Getting Wiggy With It
Glamazons Revive A Classic Drag Bash
by Kiki Mason
If you don’t have any place to wear your pink boa, 7-inch platform heels, or sky-high two-toned beehive wig, join Lady Bunny and her friends at Wigstock today.
Wigstock – “the world’s most celebrated drag-oriented pansexual extravaganza” –returns with a new attitude and heads back to its roots at Tompkins Square Park as part of the east Village’s five day counterculture bash, the HOWL! Festival.
One night in 1985 drag star Lady Bunny and partner Scott Lifshutz and other scenesters, six packs in hand, descended on the park after the Avenue A club Pyramid closed for the evening. ‘The Pyramid Club throughout the 80’s was a hot bed for everything from drag queens to performance artists to rock bands,” says the fabulous Lady Bunny, who appears on this Sunday’s episode of “Sex And The City.”
“These hard core rock bands would get their $25 permits to perform in the old bandshell and play these horrible half hour long songs. After a night of drinking we decided we could do better,” she laughs.
“It was clear we had hit upon something. It was a carnival atmosphere that just grew bigger and bigger.” Says Lady Bunny, who lived on Fifth Street and Avenue A for years.
In 1995, for the 10th anniversary, Wigstock moved to a pier in what is now Hudson River Park. The event attracted some 30,000 preeners and a feature documentary film was made.
The final Wigstock took place in 2001, a casualty to poor weather and mounting costs. Until HOWL! Festival Organizers came calling. Today some true legends of drag, as well as the next generation of cross-dressing divas, will take the stage: Lypsinka, TABBOO! The Dueling Bankheads, Dean Johnson, Murry Hill, Sugga Pie Coco, Miss Diandra and some 22 other performers.
“There are just a bunch of really creative people who are doing intelligent drag. In NEW York, it’s taken to a whole new level.” But the return to the east Village is bittersweet. “It’s sad that the funky artsy, funky types can’t afford to live in Manhattan anymore, or even Williamsburg for that matter,” she adds. “But at least for this weekend it’s going to be a return to the good old days. I think it’s going to be a hoot!”
Goin' Back to Its Roots
by Winnie McCroy and Kevin Spence
At the corner of Seventh Street and Avenue A, just inside Tompkins Square Park, homeless people, Hispanic families, Ukrainian moms, aging hippies and young hipsters converged just as they would on any other summer day. Occupying their time by playing chess and chatting under overhanging trees, they seemed unfazed by orange lip-stick wearing men in platform heels sauntering by the park regulars.
This is, after all, the east Village. The assembly of men in make-up signaled the return of “Wigstock 2003” to its original home, almost two decades after the Lady Bunny had the idea of combining the ideal of Woodstock with the performance bravado of drag queens.
The drag extravaganza, Saturday August 23, was part of the HOWL! Festival, a week long conglomeration of loosely strung together acts of art and music celebrating Downtown culture. Kicking off the show was founder Lady Bunny – Part comedian, part diva.
The oversized blond-wigged faux female got ht crowd going with her trademark wit, fashion and a mouth that would make a truck driver blush. In the vein of “Martin and Rowan’s Laugh-In,” the 1968 TV show of one liners and sight gags that made go-go dancing Goldie Hawn a star, Lady Bunny and other downtown celebrities told joke like, “What’s the definition of a Jewish Dilemma? (Answer: free ham.”) and “What’s the difference between Lesbians and canoes? (answer: Canoes tip”).
It wasn’t until Gusty Winds, just one of the 20 plus performers, asked the crowd,”Why is Lady like a bowling ball? Because she’s picked up, fingered and thrown in the gutter,” that the audience collectively cat-called whistled and howled their approval. The in-joke about Wigstock’s widely known founding mother was a taste of the hysterical and over-the-top show that was to come. Wigstock is living proof that no one can be as self-deprecating as a man in women’s clothes.
“I don’t want to brag, but I thought it was an unqualified success on many levels,” said Bunny. “For one thing, seeing how exhausted we were after a two hour show, I can’t believe we did an eight hour show for 17 years. And we couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather. It’s a big factor that determines everything from performers morale to audience’s comfort.”
Performers who got their first breaks at Wigstock and have gone onto mainstream success like Lypsinka, Mistress Formika, and The World famous Bob joined Sweetie the girls of Lipps Restaurant and a bevy of other beauties. All of them contributed to a circus-like atmosphere and off center revue.
Michael West performed a take-off on Charlene’s “Never Been To ME” (lip synched at the beginning of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert”), with off color lyrics such as, “I’ve been to Betty Ford, but I’ve never been to me.” Dressed as addles Liza Minelli, West curtly told Bunny, “take another pill bitch, and wipe your nose.”
Mirkala Crystal contributed to the overall drama with her routine from Lipps restaurant, and then went backstage for an interview with New York One News.
One of the several highlights of the show, according to Bunny, was The Dueling Bankheads, a duo dressed alike and singing in a demented “Why Am I Gay?” to the theme of “YMCA.” “Look at gays – we need to laugh at ourselves,” Bunny said.
Surprising audience members and performers alike, an original Village People member joined the Dueling Bankheads onstage.
As for the new comers to the drag scene, Bunny was particularly impressed with Sugga Pie Coco, a virtual ‘unknown’ who danced to Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right, but it’s Okay.” “I have to say when I heard the beginning of the song, I groaned, but then I kept hearing cheers. She was doing cartwheels and her gut was hanging out,” said Bunny. “Seeing a fat girl dance is what the crowd likes.”
To the question, “Will there be a Wigstock 2004?” Bunny replied in a diplomatic manner: “Maybe if the authorities don’t come down on us for vulgarity, nudity and child abuse.”