You’ve been a busy Bunny lately! You recently staged your first show in 10 years, That Ain’t No Lady, at La Escuelita in New York City. What took so long?
I’m really from the world of nightclubs rather than cabaret. I’ve always preferred performing in clubs for late-night, crazy drunken crowds rather than in sit-down settings. Cabaret just seems so adult to me, and I figured there was always time for that when and if the Energizer Bunny slowed down. What I enjoyed about it was having a few lighting cues, a curtain and spotlight and costumes changes interspersed with video—it had a little bit more production value than my usual one-off club gig.
And I was thrilled to get a great review in the New York Times, who basically said that it was hilarious but filthy. The New York Post reviewed my last show 10 years ago, and due to some totally tasteless Michael Jackson jokes, they wrote that it was the worst drag show they’d ever seen and possibly the worst show of any kind. That show did sell out and get extended for months, but on some level it did make me question if I was too raunchy or inappropriate for cabaret. But that was before I realized that the Post was run by a conservative crook named Rupert Murdoch who also ran Fox News and should therefore be ignored completely.
The show did get amazing reviews, and I believe the Times referred to you as “a sewer mouth on go-go wings.” Some things never change, huh?
I have resorted to trashier and trashier gimmicks in my old age, but it’s what makes me laugh, so I do it! WARNING: It’s only going to get worse from here. My motto is, the looks are long gone so you’d better be funny!
From what I understand, the show also brought in quite a few celebs and famous boozehounds. Were there any nights when you were like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe so-and-so came to my show!” or is it all old-hat by now? At your ripe 30 years of age, do you still get starstruck?
I personally know most of the celebs who came—Andy Cohen, Debby Harry, Pam Ann, Kristine W., Marc Almond and Antony from Antony and the Johnsons. What a mix, right? But I did get starstruck by Nona Hendryx from Labelle!
I understand you and Bianca del Rio, another popular New York queen, are throwing a weekly party these days called Hot Mess. Tons of Angelenos travel back and forth between here and NY, so tell me about the party and the inspiration behind that clever name.
Actually, the name’s more descriptive than clever, since the show’s literally a hot mess with a crazy cast. Bianca is probably the most hilarious emcee I’ve ever worked with, and she’s wrong on all kinds of levels. One reviewer said that he hadn’t seen anyone funnier since Charles Pearce. Milan from Drag Race Season 4 is also in the cast, and that bitch is a showstopper. Between Bianca and I, the show has a twisted feel, which explodes in XL’s glamorous new cabaret space, with its fantastic stage and lighting capabilities. OK, that’s the second time I’ve mentioned lighting in one interview. Can you say old? It’s every Wednesday at 9 p.m., so please come check it out when you’re in the Big Apple. We’re firmly committed to bringing trash back to Times Square, so fuck off, Disney!
A certain spooky winner of this last season of RuPaul’s Drag Race recently made an appearance at Hot Mess and got in a little trouble. Have you spoken to Sharon Needles since her little incident?
No, but we chatted during that night and she came onstage to say hi to the crowd. She’s a riot and a very sisterly queen—she didn’t seem messy to me at all. But she was outside the club barefoot when I arrived! I do love a kook! Kris Jenner and Lance Bass were also there that night. How I loved to hear Bianca rag on Kris, mimicking her daughter’s whiny voice, saying “I’m a Kardashian. Do you wanna fuck my pussy? NO!” Kris was such a good sport about it, and of course the audience was shrieking!
Were you a fan of Sharon and the other contestants on this past season of Drag Race? I know you probably aren’t gonna name favorites, but do you think Ru and the judges got it right this past season?
Definitely a Sharon fan! I haven’t seen every episode of every season, but I do know all of the winners. And I think she was a very wise decision by the show’s judges/producers. They let us know that Drag Race isn’t a conventional beauty pageant, because Sharon, while glamorous, is no conventional beauty. And unlike most beauty queens, she’s very intelligent, political and unique. She’ll perform all over the country this year with her coffins and hearses and crazy act and challenge people’s concept of what drag is. Ru herself changed people’s perception of drag by becoming a pop star and talk show host. And don’t forget that Ru comes from a background of freak drag like he and I used to do while roommates in Atlanta and NYC. Ru definitely appreciates the freaks, like Tammie Brown and Sharon. I think he wanted one winner to reflect the freak drag that is at his roots—along with the bed bugs that are at his roots. And I think he still has scabies, too.
I’m also a fan of Chad Michaels, who is a truly sweet person and a major talent. By having him in the top three, it was a big nod to old-school drag, which has been somewhat ignored until now. Chad had a successful, well-respected career before Drag Race. Some of the queens are more onscreen personality than actual performers.
Let’s switch to talking about Drag U. You’re reprising your role as the Dean of Drag with some of our favorite Drag Race queens. What can we expect from the upcoming season? Any new twists and turns?
They’ve added hunky guest instructors to my Lady Lessons! And Sharon, Chad and Latrice are on the show a lot. I love working with the girls when they are not competing and are booked as talent—not sequestered without cellphones or computers. And while we may get catty on-camera, I’ve enjoyed meeting and working with all of them and stay in touch with several. I love Jujubee, Tammie Brown, Raven, Shannel, Manila, Raja, Pandora, Mariah, Sahara. I hope I didn’t leave any out! I’ve never met Phi Phi, but maybe that’s a good thing?
One thing that fascinates me about Drag U is that the women who are made over are being styled by RuPaul’s longtime style guru Mathu Anderson. He’s incredibly talented, and the transformations can be shocking! My booger butt is getting more lessons than I be teaching!
You’ve been close with RuPaul for many years. How did you guys initially meet each other, and how did your Drag U gig come about?
We were two young, artsy-fartsy club kids in Atlanta, hanging out in its very vibrant club scene in the 1980s. We go-go danced for the same band, The Now Explosion, and at several points we were roommates in Atlanta and New York. There was an instant, close connection. He put me in Boy George drag, complete with cornrows!
Decades later, Ru called me to appear in his film Starbooty, in which he played a whore and I played a criminal dyke. Typecasting! Right after that, we shot Another Gay Sequel and recorded a duet for his last album. These experiences reminded us both how much we missed each other’s sick humor. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of working with him on Drag U. One morning he came skipping down the hall. I said, “Girl! I’ve known you for a minute now, and I have never once been known to see you literally skipping with joy!” He had a few down years, and I’m so glad they’re completely over. Now she’s ovah! And I’m ovah! Ovah-weight! Ba-dum-pum!
People outside of New York may not know that you’re quite the DJ, and that you’ve gotten to spin some amazing parties over the years. Any particularly fond DJ memories?
Yes! The night that no one requested Rihanna! (Which was every night before she started whining—I mean singing—um, I mean ‘recording,’ as opposed to actually singing.)
I spin every year at a benefit for Empire State Pride in the Hamptons. With that crowd, you end every event with “Last Dance.” I guess I used to say that it’s an older crowd, but now I guess I should say “They’re my age.” Ouch! It’s outdoors, so they drove the car around, I grabbed my stuff, leaving Donna playing, ran out into the field dancing some foul jig of sorts, then opened the car, shoved my massive coiffure into it, shut the door, rolled down the window and lip-synched that last note of “Last Dance” as the crowd erupted. I don’t claim to have good timing or even be that coordinated, but I done got it right that time! And I couldn’t have done it without Donna’s gorgeous music. So a public thank you to that great lady of song! From back when we danced to actual songs….
Have you ever had a celebrity request a song that had you thinking, “Really?”
Yes! Before anyone knew who Paris Hilton was, I was spinning some big party that her mom, sister and she attended. The mom excitedly informed me that Michael Jackson was in the building, so I simply had to put on his music. I didn’t believe her, but I put some on since that was a crowd that liked it anyway.
Catch Bunny on LOGO's Drag U every Monday night, starting June 18! She'll also be at _______