The Draguate!

N’Orleans Legend, Vinsantos DeFonte Throws Open the Doors of his very own Drag Acadaemy – Am I Being Studied, or is that just a Read?!

Let me get one thing perfectly clear, I LOVE Vinsantos. His aesthetic is stunning and style, phenomenal. I first interviewed this SF and New Orleans legend in September of last year, gaining an insight into his creative process and twisted inner machinations (I was so happy!!!) Of course, when it transpired that he was now transforming armies of young upstarts into consummate performers who would have the great fortune to learn on a one to one basis, I was green with envy. So, of course I had to get the inside scoop!

Dis)  Vinsantos, since we last spoke, you have embarked on a new creative endeavour, establishing your very own ‘School of Drag’. What persuaded you to play pedagogue to a new generation of fledgling queens?

Vinsantos) Let me start by first clarifying that it is truly a Workshop, and not a class. It’s not all “do what I say and you will automatically be FIERCE!”  Although, come to think of it, it’s mostly like that. Here in New Orleans, I have been performing Drag regularly inside of two different troupes; one Burlesque and one Vaudeville. Some friends of mine started a Drag monthly. It reminded me of my days in SF in the sense that the Drag was on the experimental and performance art side. What was lacking was a large pool of solid performers to sustain such a scene. When I was with Trannyshack, it was so much fun to watch so many audience members get so inspired that they would then become the performers. That’s how it happened with me. I have been told by many people after my shows, that they would love to do THAT sometime. The thought of putting together a workshop appealed to me on so many levels, from sharing all of my years of experience, to making new friends, and to see what I could learn from them, and them from me. And of course, being a talent scout has always been an OBSESSION of mine. Put me on IDOL, I dare you!!!!

D)  You embody a surrealist image of drag culture and carry with you a seasoned approach that blends a multitude of media allowing your performances to stand out from the pack. How do you begin to impart your knowledge and skill base to your daughters – What challenge does this process pose?

V)  My theory of what makes a performance work can be applied to all facets of “live” entertainment. Having been on stage for most of my adult life, i feel that I’ve gathered a lot of knowledge and have developed my own set of Do’s and Dont’s that keep me in check and keep me delivering the goods, no matter what the audience or the venue is like. As an entertainer, when you are given lemons, it’s your job to take them and tear the house down. In this particular setting, the emphasis is on creating and perfecting a Drop Dead Gorgeous Lipsynch performance. I can’t go into all the details of this 8 week Drag Boot Camp, but to mention just a few, things that we address are song choice, the details of the actual lipsynch, troubleshooting and overcoming adverse environments. Of course, there’s also the Drag itself. Originally I was going to primarily have the students use the plethora of tutorials on the world wide web to learn how to achieve their desired “looks”. The Vinsantos characters has a really specific signature that I didn’t feel was traditional enough when it comes to the basics of making yourself beautiful, unless you are trying to look like a Drag Clown! The majority of the cohorts had never been in Drag before. It became apparent really quickly that it was gonna take more than some videos to help these first timers. I enlisted one of my bestDrag buddies, Jennifer Jane, and appointed her Lead Stylist. She works in film and video doing hair and makeup and is also a full time Drag Queen both on and off stage. From there we had a series of hands on practices and dress rehearsals. It was fun and HORRIFYING! I’m sure we can all remember our first time in Drag and how UNFIERCE it was! This is where I think I learned the most. I stepped out of my own “sacred space” and began to experiment with my own looks. I felt that I had to go back to the basics. Beauty Makeup. Since then, I have been serving up all kinds of Glamour Girl not previously associated with the Vinsantos character. AND IT’S SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!! Who knew?

D) The typical schooling of drag relies on a familial bond focusing on mentorship from a ‘Mother’ and the establishment of a ‘House’. You have mentioned before that you did not receive such a method of mentorship as has been echoed by a number of your contemporaries such as SF legend, Heklina. Does this school now establish a house of Vinsantos? Also, how do you perceive the traditional drag illusionist house archetype?

V)  In this group, I definitely AM the Momma. I never had a proper Drag Mom, and come to think of it, that kinda pisses me off! Now I realize why my character is so fucked up. Total abandonment issues. It really wasn’t happening in a traditional sense when I got started with Trannyshack. I think that’s what may have made it such a unique scene. People were seriously carving out names for themselves and trying to define who they were outside the norms of traditional Drag. Of course there were all of the classic cliques inside of it all, from the Spooky Queens to the Comedy Queens to the Glamour Queens and truly Avante Queer such as myself. As far as a “House of Vinsantos?”  I think it sounds too much like “House of Pancakes.”

D) Your girls make up an eclectic mix – how did you select the candidates and did you have a screening process or was it more of an open door policy encouraging all to challenge themselves and rise to the occasion?

V) There really wasn’t a screening process. I put out a submission call and over a few short weeks, I had eleven interested parties. When the first class started, there were twelve people that actually showed up. There was an interesting mix of boys and girls, gay and “other-identifying.” I started the class by telling them about my history as a performer and what I thought I wanted to gain from the workshop. Then we went in a circle and everyone stated their name or names, their performance history, why they came to the workshop and what they hoped to gain from it. It got really REAL, really fast!. From that moment, it was obvious that this would be more than just fun, but an emotionally charged experience and fully transformative.  In the end, we ended up with eight Draguates. We lost the others on the way for various reasons including FEAR, conflicting schedules, and family matters. I decided that the class would be free, and that I would get paid for producing the Draguation show by collecting meager donations at the door. The students then pooled their tips and divided them up. I have to say, most seasoned queens don’t make that much in this town!!! They killed it. Of course there were expenses that the first time Draegs had to dish out. I made it mandatory to have a set of brushes, and from there, Jennifer Jane and I put together a list of staples for them to gather. For those students that found this beyond there means, we all chipped in and made sure no eyelash was left untouched. I’m still not sure how none of us got pink eye. We were able to pull a lot of looks off for very little money. After all,  Drag is an expensive art form and unless you are one of the chosen few to make it onto a television screen, you are usually paying out more than you are bringing in. Someday, I hope to live in a world where Drag is FREE FOR EVERYONE!  I’ll let you know how that goes. Thx

D) Photographs from your Werkshop Draguation were phenomenal, can you tell us a little about the performances and talk a little about your draguating class…

V)  The Draguation was my definition of a perfect show in the sense that it had a little bit of everything. Comedy/Drama, Traditional and High Art Drag, at least one beard, and total gender dysphoria. We had a sold out house of 170+ people in a club that probably shouldn’t have more than 150 people in it EVER!. The audience was Transfixed. During each number, you could hear a pin drop when you wanted to hear one, LOTS of laughs when you wanted laughs, and House Quaking applause at the end of each number. I was able to MC the event and also hold a front row seat for each performance. Even with all my costume changes. It floored me to see each performer take and command the stage and bring the audience to their knees. Most people really have to work for a long time to achieve that level respect from the audience, and these bitches did it on their first try!!! Then again, I did teach them everything I know (excuse me whilst I pat my back some more)

D) Which of the performers are you most proud of?

V) I can’t say that I have a favorite. I introduced them individually as my favorite student. I did have a few categories such as Most Changed in Eight Weeks, Most Changed in One Day and the introduction of my first Vale-chick-torian! She was awarded this title by pulling off a fully loaded DIALOGUE only lipsynch, which in my book is the most difficult to perfect. She was picked to close the show and just as planned, the audience went BONKERS for it. I will say, that I was and am truly impressed by the bravery of these students. I watched them each grow so much so fast. They really put their self respect on the line!!! Being on stage is so normal for me. I can’t imagine just throwing myself into such foreign territory with such reckless abandon. Then again, I did move to New Orleans. Just doing that makes you believe that anything is possible. For the record, the Draguating class is: NEON BURGUNDY, DOLLYONCE, COCO KALLISTI, SMALL DOSES, SHIRLEY SOMEONE, LADY KRAFT, NIKKI STITCHES, PF CHANGE… Oh, and CHAYO (she missed the draguation, but made up for it at a future show)

D) It’s safe to say that New Orleans will never be the same again now that your gang of drag punks are running around – are there future plans to collaborate with your girls and also, when will your next selection of Werkshops be held?

V) It is safe to say that New Orleans will never be the same. Was it ever? The same?

The group has had a few more shows. Half of the draguates have adopted the lifestyle full time and have been diagnosed as addicts. I really believe that these queens have what it takes to keep delivering art to the masses for years to come. I couldn’t be any happier with the fact that the talent pool in this town has been increased with the addition of these Marys. Besides all the laughter and tears and readings, that is what I wanted most to come out of this experience. MORE TALENT, MORE DRAG, MORE!!!!

The next workshop is set for late August with all new students and Jennifer Jane as our full time Lead Stylist! I have about a dozen people interested and will be scouting for more. We have big plans for cycle 2. There was so much learned from this first cycle that will be applied to the next round. I hope that this is only the beginning for what will become a long standing tradition.

D) Finally – What can I plug aside from this, are there any projects etc. or shows you have upcoming?

V)  And now for the PLUGS. I am still working regularly with the Dirty Dime Peepshow and Freaksheaux to Geaux. I have recently been taking the Drags to Bourbon St with Bella Blue and her Blue Book. With my visual arts, I am presenting my first solo gallery exhibition later this month. (link_https://www.facebook.com/events/220452021482698/220760311451869/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity      I will be traveling in May to Pittsburgh to perform live at the Atrocity Exhibition and later this year to San Francisco to work with one of my best “girls”, Peaches Christ. I pray to the Gods and Goddess that i will spend at least five minutes on a beach somewhere contemplating the possibilities of Season 8 or writing my memoirs. The film crew that I’ve been with for the past year is now editing and hopefully we will all get a peek into this lifestyle of mine including the Drag Workshop and how I manage to keep it all together. Does anyone have a Xanax?

 

Ballet, Opera, Spirituality and Talking Handbags, are you Faux-Real?! Talking Toxic presents; the Wonderful World of FAUXNIQUE!!!

Monique Jenkinson, the multi-media, inter-disciplinary master mind of bio-drag-queenery is exhilarating. Swooping from otherworldly heights, Fauxnique, Jenkinsons alter-ego, transcends the barriers between performance art, comedy, camp and even elements of high fashion to navigate a path for her audience, that exports them away from the mundane into escapist fantasy, whilst simultaneously allowing and enouraging vital concepts of gender, sexuality and body politics to be discussed and experimented with.

I first became aware, as many have, of Fauxnique via her perfomances as a guest vocalist for electronic performers SilenceFiction/Never Knows, famed for their song, ‘Lipstique’. Its mesmerizing synthesized bubble and swagger as well as captivating video accompaniment starring contemporary drag luminaries such as Peaches Christ, Vinsantos DeFonte, Hoku Mama and of course, Fauxnique herself, applying their makeup from beginning to end, sneaking us a glimpse of what it takes to transform into their glorious characters, has garnered thousands of views worldwide through youtube.

I was struck not only by a fantastic song, but by the incredible aesthetics that Fauxnique employs/ed. As I dug deeper, a rich history began unfolding; the first cis-gendered woman to win the infamous Trannyshack, musician, accomplished modern performance and visual artist whose glowing reviews spoke for themeselves. The collected images and video works which incorporated aspects of opera, ballet, vogueing and perfected comedy timing, were and are inspiring…

ENOUGH TALKING MISS DIS! It’s time for FAUXNIQUE, to grace the stage….

C/O Michelle Blioux

Dis) Okay, let’s get a little background – how did you get started and what defines the nature of ‘Fauxnique’?

Fauxnique) I started performing as a little ballerina in my tween years. I evolved into contemporary dance, and then emerged out of the refusal aesthetic of the theatrical dance scene (from the 70s) still holding strong in the 90s into the San Francisco drag scene via Trannyshack. Fauxnique is a Drag Queen – me (a bio female) performing drag as a drag queen. The name Fauxnique is a play on my name and the term ‘faux queen’ which is sometimes referred to as a ‘woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman’. However, for me, the drag queen transcends this gender binary. The nature of Fauxnique is mutable. She is not only a drag persona, but at kind of filter or lens through which I consider my particular concerns around the performance of femininity. Fauxnique often comes from a very, very physical place and a place of deep and strong emotion. She often appears in the guise of a faerie, butterfly or earth goddess and sometimes appears in the guise of one of her heroines. Fauxnique is a feminist – like myself.

D) Your performance aesthetic mutates gender and contemporary (as well as classical) images of glamour, into tools of expression that ultimately cross boundaries of comedy, drama and even the monstrous. Can you elaborate on your perception of these archetypes as well as your utilisation of them in your work…

M) I think that feminine power has historically been seen as monstrous and/or transgressive. This is what struck me most when I first became an avid drag fan. The very first night I attended the legendary drag club Trannyshack, it was ‘Riot Grrrl Night’. I was astounded. These were queens honoring feminist rebels. I was immediately hooked, and I really got the way in which drag plays with and highlights what we may find radical or monstrous about feminine power. I keep thinking back to my copy of RE/Search Magazine’s ‘Angry Women’ issue, which was a total reference tome for me. The cover was a graphic novel rendering of Medusa. And I think about a piece I made many years ago, my gateway to drag work, that I still bring out occasionally as part of my solo cabaret show Faux Real, about opera diva Maria Callas. Part of the soundtrack is an interview with her. At one point the opera-queen interviewer broaches the ‘inquiring minds want to know’ question of her weight loss, implying that someone made her do it. And she replies: ‘I was playing Medea then, and I thought to myself, well, the face is too fat & can’t stand it & I needed a chin for expression.” I died. This quote kind of contains how I formulate my relationship to the humor, comedy and monstrosity of drag. Clearly you need a chin to play a the archetypical child-murdering witch. Deep psychology and specific physicality.

C/O Parker Tilghman

D) Drag as performance art and as a method of reclaiming the body are twin themes employed by a plethora of visual artists from Cindy Sherman to Leigh Bowery, Claude Cahun and beyond. How do you view the cultural dialogue created by drag and its varied forms?

M) Big question. Drag is certainly both to me – a finely honed craft and a method of reclaiming the body. And you bring up some of my very favorite artists. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Leigh Bowery & Cindy Sherman – whom I kind of see as opposite poles of my heroine spectrum. As a classically trained dancer, I respect and delight in the rules and strictures of drag as performance. I love doing the assignment, I love getting the lip-synch, making sure the makeup goes over the top (and the eyebrows go well above the actual eyebrows) and out of the territory of pretty lady. I love honing my ultra-studied feminine moves. So drag as an art is very serious to me. And I have certainly reclaimed my body via drag. As a classically trained dancer, I sustained the very common damage of that vocation – the body dismorphia stuff – that drag and drag queens helped me get over. I have seen such a multiplicity of female bodies – and experienced my own body – embraced and celebrated in the drag world and that has been an experience of reclamation.

Parker Tilghman

D) You’re no stranger to controversy, following your crowning as Miss Trannyshack in 2003, there was a small uproar that focused on the fact that you are a biological woman as opposed to a man performing the drag role. How did this affect your perception of the community and now, what do you view as your position within the world of drag?

M) From the moment I attended that first Riot Grrrl Night at Trannyshack, I felt like I was home. And from the time I first took to the stage there, I was treated as one of the family. Trannyshack was already upsetting the gender binaries and biases in drag. The only concern there was the quality and creativity of the performance: whoever you are and however you identify, be fierce and we will welcome you. My decision to participate in the Miss Trannyshack Pageant came with a tremendous amount of support. Other faux queens, or cisgendered female drag queens had participated before, but I was the first one to win it. I think most memebers of that particular community were ready for me to win. The audience was certainly with me.

In the aftermath of the win, I felt the love more than the uproar. But I think folks who heard through the grapevine that a woman won were more up in arms – the ones who weren’t there or weren’t part of that community. Heklina (the creator & queen of Trannyshack) really stuck up for me in those cases. I don’t know if she literally protected me from the fallout of anyone’s dismay, but no one went out of their way to express it to me personally.

One thing that did happen, was that I had quite a few queens come up to me, after seeing me perform sometime after the fact and say something to the effect of: ‘I was really put out when you won, but now that I’ve seen you perform, I get it.’ I’m a good drag queen. I do my homework, I work hard, I think about it a lot,and I honor my ancestors.

Fontaine Weyman

D) Returning briefly to aesthetics; you favour a high glamour, almost couture expression of styling when it comes to your use of cosmetics. This tessellates with a subcultural, punk and DIY approach to costuming. How have both the mainstream and counter-culture affected and influenced your visual extravaganza?

M) Fashion has always been vital for me. I was a teen in the 80s in suburban Colorado – not the most stylish situation. It was a time when, to wear something out there was really to declare yourself as outside the mainstream. We forget that now. Now we remember the fabulous looks of the 80s and think of Boy George & Cyndi Lauper as icons of the 80s. But people really did get beaten up at school for listening to that music and looking like that. In those pre-internet years, my lifelines out of the flat, square, Christian whiteness of that place were fashion magazines (my stylish mom had subscriptions to all of them) and cable television. Weirdly, we had this public access cable show coming out of Broomfield, the suburb where I lived (outside of Boulder, the big college town) called Teletunes, that predated MTV. And they played all the weirdest shit. That is where I came into contact with Devo, Kate Bush, the Buggles, etc. My other favorite show was ‘Style’ on CNN, which showed the runway shows and talked to designers. I would get up early on Saturday to watch those shows. And then later I would spend my babysitting money on the 2-month old copies of The Face sold at the one hip record store. That totally formed me. On Saturday I would watch a Valentino runway show and then a Snakefinger video and then cobble together something fabulous to school on Monday.

D) Further to classical images of glamour, ballet and opera have also featured in your live performances, for instance, in Faux Real. You contrast these often considered, romantic forms with comedy and sometimes sadness to brilliant effect. How do you design these pieces and also, why, as in the aforementioned piece, do you prefer to actively expose the process of building an immaculate image (a practice which many drag artists seek to oppose) and thereby draw attention to the application and maintenance of illusion?

M) Thank you for the kind words about the work!

I really came to opera and back around to ballet because of, and through drag.

So the short answer is, that I found the drag and camp elements in opera & ballet – of which there are many – and used them. There was tremendous freedom in returning to ballet – especially the rigors of pointe work – through drag, because no one expects a drag queen ballerina to have perfect ballet technique or to weigh 90 pounds. So I come from a place of understanding and love for ballet, but also an awareness of how over the top & ridiculous it can be.


The design, choreography and conception of a piece like Mimicry & Flaunting, in which I consider and work with the image of the queen of all divas, Maria Callas, came from a few sources, and it is my oldest piece. When I first started listening to Callas, inspired by Wayne Koestenbaum’s fantastic book The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality & the Mystery of Desire (the title from my piece also comes from this book) I came across an interview with her, and that really inspired the piece. Then I started thinking about the facial expression of the opera diva as a dance, and the way in which the performance of that dance is the improvisational element in a form in which everything else is so composed.
As for drawing attention to process, I have just always been, and remain, fascinated both with transformation and simple theatrical magic. I don’t think it makes the illusion any less magical. Or I think, somehow it lends depth.

Parker Tilghman

D) What inspires this position?

M) The beginning of Mimicry & Flaunting in which I sit at a mirror that faces the audience and put on my Callas face, came out of necessity as it was the final piece in a solo show, so I had to change onstage and make it look interesting. The mirror bit was a piece of problem solving that became really integral to the piece.

D) In your work, ‘A Glamour’, you sought to unify practices such as makeup application and the arrangement of artifice with spirituality and meditation. Drag, which can at times be incredibly restrictive and focus largely on artifice, is not often considered spiritual. Do you feel that through the elevation of what many would consider mundane practice, i.e. costuming, makeup artistry etc. that we can also be spiritual or at the very least, imbue these ‘rituals’ with meditative significance?

M) Thank you so much for talking about this piece! I love what you see in it and your wording, so my answer might just be ‘yes.’

With A Glamour I did indeed seek to look at the transformations and totems of drag as part of a serious ritual. The clothing and accessories in the piece were a bunch of bangles given to me by a friend who had recently died (legendary Trannyshack superstar The Steve Lady), a beaded sweater that had belonged to my grandma that I wear ALL THE TIME and a raffia dress that falls apart. So there is a lot about ancestry, death, and presence. I am always aware of presence and live performance as ever-dying moments.

D) Further to ‘Glamour’ you often exalt movements of dance such as vogueing, associated with the LGBT community, by including them in performances that also utilise ballet and again, operatic scoring (‘Crying in Public’) always with a tremendous sense of humour of course, but a genuine affection and studied approach to these genres is obvious. What is it that draws you to these aspects of dance culture and why do you feel that it is important to include these in your live events?

M) Vogueing is an exalted form all on its own, and I am happy to try to serve it was well as I possibly can. I come at everything from an embodied place, so I am attracted to a huge variety of dance forms. When we talk about vogueing especially, we tend to focus on the sociopolitical aspects of the performance. While these are crucial, there is also tremendous artistry and technique there. That technique is serious and deserves to be recognized and honored. I also like to use tasks that present difficulty and change my state. I thought a vogue-ballet  in soaking wet clothes in a puddle of water while attached to an aerial bungee cord would do that.

My using Vogue vocabulary with Vivaldi’s ‘Stabat Mater’ in Crying in Public was also partly my processing a thought and a feeling that I have a lot which is that if I had been born about 10 or 15 years earlier all of my friends would most likely be dead from AIDS. So I think I meant to honor my dead would-be friends. And then again, all my friends are not dead. So with that part I am also making fun of my own tendency to be maudlin & overdramatic. At the beginning, I say, in my best imitation of my friend Glamamore ‘Oh Mary! Enough! Quit your blubbering.’ Humor is essential to our survival.

D) How do you feel that these performances are interpreted by your audience, and how do you hope for them to feel when watching or engaging?

M) I am really lucky to have a mostly generous, game and intelligent audience. For the most part, they go along for the ride. I don’t necessarily want them to feel any one thing, and what any one person feels or gets out of it is really subjective, but of course, I want them to feel something. With my last evening-length piece, Instrument, I experimented a lot, and the drag elements were really just traces, so I may have lost some of my Fauxnique audience (one person boorishly & publicly told me so on Facebook), but most of them went out of their way to tell me how much they got out of it.

I think one of the jobs of contemporary art is to push the culture forward. That can sometimes run counter to entertaining and pleasing. Drag and dance can both and alternately fall into the categories of art and entertainment. I think good drag pushes the culture forward just like good contemporary performance.

D) Moving into music, you provided guest vocals for SilenceFiction/Never Knows/marc Kate, whose now iconic video, ‘Lipstique’ has been viewed by thousands of people all over the world! There must be more, tell us there is and also, tell us a little bit about the duo….

M) Oh my! The duo was both a one-off and ongoing, as Silencefiction (now known as Never Knows and also as Marc Kate) is the love of my life! I don’t want to disappoint, but I don’t know when you’ll see anything from us as a duo. He, however is coming out with a fantastic album in the Spring and you will LOVE his podcast ‘Why We Listen’. Listen to the episodes with Justin Vivian Bond, Joshua Grannell & Vinsantos! Find info at marckate.com

I am so proud of ‘Lipstique’ and it was such a pleasure to make. As a live performer, it was thrilling to just do something that can be seen and move forward without my body having to be present! I would love to do more work like that, and I certainly hope there will be more collaboration between me & Marc artistically. However, I think one of the cornerstones of our relationship has been that we are both relentlessly supportive of each other’s projects, and adamantly free about doing our own work.

Parker Tilghman

D) Finally, what for you makes a great performance and what advice would you impart to those seeking to step into those stupendously high heels?

M) Lots of ingredients go into a great performance. The first step is DO IT. And then do it some more. Watch performers you admire with an eagle eye. A great teacher of mine just said that technique is knowledge, not merely repetition. I think that is really important. Go deep. Be honest. Ask questions. Try new things. And wear your own damn shoes, because you are on your own path.

D) BONUS ROUND Where can we catch you next, where can we buy our Fauxnique branded clothing, music and accessories?

Maybe I need to bring back the Fauxnique t-shirt. Or maybe a hankie for those who are easily moved, like myself?

I make regular appearances at Trannyshack, Some Thing, and various theatrical stages around San Francisco. I also perform nationally and internationally. I would LOVE to come to the UK again soon, so let’s make that happen! Also, I will be performing in March as part of Work More at SOMArts, curated by Mica Sigourney & Kolmel Withlove. I will be collaborating with Maryam Farnaz Rostami aka Mona G. Hawd on a piece that is a part of a larger group show paying tribute to the benchmark feminist collective/installation/show Womanhouse.

Join my email list at fauxnique.net and I will keep you posted.

A huge thank you to Fauxnique for taking part in this edition of Talking Toxic! I loved every second and every syllable! And, if like me, you want to keep up to date with all of the lovely ladys’ latest goings on, subscribe to the mailing list and buy a copy of Lipstique available on Amazon, now…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lipstique-featuring-Fauxnique-Original-Mix/dp/B001N8M010/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1390252985&sr=8-5&keywords=silencefiction

Bile and Bruises

Dis Charge

xo

You’ve heard from The Wasp Women, now it’s the turn of the Maggot Men! Talking Toxic Presents, an interview with Gregory Langston!

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’…

The Maggot Men and one Queen, courtesy of Wendy Mukluk

The Maggot Men and one Queen, courtesy of Wendy Mukluk

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.

Last ever performance of the Wasp Women

Last ever performance of the Wasp Women

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.

the Wasp Women at the Castro Fair 1979 c/o Wendy Mukluk

the Wasp Women at the Castro Fair 1979 c/o Wendy Mukluk

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!

c/o Wendy Mukluk

c/o Wendy Mukluk

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.

c/o Dark Entries records - Greg on Drums with the official Wasp Women line-up

c/o Dark Entries records – Greg on Drums with the official Wasp Women line-up

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/

Trannyshack Temptress, Volcanic Icelandic Vixen and Legendary Legend, Talking Toxic presents… HEKLINA!

It’s hard to know where to start with todays feature star. Heklina has become one of the most important figures in contemporary drag culture, founding the infamous Trannyshack travelling stage show as well as starring in a number of short films, stage productions and performing world wide, Heklina is one of the hardest working queens in the biz!
The previously mentioned Trannyshack has provided a space for outrageous and groundbreaking drag performance for over a decade and now regularly tours San Francisco, Los Angeles and even boasts a division in NYC.
Come, kick back as we chat punk rock icons, courting controversy and contemporary drag culture with HEKLINA…
Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux

Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux

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) The Trannyshack performers incorporate a great deal of the punk DIY aesthetic into their show stopping routines. How has alternative culture helped shape your style?
H) Well, I didn’t come from a traditional drag background , or house of drag, so I never really had drag idols in the sense of a “mother”. The people who influenced me when I was growing up were theatrical rock stars like David Bowie. I was also heavily into the punk scene, horror films, John Waters (and Divine), artists like Leigh Bowery. But, I would also say that I love camp, and Hollywood glamour, as well….Liz Taylor, Shirley Bassey, Joan Crawford, Dusty Springfield, Valley of the Dolls, The Golden Girls. I soak everything in!
heklina_250px

D) How has the mainstream (both gay and straight) reacted to the Heklina character and towards Trannyshack?

H) The easiest answer to that is that they haven’t! They haven’t reacted at all, haha!

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!

D) Drag, for many reasons, is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. How do you view the contemporary drag circuit?

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.

Heklina and Peaches Christ

D) You have worked closely with Peaches Christ on a number of projects including live performances and short films. Are there any further collaborations in the works?

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).

D) We all know that your schedule is jam packed; Where can we see you next, what events are you supporting and where can we buy your latest merchandise?

H) www.trannyshack.com has all my events, check it out!

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! 🙂

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

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