I was invited to cover the event at PlayStation Theatre in Times Square last night, celebrating the upcoming (March 24) premiere of Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Like always, I had my trusty sidekick Jason along, and like always, I was mad-stressed out wondering how I would get all 13 queens for interviews in the time allotted — not to mention any bonus queens (Ginger Minj hosted, and queens like Jiggly Caliente, Sherry Vine, Lady Bunny, Mrs. Kasha Davis and many others were on hand/on hands and knees), the Top 4 actual women from this season's America's Next Top Model and five out of sex of the studs from the new Logo series Fire Island.
Speaking of which, following RDR's switch from Logo to VH1, the step-and-repeat didn't even have Logo's, er, logo, this in spite of the fact that second-run eps will air on the network, and the fact that tons of Logo staffers were on hand to help out.
Part of my stress was the odd decision to tell press we had to arrive at 5 p.m. to check in, would interview everyone for two hours, would have to leave at 7:30 p.m. and could not return when the party started at 8 p.m. until we had dumped all professional equipment. The strictness of this rule made for some unnecessary schlepping, and only ensured that the zillions of photos from the party would not be as high-quality as they might otherwise be.
When we returned, I avoided the red carpet and focused on the tables, where all the celebriguests were seated.
We did our level best, but even rushing, while I got pics of and interviews with 11 of the goils, I only got some pics of Nina Bo'nina Brown and one snap of Shea Couleé — no Q&A.
Here are my thoughts, with video coming later on:
I pounced on Charlie Hides first, since he's a big YouTube star who has channeled Madonna almost as long as Madonna has. At 52, he is the oldest queen ever to compete on RDR, a fact I brought up in an admiring way — but I don't think he admired me for bringing it up, even though bitch don't look her age, mine or yours.
Nor did he love that I sleepily referred to his outfit as a drum majorette when he was clearly a member of the Queen's Guard. Luckily, he reserved most of his wrath for Access Hollywood, who apparently asked him on the carpet who the hell he was and why he should be on the show.
There's no way Charlie doesn't make a young queen cry this season.
Kimora was stunningly hot, with convincing boobs and an air of confidence thicker than Darienne Lake (who was there — hey, girl!).
Kimora impressed me as more than just a pretty ass, and from the preview of the show we saw later, she seems formidable.
She has the potential to be this season's villain, but I'm not sure any of them came off as having femalicious intent.
I teased one of the young, adorable girls handling the queens about Jaymes's name, knowing she'd have zero idea on whom it was based. She laughed at the name and I asked her to prove she understood it and she laughed harder and 'fessed up: that she had no idea. I told her Jayne Mansfield was a '60s bombshell who was decapitated in a car crash, and her daughter is actually Mariska Hargitay. No idea who she is, either.
I felt like I was in the sunken place.
Then, hilariously, Jaymes cooed about my Keith Haring radiant baby shirt, “Oooh, is there an infantilism thing here or do you just like that drawing?” I hesitated, then had to inform her it was by Keith Haring. I loved that she knew Jayne Mansfield and not Keith Haring.
I really like Jaymes. She's cute and highly stylized, and could not have been nicer. Think of her as Ariana Grande after success goes to her headless.
I rarely like the artier queens — saying you're a visual artist is all too often a shortcut to coming out as a pretentious A-hole.
Not in the case of Velour, who looked exquisite (you can debate whether her look was yellowface or an act of cultural appropriation), was divine to talk to and would later give the perf of the evening.
Sasha is the real fake deal.
I took an exercise class with Alexis! That's my new claim to fame.
This NYC starlet was at the event with her adorable helper (boyfriend? I hope not — I aggressively eye-fucked him all through said exercise class, and I hate wasting my efforts) and was regally holding court in a dress with a table around the waist. Very Alice in Whatthefuckland, and great for a mobile autograph signing.
Alexis is a doll, articulate, informed, political, cares about the classics (especially of the Broadway kind) and I thoroughly enjoyed her hook-up answer. Watch the video that's coming to see why I could relate.
The Cast of Logo's Fire Island
The boys of Fire Island (minus Khasan — who had been advertised but wasn't there?) — were actually very sweet, and none of them, even though all are cute, were aloof in the way some A-gays can be. They seemed happy to be there, and while I didn't ask them a lot, they were game for anything.
It was a bummer for them later that their show's teaser kept malfunctioning, losing sound. It was shown again at the end, but still failed to work properly. This was happening in the same building — a theater that holds rock concerts with no problem, not a dingy gay bar — as the show's parent company, Viacom! How the hell?!
Anyway, I've read some disparaging things about the show already, but the guys themsevles are not the douches that most of those A-List people were — I got into an argument with one of those guys at a presser once! (Yes, that one.)
Trinity has the potential to be this season's queen bitch, a title I think she would cherish. She had solid Nolan Miller realness and some big hair going for her.
Wish I'd had more time with her, but I wound up forcing a few questions out of her at the very end, when the VH1 people were warning us to get out of the theater IMMEDIATELY, making me wonder if we could get deported. To me, GET OUT NOW means it's okay to do a two-minute interview, which I did.
Finally — a queen with a funny, punny name. Why has that trend died off in recent decades, with drag-queen monikers as dreary as the performers' real Christian names?!
And yes, this 23-year-old had heard of Farrah Fawcett prior to choosing her name, and she talked about her alter ego's legendary kindness. A pink confection, Farrah was breathtaking in person and very sweet.
Plus, she looks like she could carry a baby to term if she had to and has Tampax on her shopping list. She's such a convincing female she was probably paid less than the others to be on the show!
Aja photographed beautifully, and had some of the best, most layered expressions, which is a hard trick to pull off when you're doing interviews on the fly in a confined space.
This Brooklyn sensation is going to be going hard against Sasha Velour as a fellow avant garde-ian of the galaxy.
Ran into some trouble with Eureka — I was about to interview her when she was pulled to do something more important. Then, her charming handler drifted away and another crew grabbed her for their own interview, clearly knowing what was going on. Annoying.
But that hijack was broken up and when she returned, she graciously took my questions while getting into and out of her shoes. She's statuesque kinda like Lady Liberty is — but taller. Funny as hell, and such a baby; I think she's like 25 or something.
Could she help bring the crown to a big girl?!
I grabbed Valentina toward the end of the frantic interview period, and found her to be polite 'n' perky.
She is a proud Latina who had only been doing drag for 10 months prior to making the RDR cut, which will likely make scores of more experienced queens wanna cut her.
To me, she looks like Bianca del Rio's long lost daughter, but I bet she doesn't have Bianca's cockroach-like ability to survive anything.
The last queen was NYC's own Pepper Mint. We'd been waiting for her earlier, so her handler had Pepper speak to us ahead of the others in her line. This did not go over well! They rebelled and tried to insist they were first, but her handler just calmly said she was in charge. I felt terrible and tried to rush, but it didn't seem to help. Making matters worse, the press portion was about to end. (I'M SO SORRRRRYYYY.)
Pepper Mint, the only trans girl, seemed very polished and more than ready for the closest of closeups. God, I would not want to compete against her!
I'll tell you right now, I think the Top 3 is gonna be Alexis, Sasha and Pepper.
Nina Bo'Nina Brown
I had to grab her for just a photo, but it turned out spookily beautiful, no? The idea that a black girl would don monkey drag was ... alarming. I believe that was her intent. Mission accomplished!
I only happened to get one snap of this glamazon, but at least she looked good!
I had to go back home to drop off my stuff, then we ate and returned around 9, just in time for the show to begin. (These events are usually insufferably long, but this time — I assume due to the venue's strict rules or VH1 cracking the whip — things began at a reasonable hour and proceeded briskly, ending on the same day they started for a change.
Right off the bat, after the 13 competitors were announced, RuPaul himself came out — the first time he's ever attended one of his show's NYC events. He looked snazzy, but was succinct while thanking us for our support before disappearing. It was a treat, but short enough to almost feel perfunctory. Or maybe I'm greedy, but I know we all could've used a larger dose of the deity.
Ginger Minj was a hilarious emcee, and she had to do a lot of improvising, especially thanks to technical snafus.
We then watched a brief part of the first episode of the season, featuring Lady Gaga, who is initially brought out as if she is just another competitor, a very funny idea. From what I saw, there is going to be a lot of Gaga worship in the episode, which centers on a challenge for the girls to don their fave Gaga drag. We didn't get the whole episode, so still have something to which we can look forward.
The performances were all worthwhile, but I won't go into a blow-by-blow of each one, especially since most were standard lip-synching fare.
The most impressive, by far, was Sasha's stunning-looking take on Sia's “Cellophane,” for which she stood on a ladder, her long white dress obscuring it, while dazzling colored lights illuminated her face and an image of her own lip-synching head was projected on her body. It was exquisite.
Alexis (singing “All That Jazz” with a cast of tens) and Pepper Mint (doing a melange that included hot samples of Madonna's “Vogue,” also with a buncha backup dancers, including sexy Richard Schieffer) were the most professional and entertaining showgirls.
I have a soft spot for Jaymes for choosing to lip-synch Julie Brown's The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun, and sad that many in the audience probably thought it was a new song!
Then, it was alllll over, and it was time for us to get out of there — again. Thank you to VH1, Logo, my lovely assistant (who got picked right up!) and all the gorgeous saw-them-last-Tuesdays.
Watch RuPaul's Drag Race March 24 on VH1.