A couple of weeks ago, TGForum ran a brief mention about Lady Bunny’s new cabaret show That Ain’t No Lady at New York City’s La Escuelita Cabaret Theater. Since she was one of the first artists to be featured in this column, I thought it was time to catch up, especially since she has a new project that’s been getting great reviews. So, for your dining and dancing pleasure, Transvocalizers is more than pleased to have been able to interview a true legend as our first installment for 2012. She of course talks about the show, and also offers some very interesting insights into reality TV and the New York City drag scene.
(Author’s Note: In the original TGForum item about Lady Bunny’s new show, there was a link to an article posted on TheCelebrityCafe.com, written by Amanda Thambounaris. I’m mentioning it here because the article is referenced a few times during the interview.)
TGForum: So, congratulations on the new show. How long will you be performing at La Escuellita?
Lady Bunny: The run is indefinite. So far, we’re selling tickets through the end of January. We stared every Tuesday in October and then went on to November and then December. We got a great review in the New York Times.
Hey, I sing for my supper, and you can look at me and tell that I like to eat. So I’ll be singing as long as they’re buying tickets. Especially in the lean months of January and February. That’s a time when traditionally, no one is hiring.
TGForum: You said in the article I read from TheCelebrityCafe.com, that you “…need to reassert yourself…” and that “…sometimes I feel unrepresented…” What do you mean by those statements?
Lady Bunny: What I say in the show is that I perform a lot around the country at Gay Pride events where it’s always stressed that the diversity within the community is what is represented. But you know, I don’t often feel that I’m represented. In New York, the Gay Pride committee has never asked me to do one thing. I was basically making a partial joke that I’m unrepresented as a comedian who relishes raunchy material. I don’t care two hoots about being politically correct. I have a very different agenda from the gay agenda of wanting gays to serve in the military and wanting gays to get married, which is not at the top of my priority list. I like to tell the type of jokes that people laugh at in private, but I tell them in public without shame, because they are funny. Sometimes feathers get ruffled, but let them. I’m an adult. I’m not bound by needing to feel politically correct.
There are queens doing Broadway. There are queens doing artsy stuff. I don’t see many of the queens doing the good old fashioned raunchy material that I grew up watching drag queens down south do.
TGForum: How do you classify yourself, primarily a singer or primarily a comedian?
TGForum: You also made a statement about audiences having short attention spans. Does stuff like seeing audience members texting during a show drive you nuts?
Lady Bunny: Well, yes. I’ll give you a couple of examples. When Britney Spears’ song 3 came out about two years ago, people would come up and they would have programmed the number three to show up on their smart phones, and they would hold it up in my face. I had absolutely no idea what they were doing.
Do I seem unapproachable? How dare you shove a machine in my face with what you want. How dare you be so rude as to use this device to communicate with me what you want. Please, a little courtesy goes a long way. That’s one example of people in clubs with devices.
I went to the Studio 54 reunion party, and there were some people on the dance floor dancing, but there were more people with cell phones recording it. This is a real problem. We’ve forgotten how to party.
At Studio 54, which was about wild abandon, you weren’t sitting thinking, ‘Oh, how can I document this to share with my YouTube channel or Facebook friends?’ You were in the moment, partying. Now, everyone has recording devices. As a performer, I think it’s a real pity.
I went to the Lady Gaga concert, and everyone was holding up cell phones recording it, then they put it on YouTube. When Lady Gaga goes to the next city on her tour, well, the crowd’s already seen all of the pyrotechnics. It really cheapens what the performer that you supposedly love is trying to do. She’s spent a fortune on pyro, dancers, and lighting, and you’ve stolen that moment. You’re not filming it the way HBO did when they did a special. You’re using it to draw in friends and increase your own popularity. It’s really mixed up.
If there’s a show on, you should be focused on the performers. Have some respect for the performers.
TGForum: Do you always go for a reaction from your audience? Do you always try to engage them in some manner?
Lady Bunny: Oh, of course. You’re doing the show for the audience. If you sense that a particular crowd is not warming up to a particular part of the show, you might abbreviate it, or switch gears to see if they like something else.
TGForum: You also made the statement that the New York City drag scene is a sisterhood. Are you just trying to be nice? There has to be some fierce competition going on amongst the queens from time to time.
Lady Bunny: This is what I mean. I am on RuPaul’s Drag U, so I am part of that empire. The top three shows on LOGO are RuPaul’s Drag Race; Untucked, where the queens are given alcohol and are encouraged to recap what went on during the show and insult each other; the third one is Drag U.
Like other reality shows — Jersey Shore, Real Housewives — bad behavior is rewarded. Wig snatching cat fights are considered ratings gold.
At one point, someone was considering a reality show about New York City drag queens. They taped a pilot with me and the one queen in NYC who I don’t really get along with. We can work together, but we’ll never have Thanksgiving dinner together. They had cast us because they had hoped we’d have a fight. Well, we didn’t. At one point, the producer came up to us and said, ‘I can’t sell a drag queen reality show filled with kumbaya moments. Can you get into a fight?’ This queen and I said, hey . . . are you woman enough? If we don’t give ‘em a fight, then we’ve wasted everyone’s time, all of the 15 queens who were involved. We pretended to be sore at each other and had a fight. They said . . . can we try it one more time? Cat fights sell reality shows. Just goes to show that reality shows aren’t real.
In New York City, I have always found . . . of course there will be some rivalries because drag queens tend to be very territorial. But basically, the queen(s) who I encounter on the scene, many of them . . . we feel we’re all in the same boat. We ARE sisters. Rather than stab each other in the back, we’re more likely to alert each other that, hey . . . this club stiffed me and didn’t pay me.
There are those queens who feel that to be successful, they have to claw the other queens out of the way. Most of us do not feel that way. Most of us feel that we have our own thing and we do it in our own way . . . and that we are sisters. Most of my friends are drag queens, and I don’t really feel all that cattiness.
TGForum: Okay, let’s talk a bit more about your new show. What kind of audience response have you been getting?
Lady Bunny: I wouldn’t have extended it if I was losing money, so I would say a terrific response. We were sold out this last Tuesday, so the response has been great. My material is very raunchy, and there are some parts of it that might make some people a little uncomfortable. I have a series of jokes about Amy Winehouse. Well, she died, and some people might think it grossly insensitive, but I wanted to include it in the show as a tribute, in my own demented way. I was a huge fan.
TGForum: Any final thoughts in closing?
Lady Bunny: This is my first, full-length cabaret show in ten years. You might want to catch it.
(Photos of Lady Bunny by Aaron Cobbett.)
ALSO THIS MONTH
Storm Miguel Florez has been in pre-production for his first video. “It’s for a drinking song I wrote,” he said. “It’s called I’ve Been To Manhattan, which will be released as a single this spring.” According to Florez, the video will feature “…hot trans and queer zombies, and a few non-zombie hotties as well.” Florez has also redesigned his website and has made it easier to navigate.
Calpernia Addams has several new YouTube videos. One very unique one is for what she calls The Hover Balcony. A very original idea, done in a sort of old fashioned news reel format. There’s new music from Cal as well, which can be accessed on YouTube, Soundcloud, and through her website. Hopefully, we’ll have a brief interview with Calpernia in the coming months.
I also received this from Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes: “This holiday season began with Glen and I getting married in NYC on Halloween at the NYC Halloween Parade. We are grateful for all that happened in our lives this year, and very grateful for you. Thanks for all the love and support you have shown us this year with my musical endeavors and our classes and worship services. We will be offering many new projects in the coming year. Please stay tuned for updates.”
AND A BRIEF REVIEW
17 years ago, Blige released her breakthrough project, My Life. Now, an older and wiser Blige has released the follow up project. The album’s first single, 25/8, the album’s best produced moment, was released last August. While roughly half the album is hip-hop drenched, danceable material, this tune looks back for a more classic R&B feel. Other cuts that manage to find that same groove are Don’t Mind and No Condition.
Blige’s voice is best on many of the more laid back moments such as Empty Prayer, along with Love A Woman (which is a duet with Beyoncé). Two songs in particular that really stand out, basically because I didn’t expect to hear this kind of music from Blige, are the truly beautiful ballads Need Someone and The Living Proof.
Mary J. Blige is credited as executive producer, with the album project itself being produced by Kendu Isaacs. You’ll have to check the CD liner credits for individual track production and musician credits. Visit her website for more info.