Despite inclement weather, 6,000 attend 15th Wigstock
by Mark Sullivan
It didn't just rain, it poured on the 15th annual Wigstock last Sunday. The skies opened up several times, thoroughly drenching the crowd.
But that doesn't mean that all those wonderful wigs were ruined. In addition to lipstick and hairspray, most of those dressed as cheerleaders or bridesmaids or stewardesses had remembered to bring umbrellas. A few, like one bewitching creature dressed as Scarlett O'Hara, had the foresight to bring umbrellas that matched their outfits.
Despite the inclement weather, about 6,000 people turned out for the event. The performers - including many who were on hand for the first Wigstock in 1985 - seemed heartened that the crowd didn't desert them in the midst of downpours.
"As long as you guys stay, we're going to perform," The Lady Bunny, emcee of the event, shouted form the stage. "At least until we're electrocuted from all the water up here on the stage!"
Proceeds from the event go to Gay Men's Health Crisis. Noel Alicia, a GMHC spokesperson, said Wigstock staffers didn't know how much will go to the organization because they are "still counting the money."
The Lady Bunny at the forefront of Wigstock
Flamboyant? Certainly, From Head to Heels
by Joyce Wadler
There are those who favor dressing down on Labor Day weekend, but this is not how it goes at Wigstock, the Village drag queen festival, which will be upon us like a too-tight cat suit on Sunday.
Five-inch heels, pink Dynel wigs, anything goes as long as it is in outrageous taste, and you need not be into cross-dressing to attend. Families - and dogs in wigs - have been spotted in recent years. Even politicians have been sighted.
"We have a very loving relationship with the Manhattan Borough President's office," Lady Bunny, the organizer of the festival, is saying at a friend's studio in Chelsea, in a green and yellow Pucci-having-a-really-bad-day kind of number. Ruth Messinger really went to bat for us. She would come every year in her Birkenstocks and you could tell she did not view it as a campaign stop. She got into the spirit of it, which Liz Holtzman and other politicians did not. Once she said, Bunn's dress shows her obvious commitment to recycling.
A dramatic pause, which drag queens take almost as frequently as a breath, then a campy reading. Bitch.
You think you shouldn't stare at Lady Bunny?
At 5 feet 11 inches tall, plus 6-inch plastic heels and a 12-inch-high wig - she is a lot to pretend not to notice. And anyway, that would be rude.
Lady Bunny, who makes her living as a female impersonator and will be starring in Sunday's show on Pier 54, near 12th Street, has gone to a lot of trouble to look this way.
The higher the hair, the closer to God, says Lady Bunny, who took her name from a fashion model in a comic book.
She will not permit a visitor to see her without her wig and one suspects it is a concession for her to reveal her given name and age, but she does: Jon Ingle, 37.
Another thing about Lady Bunny: her shtick is somewhat like that of Milton Berle, another famous cross-dresser. Very Burlesque.
Lady Bunny, we know you were born as other than what you strive to be, so do we refer to you as Mr., Ms. or Mrs.?
"Well, I'm not married, still lookin'," Lady Bunny says in her Tennessee drawl, "which is one of the few authentic things on her. I saw an ideal husband." Pause. "The movie."
Off stage, you're not in drag. Who are you then?
"That's my brother. I send him out to run errands. He's kind of a flunky to do my bidding. He's not interested in the way he looks. I'm just so much more fascinating. He's dull."
Speaking of dull, may Lady Bunny tell you about her hometown, Chattanooga, Tenn.? At 5 P.M., she says, the buses stopped running. Her father, a history professor at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and mother, "kind of a social worker," were progressive. Lady Bunny, then known as Jon, claims that as a child he drew flip hair-do's on his stick figures. As for gay, which she is, Lady Bunny had always known.
"I asked for a Barbie doll at 6 and my mother told me a few years ago they didn't know if they should give it to me, because they were afraid it would make me gay. I told her if I was asking, I was already gay."
Jon acted in amateur theater, and attended high school at Boothan, a Quaker school in York, England, in the late 70's, a time that lent itself to androgynous and highly made-up punk. At the University of Tennessee, where Jon pursued theater for a year, came the catharsis.
I'm playing a bit part in Our Town - a very dull play - and I realize I've been pretending all my life. I know I’m a big queen and I have to pass myself off as a straight baseball player and I'm just not getting any joy from that. I thought: I don't want to be a straight male. I've done that my whole life. I want to be - the drag queen credo in a word coming up here - "flamboyant".
You know what would be nice here? A Busby Berkeley-esque montage of tapping feet, feathered boas, tottering, preening, glittering persons in drag: Lady Bunny arriving in New York in '84 and working as a go-go dancer at the Pyramid Club in the East Village.
One evening the gang is goofing around the band shell in Tompkins Square Park, singing and dancing, and the idea for Wigstock is born. Originally it was a free party in Tompkins Square Park. These days, it costs $20 to get in and there is a corporation, of which Lady Bunny is president, and half of the net proceeds go to Gay Men’s Health Crisis and other charities. In '97, the net was $60,000. Last year, it was a disappointing $10,000. Lady Bunny earned $6,500 last year for her work but this year will pay herself less. She lives in a studio in the West Village and makes about $40,000 a year. Like many New Yorkers, she sees a shrink.
A moment of uncharacteristic restraint. "I don't know if I need to bare the innermost secrets of my therapy sessions" Lady Bunny says, curled up in the not-Pucci. Then: "I'd like to make the most of my potential. I'd like to have a relationship."
This dressing up in women's clothing thing, then, has never been considered a problem?
Hair Em Scare Em
by Linda Simpson
Bid Adieu to the Summer of Love
Wigstock founder Lady “I’ve got a festival to run” Bunny previews the 15th annual fete.
Let's see, if I'm 22, and this is Wigstock's 15-year anniversary, then gee, I must have been only seven years old when I started organizing New York's annual drag festival! Over the years, I've learned to deal with all kinds of queens, none so trying as the queen who's always a drag, Linda Simpson (you may know "it" better as the editor of this section, Les Simpson). Recently, I relented to endure an interview with the annoying hag. God, the things you have to do to publicize a fucking festival!
Linda Simpson: Are you excited for this year's Wigstock?
Lady Bunny: I'm very exited, unless that's another hot flash I'm having. Do you have any Midol? We're featuring more performers than ever before some new acts like porn mogul Chi Chi LaRue, Lady Chablis from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Richard Move as Martha Graham and the cast of the upcoming Broadway musical Saturday Night Fever. And of course lots of old ones like Mona Foot, Girlina, Jackie Beat, Lypsinka and you, Linda- the oldest of them all.
LS: Bunny, you bitch! I've only been performing at Wigstock for the last eight years.
TLB: Well, anytime you want to take a break, hon, go ahead.
LS: How come RuPaul doesn't perform anymore?
TLB: Do you want to hear "Supermodel" again? Actually we're having a Cher-athon, and Ru used to do a mean if "I Could Turn Back Time," so I asked her to do it, but she'll be in L.A.
LS: Not all the performers at Wigstock are drag queens, correct?
TLB: That's right, Linda, I am what's known as a transsexual. I had the vagina installed first, and now I'm going to start taking hormones, getting electrolysis, and letting my hair grow out.
LS: The one in your nostils have certainly grown out nicely
TLB: You're very observant for an old gal with cataracts. Anyway, there are plenty of nondrag performers, including some fantastic dance artists this year, like Ultra Nate, Barbara Tucker, Michelle Weeks, Club 69's Suzanne Palmer, Duane Harden, legendary disco diva Fonda Rae, and Charlotte, who's song "Skin" is one of the hottest records of this year.
LS: Speaking of skin, what kind of foundation do you use?
TLB: Cheese whiz with baby powder on top.
LS: You must have some wonderful memories of the first Wigstock in Tompkins Square Park?
TLB: I heard it was great, but I was so drunk that I don't remember (Belch.) There were lots more rock bands and a much smaller crowd like the event I've grown in size. If I put on any more weight we're going to have to change the name to "Livestock"!
LS: There was a documentary made in 1995 called Wigstock: The Movie.
TLB: Yes, it was OK, but I was crushed they couldn't include the footage of you drunk out of your mind, wig askew, a moustache made out of false eyelashes, crusing the Porta Potties
LS: Really? I don't recall....Of all your joyous Wigstock memories, which stands out the most?
TLB: The year you cancelled.
LS: And what was your Wigstock low point?
TLB: The year you started. Also in 1996, when Wigstock didn't take place because of lack of sponsors and a good location. So we threw together a half-assed benefit called "Wig-not" at The Palladium. The shady stab-your-mama-in-the-back-for-your-next-snort-of-cocaine-atmosphere of a nightclub didn't exactly radiate joy.
LS: How do you respond to critics who say Wigstock used to be more fun back in the good old days?
TLB: I say to them, "So were you." Listen, I've got a festival to run, and as long as it's still entertaining, I can't worry about which year may have been more "fun." Some people frown on the fact that now we have banners from sponsors, and they say that we've gone corporate, but the fact is we have to have an expensive sound systerm to accomodate 10,000 people. If someone wants to anonymously donate the tens of thousands of dollars that costs, I'll take the banners down myself. People also gripe about the cover charge and yeah, I wish it could be free too but people also complained the year we didn't have Wigstock, so I say "Put your money where your mouth is and pay the piper a measly 20 bucks for an eight-hour show."
LS: There must be lots of competition among drag queens to get a slot at Wigstock. How do you decide who performs?
TLB: Basically, I try to reflect what's going on in the New York drag scene. I also like to mix in some out-of-towners, but there aren't that many slots because there are just a ton of queens in New York City Jackie Beat herself accounts for one ton. And then there are some acts that only appear at Wigstock, like houswife/comedian Barbara Patterson Lloyd and Frieda, The Living Doll.
LS: Besides preparing for Wigstock, how else have you been keeping yourself busy?
TLB: I'm getting ready to shoot a "Laugh-In" style segment in L.A. for an upcoming PETA special for VH1, in which Joanne Worley, Pamela Anderson, Elvira, Anne Heche and I will be cracking jokes. I don't know I feel about Pamela Anderson she did steal my look, after all. And I hope Anne Heche can keep her paws off of me.
LS: I don't think you have a thing to worry about. What if during this year's Wigstock, Pier 54 suddenly sinks to the bottom of the Hudson?
TLB: I'm not worried; fish can swim.
La Dolce Musto
by Michael Musto
My tired ass has watched Wigstock morph over the years from an East Villagey performance-art showcase to a splashy showbiz parade dripping in production numbers-but what production numbers! From Shasta Cola's mammoth homage to Björk to Richard Move's inspired tribute to Martha Graham ,done to the score from Psycho, this year's dragfest was a spectacular revue fit for a slightly left-of-center TV variety show. There was way more razzmatazz than transgressive art onstage, but it was still hard to avert one's eyes from the hairy legs, tucked penises, drizzled-on pantyhose, and constantly lip-synching mouths.
Interestingly, the "real" entertainment biz weaseled in from every which way, courtesy of Broadway's Saturday Night Fever ("I get dissed and raped," said the cute singer Orfeh before launching into "If I Can't Have You") and Hollywood's Flawless (local queens-made-good enacted the title song, an ode to perfection). Female model Kylie Bax even dropped by to promote The Big Tease, a Scottish hairdressing flick she's featured in, only to have Wigstock high priestess Lady Bunny quip to her onstage, "I can tell you're a supermodel because of the tracks on your arm." And the music biz showed off its tracks with way too many long-winded dance acts, reminding me of my recurring nightmare that Kristine W is still singing from last year's Wigstock. But I don't care-this event is still the best excuse to pretend you're a woman since 12-carat wedding rings!
The Big Tease
This month Wigstock, New York City’s annual dragfest, has an anniversary. But Wigstock isn’t the only place where one sees people going all-out with wigs. This once marginal item is about as fashionable as can be. Not since Louis XIV have people been so smitten with doing up their heads as they are now.
But the current fashion for wigs is not just about looking fabulous (though of course that’s a big part of it) – it appears to be about opening up the mind. Wigs offer a quick and easy means by which one can break free from a rut, explore fantasies, and-perhaps most importantly – liberate a self image. What better time than now in this time of obsessive self-improvement and impossible, ironclad standards of beauty, to cut loose? Is that why so many people are throwing on wigs and exploring their self-definition – or losing it entirely? It’s about finding out who you are, or maybe who you aren’t: Either way, the choice is entirely.
Now that the rest of the world is catching on to the kind of personal freedom that Wigstockers have enjoyed for years, wigs are bound to go through the roof. We asked Lady Bunny to give us her view: “It’s hard to believe the Wig stock dragstravaganza will be celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this Labor Day Weekend. A Big Apple Institution, the celebration attracts thousands of rowdy revelers in counterfeit coifs, faux ‘fros and sham shags – a far cry from the small crowd it first gathered in the East Village in 1984. Back then no one could have predicted how wigs would sashay into the mainstream. No longer something to be ashamed of, wigs are now proudly featured everywhere, from fashion runways to music videos – and the more unnatural the better!
It all started at 2pm with a scintillating first set. And we'd tell you about it if we had actually been there. (Doesn't that suck? All you girls agree to go on in the early set-in broad daylight-and we don't even get there to cover it.) Next year we'll set an extra alarm clock. Promise!
Highlights of the second set included the Lips girls' salute to the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, some frightening closeups of Sheila Noxema's gap-toothed face on the big screen and Richard Move as Martha Graham and his twig-decorated dance company emoting beautifully to the theme from Psycho. Girlina, in a stunning silver dress, with her hair in a huge ponytail and accompanied by a gaggle of painstakingly choreographed backup dancers, performed a very '60s go-go number to Geri Halliwell's "Look at Me." Ever so slightly less glamorous, Flotilla DeBarge presented a crowd-pleasing, hand-jiving version of "Movin' on Up"-the theme from The Jeffersons, not the M People hit-in a white beaded dress, black stockings and white flats (her "mama on the bus coming back from Great Adventure look"). And backstage (where she seemed not the least bit interested in having her picture taken with Katie Holmes), Flotilla singlehandedly broke up a line of ferociously voguing queens by simply opening her umbrella directly in front of the cameras that were filming them.
Speaking of Vogue, when supermodel Kylie Bax took the stage to plug The Big Tease-the film she's in with The Drew Carey Show's Craig Ferguson (opening in January) about a cutthroat hairdressing competition-Bunny told the barely audible mannequin to move her mouth closer to the mike "just like you do to get all those big modelling jobs" and then apologized to the crowd because they weren't close enough to see Kylie's track marks. Hedda Lettuce-always one to give Bunny a run for her money in the taste department-appeared in a big pink Minnie Mouse outfit with the words "I Give Head for Cheese" scrawled 'neath her tasselled breasts and performed "Set Disneyland on Fire" to the tune of "Great Balls o' Fire." And our very own covermodels, Kiki & Herb, almost cleared out the press pit (near the speakers) with an excruciating medley of a Snoop Doggie Dogg song and Pulp's "Common People."
They should have received a noise citation. Instead, between the second and final sets, the cops hauled off some poor, anonymous queen in a spectacular costume-very "Toilette of the Gods" in a headdress made of toilet brushes and a skirt cunningly crafted of pink urinal deodorizer cakes. Her crime? An act that her costume practically demanded: She climbed atop the Port-o-Sans, creating a major photo op. In the blinding glare of a million flashbulbs, the police dragged her off the johns. A minor melée ensued as the cops roughed up the resisting queen and the crowd chanted "Let Her Go!" (to the bathroom?). She had no such luck and was dragged across the West Side Highway by our valiant men in blue.
Back on stage, the final set opened with a Laugh-In segment that featured a barrage of tasteless JFK Jr. jokes and an equally filthy medley from Bunny. Candis Cayne, in a stunning gold dress, with her hair in a huge ponytail and accompanied by a gaggle of painstakingly choreographed backup dancers, performed a very '60s go-go number to "The Man with the Golden Gun."
Heavily anticipated, Cher-a-thon featured four queens including Jesse Volt impersonating Chastity's mother; when the one lip-synching "Dark Lady" released a swarm of live butterflies from her crystal ball, the crowd went nuts. But they were distinctly underwhelmed by the act from Broadway's Saturday Night Fever, when instead of a big production number, it turned out to be one blond chick singing "If I Can't Have You." Fortunately, the girls of Lucky Cheng's showed what a real bring-down-the-house musical number was shortly afterward, and The Ones, Mona Foot's band, made the most of their nighttime slot to present "Flawless"- their possible title song from this fall's drag-themed Robert DeNiro film of the same name-in eye-catching outfits of space helmets, red Speedos and harnesses trimmed in little red lights. All in all, Wetsock was the usual rollicking good time. And the weather wasn't nearly as bad as promised; it only rained twice, and then very briefly.
by Nora Burns
Walking down Fairfax Ave. in L.A. one morning, I passed an overly made-up woman of a certain age wearing faux Gucci and a rhinestone brooch. In that less then glamorous neighborhood, the grande dame before me seemed a we bit out of place, so I intensified my scrutiny. Only then did I realize the misplaced matron was actually former New York City Drag Queen Alexis Del Lago. Now the scene made more sense. But my encounter with this apparition – the ghost of Wigstock past – got ma thinking: As this very special time of year rolls around again, I wondered, where are the early Wigstockers now?
Many are still performing at the Most Fabulous Festival Ever Held, making it an annual ritual whether or not the rest of their year includes Max Faxtor, while for others, Wigstock has become a pilgrimage of the past. It seems most everyone who topped a toupee’ on the many well-worn stages of Wigstock is still carrying on creatively somewhere or another. The Lady Bunny, of course, still puts the whole drag marathon together every year. Ebony Jett is touring with RENT. Perfidia, after caring for coifs for years, is now DJ’ing and doing shows in the Asian Rim. Glamamore and Anaconda have moved on to San Francisco. Princess Diandra and Sister Cody Ravioli are frequently drunk and disorderly at Lucky Chengs. Paige was at Jackie 60 last week looking as lovely as ever, ‘till she decided to weave the cotton batting from her bra into her mohawk. And when not strolling Fairfax, Alexis Del Lago is sewing up bundles of beaded gowns in her lushly decorated L.A. pad.
I caught up with a few of the festivals’ fine-feathered fixtures to see what they’re up to now and reminisce about Wigstock’s early years.
Best known for: Mouthing songs and priceless snippets of dialogue from campy films as his classic creation, Lypsinka
What’s he up to now: “I just finished doing a play, Messages for Gary [As part of the Fringe Festival], to prove I can perform out of drag, but I’m also thinking of doing a full length Lypsinka show again.”
His first Wigstock: “Lady Bunny called me one day to say they were doing an outdoor drag show, and I jumped at the chance. I had a huge wig, which was made of 10 wigs, and I did a Judy Canova song. The most exciting thing was that there were lots of cameras. I was much less self conscious then about how I looked in daylight.”
A Favorite Wigstock memory: “The second year there were even more cameras and I would just stand on the stage and pose. I had a ridiculous dress and awful wig, and I took a friend’s newborn baby onstage and sang it the Rosemary’s Baby Theme – Lalalalalalal.
It was something. We knew we were a part of a movement, something unique. At the same time, it had an innocence to it.”
For This Year’s Show: I don’t know if I’ll do it this year. It’s hard to top myself every year.
Best Known For: Channeling Billie Holiday
What’s He Up To Now?: I’m currently doing some films. A recording project with (designer) Thierry Mugler, my show at Bar d’O and touring.
His First Wigstock: “I started doing Wigstock the second year. The east Village was full of immigrants so I did my Justine Character singing “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin.
A Favorite Wigstock Memory: “It wasn’t until Wigstock moved to Union Square when Bunny said, “do something different” that I put on a yellow chiffon dress and started doing Billie Holiday – And Lady Day came alive! I had
performed with my band, Mermaids On Heroin, but I hadn’t performed in full on drag before that.
For This Year’s Show: “I’m touring now, but I’ll be here to do Wigstock. I do it every year, it’s a tradition.”
Best Known For: Kasten was the mastermind behind The Boy Bar Beauties. Along with Pyramid, Boy Bar was the primary breeding ground for the late 80’s East Village drag explosion the fueled Wigstock.
What He’s Up To Now: Currently living in LA with video genius Len Whitney and doing hair for film and TV, Kasten was just nominated for an Emmy for his work on MAD-TV.
His First Wigstock:”The Boy Bar Queens started doing Wigstock the second or third year. We did huge production numbers to get everyone in, and we did things like ‘Afternoon Delight’ to stay with the happy, daytime theme.”
A Favorite Wigstock Memory: “My big memory was Shannon , Diandra and Glamamore dressed as republican women from Nashville with Hair 4 feet-tall, singing a medley of American folk songs. But the best part was getting ready at Boy Bar. One time it was so hot, I had Jackie in the walk-in freezer while I did her hair. They would open up the bar and everyone would get fucked up, so the best part was the walk to [Thomkins Square] Park. Wigstock was OUR day, that was it. It wasn’t a competition; it was fun, funny and daft.”
Best Known For: Reading other queens to filth as that sassy linebacker in a dress. Mona Foot, longtime host of Starsearch at Crowbar and Barracuda.
What’s He Up To Now?: Hosting Faggot Fued as Mona every Wednesday at Blu and appearing in Joel Schumacher’s “Flawless” with Robert De Niro this fall.
His First Wigstock: ‘My first Wigstock was in ’89 with The Boy Bar Beauties. I did Aretha and my look was a very blonde beehive; my drag has gotten younger as I have gotten older.”
A Favorite Wigstock Memory: “ My Favorite Wigstock was doing Wonderwoman [in 1992] I’ve always loved superheroes, so it was everything I’ve ever wanted to do.”
For This Year’s Show: ‘This year I’m not doing drag at Wigstock because I’ll be performing with my group ‘The Ones’, which is Jojo, Paul Alexander and me. We’re doing our single that’s coming out in November called Flawless, I thought “I need to work this’ Joel Schumacher said we could submit songs for the soundtrack, so Paul and I wrote the lyrics and then got Jojo. We’re a good team. We’re doing a cyber sex look –buy guy.”
Best Known For: The accomplished performance artist closes every Wigstock as Joni Mitchell.
What He’s Up To Now: “I’ve been performing in P-Town all summer, and I just got a part in the musical version of The Dead, starring Christopher Walkin and Blair Brown; I’m playing the tenor.”
His First Wigstock: “I was at the first one. I’d always wanted to sing as Joni, so I thought this would be the perfect place. I’ve done every year except one. It’s my only connection with a certain strata of gay culture that only sees me at this one thing.”
A Favorite Wigstock Memory: “Since I always close the show, A couple of times when it’s running late, it’s come down to Bunny telling the cops she’ll give them a blow job if they’ll let us go on.”
For This Year’s Show: Joni.