MP Johnson Week: Five Drag Queens You Need to Know, by MP Johnson
MP Johnson Week continues with a short piece written by Guest Blogger MP Johnson:
Five Drag Queens You Need To Know
by MP Johnson
So you’ve read Dungeons & Drag Queens (my new book from Eraserhead Press, in case you didn’t know). Now you want to go out into the real world and learn a bit more about this whole drag thing. Here are some drag queens you need to know. I’m not claiming these are the best drag queens ever or anything like that. These are just some of my favorites, some who have been inspirational to me.
As far as I can tell, Michael didn’t have a drag name. Still, she was a drag idol in her time. She was Miss Gay America 1977. She caught my attention for her roles in Andy Sidaris movies, most notably Hard Ticket to Hawaii. She only played bit parts, but she added an interesting dimension to movies that most people only know as being exercises in T and A. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1989 and like all too many drag queens of days past, there’s little record of what she brought to the art.
Vaginal Davis is not the traditional glam drag queen. She does a kind of terrorist drag, almost the opposite of the more mainstream drag queens. I don’t even know if she identifies as a drag queen, or a drag terrorist. She’s a punk rocker, a zinester, a performance artist and an activist. I read about her in an issue of Dragazine about 20 years ago and she totally redefined my understanding of what drag can be. It’s not just about getting on stage and looking pretty while vamping to Cher songs.
Anyone who combines horror, punk rock and drag wins my undying love, and that’s exactly what Sharon Needles does. The song “Call Me On The Ouija Board” opens with the lines “I’ll be your Carol Anne. I’ll be your pentagram. Let’s dabble in the black arts.” The video features her reenactment of The Exorcist’s vomit-spewing scene, as well as scenes from other legendary horror flicks. That song is super catchy pop music, but elsewhere on her album PG-13 she speeds things up and invites Jayne County for a really fucking bizarre punk rock duet. She’s also not afraid to forgo the glam and get gross and weird, which rules.
Peaches Christ is another drag queen that pulls influence from horror. In fact, her alter ego, Joshua Grannell, directed a movie called All About Evil. It’s one of my favorite horror flicks of the last decade and simultaneously one of the best tributes to the horror genre I’ve ever seen. Peaches Christ doesn’t just put on your typical drag show. She does full-length, elaborate productions. I finally got to see one of these productions last month. It was a drag parody of the Wizard of Oz called the Wizard of Odd. There were flying monkey go-go dancers. Peaches played the Dorothy role. Sharon Needles played the Wicked Witch. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a drag queen Wicked Witch lip-synching to Welcome to the Jungle.
You know that image of Divine from Pink Flamingos? Not the poop one. Fuck the poop bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love poop eating as much as the next guy, but if that’s the image that matters to you, you may have missed the point. No, the image I’m talking about is the one of her looking badass in that tight red dress and pointing a gun. That’s the image I first saw when I was thirteen or fourteen and that’s the image that imprinted itself on my brain. It’s an image of confidence. No, not confidence. Defiance. Divine was just so sweet and badass and sexy. There’s not a single part she played that she didn’t dominate. No matter what she was doing, no matter what sleazy, trashy situation John Waters put her in, she still owned it. There are life lessons to be had in that.