Photo of Miss Fame (left) and Pearl by Wilsonmodels
Overnight, two young NYC-based beauties named Miss Fame and Pearl have gone from perfectly respectable drag performers to human carnage that predators like me eat alive, LOL. That’s because they’re going to be on the new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is mandatory gay viewing for anyone who cares about tucking, twirling, and tossing shade.
Everyone suddenly wants a piece of these two Hollywood-style temptresses, and I was fortunate enough to get a chance to pounce on them at Brandon Voss and Kenny Kenny’s Fever party on Friday night, where they were showcased at a Drag Race “pep rally”-style preview that drew a packed room of screaming queers. And they had pep all right.
It turns out Miss Fame is a supermodel-like makeup artist slash “cosmic queen” who’s married to the lucky Swiss person Patrick Bertschy. And the Chicago-born Pearl—who lives in trendy-shmendy Brooklyn—is a leather-wearing lady known for a fierce synch to “Short Dick Man” in an all-black ensemble complete with shades and various dildo props. Here are my brief party chats with them and with Mrs. Kasha Davis, a more mature gal from Rochester, New York, who’s also competing on the show this season.
Me: Hi, Pearl. What are your major influences?
Pearl: Frankenstein and The Stepford Wives. You know, a malfunctioning robot on the inside, but beautiful on the outside. Cut her open and she’s gross and full of worms!
I know the type. Do you think RuPaul is basically Oprah with a penis?
[Appalled pause] Are you serious about that question?
Me: [grinning] Yes!
[Pissed] Can’t you just ask me about my inspiration?
[Here’s where I thought, What happened to ‘beautiful on the outside’? LOL.] Are you married?
No, I’m very single.
[And with that, she decidedly walked away and started chatting up someone else! Maybe to find a husband! So I immediately switched gears and talked to Miss Fame, who was a doll, not a robot.]
Me: Hi, Miss Fame. So you’re a “cosmic queen”. What is that?
Miss Fame: I’m an alien.
That sounds good. I’d love to go back there!
Who are your inspirations?
Linda Evangelista and Oprah.
That’s funny—I was just going to ask you if RuPaul is Oprah with a penis.
What does your husband do?
He’s my manager and banking agent. All the coin goes to the Swiss Alps man.
I adored her even more now—and I also enjoyed Kasha Davis, whom I cornered to ask about her two impossibly svelte and shimmery costars. “I love Miss Fame’s confidence and personality,” Kasha said. And Pearl? “I’m an older queen,” replied Kasha. “These young kids today. Where do they get their energy and creativity from? They think they deserve it! They don’t think they have to work for it! But it’s OK. I’m older. Pearl’s a child,” she went on. “I know because I’m older and I’ve been around and I’m on the show.” And being older myself, I made up with the “child” for a photo op and politely applauded as she took the stage to lipsynch her lovely song, “Repli-cunt.” This is going to be a fun season.
THE DANCE OF DEATH
Other nightlife news has been none so festive. Richard G. Grant, the Canadian man who owned the legendary 1990s nightclub the Sound Factory, died of heart problems recently, but even hardcore nightcrawlers didn’t know about that. See, there was a Sound Factory reunion-style event at a club called Stage 48 on January 18, and naturally, Grant was supposed to be intimately involved with it. But when he died 11 days before the party (after heart complications), everyone working on the event was told they’d be fired if they leaked out word of his demise! Instead of turning the bash into a tribute to the legacy they were supposedly celebrating, they hush-hushed the bad news for fear it would hurt the party. And I heard it didn’t do that well anyway!
Want some more gay-on-gay weirdness? The OUTMusic Awards are an annual event that in 2010 were so painfully disorganized, I devoted a whole column to the mishegoss, though I nobly threw some optimism-despite-it-all into my critique. Well, lightning seems to have struck them again.
This time around, they sold tickets to a January 19th awards ceremony at Town Hall (including to nominees and their band members, who had to pay $100 each), then announced 36 hours before the event that it was postponed and the ticket money was nonrefundable (according to their policy). They refused to give a reason for the turn of events, though they expressed sympathy for the artists who’d flown themselves in at great expense, offering a reception for Deborah Cox and others as a consolation.
After pressure was applied (partly by me), they sent out a release saying there had been trouble with an unnamed sponsor—the very same reason they gave a few years ago, when they canceled out of the same venue. If you ask me, this event needs a serious overhaul—not only because the planning skills behind it are suspect, but because they hired a hectoring, inept spin-publicist who added insult to injury in ways I haven’t been witness to in my many, many gay years. And by the way, I’m prouder than ever to be involved with the GLAM awards celebrating LGBT nightlife, which for 16 solid years have screwed no one.
Here’s another bit of nightlife news: Party empress Susanne Bartsch—a longtime leader of the conga line that makes New York after midnight so special—will be the subject of a major exhibit at the museum of the prestigious fashion school FIT. I always thought she was a fashion exhibit anyway!
Gay icons are seizing stages all over the place these days. If Miss Fame and Pearl were craving some more blonde inspiration, they might have gone to 54 Below the other night to see a couple of dazzling divas. First, two-time Tony winner Christine Ebersole did an act that displays her extraordinary voice, which is capable of belting, cooing, caressing, and startling. Entering with a brassy “Big Noise From Winnetka” (she’s from the Illinois town, which she said “is Indian for ‘affluent Gentiles’), Ebersole expertly served pop standards, (“Alfie”), diva introspection “(Landslide”), and a disco version of “The Revolutionary Costume For Today,” the showstopper from her triumphant Grey Gardens performance as Edie Beale. After kicking ass with the traditional spiritual “Elijah Rock,” Ebersole proved that he truly does; she brought up her 21-year-old son Elijah for a duet in which he showed off his own individual vocal skills. With the right material, the guy could be the next Bruno Mars.
This is one of those set-in-stone acts, where every note and spoken syllable is pre-rehearsed, and that makes you feel comfortable, knowing there won’t be a misstep or missed note. What’s more, Ebersole infuses it with a welcome running thread about politics, controversy, and longing for justice—themes you usually don’t get for a two-drink minimum.
Later that same night, Sally Kellerman performed, and was every bit as calm and spontaneous as Ebersole is brash and polished. Kellerman (Oscar nominee for M*A*S*H) slinks around the stage in a relaxed, unbothered way that should be bottled and marketed by Pfizer.
She’ll openly admit that she doesn’t know what song is next, she’ll ask musicians for their names when she’s introducing the band, and at one point, she cutely realized that part of her outfit was missing and said, “Where’s my hat? Can someone go upstairs and get it?” (They promptly did.) And she makes it all adorable, accompanied by her seductive versions of oldies like “Spooky” and “The Look of Love,” as well as a fiery cover of an Etta James song, “Damn Your Eyes.” The woman puts the style back in vocal stylings. Weaving around before us, Sally noted, “People have said I’m awkwardly graceful. But if I fall down, don’t worry.” She didn’t, though she did finallylay down, in the ultimate relaxing gesture, while continuing to chat. “I didn’t hear ‘Lay Down Sally,' ” cracked my favorite waitperson, Valerie.
BURGUNDY IS THE WARMEST COLOR
But bring on the lesbos! Thanks to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, I saw Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy, a million-dollar Euro movie about S&M lesbian lovers, which I found well crafted but a potential throwback to the Killing of Sister George days of dykes hurting each other.
But in a Q&A after the screening, Strickland said he feels the film is gay positive because, “I wanted to normalize what they do. I didn’t want to judge it.” He added, “The idea of being gay in cinema usually revolves around acceptance or rejection. But in this film, there are no counterparts to what they are. You focus only on the dynamics of the relationship.”
OK, but the butterfly collector theme is definitely a throwback to another 1960s sadomasochistic film, The Collector! And now, let me sissy that walk back to my TV screen.
And finally, let me tell you what just might end up on that screen thanks to World of Wonder, the production team that does Drag Race. I just ran into Michael Alig, the club kid leader who was recently released from prison after serving time for killing clubbie Angel Melendez with co-terminator Freeze in 1996. Alig told me that World of Wonder—who did an Alig documentary I was in and Party Monster, which I’m mentioned in—are currently filming a followup doc.
“Something you wrote [in your original coverage of the killing] was wrong,” he said, “and I’m going to clarify things and tell the real story. I went along with it when they made the first movie because I was told it made a better story.”
“And what was that?” I wondered, puzzled.
“The Drano thing!” he replied.
See, I had reported the murmurings that Alig and Freeze had used Drano to help finish off poor Angel. “So, wait,” I interrupted. “You’re not saying you weren’t involved in the whole mess, are you?”
“No!” he said. He just wanted to clarify that he’s not a psychopath or sociopath and he’s not as bad as he’s been painted out to be.
“I’m a movie star,” he concluded, grinning. Here’s where I could use Pearl to do some serious reading.