Swamp Thing… I think I Love You! Talking Toxic with HOKU MAMA SWAMP!

Our latest installment of Talk Toxic focuses on one of the finest faux queens in the biz – a woman with more charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent than your average RPDR favourite. The Hawaiian punch, known, as HOKU MAMA SWAMP!

 

Dis) Let’s get a little background, how did the vision that is Hoku Mama Swamp begin?

Hoku) The creation and evolution of “Hoku Mama Swamp” has many roots and influences. I’ve always been a performer. I did a lot of musical theater as a kid and teen. I would put on shows for just about anyone who was willing to indulge me… family members, my piano teacher Mercedes, Cha Chi the lunch lady etc…I think it has something to do with being the youngest of four children, I was a glutton for attention!

In high school in the late 90’s, I borrowed my older sister’s ID and snuck into parties like “Cherry” and “Make-up” in Hollywood, where I first saw the likes of Russel, Mz. Alana, Big Momma, Jackie Beat and Candis Cayne. I fell in love with drag, and a few drag queens too (I like a man in a dress, what can I say)! They were talented, funny, clever, smart, brave, unapologetic, fierce, and often times gorgeous! I’ve just always had a deep respect for what they do. It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in 2000 however, and later saw an amazing performance by Fauxnique at Trannyshack that I realized I could (and wanted), to do it too! I had heard many drag queens describe what they do as “honoring” women they admire, so, if drag queens were paying homage to women, I wanted to pay homage to drag queens. It was sort of going to be my way of saying thank you. Also, it just looked really really fun! So, I spent a lot of time doing my drag homework (Stonewall, Wigstock, The Cockettes, Klubstitute, The Queen, Paris is Burning, Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, Trannyshack, Til Fridays, Marlena’s, Finnocios, Drag Strip 66, Leigh Bowery, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Boy Bar Beauties, The Fishtix, Glamamore, Juanita MORE!, International Chrysis, Nelson Sullivan archives etc etc etc) and performed for the fist time at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge in 2003.

Photo by Austin Young

Photo by Austin Young

D) Your makeup style blends a childlike quality with exaggerated and aggressive or theatrical imagery – What inspires this mash-up maquillage?

H) My makeup came about for a couple of reasons. Being female, I felt I needed a face that would “twist” drag makeup in the same way that my gender was a “twist” to drag performance, if that makes sense? I felt like “girly”or “fishy” makeup on me was going to be redundant. Also, I’m attracted to bold, dramatic, and graphic shapes and colors. I tend to see things in black and white, I don’t always find the grey, therefore, I’ve never been into blending and pastels, it takes a skill and sensibility that I don’t posses. I needed a makeup I could execute on my own, that was simple yet bold. I played around with many looks during my club kid kinda phase, but found the lashes pretty early on and stuck with them. I liked looking a little cartoon/clown/doll like.
Personally, I’m pretty vanilla. I was a girl scout, I was an honor student, I didn’t drink or experiment with drugs or sex until college… I drive the speed limit… I mean seriously, bring a book! So I really appreciate the childlike innocence of that face in juxtaposition to some of the filthy songs I perform and the skimpy costumes I wear. It’s a mask, but it still represents a piece of the everyday me, even if I am humping a trash can!

D) Performances veer wildly from strip tease and over-sexualised hip-hop to Elizabethan disco revenge fantasies – How do you plan your routines and where do you derive your inspiration from?

H) I really appreciate celebrating the ridiculous in life. I like the idea of “living the dream” no matter how bizarre or tragic that dream may be. Take the ‘Peter Pan Man’ for example. A grown man who dresses like Peter Pan at every opportunity and who releases pretty awful (yet amazing) music recordings of himself singing songs about pixie dust and faeries. It’s weird, almost creepy in a way, but it’s also totally awesome! It makes him happy and it entertains me to no end. (http://pixyland.org/peterpan/ ) I love Mariah Carey because I think she’s in on her own joke, and that makes me happy. I like being a parody of her parody. I like satire. I like camp. I like politically incorrect. I like making people uncomfortable sometimes in hopes that maybe it will help them to eventually feel more comfortable. I do things that make ME uncomfortable, in hopes that I will eventually feel more comfortable. I like shock value. I like downright stupid in the most brilliant way. I LOVE RETARDED. I honestly perform songs that are a celebration/triumph of some kind for me. I perform songs that I love. The inspiration usually comes from turning something on it’s head and making a joke of some kind, and usually the joke has some kind of social or cultural commentary buried beneath. I take my clothes off a lot because we live in a culture obsessed with being super thin and which uses sex and primarily the sexuality of women to sell stuff. I like to use my size and nakedness as a way of saying “fuck you” to that ideology. Because I’m not model thin I’m not sexy? I can’t sell sex? Watch me… and I’ll do it in an over the top, retarded, almost grotesque way, and it will STILL be sexy. Eat it! It’s basically like starting off as the butt of a joke, but ending up on the other side of it. I love doing that!

D) As a faux queen you occupy a unique space within contemporary drag as you have been embraced by the outsider or alternative drag community as well as the mainstream gay and straight audiences. How has being a ‘biological woman’ impacted on your performance

H) I don’t feel like being female has ever been too much of a big deal, either positive or negative, in my experience of the drag world. I think that is largely due to the fact that I did most of my performing in the magical city of San Francisco. San Francisco drag connoisseurs are often other artists and performers who care mostly about the performance itself and little else. There aren’t many “rules” to follow. You can have three heads, one arm, a hunch back, and look like Barney Rubble in a dress but tear the house down with a great performance and San Francisco will love you. The performance is THE most important thing- over looks, gender, or anything else. If you’re a good performer, you’re a good performer. Period. I’ve always believed that, and so I try to give performances that audiences will enjoy so much that they don’t give much thought to my having a vagina. So far so good, I’ve always felt accepted and treated equally by both other performers and the audiences we perform for. Also, I’m not necessarily a pioneer. There were great faux queens before me that paved the way and gave us validity before I came along… Sweet Pam, Ana Matronic, Patty O’Furniture, Windy Plains, Crickett Bardot, Dea Dazzler… Fauxnique caused quite a controversy when she won Miss Trannyshack in 2003, but people couldn’t deny that she absolutely deserved it and that she’s an amazing performer!!! I wouldn’t be here with out them.

Fancy a Soak?

D) You have shared the stage with an incredible variety of performers including Midnight Mass hostess and creator ‘Peaches Christ’ as well as Trannyshack founder, Heklina. What has been your favourite collaborative effort so far?

H) That is very difficult to answer because I’ve enjoyed it all. The Trannyshack Kiss of party with Heklina was one of the greatest nights in my drag life. I’m so lucky and happy to have been a part of it. Working with Juanita MORE! and Glamamore over the years has taught me more about drag, friendship, and just life in general than I ever would have imagined. The house of MORE is EVERYTHING to me. Working with all the girls at Aunt Charlie’s was a huge honor and dream come true. That bar was my second home for a long time and those girls were my family. Cockateila, Holotta Tymes, and Suppositori Spelling introduced me to the truly retarded and hysterical side of drag…and working with them is always madly inspiring and great great fun. Peaches Christ and I also have a special relationship. She invited me into the Midnight Mass Players as a young and rotten baby queen and I had the time of my life. Drag Queen roller derby, mother daughter mud wrestling, this was all the kind of stuff my dreams were made of! I made a scene one night… a giant hot mess of a scene, and really offended her and pissed her off. We had a mini feud for a little while. She sent me threatening emails which stated “You’re swimming with sharks” and I sent her cards that said things like “There’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you.” It was super dramatic and hilarious, though I was the only one laughing about it at the time… but today we can both laugh about it. I was young and obnoxious… she was old and tired (totally just kidding). Peaches is truly one of my favorite people ever. I love her and respect her endlessly. I’m thankful that she gave me a second chance and got to know me once the brat phase was over. Love you Ghoul! I’m really lucky to have worked with so many different and wonderful people in San Francisco. They’ve all shared their knowledge and talent with me and I’m grateful for them all.

Photo by Austin Young

Photo by Austin Young

D) What makes a great performance for you?

H) A great performance in my opinion is one in which you make people feel something. You take them on some kind of ride or journey. You tell a story. You make it “believable” and the audience connects with you. It’s genuine. It’s done with your audience in mind and not just some form of selfish masturbation or a direct remake of someone else’s art. And for heaven’s sake… KNOW YOUR WORDS! PLEASE! ūüôā

D) You’ve relocated from San Fran to Hawaii, what prompted your move and will you be continuing to perform on the drag circuit?

H) I moved to Hawaii a year and a half ago to help my family take care of my 80 year old Tutu (grandmother). She needed a 24 hr live in caregiver and my family asked me if I would do it. How do you say no to Grandma? You don’t. Right now she’s thriving and doing so well that she may not need me in this capacity for much longer. I definitely miss San Francisco and the drag community and hope to return soon for good. I don’t do much drag here. The scene is just different.

D) Finally, where can we catch you next?

I will be back in the city for two weeks around Halloween to DJ and perform at Some Thing, Mahogany Monday’s, Booty Call and more! So come party with me and say hi San Francisco! I miss you!

Hoku does Bag Lady

Hoku does Bag Lady

A massive thank you to Hoku for taking the time to Talk Toxic with me today! Make sure y’all get your asses to San Fran¬†and pardy hardy with her at her up coming gigs!

Bile and Bruises

Dis Charge

x

Satanic Italians, Busty ‘n’ Buxom Censor Scaring Parody and Wicked Wit – Talking Toxic with the LEGENDARY… JACKIE BEAT!

Jackie Beat. Where do I even start?! The name itself is an institution. Few queens have led (or continue to lead) a career as diverse or of such a high calibre as Ms. Beat. Whether sending up ‘Icons’ of pop culture or putting an old spin on a classic such as ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’, Jackie oozes talent and a level of comedic timing that few contemporaries could boast to match.

Her contribution to the world of drag has been immense as she has raised the bar to a higher level through multi-disciplinary projects that have effected both the mainstream gay and alternative cultures.

Jackie Beat is one of THE greatest queens of ALL TIME!

I’m going to stop gushing now, promise, after all y’all wanna read her words, not mine. So without further ado… Please, make way, for the beautiful, the legendary… JACKIE BEAT!

Photo by Austin Young

Photo by Austin Young

D) Most recently you crowd sourced funding to undergo a double hip replacement. Were you surprised by the response, or rather, did you expect the outpouring of support you received?

Jackie) Let me tell you something, asking for help was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Seriously. Allowing yourself is to be loved is not easy. And yes, I was completely shocked at how people I have never even met stepped up and helped out. I must admit, I think I worded my plea perfectly: It was part serious, part funny and I specifically said “If I have ever made you laugh please help,” and let’s be honest, I’ve made a lot of people laugh!

D) Your parody videos and songs are INFAMOUS! Hell, even the Church of Satan love you! What particularly inspires a great parody piece and what continues to draw you to revisit songs both past and present?

J) Well, I always tell people that a song parody can only be as good as the original and these new songs are IMPOSSIBLE! They are way too repetitive and poorly-structured. That’s why when I sat down to write my new show I quickly gave up on “Blurred Lines” and rewrote the Dean Martin song “That’s Amore” to be all about date rape. I know the song is ancient, but the song ended up great and people love how cheesy and old-school it is.

D) Of course, it would be remiss of me considering the previous question to avoid the incredible Madonna ‘Gimme all your Blood!’ parody. Something tells me that you aren’t hers or Lady Gaga’s greatest fan (thank god), what is it that makes you dislike them so much?

J) I don’t want to trash Madonna or Gaga — unless it’s creatively in a song or in my show. I think the best way to express my problem with them is that I can always “see the strings,” you know? I can imagine Gaga thinking, “This is weird…” as opposed to someone like Bjork who strikes me as a REAL artist who does weird things organically. I could be 100% wrong, but that’s the best way I can describe it. Also, what pisses me off most about Gaga is that she can really sing and she is very talented, but then she dumbs it all down to write a stupid song like “Judas,” which made absolutely no sense. Is it just me or are the only people who give a flying fuck about Catholicism desperate, attention-seeking pop tarts? And Madonna should send a big Thank You muffin basket to Gaga with a card that says, “Thanks for making me look good!”

D) Recently you announced the showing of a rarely screened documentary that centres on yourself, are there any plans to release this on DVD? (Editors note: I want one!)

J) There are some problems with music rights so we cannot sell it. We have discussed maybe making it something you get for free when you join my fan club or something like that. I will let everyone know as soon as we figure it all out!

'Whatever Happened to Busty Jane?'

‘Whatever Happened to Busty Jane?’

D) And what of your amazing stage show ‘Whatever Happened to Busty Jane?’, which was She-LARIOUS! I must have watched it on youtube a hundred times! You stated on your facebook account that the YT censors deemed a breach of your own copyright? Is this another project that you either plan to release on DVD or as a digital download?

J) Same problems, rights. No one really cares about a drag queen’s play in a small theater, but the moment it goes up on YouTube they notice that we used all sorts of music in between scenes and borrowed liberally from the original “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane” screenplay. And I don’t think the quality of the recording is good enough for a DVD.

Photo by Austin Young

Photo by Austin Young

D) It is worth asking at this point, about the circle of performers, writers etc. that have become synonymous with you. Mario Diaz, Selene Luna, Nadya Ginsburg, Calpernia Addams, Ross Mathews, Muffy Bolding and Austin Young. How have these relationships been cultivated and what has been their impact on your career?

J) I am blessed to be surrounded by interesting, talented people! I guess we are just drawn to each other. I am also friends with the creme de la creme of drag performers like Sherry Vine, Jimmy James, Coco Peru, Lady Bunny and Dina Martina. It’s a great support system. But people like Mario, Selene, Nadya and Muffy are what I call my “framily,” which is a family made up of friends. When you move to New York City or Hollywood to pursue your dreams, you need a circle of friends you can trust and count on.

D) You’ve been busy recently writing with Ross Mathews as well as comedy legend Joan Rivers for E!’s Fashion Police TV series, You’ve also had incredibly successful comedy solo tours and worked with the amazing Roseanne Barr – You’re career has been incredibly varied! How has your craft changed as these projects have been undertaken?

J) My goal now is to dress up in drag less and write more. And with Ross’s new show “Hello Ross” that is happening. I love performing, but at a certain age the traveling and the painting and the carrying-on is just exhausting. So now I can perform less frequently and it’s even more special that way. I have learned so much from working with legends like Roseanne and Joan. Roseanne is such a nurturing, maternal force who genuinely wants the best for her “comedy babies” like me. She was always thrilled when I did well when opening for her. Not all performers are like that, trust me. Do too well as their opening act and they get rid of you pretty quickly! Joan was like boot camp: Writing hundreds of jokes in a small amount of time, it really strengthened those muscles. I wish it had ended better with Joan. The “Fashion Police” writers are on strike right now and she says she supports us, but actions speak louder than words and it’s clear that, despite her image as a champion of the underdog, she simply cannot be bothered to get involved. Ross is amazing. His energy and positivity are infectious and I think that’s why his show will be a hit. Working with him is so much fun. We essentially get paid to laugh all day.

D) Many in the alternative scene were introduced to yourself through the electro-punk project, Dirty Sanchez. I regularly play tracks such as ‘Youth in Asia’ or ‘Fucking on the Dancefloor’ at Psychodrama (Gay alternative night club in the UK) to happy patrons. Firstly how did DS begin? Secondly, is there more to come? We’d love another album – and of course, a UK tour…

J) Like many things I do, it started out as a joke. Next thing I knew we had a record contract and were touring with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. Every kid dreams of being a rock star and there is nothing better than standing on stage and the entire audience is singing every word of a song you wrote! I wrote “Really Rich Italian Satanists” as a tongue-in-cheek homage to Dario Argento, about these people who are so wealthy that they’ve seen and done it all and the only thing exciting left to do is kill people. It was a total joke, but the kids took it all so seriously and that’s great. Mario Diaz and DJ Barbeau are both super busy like me, so it’s hard to make time for Dirty Sanchez. But we do have some new music so keep your fingers crossed!

Photo by Jose A Guzman Colon

Photo by Jose A Guzman Colon

D) Complete side-note, and not everybody might be aware of this, but you’re a keen collector of vintage clothing and apparel, I loved the pictures of that glorious Yma Sumac Kaftan you posted some time ago – to DIE for! How did this obsession begin, not just with Yma Sumac of course, but with all things vintage?

J) Back in the ’80s when punk and new wave was popular, we would never have gone to a store and bought something off a rack where there was ten more items just like it. The point was to show up to a club looking original, like no one else. And we certainly wouldn’t be caught dead wearing giant logos on our clothing. As a creative person, I just love looking through old things and putting them together in interesting new ways. I feel the same way about housewares and art and knick-knacks. I want to be surrounded by beautiful things that have a past and a story to tell. It’s just like with my friends. They are all different, not just a bunch of twentysomething muscle queens. That’s a bore to me.

D) Drag is currently undergoing a renaissance of sorts, how do you feel about Ms. Paul and the current wave of drag race contestants?

J) I appreciate all the Drag Race girls, but as Lady Bunny and I were discussing, they sure make it hard to get bookings. I do 90 minutes of live singing and comedy while some of these girls idea of a “show” is lip syncing one or two songs, but they pack the house because they’ve been on TV and everyone wants a photo with them. There are some genuinely talented ones like Jinkx, but let’s be honest, there’s a lot of “filler,” too.

Dirty Sanchez

D) As a queen who is regarded as one of the most influential in contemporary drag, what advice would you give to up and coming members of the drag scene?

J) Be an ARTIST! An artist warps and twists things. They take a song or a vision and they make it their own. Anyone can paint a face, but you know a Picasso when you see one. Anyone can lip sync a Katy Perry song, but an artist will take it further. Otherwise you may was well just be a rented clown at a children’s party. Scare people, confuse people, anger people, but please — for the love of God and the ghost of Divine — do NOT just move your lips to the latest hit song while dressed like one of the Kardashians.

D) Recently you reminisced with Sherry Vine about your stint of sleeping on her sofa for a year during the begin stages of your career. Considering all the people that you’ve worked with and what you’ve accomplished as well as (im sure) all the projects you have lined up, did you think that Drag would have opened up the doors that it did for you?

Photo by Austin Young

Photo by Austin Young

J) Never! If you had told me 20 years ago, “Guess what? You’ll be in a movie with Robert DeNiro, tour with Roseanne Barr, write jokes for Joan Rivers, travel the world and buy a big beautiful house in Los Angeles” I would have said, “You’re crazy!”

D) Finally, what is next for Jackie Beat, where can we catch you, what can we buy and what can we all be seen wearing (and where do we buy it from)?

J) Everyone should watch “Hello Ross” on E and if you want to download my world-famous sick & twisted song parodies you should visit http://www.MissJackieBeat.com

A massive thank you to Jackie for taking the time to Talk Toxic with me today, you are indeed the funniest woman in all of Hollywood and it has been an absolute pleasure!

Don’t forget, you can buy all things Jackie at her official website www.MissJackieBeat.com

Aaaaand, catch up with Jackies day to day via Frontiers magazine, here: http://www.frontiersla.com/Columns/Little-Miss-Know-It-All/home.aspx

Bloody Beauty Treatments and Twisted Torch Song: Talking Toxic with VINSANTOS DeFONTE

A dark figure has been spotted stalking the streets of San Francisco and New Orleans. A twisted marionette whose sparkly visage is capped by tangled dreadlocks and ghostly white skin. He/she sings songs of twisted brilliance – chanson that spin tales of shadowy humour with wry smiles and lush, expert instrumentation!
Dolls, keepsakes known as ‘Kreetures’ have found their way into the collections of men and women the world over. Audiences have been baffled as he seemingly performs miracles on stage – turning water into wine to the tune of popular music.

But who is this gender-bending creature of the night? And what is the secret behind his ageless beauty?

Ladies and gentlemen-women, I present to you the wonderful… Vinsantos DeFonte!

Photo shot by Austin Young

Photo shot by Austin Young

D) your style of drag blends the masculine and feminine in a theatrical yet darkly subcultural fashion. How did you develop your aesthetic?

Vinsantos) The Vinsantos character is a blend of all of my early influences dating back to my childhood. My parents were big opera freaks. Groupies, really. I was forced to attend countless performances at the War Memorial Opera House and at the same time, when children weren’t allowed, my folks would drop me off at my Grandmothers house for the weekend. She and I had a running date for years where she would make either pizza or soup, and we would stay up late to watch Creature Features, a late night horror movie series on Channel 2. This resulted in many nightmares which to date are my favourite kind of dream. As a young boy, I caught the Rock and Roll bug very early on. KISS was hands down my favourite band. In the 4th and 5th grade, my best friend and I would regularly paint our faces and rock out on our badminton air guitars. Probably the most well known version of the story is as follows… The year was 1979. It was the summer before I entered middle school. I was able to convince my father to take my friend and I to see KISS at the Cow Palace. I’m pretty sure there were tears involved. He agreed but with one condition. We all had to attend the matinee of Madame Butterfly in San Francisco before heading the concert. In a single day, I saw more comedy mixed with tragedy mixed with GLAMour mixed with over the top theatrics and a boat load of makeup. This is where the Vinsantos character was born. Deeply rooted in androgyny and theatre, heart wrenching story telling and frivolous spectacle. When you look at the¬†Vinsantos characters makeup style, you’ll notice that I borrowed my signature lips from Ace Frehley.

SilenceFiction – Lipstique (Feat. fauxnique) starring Vinsantos, Peaches Christ et al.

D) I first became aware of you in the Peaches Christ Madonna Parody, ‘Spin the Bottle’. How did you become involved with the San Fran scene?

V) I became involved in the SF scene from two very different avenues. I have always been in a band ever since I was a teenager. There are too many to mention, but probably one with the most longevity was a band called Agness. This project was heavily costumed and I often ended up drenched in stage blood. We would play anywhere from underground parties, warehouses, theatres, dive bars, and even that Thing they now call Burning Man. This was really my introduction to the freak scene that was thriving at the time in the city. Somewhere along the way, I was invited to a club called Trannyshack because I was told that it was a great place to meet cute boys. I knew that it was a Drag show, but as a musician, that didn’t really speak to me. Then I saw the show! One act after another, these performances were speaking directly to me. It was if I had found my calling, or at least one of them. I can remember seeing a “woman” named Putanesca hit the stage, rocking out to AC/DC, and thinking to myself, “I could totally do that.” Not more than a year after that, I was crowned Miss Trannyshack of the year 2000. It was through Trannyshack that I met all my best girlfriends, including the infamous Peaches Christ.

D) You’ve made some amazing short films of your own¬†that are online¬†and available to stream via YouTube;¬†’33’ for instance,¬†is HYSTERICAL! SO funny, so wonderfully punk rock. Have you got any more projects in the pipeline? What about a DVD of your collected films?

V) In the¬†early 80’s and¬†late 90’s,¬†I began to experiment with making short films. I took a few classes at a community college and ran with it. My emphasis was on Super 8 silent film narratives. At the time that I was becoming involved with the Drag scene, Peaches was also starting to make her own shorts. Along with Putanesca, she and I started a Halloween Drag weekend in Guerneville Ca called the Russian River Massacre.¬† The weekend would start off with a scary movie in the woods and end up with a big show at the local nightclub. We decided that we would each make our own horror films to present to the crowd as an added bonus. This is where 33 was developed. The weekend of the premiere, I pulled a publicity stunt gone wrong. I made up flyers of the missing children characters in the movie and pasted them all over town. It was a real inside kind of joke. As it turned out, people that weren’t on the inside, didn’t find it funny at all. They were disturbed at what they thought was the reality of these posters. Suppositori Spelling was a wrecked by it as were the towns people. Not until the movie was shown, and the same flyers appeared on screen did people get that it was just a stunt. Suppositori was especially relieved. To date, this little gem is my favorite film project of mine. I have others on various discs and tapes and even film reels. Yes, it’s on my list to compile them on to one spectacular DVD, but the truth is, I will probably be dead first and a loving fan will have to take on the project for me. Any takers?

D) You made a big move and swapped SF for New Orleans, what prompted this decision to leave? Also, how is New Orleans treating you?

V)¬†¬†About 5 years ago, our son was grown and off to college. He was headed to New York. For the first time in 18 years, I was free to move about the country and world as I pleased. My husband Gregory had lived in New Orleans as a teen for a bit and had always had a desire to move back. We had visited some years before that for a LOST weekend. There was a lot of booze involved and I remember distinctly saying as we departed from New Orleans on our plane, “I will never set foot in that fucking town ever again”¬†¬† Never Say Never. ¬† ¬† ¬†

The move has been life changing. I went from having a day job to being a full time artist. I started making and selling my visual arts. I have become not only a drag artist and a musician but also a storyteller. I have found new families both in the drag and music world. Currently I am in two troupes that have monthly shows. The Dirty Dimestore Peepshow is a Burlesque type of show where I flaunt my Drag Arts. At Freaksheaux to Geaux, I work with a band or as a solo performer and tell stories mixed with live songs. The audiences have been very welcoming as well as the performers and producers. It’s especially fun to be newer in town and reach an audience that isn’t already used to my unique and sometime tragic style of performing arts. This town definitely has it’s challenges. Growing up in a progressive city like San Francisco definitely spoils you. You just assume that the rest of the planet is as advanced and as PC as what your are accustomed too. Not the case! It’s also a lot smaller of a city than I’m used to. I think it works somewhat to my advantage in the respect that I spend most of my time focusing on my art and home life. There isn’t an amazing party to go to every night of the week, so it’s easier to focus on what’s important to me right now. Mainly making arts and being on stage often enough to stay sane. Oh, and laundry.

Courtesy of DeFonte's cousin Diane

Courtesy of DeFonte’s cousin Diane

D) You’re an extremely talented musician – your full length release, ‘Light Awake Inside’ blends Chanson with dream pop and gothic chamber music to brilliant effect! Your wry sense of humour permeates the album wonderfully – what drives you to create in this fashion and how did you get your start?

V) As a child, I was forced to take piano lessons by my parents. I¬†have always been a¬†great¬†music lover, but it seemed like a chore to me. In hindsight, it was the¬† best thing that they could have done for me artistically. That’s really where I got my musical start. I have been in bands since my teenage years. I have served as a bassist, guitarist, vocalist, producer and songwriter. Moving into adolescence, the piano was replaced by things more Rock and Roll. I didn’t re-discover the piano until much later. We were working on material for the second Agness album and really into experimenting with different instruments and sounds. I found a piano that someone was giving away on Craigslist. I moved it into my garage, and instantly fell in love. It was so familiar to me and made me feel so nostalgic. It was during this time that I wrote my first solo song, AFTER ALL. From there, more songs started to materialize, and I felt more connected to the process and it just snowballed.¬† In my later years, it just became harder and harder to have a “band.” Adults seems to have a lot of responsibilities and distractions that make it hard for a group of folks to stay focused, much less be able to all meet in one room together on a regular basis.¬†

As much as I have loved the collaborative process, especially in my two favourite projects, AGNESS and EVOLUTION RAINBOW, I found it was better for me mentally and emotionally to break out on my own. ‘A Light Awake Inside’ deals a lot with that struggle both to tell my own story and to stay connected to the people around me. I’m super sentimental and family oriented, but at the same time have always had a fascination with fame and fortune. At least the glamorous aspects of it. When I was young, and writing music, I was really less willing to let people get to know me, and my subject matter was quite ambiguous. I guess I considered it poetic. When I joined Agness, I was co-writing with my best girlfriend AGNESS TWIN and she had a real knack for being honest and telling it like it is. She’s really the one that got me to tear down the walls and just get real. From there I started to find my own voice and write based on my own experiences of love, life, success and failure. You know, human stuff. During this process, I had developed a pretty solid body of material. I was introduced to David J from Bauhaus through a mutual friend. He took an interest in what I was doing. Without his support, I’m not sure A LIGHT AWAKE INSIDE would have ever been fully fleshed out. I had never worked in a professional recording studio, or with a producer (David). He really was instrumental in guiding me through the process and helping me get my act together and organize my thoughts and material. I’m not really sure that I even knew at the time that I had it in me. I’m really proud of the work on this album, and all of the people involved. I continue to write songs here and there, when I’m feeling inspired. There will no doubt be another album or two before my time is up.

Photo courtesy of Kook Teflon

Photo courtesy of Kook Teflon

D) Kreeture New Orleans, your beautiful bespoke craft project is absolutely stunning! I love the little wonders you create and sell – how did this practice begin?

V)¬†Kreeture New Orleans began shortly after my move here. I was working in a place called the French Market which is like an open air flea market type of thing. There were other artists there selling their cool stuff and making a living¬†of it. This concept turned me on right away. I had been a mosaic artist in San Francisco for many years, so I took those skills and started making little miniature things to sell. I was almost immediately bored with it, having worked in that medium for so long. I came up with the idea of taking the broken shards of glass from my mosaic projects and creating little characters out of them and putting them in scenes around town. During that phase, I began¬†to notice shiny and rusty things littering the grounds around me. These random pieces made their way into the characters and scenes as accents. Eventually, I stopped using the glass all together and was working primarily as an assemblage artist. I would use these little porcelain Mardi Gras masks as the faces to bring the characters to life. It was pretty cute, but not exactly where I wanted it to be. Through a good friend and fellow artist, Kook Teflon, I was introduced to Sheri DeBow at a group doll show here in town. I instantly fell in love were her stuff. I never pictured myself becoming a doll maker before this. I asked her to teach me her techniques so that I could create the faces that I was seeing in my head. I spent a weekend with her at her home in Napa, Ca and it all fell into place. Now my assemblages have been brought to LIFE and I even dabble in making proper dolls as well. It’s truly addictive. I think it’s the variety of techniques in the work that keep me so engaged and inspired. It’s sculpting, painting, hair, makeup, costume design, assemblage, and overall presentation all rolled into one. To date,¬†I have created and sold literally hundreds of pieces. Custom creations are my favourite thing to work on. Clients will come to me with an idea for themselves or a loved one and let me run with it. They can also submit their own personal mementos to be featured in the piece. The most rewarding of these commissions are the MEMORIALS. My clients will put together a box of treasures from loved ones no longer with us and send them to me along with stories and photos about their dearly departed. It’s always an emotional experience and I often have to sit with the items and stories and really meditate on them until I fell compelled to take these precious items and start manipulating them into something new and beautiful. I’m not wholly superstitious, but I get the sense that I’m actually channelling these people through their collected items and histories.

Memorial piece for Phillip Wellford

Memorial piece for Phillip Wellford

D) Returning to performance, you’re hardly one to shy away from controversy! I will never forget howling with laughter at your slightly blasphemous Christ, water into wine performance. What compels your character to perform and what material resonates with you to the degree that makes you decide to construct a performance out of it?

V) As a songwriter and story teller, I draw my material from personal experiences. As a drag artist, it always starts out with the song. They just speak to me. I think after you do just one lip-synch, you start to listen to music in a different way. You are always trying to make a story out of it. Some of those stories are worth pursuing and others are just fun fantasies that fall by the wayside. I think the number one rule for me when it comes to my Drag work is that there is a story being told, no matter how subtle or conceptual. If there’s one thing I can’t stand from a performer, it would be self indulgence. You get plenty of that just being up on the stage. I like to connect with my audience and give them what they came out for. In my live performances, I like to reach people on a really personal level. In drag, there is a little of that mixed with A LOT of entertainment. Sometimes, just a gown and a wig and a great song are all I need to get my point across. Sometimes, it’s more about a specific character, like Christ that really drives the story home. As far as the turning water into wine thing, well, who doesn’t like magic?

D) Silencefiction featured yourself along with Fauxnique, Kiddie and Peaches Christ donning maquillage in the single ‘Lipstique’. How did you get involved in this?

V) The Lipstique project was created by the real life power couple of Silence Fiction aka Marc Kate and Fauxnique aka Monique Jenkinson, or as I like to call them, “the Fiercingtons.” We are all good friends and Sisters on the Scene. Shortly after they had recorded and performed the track live, they approached a few of us with this idea for the video. It was met by most of us with some trepidation. Most performers that I know do not like being portrayed out of character, and especially not mid-character. Being that it was the Fiercingtons asking, saying no wasn’t really an option. As a result, it is one of my favourite projects to date. I think it exceeded all of our expectations and made us all really proud. When I moved to New Orleans, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was playing up in the gay bars. Of course, I used my new found celebrity to work a few free drinks out of it. After I was able to convince people that it really was me up there on the screen!

D) ‘Manicursed’!!!! Where can we get our copies??? I as im sure many. have been tantalised by the possibility of this tranny-horror epic for some time now! How did it happen, where can we see it and is there more to come?

V) ¬†Manicursed is one of my favourite little gems. It was created for another Drag weekend event up at the Russian River called Pipstock hosted by the “lovely” Pipi Lovestocking. I do have a copy on DVD that I promise to transfer and release soon. VERY soon. I could go into detail, but I think the trailer tells enough to get you interested. Keep on me about this one. It has some epic moments featuring Phatima, Metal Patricia, Fatsantos ( my BEAR alter ego) and even Cookie, my black cousin from Detroit.

D) I know that you have the Freaksheaux to Geaux performance coming up, what else do you have in the pipeline? Films, music, star studded world tour?

V) In the future, you can expect more of the same from me. I would like to get back into a little film-making. I will always be performing. The Kreetures will hopefully continue to pay my bills. I will move other places. I will adopt more Drag daughters. I will release another album. I will most likely finally finish my screen play. I might get another puppy at some point, but only if I have a nanny to take care of it. I will grow old and die. Or I might just get hit by a bus. In that case, see you all on “THE OTHER SIDE.” XOXOXOXOXOXO

Vinsantos DeFonte

Assuming Vinsantos hasn’t been mown down by a careening cab on the streets of New Orleans, I would like to issue him with a massive thank you for Talking Toxic with me today! It has been AWESOME!

If you would like to see more of Vinsantos’ work you can do so here:

facebook.com/vinsantos

Buy his Kreetures, here:

facebook.com/kreeture

etsy.com/people/kreeture

And buy his amazing album, ‘Light Awake Inside’, here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/a-light-awake-inside/id359762400