Script for April 2006...
Those Singing Drag Queens, Part 2
RuPaul - Supermodel (1992)
This is Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and welcome to a very special show. I'm calling it "Those Singing Drag Queens," and no, I'm not talking about drag queens who lip sync. Our culture has a long history of drag artists, or female impersonators, who did indeed do their own singing. And this is actually Part 2 of the story. Last month I covered from the 1920's up through the late 80's, and this time you'll hear about the last 15 to 20 years of this genre.
And I might as well mention this now. My regular listeners know that I generally have two versions of my show. One is tailored for airing on Queer Voices, meaning it's limited to about 58 minutes, but the version at my website does not have that time constraint. That allows me to give longer versions of the songs and to play songs that, well, I just can't play on regular radio, and with drag artists there's a number of songs like that. Okay, that's enough introduction, and I've not told you who opened the show, but if you follow gay culture at all you already know. "Supermodel" is one of the biggest hits for RuPaul, who has been perhaps the most successful drag artist of the last 20 years.
RuPaul - Ping Ting Ting (1987, in background)
Who would have thought a drag queen 6'4" tall (in stocking feet) from Atlanta would end up with hit records, a TV show on VH1, and appearing in a number of movies. She's published her autobiography and has been a representative for a major make-up company. She's hosted a very popular radio show in New York City, and, get this, a series of 6 dolls has just been released in her likeness.
Now she wasn't always the stunning personna that she is today. Her first recordings were for the Funtone label in Atlanta, and her image then was more punk drag, which was a little scary. Her first album was a soundtrack for a movie called "Starbooty," in 1986, and in the background we've been listening to a not-so-memorable 1987 release called "Ping Ting Ting." Her breakthrough record was "Supermodel" in 1992, and I've put together the following medley of some of my favorite songs by her.
I just love RuPaul's music, and most of that medley was from the 90s. It started off with a humorous take-off called "Studelmodel," and then went to "Free to Be," one of the highlights from the "Wigstock" soundtrack, followed by "Back to My Roots." The songs "If You Were a Woman and I Was a Man" and "Snapshot" came from the "Foxy Lady" CD. A couple duets were next. "It's Raining Men" with Marsha Wash, and Ru sings with Elton John on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." From her Christmas CD, "Ho Ho Ho," came "RuPaul the Red-Nosed Drag Queen," and we finished off with two from her latest CD, from 2004, "Redhot," and those songs were "Love Is Love" and "Looking Good Feeling Gorgeous."
But the last 20 years of performing drag artists covered a lot more territory than RuPaul, and I've got a special treat, by an artist whose never released this recording, or any other music recording, but she deserves a proper introduction.
Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side (1973)
And, the Holly Lou Reed was singing about was Holly Woodlawn, one of the few survirors of the world of Andy Warhol. She's written a book called "A Low Life in High Heels" and in 1986 this live performance was captured by a video archivist named Nelson Sullivan. I want to thank one of my internet friends, Robert Coddington, for getting me permission from Holly to play this song, and to host the video of it on my site. The song is the 60s hit by the Exciters, "Tell Him."
Holly Woodlawn - Tell Him (1986)
Holly Woodlawn, with an unreleased song from 1986. In the last 20 years of recordings by female impersonators there's been a lot of dance music, and this next artist is mainly known for that, but that's not the case for this song. Her unlikely name is Pussy Tourette and from her debut album from 1993 is the uncharacteristic song, "I Think He's Gay."
Tourette - I Think He's Gay (1993)
Following Pussy Tourette was, well, a little of another song by her, called "Brand New Day," and it IS brand new, and happens to be one of the newest songs you'll hear on this show, as she just sent it to me.
And, like on last month's show, in order to cover as many artists as possible unfortunately I will only be able to give you a taste of some of their songs.
Lady Bunny - Shame Shame Shame (1996)
And that was Lady Bunny, from 1996, with "Shame Shame Shame." But Lady Bunny is probably more known as the annual hostess of Wigstock. That event was captured in probably the best movie ever about drag, in 1995. From it here's Lady Bunny introducing Joey Arias.
Joey Arias - Them There Eyes (1995, with Lady Bunny intro)
And another highlight, in my opinion, of the movie "Wigstock" was Michael Ortega, more commonly known as Mistress Formika, singing "Fight For Your Right to Be Queer."
Mistress Formika - Fight For Your Right To Be Queer (1995)
I want to get back to Joey Arias for a moment, because he just keeps popping up. Besides "Wigstock" he's been in several movies, like "To Wong Foo," and "Mondo New York." He appeared on Saturday Night Live with David Bowie and queer rocker Klaus Nomi. And lately he's been appearing in the Cirque de Soleil production Zumanity in Las Vegas. His music has been on a number of various artists CDs, with interesting titles like "God Shave the Queen," and while unfortunately he has no solo album, you can enjoy him on a CD he did with another well known drag personality, Sherry Vine. From their 1999 CD "Starlust," here's part of their duet on "All That Jazz."
Arias & Sherry Vine - All That Jazz (1999)
Joey Arias & Sherry Vine, and "All That Jazz," and following that, from the same CD, was a solo by Sherry Vine, doing "The Lady Is A Tramp."
Now, who could resist a drag artist with a recording called "Complete and Utter Country"? Not me, certainly, and I've tracked down every recording I can find by this artist, who in her act says she's from Tennessee, and calls herself, Tina C. Get it? Tina C is the creation of Christopher Green, who lives in the UK, and I'll let Tina C introduce herself.
Tina C - I'm
Tina C (1997)
That one was called "I Thought I Left You (What 'Cha Doin' Alive)" and that is from Tina C's 1999 album "Live in Sydney." And if you listen to the internet version of this show you can hear another song by her, which is my absolute favorite, but can't be played on the radio.
Oh, you are listening to the internet version. Well, I'm going to try to prepare you with another song, just a little 30-second track , before I get to one with a perfect country song title, "No Dick's As Hard As My Life"
C - If You Ever Hit Me (1997)
And from her 2001 CD, "Don't Love Me Too Much," that was Tina C.
Next is an amazing performer. From San Antonio, Jimmy James is one of the best of the modern impressionists, ably capturing a wide variety of celebrities. My personal favorite is his Christmas album, which contains a hysterical reading of Bette Davis doing "Feliz Navidad." But equally captivating is a medley from a CD he released in 1999 called "The One and Many Voices of Jimmy James, Live." The medley is called "8 Divas" and you'll marvel at how well he portrays these eight stars doing the same song.
Jimmy James - 8 Divas: I Got It Bad (1999)
And Jimmy James also has had several very good dance song releases, and one is brand new, and as it just came out this month, it's the newest song on this show. It's called "Fashionista."
Jimmy James - Fashionista (2006)
Jimmy James's latest recording, "Fashionista."
Some of you may remember that there was a TV show in the 60s called "Honey West." Well, I've got a different Honey West for you. This artist debuted on the Chicago cabaret scene in 1990 and has been a hit with critics ever since. In 1997 she released her first CD, "Take Honey West Home," and on it is a duet I just love. It combines the songs "Fifty Percent" and "I Know Him So Well." Singing with her is another Chicago favorite, Alexandra Billings. She is a very interesting artist as well. Billings is transgendered now but as a performer began work in the early 80s in the only place she thought she could, the drag scene. She did well, winning a number of pageants, and by the late 80s was starring in musical productions, and now has two CDs out on her own.
From the CD "Take Honey West Home," Honey West and Alexandra Billings.
Honey West & Alexandra Billings - Fifty Percent / I Know Him So Well (1997)
And Honey West released another CD a couple years ago. It's called "My Big Fat Cheesy Lounge Act," and I want to share two short songs from it. The first is the standard "All of Me" and for the second, well, you'll recognize the tune, but not these lyrics, which refer to a popular meeting place in Provincetown.
West - All of Me (2003)
Remember you heard that here, Honey West from the CD "My Big Fat Cheesy Lounge Act."
A rather obscure artist, who unfortunately has released only one CD is Noel. His 1998 album is called "It's Just a Phase," and was featured on Audiofile that year. While I wasn't an Audiofile producer back then I do have access to the archives and resurrected this quote from Noel discussing his own personna.
- Audiofile quote (1998)
"It's Just a Phase," the title track from the 1998 album by Noel.
Also from 1998, this time from the UK, was an act called the Way Out Girls. Imagine the Spice Girls made up of drag queens, well, maybe that's not too big of a stretch. This time the girls were Butch, Tarty, Leary, Snooty and Spice Rack, and the song is "I'm the Leader of the Gang."
Way Out Girls - I'm the Leader of the Gang (1998)
The Way Out Girls.
Welcome back to the second hour of Part 2 of "Those Singing Drag Queens"
The next artist is Trinity, and I just love the caption on her first album. It says, "the next Lady to bust out of the jazz world may not...be a Woman." And, gender aside, this lady can swing! That's coincindentally the title of her second CD, and something you just can't help saying when you hear it.
- Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing) (1999)
That was Trinity, with a little of "Sing Sing Sing" from her 1999 album "That Lady Can Swing" and of course you recognized "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead." That one came from her 1998 debut album "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."
One of the recent artists I like a lot is Ari Gold, and before he had any albums out on his own, he wrote this next song, done very well by Kevin Aviance, on the 1999 album "Box of Chocolates."
Kevin Aviance - Home (1999)
Now that song, as nice as it is, is very atypical for Kevin Aviance. He usually sounds more like this, his 2002 dance hit "Alive"
Kevin Aviance - Alive (2002)
Ridiculous Theatre Company - Thank God He Made Me a Drag Queen (1992)
That charming song of course was called "Thank God He Made Me A Drag Queen," and is from a 1992 CD called "Musical Selections from The Ridiculous Theatre Company," which was a real company with a very rich history. I thought it would make a nice segway while I invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the play list and follow along, while looking at photos of all the drag artists and their recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night/Sunday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
From 1999 one of the most amazing female illusionists is Steven Brinberg. For the last several years he's been taking his show all over the world, but you can get a sample of it right here. From his CD "Steven Brinberg is Simply Barbra."
Steven Brinberg - Funny Girl (1999)
From Steven Brinberg we go to another singing female impersonator, Randy Roberts. He's based out of Key West and has released two albums. From his first, from 1999, called "Almost Live" is the "Fag Hag Blues."
Randy Roberts - Fag Hag Blues (1999)
It would be hard to think of a more controversial female impersonator in recent times than Shirley Q Liquor, the black alter ego of Chuck Knipp, who is white. In some cities, mostly in the North, there have been demonstrations that have shut down the show. In his act Knipp dons the costume of a poor, black woman who talks mostly in ebonics, and it's a humor that makes you uneasy, and sometimes puzzled, as when she rants on and on about how "ignunt" white people are. Strange times, indeed, but Knipp seems to be prospering, with 9 CDs so far. From around 2001 here are two tracks about lesbians, using the old, old slang term bulldaggers. So, here's "Bull Dagga Bar" and "Lesbulldaggas."
Shirley Q Liquor - Bull Dagga Bar / Lesbulldaggas (2001)
Shirley Q Liquor.
Kiki and Herb are the inventions of writer-performer Justin Bond and the pianist Kenny Mellman, and they've been popular fixtures at New York clubs for years. Their style, that of...gee, burnt-out third-rate lounge singers probably on speed, is funny and at the same time poignant, yes, hard to describe. From their sort-of Christmas album "Do You Hear What I Hear"from 2000 is a combination of the songs "Fox in the Snow" and "Holiday."
Kiki & Herb - Fox in the Snow/Holiday (2000)
Whoa, I don't smoke and I need a cigarette after that one.
Next up, wouldn't you expect an artist who bills herself as the love child of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine to be VERY talented? And Varla Jean Merman certainly is, with CDs, a DVD and movies and shows to keep her busy.
Jean Merman - Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Man) (2001)
Well, from Varla's 2001 album "The Very Worst of Varla Jean Merman" came "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Man)" and she got a cabaret buddy, Kristine Zbornik, to help her out on "Enough Is Enough." That one came from her latest CD, "The White Swallow and Other Delights," which contains a number of songs that are delightfully evil.
And now for a little country, with a Texas touch. Mark Alan Smith is a Dallas female impersonator and I love the title of his 2001 album, "Who Does He Think She Is?" You'll hear him mention Donna Day, another very popular drag artist, who guests on the track.
Mark Alan Smith - Harper Valley PTA (2001)
Of course that was "Harper Valley PTA," sort of, by Mark Alan Smith.
We're going overseas for the next four acts, to Italy, Slovenia, the Netherlands, and Australia. From Italy is Genny Random with his dance oriented recording "I'm Your Drag Queen," from 2001.
Genny Randon - I'm Your Drag Queen (2001)
And, from 2002 is a trio called Sestre, or Sisters. They were the very controversial winners for the country of Slovenia in the Eurovision Competition. That could be compared to "American Idol," only it got it's start about 50 years earlier, and is a competition between countries. And you need to visit my site to see the campy photos of Sestre in their matching flight attendant outfits.
Sestre - Samo Ljubezen (2002)
From Holland is a duo called The Working Girls, with their track "If You Hold My Hand," also from 2002.
The Working Girls - If You Hold My Hand (2002)
I mentioned "American Idol" a few moments ago, well, there's a version in Australia, and in 2003 an artist named Shane Janek auditioned as himself, but did not get very far. He came back the next day looking amazing in his drag personna, Courtney Act, and wowed the judges. He continued in the competition, making it to 13th place before being voted off. He's released one CD single so far, and from it is the track "You Shook Me All Night Long."
Courtney Act - You Shook Me All Night Long (2003)
From Australia, "You Shook Me All Night Long," by Courtney Act.
I love the stage name of this next artist, and it points out just how clever drag queens can be in selecting their names, almost like it's a competition. I've started to compile a list of these names on my site, and many of them you almost have to see written first and then say them out loud, to get the joke. Like this artist, last name Catessen, first name Della, and she really can sing. From the Minneapolis area, and from her 1999 CD "Night Life" she combined three of my favorite songs. Here's Della Catessen.
Della Catessen - Can't Help Lovin That Man - Am I Blue - My Man (1999)
Scandelle - Speak Easy (2003)
That song is called "Speak Easy," and is by a New York City artist known as Scandelle, who is shaping up to be an artist to watch, even with only having released a 3-track CD EP and a CD single. Here's a bit of hype from his site: "Always an electrifying presence, Scandelle continues to rock boundaries. With a fearless combination of stunning visual and androgeny and soulful, haunting, and always unforgettable singing talent, he's exploded onto the underground NY nightlife scene." Wow, that's a mouthful, but, yes, he CAN sing, and I look forward for more. He's a bit of his latest single "Just Getting Started."
Scandelle - Just Getting Started (2005)
Again, that was Scandelle.
I've known this next artist quite a while, and have much admired the albums he released. In 2003 he reinvented himself, under the personna of jazz singer Mabel Dawn Davis. Around that time I got to interview Mabel Dawn and got her to describe the music on her new album. But you didn't tell us the name of the album.
Dawn Davis quote (2003)
I'm bending the rules in featuring this next artist, since no recording of this song has been released. It comes from a DVD of a concert performance. But how could I resist Bette Davis singing "Bette Davis Eyes," as done by Alfred Lewis, from 2004.
Alfred Lewis - Bette Davis Eyes (2004)
Ah, much too short, from a mostly comedy routine on the DVD logically entitled "Alfred Lewis as Bette Davis."
This next act. Well, I adore them and I'll let them sort of introduce themselves.
Kinsey Sicks - Dragapella (2005)
The Kinsey Sicks, America's favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet. I've seen them several times and have become quite biased. They are terrific! Since 1997 they've issued five wonderful CDs that convey their extraordinary talent and humor. Not all the songs are ready for radio, but that's all the more fun. They've just signed a long-term performance deal in Las Vegas, and they should be great. I've put together a medley of some of my favorites by them.
I just love the Kinsey Sicks, and that medley of course does not do justice to the hilarous comedy their shows contain.
But, you know, I just can't get enough of them, so I'm going to slip in one more, for my internet listeners only.
Kinsey Sicks - I Will Swallow Him (1999)
This next artist, Jackie Beat, is very difficult to play on the radio. Let's say she's FCC challenged. Okay, who is Jackie Beat? Well, she's from Los Angeles and for many years she's been doing her own brand of comedy drag in which she sings twisted parodies of hit songs. She's appeared on Comedy Central, VH1 and MTV and in several movies. She's had two CDs and I heavily featured the first one on my Queer Christmas show a couple years ago, but her latest is even harder to, what's the phrase, edit for radio. So my KPFT listeners will hear only the first couple minutes of this parody of the song "From a Distance"
Jackie Beat - From a Distance (2005)
Okay, now my internet listeners, thank you very much for tuning in, get to hear a medley I put together including "The Jackie Beat Theme Song" and three more parodies. Here goes.
Gee, I cut two minutes out of that last Jackie Beat song, did you miss them? I think not.
Hedda Lettuce - Hedda Lettuce Theme Song
Hedda Lettuce is another drag artist who has her own theme song. She regularly sells out her engagements in New York City, and has had guest shots on a number of TV shows. So far as a vocalist she's only been on various artist compilations, but there are a number of songs available for download at her site. One outstanding compilation she's on is called "Abbalicious," and it's basically 9 drag artists doing 14 ABBA songs, and doing them very well. The song she chose starts off that album, the wonderful "Gimme Gimme Gimme (a Man After Midnight)." Hedda Lettuce.
Hedda Lettuce - Gimme Gimme Gimme (2004)
Hedda Lettuce appears on the "Abbalicious" album in another guise, as part of a duo with another New York City artist, Yolanda, and together they are The Chixie Dix.
Chixie Dix - Dancing Queen (2004)
The Chixie Dix appear on another excellent various artists compilation, also from 2004, called "Marry Me," a benefit CD where some of the songs deal with the subject of gay marriage. From it I love their song, "Marry Me."
Chixie Dix - Marry Me (2004)
Again that was Hedda Lettuce and Yolanda, the Chixie Dix.
The "Marry Me" compilation CD included a number of my favorite artists, like Mark Weigle, Veronica Klaus, RuPaul, Freedy Freeman, Peter Donnelly, Ari Gold, Daniel Cartier I could go on and on, an excellent CD. But it included a drag artist new to me, Sade Pendarvis, doing a duet with Nicolas Ferrer on one of the best drag queen songs in history, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," my first chance to play it on Queer Music Heritage.
Nicolas Ferrer & Sade Pendarvis - Ain't No Mountain (2004)
Okay, I confess, I kept a little information from you there. I said it was done by a duet, Nicolas Ferrer and Sade Pendarvis. That's sort of true, but they're the same person. Good job, had me fooled until I researched the CD.
I want to get back to Yolanda. She gave me a wonderful interview for my October of 2002 show and for it I asked her to describe her stage personna. She said it was a mixture between Dolly Parton, her mother, and Mae West, on acid. Well I think she's much more than that.
She's a singer-songwriter, performance artist, visual artist, radical fairie, drag queen, theater person, storyteller, legal christian minister and tarot card reader. Well, all that's from the bio on her website, but I think it all fits and she well deserved the OutMusician of the Year honor she received by the Outmusic organization in 2003. My respect for her as an artist, activist and a person has only continued to grow.
On the "Marry Me" compilation, from which I got one of the Chixie Dix songs, there is also a solo one by Yolanda, called "You and I (Marry Me)."
Yolanda - You and I (Marry Me) 2004
Yolanda - QMH ID
I'm down to the end of Part 2 of my special two-part show "Those Singing Drag Queens," and I admit it's been one of my more ambitious projects for Queer Music Heritage, trying to do justice to about 80 years of performing drag artists. I knew that in no way could I cover them all even in two radio shows. Fortunately I've got a huge website that allows me to upload extended versions of my show. That of course can be found at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write to me. I want to thank you all for listening, and this is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT Houston.
I'm ending the show with another song by Yolanda, and I think it's a powerful one. In fact you can see a video of it on my site. From an EP she released in 2002, here's Yolanda and "Freedom."
Yolanda - Freedom (2002)