Happy Halloween everybody – I was asked to produce an article for the ooky spooky strippahs themselves, COOCHIE CRUNCH…
Count down 10 of my all time favourite spooktacular performers of gothic schlock past and present….
Happy Halloween everybody – I was asked to produce an article for the ooky spooky strippahs themselves, COOCHIE CRUNCH…
Count down 10 of my all time favourite spooktacular performers of gothic schlock past and present….
Cover Photo courtesy of Austin Young
Cult is a way of life, no one knows this better than Peaches Christ. Her Midnight Mass shows celebrate B-Movie culture and trash cinema, elevating symbols of camp excess to icon status.
Of course, the Peaches empire doesn’t stop with the decade long running MM series. After completing hysterical short films, Spin the Bottle and the infamous Tranilogy of Terror, Peaches began work on her feature film, All About Evil. A schlock horror classic boasting performances by B-Culture idols, Elvira and Mink Stole as well as Natasha Lyonne and Thomas Dekker. AAE has led Peaches on a TRANScontinental journey, converting theatre goers all over the world into neophytes of the PC doctrine, her Children of the Popcorn.
Come with me as we talk the meaning of success, Faye Dunaway, horror sequels and of course Disney World.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, PEACHES CHRIST….
Dis) Cult film leader, film maker, production manager, horror hostess… you lead an incredibly varied and exciting career. How do you perceive your success?
Peaches) I guess I think of success as being linked to my level of happiness and it was always my big goal to be able to make a living doing what I love and even though I’m far from being rich, I am now able to pay my bills through Peaches events, filmmaking, and teaching. I had a regular job running movie theaters all the way up to 2009 and I loved working in movie exhibition but it was an exciting leap to leave and be able to work for myself. I’m grateful I’m in a position to do that and think of that as being successful, though I’d still love to have more of a financial cushion. Basically, I’m tired of being poor.
D) and what’s next on the agenda; World domination, Skiing in aspen? Modelling for Westwood?
P) Next up is more large events in SF and hopefully more touring, as well as developing another feature film and a new TV project and then Disney World. I love Walt Disney World. Anyway, there’s a current project in the pipe-line which is a sorta reality web show that follows myself, other performers, and crew around while we are preparing for one of our big events. The working title is “Life Is A Drag”. They are currently shooting our behind-the-scenes world leading up to the big Grey Gardens event we’re doing with Jinkx and Mink and the show should come out in early 2014.
D) Your feature film, ‘All About Evil’ has taken you on a transcontinental (Pun very much intended) journey, how have you
enjoyed the experience and did you expect the level of support the film received?
P) The whole All About Evil experience was a literal dream come true. I’d always wanted to make a feature film and so to get to do it with a script I wrote and directed, while being able to work with my dream cast, and then go on a TRANScontinental tour with the movie doing shows in cities around the world was an absolute incredible experience. I was living on “planet evil” for almost three years between getting ready to make the movie, making the movie, and then touring with the movie and I’ll always have super fond memories of the experience. It’s the kind of movie that has a very specific audience of sick people who love dark humor. It’s always flattering to hear someone is a fan of the movie.
D) Could you give us a couple of highlights from the AAE tour?
P) I adored our UK Premiere in Manchester, England where I was able to travel with some SF performers and collaborate with a giant group of British drag queens who dressed in monster-drag and performed with us. The movie is about a librarian who murders people and there were even actors there disguised as librarians protesting outside the theatre saying things like “the only thing we kill is illiteracy!” The protest was so effective that riot police were brought in! And during the screening of the film that night someone vomited. All in all, it was a perfect experience. Another highlight was presenting the film at the legendary Alamo Drafthouse in Austin with stars Cassandra Peterson and Mink Stole. My local ghoul friend Christeene helped produce the event and it was super fun and cool. We all had a blast!
D) Midnight Mass has become an institution in S.F. How has the show evolved over the years?
P) We began the event in 1998 and it grew out of the Trannyshack world where I was a regular performer. I just wanted to create an event that incorporated a drag show and cult movies and so we really just tried loads of different things over the years. I was lucky enough to be in a position where I could get away with doing stuff I probably shouldn’t have, things that are probably even illegal. . Drag queen roller-derby, mother / daughter mud wrestling and more were regular staples at our Midnight Mass events. There were injuries. It was debaucherous and crazy and the event just grew and grew over the years to the point where we outgrew the Bridge Theatre and now host our shows at the historic Castro Theatre movie palace.
D) Do you ever plan on touring ‘MM’ abroad?
P) We’ve actually recreated Midnight Mass in Belgium, Switzerland, and England and I’d love to do it again. Of course it’s really expensive to do but if anyone out there overseas wants to bring me in, I’m up for it!
D) The Peaches Christ character blends classic showgirl glamour with rabidly colourful B-Movie culture to wonderful effect. How did you conceive the look and style of Peaches?
P) I grew up in Maryland and was so obviously influenced by the John Waters world of Dreamlanders and Divine. My other huge drag influences were Frankenfurter and Elvira so when I was creating Peaches Christ I was really trying to pull from these worlds of cinematic icons, and mix them with some classics like Joan Crawford by way of Faye Dunaway. I love lots of eye makeup and big brows obviously and in a sense I’ve always been comfortable with the idea that Peaches is essentially a really glamorous clown.
D) Your affection for b-movie culture has influenced every part of your career, what is it about this side of the counter-culture that inspires you to do what you do and occasionally even inspire your mother to do what you do?
P) I was always attracted to the world of b-movies and midnight movies and trashy VHS rentals. I consumed them as if it were my addiction. I guess it all represented a sorta escape from regular life that I was looking for where people could be insane and colorful and deviant and that these things could be celebrated. My mom has had a really long time to accept my strange interests and as Peaches evolved my mom was always really super supportive so when I invited her to perform with us the first time, it was fairly natural. People loved seeing her up onstage with Heklina and I in Trannie Dearest. I think the audience appreciated that level of parental support for what’s essentially a transgressive drag show.
D) You’ve worked with an incredible cast of characters from Squeaky Blonde and Elvira to Mink Stole, Vinsantos and Natasha Lyonne. Are there any more hits on the list for you, are we maybe to expect Faye Dunaway to co-star in a Peaches movie alongside and Heklina et al?
P) Faye Dunaway is the ULTIMATE on my list! But I’m not going to hold my breath. I would so love to do a celebration of Mommie Dearest with her and have her really embrace it with the true fans. She’s brilliant in that film and deserves to be seen as such. Of course I’d kill to do a Showgirls event with either Gina Gershon or Elizabeth Berkley.
D) Who would be your ultimate counter-culture icon to work with?
P) Hmmm, that’s a really tough question to answer, primarily because I don’t know if you mean counterculture in the traditional hippie sense or not. I think if I were to think of someone in the more traditional way I’d say Yoko Ono. And perhaps if it were in the more modern way I might be interested in doing a show with Marilyn Manson. That could be really great.
D) One of the first films I saw of yours, following the ‘Spin the Bottle’ Madonna parody, was ‘Nightmare on Castro Street’ of your Tranilogy of Terror which I still love! Have you any plans to revisit the trilogy or prepare another selection of shorts featuring Ms. Blonde et al?
P) I’d love to do another collaboration with Squeaky! She’s one of my first real drag sisters and she’s really who taught me how to do makeup- her and Putanesca. Since making All About Evil I’ve done a couple of new shorts including “The Nomi Auditions” which we just made for our latest Showgirls event. I love making movies so I think shorts will always be part of my world and another set of horror parodies is definitely something I’m thinking about.
D) Referenced in the aforementioned ‘Spin…’ short was your glittering music career spawning such hits as ‘Idol Worship’ and ‘Devoid of Flaw’ and who could forget the ‘Peaches is Gangsta’ record. When do we finally get the album we’ve all been waiting for?
P) Ha! I don’t know if anyone is actually waiting on a PC album but I’m thrilled to hear it. I work with this fantastic music producer Ric Ray who writes loads of songs for me and we’re talking about an album. He’s also the Art Director on our big events. It would be great to put out a collection of songs we’ve created for Peaches. There are definitely more than enough for an album.
D) Many of your fans wait with baited breath for Martiny to step into the spotlight and shine, is there a talk show in the works, a scandalous book detailing years of abuse or perhaps a home cooking channel (dairy free of course) in the works for SF’s ‘Most tragic drag queen?’
Part of Martiny’s rabid fan base comes from the fact that she’s truly a drag-queen sidekick with no real aspirations to be in the spotlight. I mean that truly is extraordinary. What drag queen in her right mind turns down chance after to chance to be the star, but she does. I make fun of Martiny for being the most flawed and tragic drag queen in all of San Francisco, but perhaps this was all part of her master plan to win the love of audiences by playing the underdog. What a manipulative bitch. Anyhow, for all you weirdos in love with Martiny you’ll be happy to know she’s co-starring in our upcoming 9 TO 5 event at the Castro Theatre on Nov. 23rd. She’s playing “atta girl” Margaret, the alcoholic. Troll girl is playing Roz, Heklina is playing the Lily character, Pandora Boxx is doing Dolly, and I’m doing the Jane character. Should be loads of fun.
D) Drag culture has been witnessing a renaissance due in part to a number of different factors. How do you perceive the contemporary drag culture and what do you make of those coming up in the scene?
P) I think that while drag culture seems to be more popular and in a sense I guess it is, it’s still not mainstream and I’m glad it’s not. I hope it stays that way. Drag fans are special and TV and the internet have really helped deliver drag queens to more homes and computers and there’s a real big pool of new talent, and fans are hungrier and more rabid for their queens than I’ve seen in the past but in the same way that they’ve been packaged and delivered, it’s also seeming like they’re quickly being left behind when a new crop rolls onto the screen. I think queens still have to work hard to stay fresh and relevant and be entertaining and create their own longevity. Drag Race and internet stardom will certainly help a queen make a big splash, but in order to still be around in ten years she’s going to have to fight hard for it. I’m a fan of so many of the new up and coming queens and am glad I’m in a position to work with so many of them through the events I produce.
D) Did you ever think that after donning the maquillage for the first time, that drag would take you on the journey it has done?
P) No, never. It’s hilarious and extraordinary to me when I think back on how clueless I was about what was going to evolve.
D) Finally, what can we plug? Where do we buy ‘All About Evil’, your latest records, tickets for your shows and of courses special one of a kind merchandise branded with your fierce-some visage?
P) All my stuff can be found on peacheschrist.com. Grab your tickets to our upcoming Grey Gardens show with Jinkx Monsoon and Mink Stole in SF on October 12th. Or 9 TO 5 on Nov. 23rd, and Trannyshack Halloween on October 25th.
Bloody bunches of thanks to Peaches Christ for agreeing to this interview! I CANNOT WAIT for the second instalment in her feature film making endeavours! Ensure that you grab your copy of All About Evil as well as all of your Peaches Christ memorabilia and merchandise NOW from http://www.peacheschrist.com
Bile and Bruises
Today marks the anniversary of my fist ever post on Talk Toxic! A whole year has passed and in that time I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in two fashion film projects for Jed Phoenix of London, multiple amazing events with the fabulous Psycho:Drama crew and of course… A whole bunch of incredible interviews with luminaries of outsider drag, burlesque performance and electro homo solo musicians!
To commemorate this fact I have the great fortune to release the latest instalment of Talking Toxic – this time, with the wonderful Gregory Langston, former member of the Wasp Women’s backing band! The wonderful Greg has been involved with the S.F. punk scene since the early eighties and continues to play within a number of brilliant groups.
Read on as we piece together the history of the Wasp Women, talk post-punk and new-wave as well as the infamous, ‘Whatever Happened to Susan Jane’…
Dis) As part of the Wasp Women backing band, jokingly referred to as, ‘The Maggot Men’ – what was your role and how did you become involved with the group?
Greg) I was the drummer for the Wasp Women. Some time in 1979, I joined a band called the Touchtones. I was interested in the experimental side of Punk/New wave, and they fit the bill. After a short Time Guitarist Jan spoke of seeing the weirdest wildest band ever. I did not know that Teena one of our three Keyboard/ synth players was one of them! Touchtones practices morphed into Wasp Women practices as well.Teena as well as Walter Black shared both bands. We often Played on the same bills together, often at the famed Mabuhay Gardens, just seconds down Broadway from our practice space. The Wasp Women’s songs got me to explore the heavier, hard rocking side to my playing. I am more well suited to this style of playing.
D) The Wasp Women really stood out from the pack and still do! The band was so unique, what was it about the WW that made them so special?
G) The Wasp women were unique for a couple of reasons. First, visually. Three women, (one was a man in drag), dressed in tight black dresses and extreme make-up and large white bee hive wigs. At a time of musical and sexual freedom, the time was right and the doors were open to the new and extreme. Second, Musically. The band freely mixed styles and used several influences. What pulled it all together was the front line, the singers.
D) Of surviving documents, Marc Huestis’ film ‘…Susan Jane’ is the most famous. How involved with that project were you and what was filming like?
G) “What ever happened to Susan Jane” turned out to be far bigger than I expected. We were being booked into several venues with regularity, and each show seemed to be a real production. I knew this was a special show, and filming was happening, but it really turned out to be a whole lot more than just another show. We were called back to record some songs for the film, but I can’t remember how much was actually caught on tape.
D) Recently, Dark Entries Records released a re-mastered version of the song ‘Kill Me!’ – but what many of us want to know is… Does the album named in the film or an EP exist and if so, when can we hear it?
G) Sadly, what was announced in the movie was only part of the script. Not many recordings of the band exist, and those that do, are poor quality practice tapes. We recorded Lou Reed’s “Vicious”, in the studio. Teena is the only singer on that one. It came out on an obscure CD compilation a few years ago, “best of the Mabuhay”
D) Recently I spoke with Teena regarding her involvement with the group, looking back, how do you feel about the SF scene at that time?
G) The SF scene at the time was great! It was a time of great creativity, Ten years of musical progression in two! With the early underground SF punk/ new wave /experimental scene, we all supported each other in a way that was not compartmentalized. It quickly changed.
D) Of course, you were also a member of Tuxedo Moon and of the Vibrant S.F. post-punk scene. Which of these projects are you most proud of and are you still in contact with many of your collaborators from those days?
G) Surprisingly, I am in contact with many people from that time period. I briefly was with Tuxedomoon before the Wasp women and I spent a little time with Winston Tong last weekend. I have been In contact with Blaine too. Since I have been regularly playing drums and recording for almost thirty five years, I am in contact with many musicians from the past. Way too many to mention!! Other than previously mentioned, I have played with No Alternative, the Sea Hags, Fang, Fade to Black, The Renegades (Wire Train), Hellbillys, Offs, Insaints, The Next, Bryan Gregory’s Beast to name a few…. Oh, there are others too!
D) Returning to the Wasp Women, I’d like to clarify a bit of the timeline – how long did the group last? I’ve heard it was just over a year before you ceased activity with the group, why did you guys stop?
G) Yes, a year sounds about right. I don’t remember why we split. I jumped right into No Alternative after the Wasp Women.
D) Yourself and Teena worked on a few projects following the bands demise, is there much surviving from these projects and what were they called?
G) Yes! I still regularly play with No Alternative. The Offs, and the Next. I do reunion shows with a couple of others from time to time.
D) I know you have quite an archive built up – is there any plan to release this material?
G) Interestingly enough, much has already been released or is not quite the quality it could have been to make it outstanding. If anyone shows interest, I try and accommodate them in any way I can. Luckily, my band history has not been lost, stolen or misplaced.
D) Which projects are you currently working on and what would you like to plug?
G) I recorded an LP with the Next about a year ago. the songs all date from 1978-80. This is one of the best punky albums I have ever recorded, but the interest and the music industry have changed so much, that nobody is hearing it! The musicians all have so much talent and history, but we are not so young and cute any more. We have It all together, artwork and all, yet it remains unreleased.
A massive thank you to Greg for taking the time to Talk Toxic with me today! This helps piece together a part of The Wasp Women history and uncover another vibrant aspect of the SF punk/alternative scene. Make sure you continue to support Greg and his phenomenal musical output by going to see No Alternative live and buy all of their merchandise! Also, head over to Dark Entries records and grab yourself a copy of Bay Area Retrograde featuring the WW whilst you can, here: http://www.darkentriesrecords.com/
Dis) Trannyshack founder, drag legend, actress and counter culture icon! Did you ever think that you would have led (and continue to lead) the kind of career you have or impact drag culture in the way that you have?
Heklina) Ha! I’m so flattered that people think I’ve had an impact, or that I’m an icon or what have you (in some circles, “legend” is another way of saying “Old”). You won’t catch me saying it, people already think I’m conceited enough, but it’s nice to hear others say it. If you had told me 20 years ago that one day I would make my living as a drag entertainer I would have told you you were crazy, but I am so grateful to have the life that I have today.
D) How has the mainstream (both gay and straight) reacted to the Heklina character and towards Trannyshack?
D) Over the years you have worked with a tremendous number of performers who have garnered harsh critique as well as great praise. Which have been some of your favourites and which of the most controversial acts are you most proud to either have taken part in or promoted?
H) There have been several kinds of controversy at Trannyshack.Racially related, I suffered a huge backlash about a decade ago when one of my performers did a piece in blackface. It didn’t matter that the performer was half black and was trying to make a statement, or what have you. It was just instant outrage. Lesson learned on that one.
And, surprisingly, gender. Whether you have a penis or a vagina has never been a huge deal at Trannyshack, all that matters is what you do with your time on stage. No one had a problem with it until a genetic female (Fauxnique) won the coveted Miss Trannyshack title in 2003. Then all of a sudden it was “That’s not drag” and all that. I even went on NPR to discuss that “scandal”. Crazy!
H) If by renaissance you are referring to RuPaul’s Drag Race, then yes. I would say it’s a mixed blessing-drag is very much in the public eye because of that show in particular, but it at times makes instant stars out of people who haven’t quite honed their craft yet, so it seems like there has been a bit of a “dumbing down” effect. There’s very much a feeling of “this will do”. Of course, some of the people on that show are amazing performers, but I recently went to see the one-woman show of someone from RPDR, and there was no substance at all to it-no show!
D) The outsider scene has also been referenced in the media on more than one occasion also, how do you see the scene evolving and what are your hopes for alternative drag styles?
H) It’s interesting….Trannyshack was started as a response, or an alternative to, more traditional drag shows, and now we (Trannyshack) are the establishment. We thought we were reinventing the wheel, but truthfully we were just doing our own thing, with no real rules or boundaries. That is all I can hope for in these young girls nipping at my heels; that they do their own thing, develop their own personas, you know the drill.
D) Which performers have driven you to create and continue to inspire you to perform?
H) It always goes back to the previously referenced icons. Most influential to me? Bowie, Madonna, Siouxsie Sioux, The Golden Girls, and cult movies.
H) Always! Peaches is hosting my Trannyshack Halloween show with me on October 25 , and I am doing her tribute to the film 9 to 5 at the Castro Theatre with her on November 23 (go to www.peacheschrist.com for all Peaches related info).
H) www.trannyshack.com has all my events, check it out!