Lady 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!
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.
2. 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.
3. 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:
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!
5. 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!
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.
Bunny’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.
Like 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.
In 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!