Bid Adieu to the Summer of Love
by Edmund Sutton
For the third straight year, The Pyramid Cocktail Lounge and emcee The “Lady” Bunny bring Wigstock to Tompkins Square Park on Labor Day, Monday September 8. This lively, summer outdoor festival has become widely known as THE summer musical closer, showcasing many well known and emerging downtown musicians and performers for a full day’s celebration of “hair-peace.”
While most New Yorkers were actively beating the August summer heat or escaping it entirely, Bunny was diligently dialing (with a pencil, of course) the leagues of performers on her lists, approving poster artwork (by Scott Lifshutz), recruiting a formidable back-up band, sifting through miles of costumes and hairdos, checking progress on the background set (Tom Rubnitz) and fielding calls from reporters.
The whole thing began as a way of spotlighting downtown’s “best and brightest for the children and housewives who just can’t make it to the nightclub (Pyramid). “Wigstock has been so well received that a critically acclaimed film has been made from excerpts from the last two years’ events. In fact, Tom Rubnitz’s Wigstock The Movie which premiered in New York last spring, was said to be the highlight of San Francisco’s Alternative Film Festival.
As a spectacle, Wigstock is unparalleled; a wig-in out-of-doors. And this year’s line up of acts looks to be no slouching toward the East Village, either, featuring the regular bevy of dragsters including Hapi Phace, TABOO!, Sister Dimension, Lypsinka, Peter Kwaloff and Ethly Eichelberger.
Rock acts will include polka vixens Dash Fur lines, John Sex, Dean and the Weenies, David Ilk, Michael London, Joey Arias and the long awaited return of Lady Claire (ex of Now Explosion).
Promoters encourage everyone to attend sporting their five coif, costume and picnic lunch for the festivities which begin promptly “around noon or as soon as we can get up” until sunset. Recalling Jesse Hultberg’s brilliant Melanie parody, “Lay Down, Lay Down,” an ocean of swaying outstretched hands holding out three middle fingers which form a “W,” the official symbol of Hairpeace, perhaps historians will recall 1987 as not so much a revival of the Summer of Love, but as it should be remembered: The Summer of Wigs.
by Rick Stewart
By the time we got to Wigstock the Gods were angry and the queens were wet. But as in the case of its twisted namesake a little fowl weather wasn’t going to dampen the annual labor day lower east side transvestite music fest.
Centered at the Tompkins Square Bandshell the event’s six plus hours of gender bending song, dance and dress-up seemed a reversion to an earlier era. If there were any real estate speculators in the crowd they were probably in tears. Yuppiefiers who stumbled onto the hijinx fled with strollers in tow. Gender rearrangement and gentrification make only the uneasiest of bedfellows.
The talent ranged from deranged- as at Woodstock there were some problems keeping people off the stage – to transcendentally trivial. The kids involved clearly had a lot of grit, most of it unfortunately under their make-up. If the program wasn’t Brooklyn’s Jewel Box revue it wasn’t Andy Warhol’s Interview either.
Hosted by genial “toast- Mistress” Lady Bunny,” listed in the Wigstock program as “High Priestess,” the program offered a dizzying and often dizzy program of mixed, not to say minxed, messages. As show business extravaganzas sometimes will, Wigstock tended to go on and on and on and on. An occasional star turn suddenly would bring the onward rush to a halt.
The delightful Lypsinka, introduced as a “defectress” from the Soviet Block seemed the very model of a modern major genital. A fetching “Sheena of the Jungle” get up highlighted both breasts and her prominent genitals. Her balls to the wind miming of various Broadway show-stoppers radiated a savage irony from which old time cross dressers would have fled in bouffant hysteria.
People Tree (we think) played to the many platform shoed among the spectators, the same sort of show business psychedelia that made Laugh-In a druggie favorite.
A Melanie impersonator (or better, replacement) claimed to have been born “in a tee-pee amongst the free spirited youth,” during a festival performance by his distaff muse. Frieda gave new dimension to the term “Pinhead,” wowing the crowd while disguised as a doll (literally) from the neck up.
In contrast from the malaise stretching from Washington, D.C. to the real state section of The Times, Wigstock was a spirited, strangely naïve exercise in dressing up, one which gave us a new appreciation of the transvestite tribes. The final word goes to Jelly Joplin: “They say downtown is dead, but I’m dead and I’m still happening.”