slut-shaming to cisgender to gender queer. It's hard to keep up. I do see a sort of Oppression Olympics with the content outrages of twitterverse. Do all of these coddled babies realize that the words they consider slurs are tools of even the most mainstream comedians? And that mainstream comedians like Chris Rock, Bill Maher and Jerry Seinfeld no longer perform at colleges because the audiences are too PC. At some colleges, students give their professors trigger words which they aren't allowed to hear or they might melt down. This is directly at odds with the often mean-spirited world of comedy. Take an insult comic like Don Rickles, Lisa Lampanelli or Bianca Del Rio, for example. Their job is to look around in the audience to single out people and insult them so that everyone laughs at their expense--whether they are Gay, Black, Latino, Transgender, old, fat or whatever. Is this a dying art? It's brought joy to so many. I'm not an insult comic who picks mercilessly at the audience, but I am sometimes criticized for even touching on a certain topic. One girl jumped down my throat on twitter after I made a joke about Bill Cosby, claiming that rape is never funny. Unless you're being raped by a clown! In no way am I condoning rape by making a joke about a rapist, just as the many mainstream TV hosts which joked about Michael Jackson's fondness for kids for years were condoning pedophilia. We have just become too sensitive to laugh.

Lady Bunny, Photo Credit: Jeff Eason3. What do you think will shock your long-time fans most about this show? For someone who has never seen you perform, why is this the show they should come to? My existing fans have never seen me dabble in show tunes before--and there are three chestnuts in Trans-Jester!...One of my oldest friends told me that my demented, bitter version "Rose's Turn" has given them chills. I've also re-worked the lyrics of the genius Sondheim classic "I'm Still Here." I make fun of all things lost (like my waist), the gentrification of NYC and our inability to laugh at what we used to enjoy. "I'm Still Here" climaxes with the lyrics:

"my generation fought for medicines for AIDS, 
your generation fights over silly names."

 

Many older--ie my age-- gay audience members really gravitate towards that song because many of us never dreamt we'd make it through the AIDS crisis alive. Yet we're still here.

As far as why Trans-Jester! is the show of mine to catch, one fan called it my "zenith." I'm not exactly sure what zenith means even after googling it, but I think it means a substantial improvement from past performances. But there's no guarantee that a zenith will last long! I think this particular show combines everything I've ever done from stand-up, to song parodies, to the Laugh-In spoof, to choreography (if you could call it that) and even a skit. I also am starting to throw in some of my own original music--which is a first for me. While they are not in this show, two serious collaborations I released this summer are "Keep On Dancing (Until We're Free)" with a swedish producer named House Of Wallenberg and a latin-infused dance track called "The Samba Is Waiting" by Nova Fronteira featuring Lady Bunny. I'm also doing a Christmas tune with Drag Race winner Sharon Needles.

4. In Trans-Jester! you make a declaration for your undying love of big black cock. In your opinion, what makes a big black cock more enjoyable than another race's cock? Well, they are normally bigger. But I was bussed to a largely black school right before puberty, and the black guys knew I was gay before I did. So this has simply always been my sphere. I do like white guys too, as long as they have big black cocks!

Lady Bunny, Photo Credit: Mathu Anderson5. Aside from the above declaration, what is something else about Lady Bunny you have to reveal to anyone? I like Asian cock...when I can find it! I like Syrian refugee cock, but it just keeps on coming. I like American Indian cock, but they have reservations. And I loooove Muslim cock...you've never been had until you've been jihad!

6. What has been the funniest thing to happen to you during one of your shows? At La Escuelita, the ceiling on the stage was a little low and my wig got caught in the fire extinguisher. Because I didn't notice what was wrong at first, the audience was howling at my expense. I ought to work that into the act. Everyone likes a big gorgeous hairdo, but they also love to see it get destroyed! And as you might surmise from the broken toe which ended this show's first run, I'm a tad clumsy.

7. Let's go back to the beginning for a moment. How did you come up with Lady Bunny and her performance style? It took me years. Lypsinka is a dear friend who knew exactly what she wanted he character to be and do. Mine developed over years, since my initial goal for getting in drag was to drink and score sex. Lady is a common drag name in the South for queens like Lady Chablis from Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. When you are working in bars basically for tips, adding "Lady" to your name adds a touch of class--in their minds. For me to add it with my thrift store budget was an in joke. Bunny was the name of Sgt. Carter's girlfriend on Gomer Pile and Bunny was also the name of a Marvel comic book I collected in the late 1960s: Bunny, Queen Of The In Crowd.

My performance style developed in gay nightclubs, where often drunk gay men reward filthy humor because it's part of our gay subtext. The Laugh-In skits enable me to turn stand-up into a number which involves dancing, but it also is easy for a wasted, late night audience to understand. Now she's dancing, now the music stops and she's telling a joke. Likewise, the song parody medleys allow me to appeal to an ADD-riddled audience by hitting the heart of the joke in each parody and then moving on to another song before they have a chance to get bored.

8. For many years you have worked with RuPaul, recently recording two songs with her and worked on Drag U. What did you learn from working with RuPaul? What was your favorite moment from Drag U or recording with Ru? My favorite moment from Drag U was making my fellow judge Chaka Khan and Ru bust a gut. Her voice and her music has simply enthralled me since I purchased my first album, her Rags To Rufus. So for me to be able to make her laugh her ass off is something I'll never forget. Charo and Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) were two other judges I adored.

As far as a bad experience with Ru, he did turn me on to this great silicone medical adhesive to keep wigs in place, since ours are rather large. However, he did not tell me about the remover! So I went to yank my wig off at the end of the night and it ripped out some of my own hair. Ru was sabotaging my full head of hair because she's bald! I'm kidding, but she never did tell me about the remover. So for a year, I had a reverse widow's peak which got some very odd looks.

9. You created the hugely successful drag festival Wigstock, which ran for over 20 years. What are some sordid stories you can tell from this time in your life? Who was somebody you wanted for Wigstock, but was never able to book? Great question! One sordid story was when a set piece which was like a mobile overhead came crashing down onto the stage during a queen named Afro-dite's number. No one knew what to do and was running around madly when a queen came up, opened her purse, removed a giant knife, winked at me, and quickly cut everyone loose from the tangled mess.

Because the festival was mainly drag acts with a few recording artists thrown in, I never really had to beg people to do it. I do remember being told that John Cameron Mitchell, who was performing in the original Off-Broadway version of Hedwig at WestBeth, couldn't make it between his matinee and evening show. I begged! And he consented. I'll always owe him for his generosity because even though Westbeth was right across from the pier we held Wigstock on, that must have been exhausting for him. He certainly thrilled the crowd.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Very commendable of you! I'd like a firmer grasp of tech stuff. Technically, I'm too dumb for my own smartphone! So I'd love to grab an intern and have them help me to catch me up with Instagram and all that stuff. But I did have a camera installed in my bathroom. So now you can all follow me on shitter!

Lady Bunny, Photo Credit: Jeff EasonMore on Lady Bunny:

With her glitzy outfits, sky-high wigs and false eyelashes long enough to embarrass Tammy Faye Baker, multi-talented drag artist Lady Bunny would turn heads even if looking glamorous was her only talent. But "she" isn’t just another man in a dress: Bunny is a successful comedienne, DJ, actress, singer/songwriter and most famously, the emcee and creator of Wigstock, the outrageous drag festival of drag and music which electrified New Yorkers every Labor Day for over 20 years. Wigstock featured almost every queen who ever worked in NYC, but also attracted more mainstream recording acts who just wanted to join in the fun–including Dee-Lite, Debbie Harry, Boy George, RuPaul, John Cameron Mitchell as "Hedwig," The B-52s’ Cindy Wilson, Crystal Waters, CeCe Peniston, Ultra Nate, Kristine W, Barbara Tucker and Vickie Sue ("Turn The Beat Around") Robinson. Soon, the festival became known as a hipper version of Gay Pride Day.

Post-Wigstock, Bunny tours constantly, bringing houses down from Cinncinati to Tel Aviv with her bawdy mix of potty-mouthed humor, zany, Laugh-In-style joke routines and X-rated pop parodies. From headlining clubs to gay pride events worldwide, Bunny has been lucky enough to share a stage with many of her idols–including Patti Labelle, Joan Rivers, Bea Arthur, Charo, Elvira, Lynda Carter, Chaka Khan, Jennifer Hudson, Grace Jones, Melba Moore, Jennifer Holliday, the late great Frankie Knuckles, Loleatta Holloway, Jocelyn Brown, Martha Wash, Larry Kramer and Margaret Cho.

Lady Bunny, Photo Credit: Jeff EasonBunny’s also made the leap to television and film, with appearances on Sex And The City, The Comedy Central Roast Of Pamela Anderson and in the feature films Dragtime (HBO), The Out List (HBO), To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar, Party Girl, Rupaul’s Starrbooty and Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild. Most recently, Bunny played "The Dean Of Drag" for three seasons on Rupaul’s Drag U and can be seen in the upcoming feature film My Dead Boyfriend opposite Heather Graham.

Bunny DJs at fashion events, club events, corporate bashes and hell–gay weddings and bar mitzvahs! Her specialty is nailing what your crowd wants to hear. As she always says, "Please give me requests because I’m spinning for your party and my goal is to get you on the dance floor. Besides, I can play what I want at home for free!" Guests go crazy when Bunny leaves the DJ booth to join the crowd on the floor–so you’re basically hiring a DJ and a clown for the price of one! The Empire State Pride Agenda’s latched onto Bunny as their regular DJ for almost a decade now, claiming that "We’d been doing this event for years but Bunny was the first DJ to get our crowd to dance." As the in-house DJ for Visionaire and V magazine, Bunny literally travelled the globe spinning atop the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo’s Mori Tower, the Fendi Showroom in Milan, London’s Harvey Nichols, The Delano in Miami and was the first DJ ever to spin at Paris’s palatial L’Opera Garnier. This lead to even more high profile DJ gigs like Van Cleef & Arpel’s 40th birthday bash in Paris and The Standard’s Black Out Party in NYC celebrating Naomi Campbell’s 25 years in fashion.

Lady Bunny, Photo Credit: Jeff EasonLike many DJs, Bunny moved into songwriting and has released two duets with RuPaul and a solo effort "Take Me Up High," which hit Billboard’s Dance chart at #18 in 20013. She’s collaborated with Lonnie Gordon, Deee-Lite’s Lady Miss Kier, electro pioneer Mann Parrish and legendary NYC DJ Disciple. This summer, Bunny has teamed up with the ultra-groovy Ursula 1000 for the seismic dance track "Blast Off" on the new Ursula album. It’ll be released with remixes in August 2015. And a full-length solo album is in the works.

Bunny was a commentator in Star magazine’s "Worst Of The Week" column for eight years, and has written for publications as diverse as Paper magazine, Interview, Out, Time Out and Visionaire magazines. Bunny was chosen one of the most stylish New Yorkers by V magazine, The Daily News and Time Out NY. She’s interviewed subjects as varied as Scarlett Johansson, Marc Jacobs and Antony of Antony And The Johnsons fame. In recent years, this Lady has taken an increased interest in politics and social issues and has penned blistering pieces for Huffingtonpost with a decidedly liberal slant. After winning a few awards for her blog and many Facebook friends sick of her long diatribes telling her to "Write a book!", Bunny is currently penning a memoir.

There have been recent brushes with the art world as well. Most recently, Bunny DJed for a three day exhibit at Faena Gallery in Buenos Aires for a disco-themed art installation by assume vivid astro focus. And Bunny performed original music and conducted a heart-felt interview with pioneer video artist Charles Atlas called The Waning Of Justice at the Luhring Augustine Gallery. (Charlie’s other documentary subjects include Leigh Bowery, Antony and Merce Cunningham.) And Bunny was delighted to be picked as one of of home decor guru Jonathan Adler’s muses for his original Inspiration Points series after Jonathan designed a pitcher modeled after Bunny.

Lady Bunny, Photo Credit: Jeff EasonIn the last three years, Bunny has created two one-"woman" shows at La Escuelita. Both That Ain’t No Lady! and Clown’s Syndrome were extended for months after sell-out crowds and a rave review from the NY Times’ Charles Rooney which stated: "Most of Lady Bunny’s best lines are unprintable here, but more than any performer I saw this year "the old pig in a wig," as she calls herself, made me weep with laughter, often while groaning with disgust. And isn’t that what the best low comedy is all about?" Clowns Syndrome earned this glowing review from Irish Central: "A downtown drag fixture for over two and a half decades, in her new show Clowns Syndrome the self professed "pig in a wig" has crafted the funniest, most engagingly thoughtful and by far the most entertaining drag show I have ever seen." Michael Musto called it "the funniest show in town." Both shows toured the globe from LA to Palm Springs to San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale to Provincetown to London to Puerta Vallarta four cities in Australia. Clown’s Syndrome–It’s Back And It’s Worse! will be remounted this fall with updated material.

Talented, glamorous and funny as hell, Lady Bunny is a glittering comet hurtling toward Planet Show Biz. Brace yourself for impact!