Jinkx Monsoon and Peaches Christ chat to Chris Park
As the night’s draw in and summer is forgotten, we turn our thoughts to Halloween. Three spooks have drifted into Manchester this week, two from across the pond and one from London town. They will be channelling the Sanderson Sisters, a coven of witches we all know and love from Disney’s Hocus Pocus.
Canal St Online’s Chris Park met with Queen of the San Francisco drag scene Peaches Christ, winner of season 5 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Jinkx Monsoon and London’s premier female drag queen Holestar to talk parodies, the influence of queer culture and what’s next for the LGBT community in these difficult times.
Tell me about Hokum Pokum?
Peaches Christ (PC) - Hocum Pokum is a drag parody celebration of the movie Hocus Pokus but through a lens of a cult movie drag queen entertainer. I have been writing and directing shows that celebrate cult movies for years. Hocus Pocus was a movie that a lot of people had asked me to do for years but it was Jinkkx Monsoon who said “I love this movie, it’s one of my favourite movies” and it was through her appreciation of the movie that I was able to better understand it’s cult. I didn’t grow up with it, I was too cool for it but when I did sit down and watch I realised “Oh it’s their Elvira Mistress of the Dark”, this is Bette Midler channelling every drag queen she ever knew and you know she knew thousands of them.
Jinkx Monsoon (JM) - Everything about it is drag especially in Bette Midler’s performance, I think Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy bring drag aspects to it too because all three of them are over the top in their specific characters. But Bette Midler (is more so) she’s got no eyebrows, she’s got the big acrylic fake teeth put in, she’s got huge acrylic nail claws. There’s no way she’s not a drag queen in this movie.
Has Bette Midler or any of the other cast acknowledged the show?
JM Kathy Najimy and I worked together and I showed her pictures of it and she said she loved it. She hasn’t publicly acknowledged it.
PC Sarah Jessica Parker tweeted about it. Someone sent a pic of the 3 of us the first time we did it so it was Jinkx, Ben DeLa Crème and myself and said “The queens are doing you right” and she replied “When aren’t they?” which I thought was hilarious because our hideous friend Heklina does a Sex and the City parody so I tweeted back a picture of Heklina as her in and said “Well here” and she didn’t reply. I don’t know if she felt comfortable being shady but I thought it was sweet so I feel that Bette Midler probably has an awareness of it, that’s my hope.
She’s certainly a huge fan of the movie and has integrated it into her last concert tour, she came out as Winnie in the whole costume with a very drag version of the wig, it’s not the wig she wears in the movie it’s more the wig I wear in the show and she did this after our show. So a lot of the time queer culture leads the way as far as recognising what has a camp value.
Holestar (HS) - Rocky Horror bombed, Showgirls bombed completely and now they are some of MGM’s biggest money-makers. Queers take these projects that seem to have failed and all of a sudden they have a new lease of life. People go “actually they are good”.
JM The queer community have consistently been the taste makers only it used to be underground and now it’s very public knowledge, you look at the biggest stars of our time right now, they are the ones that have the queers worshipping at their altars like Lady Gaga and Beyonce and actors like Meryl Streep, she is a fantastic actress but she is also a queer icon, it’s hard to tell just how much influence we have over the mainstream culture but I think it’s a lot more than we used to be given credit for.
HS Lady Gaga’s original stylist Nicola Formichetti used to hang out in East London where we used to do stuff where I was the only female drag queen. All of a sudden he started putting these ridiculous outfits on her and people used to say “How do you feel about that” and I said “I don’t care, she’s a star I’m just doing my thing.”
Holestar, you’re the new kid on the block, have you seen the show?
HS I’ve seen the video of the US premiere with Ben DeLa Crème, I’ve seen the film a million times because I’m camp as tits so I know the film but today is the first day of rehearsals so it’s nice to sit around and talk through the script and get a feel for how it’s all going to work.
Are you making any changes for UK audiences?
PC Most of it will be the same but where we reference local persons or drag performers we will change most of that. But since the basic structure is so centred around celebrating this movie most of it will be the same. That is except Holestar’s performance. What’s been fun about this show for Jinkx and I, we have now had three different co-stars and each of them have their own centrepiece moment that’s specific to their character. Jinkx does a couple of numbers in the show that are hers and I do a lip sync that I absolutely must do because we couldn’t do this show without doing “I Put A Spell On You”, then Ben De La Crème, Bob The Drag Queen and Holestar each have had their own number and its different in each show which I really like because it changes the flavour.
What other films are you itching to do?
PC That I haven’t done yet? Well let’s see, Jinkx is really pushing me to do Matilda so I’m considering that for next year.
JM The movie is bigger with my generation in America than I think probably here in the UK. A lot of times we wait for things. Grey Gardens we did after I did Snatch Game and they did the HBO movie with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange so when we did it, it was the perfect time.
Hocus Pocus is timeless, you can do it anytime around Halloween?
I don’t know how much she wants me to talk about it but we’re working behind the scenes to make a Death Becomes Her parody show between Peaches and I and a third co-star that’s yet to be decided but what I’m loving is Peaches brought me into the fold as a co-star in her shows and as we’ve continued to work together over the last 5 years I’ve taken on roles behind the scenes as Assistant Director and Co-Producer on these shows. She’s really letting me step up and become a bigger part of Peaches Christ Productions which I’m happy to take on because it’s a very special thing that Peaches does and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do with drag.
It started in San Francisco and we take it a West Coast tour every year with a new show, we’ve then taken it to New York and now we’re taking it to the UK, every year it gets a little bit bigger. Even though they are mainly for entertainment value we always work in a little bit of meaning and a little bit of message that’s poignant to the time.
PC This is not to criticise any other drag performance because I’m a fan of all drag unless you’re just mean. We did a Spice Girls show last year and I think there were fans of the SG who wanted to show up and see drag queens do the SG in a straight up homage. That’s not of interest to me, I like to put a perverted transgressive twist on things and so there were these women in the audience who were disappointed when Baby Spice wore a diaper and took a shit. That’s the drag school that I come from where nothing is taboo and everything is comedy. You can still celebrate this thing whilst also making fun of it. Jinkx and I love the Edies, Little Edie and Big Edie, we’re huge fans but we’re also, in a sense, poking fun at the whole notion of Grey Gardens. It’s a way of deeply loving something and celebrating it by creating comedy together.
HS It’s like Panto. It’s a very British thing. In London we have drag pantos and we’re taking traditional pantos and taking it down, it’s filthy, it’s disgusting, it’s vile. This year I’m directing Dick Whittington and we’re calling it Dick and his Pussy.
JM I saw Holestar’s Sleeping Beautiy and it was brilliant, it’s such a cultural thing for you guys and it’s not so different to what we do in the States it’s just got a different approach.
You mention about putting a message in there, the political climate is not great at the moment and I was watching the Marsha P Johnson documentary on Netflix where it was mentioned that L,G and B have forgotten T. Do you feel this is still the case?
PC Some people would say working and living in SF, I have the privilege of being in this bubble of tolerance because it’s so liberal and it is true that I got my start back at Trannyshack in the mid-90s. The drag culture was so inclusive of trans women, trans men and non binary folks. Of course we didn’t have all the names back then so Tranny was this umbrella term that was really a term of endearment for insiders. It wasn’t a word that was designed to hurt people.
In some ways when things were less evolved it was easier because we were all just freaks and weirdos and so we had this common thing where the homophobes or the transphobes all hated us the same and we just got along because we were the outsiders even in the wider gay community. I remember being told by the film festivals and producers that they would never screen my movies, it was not an affirming representation of LGBT people. I was gross, I was offensive because I’d taken the name of Jesus, all this stuff.
JM I think there is an ongoing issue no matter what the community is. Of course everything is going to still favour white males, even in a community full of minorities like the LGBT community, first and foremost, rights are going to be set up and aimed towards the white privilege males of that community. What I think we’re doing more than ever before though is calling out that bullshit and not pretending like it’s not happening. That’s a special thing about this modern generation; we’re not turning a blind eye to the inequality that still exists in many different communities.
HS This Marsha P Johnson documentary was made by a black trans woman and got hijacked by a white CIs gay man and that’s being recognised all over social media, people are going off about this and this happens so many times where it gets commercialised. Like the Stonewall film, the whitewashing of queer culture. But through social media we now have the power to go “Whoa” and that’s what we’re doing now.
JM I do feel that there are way more people saying “That’s not OK we’re not going to let that happen anymore” whereas in the past a whitewashing of a story would happen and we’d all just accept it. When the Stonewall film came out, lots of people vocalised their detest for what happened with that movie and a lot of people boycotted it and refused to support it.
I am a white person, a non-binary identified person but I spent most of my life experiencing the privilege of being a white male bodied person even though I was extremely femme and gay. I mostly just dealt with the stigma around being a drag queen because I started at age 15 and now I’m 30 so I’ve been a drag queen for half my life and RuPaul’s Drag Race came along and showed many people what’s cool about drag and why drag queens should be given respect and not treated like the black sheep of the community and I think it causes a domino effect.
Not to say that it’s all thanks to drag but to see drag queens being celebrated on TV, people of different gender identities, trans women are now going on Drag Race and they are openly trans, we had Peppermint and people coming out as trans after. So the more that we get exposure like this in a positive light, trans people representing themselves on TV not being played by CIs women, nothing wrong against CIS women or men but to have a trans person actually play a trans person on TV, that’s monumental and that’s how we move forward. Let the people of that minority represent themselves.
PC I would say that as a community, whilst winning our right to marry in the States and over here, we struggle with not accepting each other’s differences so I think we have a major problem as far as misogyny in gay men and a lot of racism and transphobia but the good news is we are evolving together.
Hocum Pokum is a show not to be missed and is at the Contact Theatre this weekend, for information please visit via link below
By Chris Park for Canal St OnlineRead More