Hamburger Mary’s is celebrating their first anniversary in a big way - with some help from one of the best and funniest drag queens in the business. The hilariously irreverent Lady Bunny, known for her high hair, her hilarious parody songs (such as Like a Cheesestick (Like a G6), and her appearances in film (Wigstock, To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar) and her role on TV as Dean of Drag on RuPaul’s Drag U is headlining the celebration.
I spoke with Lady Bunny about her St. Louis appearance, her career, her friendship with RuPaul and her thoughts on drag’s staying power in mainstream society.
Are you excited to be in St. Louis for the one year anniversary of Hamburger Mary’s?
I am. I’ve always had a blast in St. Louis and have very fond memories of working at Faces with [in low, raspy voice] Petrina Marie. But I’m guessing you pretty much know all the queens that have been on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Oh yes, and I’ve been a fan of yours for quite some time.
Well how can that be if I’m new on the scene? Wink, wink. [Laughs]
Um...yes...you just debuted on the scene with Drag U a couple years ago. [Laughs]
Exactly! I’m fresh.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Wigstock: The Movie really introduced America to drag. Paris Is Burning gave us a look into the ball circuit but Wigstock really gave us a look at drag itself. What do you think of the impact that’s left - the festival and the movie?
I’m really glad the movie captured New York City at one of its most fun periods, because New York has changed a lot since then. I often joke, and a lot of people agree of me - New York City isn’t what it used to be. And I say ‘Neither am I!’ New York has become a lot more corporate, a lot more sterile and a lot more mainstream. I’m very glad the movie captured the East Village in all its funky, fabulousity in the mid ‘90s. As far as the impact - there were a lot of big drag movies from To Wong Foo to RuPaul’s career, there was Dame Edna. before that. So you know drag was having a big mainstream moment. For a while there were drag queens in every commercial, then the straight audience kind of got bored and it kind of took a dip until Drag Race renewed its popularity. So you know - drag phases in and out of mainstream acceptance, but luckily it’s pretty much a constant form of entertainment within the gay world. Gay bars typically feature either drag queens with their junk tucked between their legs or strippers with their junk hanging out. [Laughs] That’s what I’ve found. The mainstream public can they can fade in and out with their love of drag but luckily it’s still the entertainment of choice for gay bars.
I’m glad you brought the phasing in and out of mainstream acceptance of drag. What do you think of the changing face of drag with Drag Race and all the shows you’ve been doing?
I hope it has staying power because you know if Drag Race is to ostensibly find the next RuPaul, then it means one of those people have to take off. RuPaul is the queen of all media so it’s not gonna be easy to fill her shoes. I think that one thing that’s interesting to me is that there can be, and I think we’ve all seen them, queens that win RuPaul’s Drag Race who are great on camera, have a great sense of style but they’re not the best performers in a live venue. I do hear a lot of grumbling from the pageant girls who are like ‘Wow...so like...now because this person was on TV everyone’s going to their show, even though their show is not that.’ Some of the Drag Race girls are great performers! Some it’s typical of what you would see in your own town already. There’s already 10 girls lip-syncing to Rihanna, already 10 girls lip-syncing to Beyonce, to Pink, etc, etc. I say mix it all up, and let the show bring out all different kind of talents. From Tammie Brown whose vibe is out of her mind, to people like Sharon Needles who are very edgy, intelligent and political and then just good old-fashioned showgirls like Chad Michaels. I think it was smart for them to have the last two winners in a row,Sharon Needles and Chad Michaels, the breadth of the kind of drag that Drag Race is offering.
Let’s talk a little bit about you - you’re an accomplished queen, DJ and parody artist. Parodywise, where does some of your best material come from? I’ve noticed you take the best songs of today and have it do something with food, sex or both.
Since I DJ, I will be aware of which songs people are really loving on the dance floor. Obviously to do a parody, it’s gonna work better if people know the original words to a song. You can’t do a parody to a song no one knows, no one will get it. So I find out which songs are popular enough to make a parody. Frankly I’ve just got a filthy mind and it’s always in the gutter, I can be humming a tune and start to think. I do like original music as well. RuPaul and I did a duet on his last album called “Throw Ya Hands Up” - and we did another one for his new album.
What would you say is the best thing about your friendship with RuPaul?
We worked together on Starbooty, his blaxploitation movie and then we worked together on Another Gay Sequel-Gays Gone Wild! and all our scenes were together. We’ve never grown up apart, but he moved to L.A., and we were in constant touch. But I think sharing so much time shooting Another Gay Sequel kind of reminded us we both have a similar twisted sense of humor and got a kick out of each other. And I have to say, taping Drag U has been so much fun for me because I’m not the best with hair and makeup. I told them, ‘If I’m gonna be judging anyone on HDTV, I need a hair and makeup team. Because I can’t paint like those Drag Race girls, no way in hell.’ If you’re in a nightclub, you can be wearing something made out of sequins held together by safety pins. The audience is drunk, you’re moving and no one can clock it. But if you’re on national TV, everything from the shoe to the dress has good news. It makes me improve. Those Drag Race girls can even top me about contouring, I’m always a bit of tomboy because I don’t sew a wink and I don’t do makeup. I’m basically just an idiot. [Laughs]
Lastly, you’re really known for your larger than life hairdos and wigs. How do you get your hair so high?
Like all other queens, I pile wigs on top of each other. Some make their wigs bigger with tracks but I do it with wigs. I pin them together and strap them, because I don’t like that super teased look where you can see through. It’s like a big tall shape and you can see right through it. That look always suggests balding grandmother...and when I wanna suggest a grandmother I have my face for that. I have my face and I have my diapers. If I could change one thing about myself it would be my diapers! [Laughs] v
Lady Bunny will be headlining Hamburger Mary’s anniversary celebration, joining the Friday and Saturday night show cast on January 18 and 19. There is no cover, but preferred seating is available for $10. The cabaret room in Mary’s Attic will boast a VIP party approximately two hours prior to each “Dining With the Divas” show. A $20 entry fee includes a meet & greet with Lady Bunny, drink tickets, and a chance to win two tickets to Lady Gaga’s February concert. DJ Jimmy No Show will be spinning for this private event. Proceeds will benefit P.A.W.S on Friday and Pride St. Louis on Saturday.
By MATT JAMIESON – STAFF WRITER
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