Today’s enterprising young drag queens exist mainly to appear on HBO, host their own nights at Times Square comedy clubs, or be interviewed in the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. They have agents, cell phones, trainers, and pension plans. On the nightlife scene, I sometimes feel like a ringmaster without a circus, but fortunately, they all crawl back on kneepads whenever there’s a chance to accept—or even present some kind of award. I show up too, still feeling that, for every overpublicized Moomba or Canteen filled with “real” women who vomit their food, I need to further promote the healthy gender pretenders, the ones who hold their meals—and penises—down with alacrity.
The strappers and tuckers all came together at the Glammy Awards at Life, a drag celebration that was so fab and all-encompassing I think it’s still going on. But let’s catch up with the Best Alternative Artist nominee who was cool enough to not even show up—a shocking new drag-phenom twist named *BOB*. This little lady is a female drag queen—a woman who feels she’s a man dressed as a woman—sort of like Tammy Faye Bakker meets Camryn Manheim via Richard Simmons. *BOB*, who grew up on a farm in California, told me she started being a “female female impersonator” at the tender age of 19. She actually wanted to be a drag queen, “but all my friends told me I couldn’t be, so I thought about having a sex change.” That would have made her a female-to-male transsexual who would then dress as a woman—”a little too complicated,” as even *BOB* admits. Well, does this singular creature now feel like a drag queen trapped in a female body? “I’m a girl?” she responds. Heck, whatever she is, *BOB*’s raucous act consists of her doing topless aerobics while eating cheeseburgers in six-inch heels. “But in Paris, I ate croissants,” she
I wore pumps and ate bread rolls at transsexual extraordinaire Amanda Lepore‘s birthday party at Beige, where sitcom stars like Kirstie Alley and Sharon Lawrence were mysteriously running around, along with shimmying belly dancers and a porn actor who gushed about his starring feature, When Bottoms Attack. In between doing impressions of Christopher Ciccone, performer David Ilku told me he’s on top, writing a musical movie script with photographer David LaChapelle. Just then, house drag Sugar wrote her own musical, leaping onto a fake palm tree and snapping off a frond, over the strains of Shirley Bassey‘s version of “Light My Fire.” The crowd burst into wild applause, but LaChapelle balked, “She’s too much! Amanda doesn’t try to get attention like that. She just sits there.” Yeah—naked, usually. LaChapelle added that Amanda told him she
became very focused and quiet the moment she had her dick chopped off. (I’d be screaming, myself.)
Finally, Amanda—not pronounced “A man, duh”—walked in, wearing a see-through flesh-colored gown with individually applied rhinestones and everything hanging out. She was focused and quiet and even slightly clothed, and you could practically see the chop marks. She was gorgeous. Days later, Amanda told me she hadn’t invited Kirstie Alley—”She would have eaten everything!”—but the belly dancers were planned, “and as you got drunker, they looked much better.” I’m going to have to start drinking again.
And stop gagging on my popcorn. Not to trash Flawless another time, but the self-loathing in that gender-bender epic runs so deep that I’d be extremely flawed if I didn’t. First of all—and don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film—not only does the “lonely and ugly” Philip Seymour Hoffman character have a violent, married boyfriend, but his friend and mother both die within the span of the film, making him the quintessential trannie as victim. What’s more, transvestism Hollywood-style amounts to a sexual dead end (unless you want a violent, married boyfriend). The cross-dressers drool over the straight pizza boy and older hetero stroke victim Robert De Niro (who’s bizarrely hit on by both the drag queen and the pretty girl from Rent), but none of these kooks get any nookie in
return—and believe me, honey, the real-life New York drag queens juggle hot boyfriends by the thousand. The movie does elevate the queens through feats of heroism, but you leave feeling the whole thing was more pro-cliché than pro-gay.
You want your stereotypes in stereo? Well, while shopping for garish Christmas tchotchkes to give to people I hate—what does this have to do with the sacred birth of the Christ child anyway?—I caught the talk-(and Talk)-themed Barneys windows, one of which sports pictures of various black celebrities along with the heading “Jibe Talk.” I guess that’s a slightly softer version of jive talk, but the idea still seems
patronizing, especially since the visuals suggest that any African American celeb qualifies for this dubious honor, from Aretha Franklin to Stevie Wonder! Barneys, you’re the jibe talkers.
It didn’t take bribe talk to get me to the Hetrick-Martin Institute’s 20th-anniversary dinner, a heartfelt celebration of the work they do protecting gay youths, though after all the videos and speeches about how the tortured kids would rather be “normal,” I wish someone had said, “But it is really fabulous to be gay!” This crowd would probably love Flawless, but it was the star of another sexuality tragedy—Boys Don’t Cry‘s powerful Hilary Swank—who MC’d, and turned out to look downright starletty; more Cindy Crawford than Rande Gerber. “I cut my hair off, strapped my breast, put a sock in my pants, and lowered my voice,” said Swank, “and I was treated differently.” I’m going to try it. When Swank got back from the bathroom, I smirkily asked if she’d been to the men’s or women’s. “Women’s, this time,” she said, smiling. Come on, give the enchantress credit for handling a rotten joke with some class.
AmFAR’s Seasons of Hope dinner tossed its
own dark mirth into the urgency stew. Billy Crystal, presenting an award to Robin Williams, said, “In his next movie, Robin plays a robot who’s trying to
become more human. It’s the Al Gore story.” Williams remarked, “George W. Bush talked to the NRA, but not to gay Republicans, so if you’re a gay Republican, it really has to be a pistol in your pocket if you want to speak to him.” And comic Kate Clinton deadpanned, “I look at the presidential candidates and I say, ‘I see dead people.’ ”
I saw live people in Marie Christine, that Creole update of the original Lady Marmalade, Medea, and my token cultural act of the year. The show isn’t
perfect—in fact, the usually amazing Audra McDonald seems dramatically tentative—but the artistry of the score and presentation are stunning, and one mustn’t scoff at that nearly extinct creature, an original musical with an actual vision. The critics seem pissed that there are no hummable tunes, but this creation is so elevated it doesn’t stoop to archetypal showstopping numbers. Even the infanticide is done offstage.
Finally, on a slightly less tragic diva note, Chilli—that female female from TLC—was shopping at Victoria’s Secret, but had to be helped out by a friend when her credit card was declined. I guess TLC stands for Too Little Credit, tee hee.