The ever alluring Alaska was top three on Drag Race Season 5 and she won All Stars 2, but now it’s time for her to bestow an honor on another queen. At RuPaul’s DragCon on May 26 in L.A., the deadpan drag star will present Drag Queen of the Year: A Pageant For Everyone, an inclusive competition that involves eight diverse contestants. I just talked to Alaska (AKA Justin Andrew Honard) about just what it will take for someone to grab that prize.
Hi, Alaska. Congrats on the pageant.
I’m really excited about it. We wanted to make it diverse and all-inclusive. I just had a FaceTime call with each of the girls and they’re all going to bring it. They’re like, “How many backup dancers can I bring? Can I have a live band?” I’m like, “Oh, my god, this show’s gonna be unbelievable.”
You’re including both trans and cis contestants?
Oh, yes. It was important to make it open to all types of drag queens because I’ve always been around all types since I started. We used to call them faux queens and then bio queens or hyper queens, as in hyper feminine, or abfab queens. I’ve always been working with trans women who did drag. It’s important to make it open and represent the actuality of the world of drag right now.
Drag Race winners at DragCon, 2018.
Which one are you?
I’m not sure what the fuck I am.
Many people have co-opted drag and perhaps made it too niche. Are you seizing it back?
That’s what excites me about drag is it doesn’t have any rules and it is for everybody. I find it strange for it to be, “Well, you can compete in this venue, but you have to be this, this, and this, or you have to be this type of performer or have this type of background or this type of genitals.” It was really wacky to me. It was a no brainer that I’d want to make it open to everyone who participates in drag.
The winner gets $10,000 and a bouquet. Where will the dough come from? Did you turn tricks?
I’ve been turning tricks for years and saving up. [Laughs]
Will the winner travel the country?
I don’t know. What excites me is that this prize money will go into cultivating their drag and their being a drag artist. However they use it, I’ll be happy.
Will you MC the pageant?
I am the chairperson, founder, and pageant director, but I don’t want to be busy hosting because I want to watch the show. I think it’s going to be like the Oscars, where you don’t really need a host.
But this time, Glenn Close will WIN! I hear you will perform new music at the pageant, right?
Do you prefer live singing to lip sync?
I do, because I feel more in control if I have a microphone and I can make noises come out of my mouth. When it’s lip sync, you’ve just got a track. I have so much respect for people who can go out and turn a number lip syncing. It looks easy, but ask anyone who’s done it—it’s really not.
Did you drop the Thunderfuck from your name?
Oh, no, I like Thunderfuck. It’s my last name.
Looking back at your Drag Race season, would you have done anything differently?
On All Stars, I would have tried to have more fun and relax.
But you won!
I know, I won. But honestly, I didn’t really enjoy it the second time around, and it breaks my heart. I thought I had to be something and do something in order to win. The pressure I put on myself to win made it not fun. But whatever, I won. It’s fun.
Most importantly: Who was your best boyfriend ever, Sharon Needles or [writer] Alexander Kacala?
Neither of them is in that category. They’re both great, but they’re not the best ones.
Okay, well, here’s to future boyfriends and pageants. See you at DragCon.
Don't Razz the Zazz
Meanwhile, the pageant of my life keeps getting richer and more surreal. Last Monday, I went from Chita Rivera to Rita Moreno in one night. I’ve really got range! First was the Bond 45 reception for the Chita Rivera Awards (for theatrical dancing), where I got to meet nominee Angie Schworer, who’s delectable as the wise showgirl who sings about the importance of having “zazz” (as in “pizzazz”) in The Prom. I asked Angie if the inclusive message of the show—which has a bunch of actors trying to help a small town lesbian go to the prom—has changed anyone’s minds? “Yes!” she said. “We get told that every night on the [stage door] line. ‘Thank you for telling this story.’ ‘I needed this so much.’ ‘I came back with my mom.’ ‘I brought the family.’ In my other shows, that wasn’t a thing. People also write me notes that say, ‘That song “Zazz” made me feel like I can overcome any obstacles.'”
And do we have enough zazz in the world, pray tell? “No, but I think we’re working on it,” said Kentucky-born Angie. “I feel we have a lot of style and confidence, but we gotta do more better!” We giggled, and then I congratulated her on the Ryan Murphy-produced Netflix movie of The Prom. I assumed the Broadway cast would be invited to star in it. “No,” she said. “They’re going to get movie stars.” What!? Well, in that case, who would she like to play the role? “I hope it’s somebody very glamorous,” said Angie, adorably. “Taylor Swift?” I ventured. “Maybe a little older,” she laughed.
I then talked to director George C. Wolfe (who’s currently represented on Broadway with the Tony nominated Gary: A Sequel To Titus Andronicus) about his having won the SDC Director Award “for his exemplary collaboration with choreographers on Broadway." Did he ever fight with a choreographer? Wolfe paused for a second, then replied, “No, I never fought with a good one.” As Wolfe and his publicist started naming all the awards he’s gotten from SDC (Stage Directors and Choreographers), I cracked, “You can die!” “I can become an actor!” he countered.
As for my own inevitable expiration, when the names of the nominated shows were read at the same event, I must say I was thrilled to be able to cross one more thing off my bucket list: The sight of eternally cute Sandy Duncan saying, “If Pretty Hurts, Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka.”
At the very lovely Actors Fund gala at the Marriott Marquis, I asked Robert Horn, who wrote the funny book for Tootsie, why he changed the milieu from the soap opera world of the movie to musical theater. “So he can sing,” Horn replied, “and because there really aren’t soap operas anymore.” But there was one in the making as honoree Rita Moreno kept hilariously flitting onstage and comically saying, “I’m a fucking Puerto Rican woman!” Later on, Tony Kushner, who wrote the new West Side Story movie for Spielberg, said Rita refused to play someone named Doc, so they made her Valentina. I think that fits better, muhfuckas!
If you’ve never seen Italian writer-director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s most notorious film, Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975), critic Leonard Maltin said it all: “Controversial, disturbing adaptation of de Sade’s novel, set during WWII in Italy, where Fascist rulers brutalize and degrade adolescents. Sadism, scatology, and debauchery galore; Pasolini wallows in his own sensationalism.” Sounds like a good review to me (though Maltin gave it a “BOMB” rating)!
Well, Abel Ferrara’s 2014 film about Pasolini’s last days—finally being released, at New York’s Metrograph this Friday—doesn’t go for easy sensationalism. It’s a pretty hypnotic look at an auteur’s connection to his work as he tries to keep creating despite being branded a heathen, with Willem Dafoe playing an artist on the brink, much like he did with Vincent van Gogh in last year’s At Eternity’s Gate.
SPOILERS! In Ferrara’s version, Pasolini is being interviewed about his work and views—always a kind of stilted framework for a narrative. Dafoe is directed to be pretty low-key and sensible, perhaps to make his volatile views resonate more interestingly.
For much of the film, Dafoe speaks English, whereas everyone else talks Italian or English with an accent, but once he picks up a street hustler, Dafoe segues into seductive Italian. (I guess he’s trying to impress the guy.) Scenes that spring from Pasolini’s novel Petrolio are pretty fascinating, including one where gays and lesbians unite for a procreating festival that even Republicans would approve of. And the director’s gruesome murder, conducted while he was called a “faggot” and a “cocksucker,” is as horrifying as the stuff represented in Pasolini’s own films. All in all, a diffuse, moody film, but one worth experiencing, like a meatless lasagna.
One More Thing
There’s going to be a new gay bar in the Village! On the site of an old gay bar! Last year, the new location of Boots & Saddle drag lounge—on the site of the old Actors Playhouse theater on 7th Avenue South—fizzled out, and it’s stayed as empty as a mom-and-pop deli ever since. But Eric Einstein—who co-owns the successful bars Pieces (in the Village) and Hardware Bar (in Hell's Kitchen)—tells me he’s taken over the space and is slicking it up, and it might just be re-opened in time for Pride. The name? Playhouse! Get ready to play house with some hot guys at Playhouse.