Lady Bunny: Mother of Dragoons
By Greg Garry
Photo: Mathu Anderson
Drag queens are like bedbugs these days, indestructible and ubiquitous: Movies, television, even Broadway, are positively crawling with so many men in heels. Some are incredible—like Sharon Needles or Jinkx Monsoon—and some are simply a dude in a dress. One thing’s for sure, they all owe a huge debt to drag legend Lady Bunny, who was strapping on size 13 heels when they were all drag tadpoles.
From her early days at the Pyramid with RuPaul to her iconic Wigstock dragfest, this self proclaimed “old pig in a wig” has been making drunk bar patrons laugh and wet their pants for going on four decades. With her fly swatter eyelashes and gravity defying, Dusty Springfield skyscraper wigs, Bun-Bun’s show is really a campy vaudeville for our times. No one can lampoon a pop diva and deliver a shitty pun like Bunny, all while squirting the audience with menstrual blood.
You can catch all her latest onstage atrocities in her new show Clowns Syndrome in New York City (through May 27). Bunny took the time to talk with Out as she shopped for funeral drag for the memorial service for beloved DJ Frankie Knuckles. “I need a veil that will fit over a huge wig!” We chatted about her latest show, Beyoncé, and the online brouhaha over the dreaded “T” word.
Out: How was the Frankie Knuckles memorial?
Lady Bunny: Sad. At a time when DJs have become jukeboxes for those with unsophisticated musical tastes, he was not a hack who played something because it was popular. He brought straight, gay, and every race, creed, and color together to dance.
I’ve been seeing your shows for centuries. What fun and filth can we expect from you in this one?
Centuries? But I’m new on the scene! In my last show, I felated a dildo that ejaculated and squirted “menstrual” blood to the tune of Leona Lewis’s "Bleeding Love." So I’m done with slippery stages covered in bodily fluids. I think there may be less filth in this one, rather than political incorrectness.
I always love your song parodies. Who do you cover in this one?
I’m covering Pharrell, Katy Perry, Daft Punk, and a few classics by Prince, Frank Sinatra, and Bobbie Gentry.
Who are the most ridiculous pop stars around today?
Beyoncé just put out her “visual album,” which just means it sounds like shit. She totally lost me on that release, even though "Love On Top," from her preceding album, is my favorite song by her ever. That’s because it’s real R&B.
Has any star ever reacted badly to your send-ups?
My jokes about Cher refer to her plastic surgery and age—which she jokes about herself. She did recently see Chad Michaels perform as her. After the show, she was asking everyone, “Do I really look that old?”
You have taken the politically correct word police to task over the word “tranny.” Do you feel like the next generation takes itself too seriously, and has lost its sense of humor?
People are trying to be more politically correct, but it seems a new word is banned every day. I’ve always thought tranny was an affectionate term for transvestites and transsexuals. I don’t know if it’s the younger generation or a few rabid trans bloggers. But take Hedwig and The Angry Inch. When it opened in 1998, no one cried: “Transphobic!” So we’ve definitely lost our sense of humor to political correctness since then.
And GLAAD has banned the term gender bender. That’s what David Bowie and Frank N. Furter were! And no one has ever assaulted a trans person screaming: “Take that, you gender bender, you!”
Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me. What is the meanest thing anyone has ever called you?
The one that hurt the most? Sally Struthers! Or the meanest of all: Hedda Lettuce! CRUEL! Seriously, sometimes I’ll step out in drag and some straight pig will yell something homophobic at me. It hurts. But when you put on drag, or come out of the closet or become trans, you’re going to get shit. So don’t embark on a difficult journey if you are so sensitive. There will always be haters—but you need to have the sense of purpose to ensure that you can let stuff roll off of your back.
What young drag queens around today do you enjoy?
I worship Bianca Del Rio, but she ain’t exactly young! I love Tammie Brown from Season 1 of RuPaul's Drag Race. I saw her sold-out cabaret show at NYC’s Laurie Beechman Theater, and she truly is an original doing all original music. Shangela is very entertaining and I’m a huge fan of Roxxxy Andrews’ looks.
Who needs to go?
I think the ones who need to go are the ones who lipsync Beyonce, Rihanna, and Britney slavishly. It’s so dull and the music isn’t good. Drag queens used to school us with offbeat, signature songs that most of us wouldn’t have known otherwise, like Patti Labelle’s "Over The Rainbow," Melba Moore’s "Lean On Me," or Grace Slick’s nutty solo stuff. Now most queens perform top 40 and it can be a snore. Originality is always appreciated.
Can you please revive Wigstock? It was always the funnest party and a perfect end to the summer. It could be great now.
My partner Scott Lifshutz have been talking about some Wigstock projects. After more than 20 years of organizing it, we both needed a very long break because we were literally tearing our wig hair out from it. Especially when it rained—no one likes a soggy dragoon! I just hope that Clowns Syndrome audiences don’t mind a saggy one!
What is it about a man in makeup, a wig and a dress that still fascinates people?
Ask Wendy Williams!
Clowns Syndrome is every Tuesday evening, beginning April 29 through May 27. Tickets available here.