We’ve since seen Ru’s show and totally disagree about the production values and lighting being shoddy, and we loved all the tongue-in-cheek Top Model seriousness coupled with all the backstage high bitchery.
But we’re still troubled by the notion that a youngish writer (under the age of 30), with questionable exposure to the drag arts, would suggest that drag has “disappeared” and become irrelevant in the eyes of his generation. Maybe the NY scene has gotten more tired than we realized, or maybe he just hasn’t seen any good fucking drag!
We approached Lady Bunny, who was quoted in the Salon piece, to have her elaborate on the matter, and here’s what she had to say:
I recently worked at a decades-old gay club whose owner lamented that the gay youth in his city preferred to hang out at hip straight or mixed bars. Maybe it’s the influence of immensely popular gay-themed or hosted TV shows like Queer Eye, Will and Grace and Ellen, but straights are less condemning of the gay lifestyle so it’s easier for younger gays to assimilate. I actually agree with the author of the Salon piece that drag is somewhat irrelevant for the younger generation. I’m not THAT old, but I imagine it was very freeing and a uniquely gay thing to see a drag queen perform in a wig and moustache in the 70s. Drag, particularly the gender-fuck drag which incorporates both male and female attributes, has a very “Screw you! Don’t label me because I’m a man and a woman!” vibe. I don’t think that today’s generation is so much in need of being freed. Like the young author of the Salon piece, they’re already there.And today’s drag often makes itself tired and irrelevant. Not only are queens forced—if they want to make tips–to trot out Top 40 hits to cater to youth’s less sophisticated musical tastes, but recreating an artist’s choreography from Top 40 videos is now considered the height of fierceness in drag shows and pageants. I don’t get it, personally. You watch a video all day on TV and then pay to see it recreated, on a budget, at night? Where’s the creativity in that? I’d rather see a queen who can dance the house down adding her own choreography. Or a queen who goes out on a limb and hunts for an offbeat song that’s fantastic which she can work the shit out of, regardless of whether it’s on the radio or not. I was introduced to many incredible songs in this way by drag queens. Patti Labelle’s ‘Over The Rainbow,’ Melba Moore’s ‘Lean On Me,’ Natalie Cole’s ‘Party Lights’ and Grace Slick’s ‘Seasons’ may not have been radio smashes, but drag queens have kept them alive within the gay community because they are all knockout performance numbers. The queens who are making it are those like John Cameron Mitchell (aka Hedwig), Lypsinka, RuPaul, Jackie Beat, Dame Edna, and Madea. These “gals” are either recording their own music, lip-synching to clever mixes with high production values, doing comedy, films, etc.–not just aping already played-out material. If your act is throwaway, that’s exactly what your audience is gonna do—ditch you!
Please look back to us later this week for some further point/counterpoint discussion with other drag queens currently keeping the scene alive.
And now, we leave you with this video of Bunny’s spoof-medley oeuvre, from Wigstock 2004.
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