Tuck and Cover: The History of the Punk Rock Drag Queen part 2 – Ever Upward oh Freak of Nature!

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Hello and welcome to Part 2 of Tuck and Cover – this time focusing on BOOB, RuPaul and the U-Hauls and the enigmatic Vaginal Davis. Shall we begin…

As Punk Rock, Glitter and Glam turned evermore toward the bloating commerciality of excess, and disco’s star waned, the subterranean world of the drag queen once again reappeared to attack the mainstream in America with the brash approach of Warholian NYC club kids. Led by the ever-charming yet psychotic Michael Alig, who spiralled ever closer to the edge of sanity, those who were truly creative within the scene were sporting looks that influenced the fashionistas as well as burgeoning rockstars and booking appearances on the cat walks of major runway events. Walt Paper, also known as Walt Cassidy, formed the art punk troupe BOOB with fellow club kid superstars, Desi Monster and Loxanna. Sick and tired of the jeans and t-shirt crowd that had invaded their native New York, BOOB sought to attack the complacency of the rock scene in America by harnessing extreme visuals, abrassive sonic structures and marrying them with experimental films and lyrics.

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The bands shows were exotic and caught the attention of a number of small time rockstars who would later adopt the images they had been witness to and claim them for their own – making a larger name for themselves in the process. It was during a showcase at Disco 2000, Alig’s famed club based in the Limelight, that Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids were first introduced to Paper and his partners in crime. A few years later Manson, who had dropped the Spooky Kids tag line, could be seen sporting Walt’s signature modern primitive look as were many of his band members.

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Unfortunately for BOOB, as Giuliani cracked down on what he saw as the obscenity of club culture and deviant nightlife taking hold of New York city, groups such as theirs found themselves with fewer venues to play and an even more restrictive and moralistic attitude towards drag monsters thanks to Aligs antics. BOOB disbanded in a bit of a haze leaving a void behind them in New York nightlife and only recently saw any recognition for their contribution in the form of an exhibition of archived material thanks to the invisible exports and Big Screen Plaza. Hopefully a much coveted CD and DVD will be released of their performances, as the surviving footage from NYC docs such as Freaks and Glam Gods by Ryan Island and the tracks uploaded to their myspace/youtube accounts are incredible. Insanely weird and wonderful, BOOB should never be discounted!

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Forging ahead following the demise of the club kids, was  the Atlanta expatriate RuPaul. Have y’all head o’her now? Yeah thought that name would ring a bell, and what a bell to ring! Drag supermodel of the world and reigning queen of the world of drag – a queen who has been able to conquer America and beyond with her positive attitude and glam fish aesthetic. She who did the impossible and broke conservative America! But what of the early years and what of Ms. Pauls punk past….

Wee Wee Pole featuring RuPaul and the U-Hauls was the Atlanta based project that allowed Ru to cut her teeth on the stage. The new wave and punk clubs of the eighties played host to their unique brand of stage show often featuring a predominantly nude RuPaul howling and prancing amongst the audience. Wee Wee Pole made use of typical post-punk devices; spiky guitars, primitive beats and lo-fi electronics though these were blended with a funk and soul edge which garnered enough attention to earn them spots supporting the Now Explosion and showcases in New York where RuPaul, alongside fellow Atlantan and music star Larry Tee really broke into their own. Have a listen to the groups surviving record, Tarzan here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tQvf4E3Y00

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As RuPaul stood, transformed into the glamazon we know her as today, image completed with her ’93 break through hit Supermodel (You’d Better Work), the underground was stirring once again and as unhappy teenagers angry with society erupted into grunges pessimistic fury, a new subculture was emerging. Queercore, the punk movement which sought to raise the profile of LGBT persons and their experiences outside of the typical environments and imagery associated with consumer gay lifestyle. Heading up this movement were Fifth Column and the zine JD’s, the brain child of Column drummer and film maker GB Jones and Caroline Azar along with soon to be (not so) reluctant pornographer, Bruce LaBruce. However, Queercore also owed a huge amount to the relentless talent of one lady in particular who has been know to raise more than just an eyebrow in her day, a lady known as Vaginal Davis!

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Ms Davis, AKA Vaginal Creme Davis, AKA Graciela et al… first made her name in the queer and punk zine communities of LA and Canada in the eighties with her xeroxed efforts, Fertile Latoyah Jackson, which amongst other things provided a spotlight for local bands, Ms. Davis’ inner thought processes and within the confines of the zines supplement, Shrimp, discuss the finer points of foot fetishism. VCD would regularly collaborate with BLaB and GB and fast became a stalwart of the burgeoning subculture and its associated movement, Riot Grrrl. In fact, if you listen to the Le Tigre song Hot Topic, you can hear Davis being name-checked. But let’s talk actual music! VCD began her career with the Afro Sisters, a post-punk acapella performance troupe that staged performances inspired by communism and rebellion against white supremacy – their now infamous ‘We’re Taking Over’ show featured the group claiming themselves to be the Sexualese Liberation Front who sought to overthrow the white corporate heads of state and violate them with gigantic black dildos. Somehow this managed to upset and unnerve even the punk crowds.

Following the demise of the Afro Sisters, Davis developed the seminal queercore group Black Fag, as well as Pedro, Muriel and Esther and later, with Alice Bag of 70’s punk progenitors; the Bags, Cholita! The Female Menudo! VCD’s punk-rock credentials not only overflow, they flood the plain! If you’d like to have a listen to some of the Cholita tracks which are currently out of print to purchase, you can head over to Alice Bag’s website at http://alicebag.com/media.html

VCD’s musical projects typically erred towards the sound exemplified by californian punk rock; brash loud guitars and pummeling drums. Davis’ vocal stylings varied from shrieks to spoken word to a tuneful catterwauling  – I generally prefer to call it wonderful! Listen to Chinga tu Madre on the link above and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Davis left LA around 5 years ago and headed for the urban art mecca, Berlin where she has become an art lecturer who tours regularly as well as a member of the art collective CHEAP. Davis has been credited along with Kembra Pfahler of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, for helping create the arts movement known as Availabalism – using that which is at hand and readily available (hense the name) to create works of artistic significance. Davis is a well-respected author, performance artist and journalist and continues to host events, perform and sing with various musical projects as well. You can look up her website here: www.vaginaldavis.com/

Thanks for reading darlings, more to come soon

Drag on!

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