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?

 

Radio Noise

It has been a long time since I have published anything that could be considered ‘Creative writing’. Mostly, if and when I do write, this will take the form of short fiction and will most likely, never see the light of day…

 

However, after looking over some of my private, collected poetry-sub-conscious-direct-to-video ramblings I decided to have a bash at putting something back out there. Using only micro-edits and, in attempt to be  a little more honest with my writing, I have kept my stupid over processed symbolism to the leanest it has been for, well, possibly ever?!

Let’s see how it goes…

 

Radio Noise

Our gods are wearing sneakers

that bleed into their pictures,

shaking autopsy reports and legacy prescriptions.

Their names are muddied, printed over and over

until syllables lose their senses –

stare blank at news reports and

tabloid journo-porno-kings tapping stories to keep the crowds smiling.

 

Re-released and re-packaged,

feather stamped and viewed through an ironic lense.

“Our messages have been grifted and silk screened

onto desk covers, burger and chips, wrappers and

rapping paper super starlets –

bleached out and disaffected”

You can buy them now, available on Itunes…

 

I tune in and out of radio babble,

slipping through tangles of terminology

I loosely grasp –

feeling under threat and disconnected.

My brain itches. Eyes narrow,

weigh heavy and sleepy,

at my desk I curse their twitter follower feed discussions –

who IS following who, and who cares??

 

We stumble from disco to disco

fumbling encounters with passive peoples in doorways,

stating our ‘Thank you’s’ as we go –

holding applause to our stage clothes and hiding in cellars.

Rages limp on flashing glimpses of false teeth

and smiles I swear I’ve seen before,

I can’t place it, but can’t forget either.

Feel dysphoric and disjointed

like an imposter.

 

 

Christian Cowpunk and the Queercore Explosion! Glen Meadmore Talks Toxic!

Glen Meadmore boasts a career that spans a broad stylistic collection of media. Be it film, music or performance art, Meadmore has embodied the availabalist technique of drag in both his solo and collaborative career with such luminaries as Vaginal Davis (as part of Queercore legends, Pedro Muriel and Esther) and worked with recording legend Steve Albini. Read on as we talk serial killers, punk notoriety and performance art…

Dis) So, Glen, you got your start as bassist/vocalist of Winnipeg based punk group, the Psychiatrists. How do you view the Canadian scene – it has been commented that at the time, there was only disparate activity for alternative culture in Canada – would you agree with this?

Glen Meadmore)  I don’t really know much about the Canadian scene or any music scene for that matter. I’m pretty much a hermit and live in a cultural void.

Limbo lounge 85-86

D) Your move to Los Angeles saw you teaming up with queercore poster girl, Vaginal Davis, forming Pedro, Muriel & Esther. This signified the beginning of an incredibly fertile and creative period for yourself and your contemporaries. Can you tell us a little about performing with PME and your involvement with the burgeoning queercore scene…

Spew with Glen and Vag

G)  I met Vaginal on the steps of the anticlub a venue we both performed at . At the time I could tell we were kinderd spirits. PME didnt come until several years later. he wanted me to play guitar behind his poetry and I thought it would be a good idea to form a band. I didnt know anything about queercore. I still dont know much about it except the term. As i’ve said I am pretty out of the music scene.

D) I believe at this point as well, that RuPaul was also working with yourselves, are you still in contact with Ms. Paul and how do you view your time working together…

G) I met Ru while performing at the limbo lounge in west hollywood. We would later perform together at club rio in atlanta and later with vag  at the pyramid in ny. Ru and I hadnt spoken for many years till last year he invited me to chat with him in the dressing room of his tv show. He is very ambitious. 

D) Drag, particularly ‘outsider’ or what could be termed ‘availabalist’ drag, became a great vehicle for you during this time as represented in your videos from the ‘Squaw Bread’/’Chicken and Biscuits’ period of your solo career. What about drag, particularly this style, appealed/appeals to you?

G) When I first started doing drag it was mainly just to get attention walking down the street. I would just throw on any old dress without makeup etc. very frumpy. Later in performance I would try for an asexual minimalist look. usually all black sometimes just a body sleeve with no arms so I had restricted arm movement. Later a simple black t shirt form fitting dress. Later a black body suit and later pink spandex and a pink sequin  body suit. minimalist makeup usually just foundation black eyeshadow and red or pink lipstick. My smokey eye look was inspired by Serge Luten. my looks after that were very spontaneous i wore a large plastic sheet I found on the street etc. or some black fabric I found which I fashioned into a burka. later my friend collaborator Jim van Tyne would design and make elaborate outfits for me.

D) You’ve been credited, with creating the genre of ‘Christian-new-wave-country-punk’ – what a mouthful! – blending bluegrass with DIY punk and synth. What drove you to combine this unusual melange?

G) When I started doing music it was spontaneous also. I had given up guitar and started playing synth and was interested in disco and repetition but wanted it to be demented. I liked things that broke rules. Later I got back into guitar and thought I might be able to do something with country music which I found corny and thought if I thought it might be interesting to pervert it in some way. I use the term christian loosely as i’m more of a spritualist. There are some christian ethics I find appealing.

D) Aes-Nihil recently added videos from your early period to YouTube and I believe still distributes a number of films and albums of yours. ‘No Money, No Honey’ for instance, features Ms. Davis again, how do you characterise your relationship with each other and the work you’ve produced?

G) Vaginal is a dear sweet soul and we are of a like mind, so working together comes naturally.

D) The video for ‘Do Me’ featured a risqué performance during which you performed a hyper-acidic and cartoonlike black face character being hired by a suspicious, suburban couple to keep house for them. What drove you to create this character and employ this imagery?

G)  The video for ‘Do Me’ was a video created by ken camp . the look was one i put together for performing. like i say all my creativity comes spontaneously not much planning. What can I say, I was possessed!

D) Your third album, ‘Boned’ dropped the synth element of your sound in favour of a more aggressive ‘Grunge’ flavour, what was your reason for this diversifying of your sound?

Wearing a Rick Castro bodysuit

G)  ‘Boned’ was the album where I first got the band together. I think it was recorded right after the band was formed and the songs were thrown together and not rehearsed much if at all. Which is how we usually work.

D) Advancing further, your next record, the acclaimed, ‘Hot, Horny and Born Again’ garnered your inclusion on the soundtrack for Bruce LaBruce’s ‘Hustler White’, did you have a pre-existing relationship with Bruce through the Homocore association?

G) I dont think I knew Bruce before the film but I did know the girls from fifth column (GB Jones et al.) and the boys from shadowy men

D) I’ve heard that songs from this album are to be included in a compilation record entitled ‘Queercore Explosion’. What’s your reaction to being canonised within this cultural frame?

G)  I dont know about the queercore explosion but I’m all for being canonized

D) Returning to ‘Hot, Horny…’ it would be remiss of me to overlook the cover art, created by infamous serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. What lead you to contact Gacy and, further to this, include his artwork in your release?

Cover by Gacy

Cover by Gacy

G)  I had heard that Gacy did commissions so I wrote to him and he agreed to my portrait. I have 4 altogether based on photos Rick Castro took of me.  I suppose I was interested because I was curious about how the criminal mind would interpret art . Also being able to talk to Gacy a few times I was able to get a glimpse inside the personality of a murderer. He seemed like an average guy. Nothing unusual at all.

D) After a long hiatus, PME returned in 1998 on the Spectra Music label with ‘The White to be Angry!’ which featured a sardonic VD proclaiming herself a white heterosexual male and keeper of all societal privilege’. What encouraged your return, collectively, to this project?

The White to be Angry

G) The PME cd was sponsored by our friend Mark Freitas , without him it wouldn’t have been recorded. He was the one who wanted to do it.

D) Steve Albini produced this record and then returned to produce your following album, ‘Cowboy Songs’, how did this partnership occur and do you plan to release any further material with Albini in future?

G)  I asked Steve if he would record my country band and he agreed. I would love to work with him again. He is very efficient and gets a  great sound. He works very fast too , plus he is very funny and sweet 

Glen 4

D) Thank you so much for your time today Glen, can you tell us, where is best to purchase your awesome music and merchandise? Where also, can we see you next and what upcoming projects do you have in the works?

G) You’re welcome Dis! The best way to purchase music is to write to me 225 s olive st #1607 LA CA 90012. no gigs as yet but we are always ready and able for any.

Glen