Day 2 of RuPaul's DragCon NYC left me more tired than all those sponge dresses I saw. (It was the only overused concept this year, but a testament to Monét X Change's impact on drag culture.)
I dragged myself over there after an intense workout at Mark Fisher Fitness, barely making it in time for the runway presentation by Miz Cracker, who reminded us that in this age of #MeToo, we have to treat each other with respect. Right before bringing out two of the superhot Warwick Rowers in religion-revealing leotards and high heels and encouraging them to half-strip.
It was all in good fun, with the Rowers on hand to plug their 2019 calendar. More on them this week — I was able to interview one of them, Lucas Etienne, along with the calendar's charming creator, Angus Malcolm!
After that, it was a chaotic day of asking total strangers to make love to my camera and figuring out which of the queens' handlers really, really meant it when they said NO MORE PRESS ...
The first name queen I went after was Peppermint. She had a cute Waitress-themed booth — if I were Harvey Levin, I'd say, “Diner? I hardly know 'er!” and collect a huge paycheck from The People's Court. Pep's cohorts — dancers from Head Over Heels! — were only too happy to help me snag her for some posed photos.
Peppermint is always, always nice and accommodating, so that was no surprise. In fact, I shot her several times throughout the day, even though some of the other queens wouldn't pose (or rather, their teams wouldn't hear of it). It's like ... Peppermint's a damn Broadway star, and she did it!
She also went over to the runway and performed a number from the show, telling the fans to come support the queer-positive farce (set to the music of the Go-Go's). I've seen it — have you?
No worries with Monét X Change either, whose Poetic Justice set was poetry in motion. Or at least, poetry at a standstill. Bob the Drag Queen was very rushed, giving me just one frame, but the pic was great and I was glad I snapped a shot of him signing for some fans, which better shows off the insane-asylum motif of his booth.
Jaymes Mansfield had a stellar background, so I totally lost my head for her.
This is as good a place as any to point out that there were even more hot guys mixed in with the hot queens this day. Some of them were cluelessly hot, some were playing it up with mesh and other semi-revealing outfits.
A few of my faves were at the Skull & Bones Underwear booth, including Daniel Duggan, one of NYC's most beautiful guys. I shot him many different ways, but could not find a bad angle.
You can add Tammie Brown, Jiggly Caliente and DiDa Ritz to the list of easygoing subjects. All of them were as pleased as punch to pose.
I recently posted most of Lypsinka's Wigstock performance on Facebook, and it went viral, with over 150K views. When I said hello to her again, she said she didn't recognize me and asked if I had changed in some way, namely, had I lost weight and gotten taller? That's how a truly regal grande dame does it, girls.
Finally making it to the far wall, I discovered my old exercise buddy Alexis Michelle pulling off a flawless Norma Desmond (the Glenn Close one) on a carefully constructed Sunset Boulevard set; a queen who was new to me but who attracted tons of fans, one Bible Girl; and also chatted with Nikki Blonsky of Hairspray fame. It was my first time seeing her since the movie musical came out, but she was very sweet and seemed excited to greet her line of admirers.
The other non-drag celeb I saw who had a table was none other than Hocus Pocus star Kathy Najimy. She seemed unthrilled to be signing autographs at a table far from the action — like, wondering what she'd gotten herself into — but was cordial and looks amazing.
Edgy Laila McQueen (she had FAG on her forehead) was friendly as she proved that blue is her color; Kim Chi seemed ready to embark on a full shoot with me; and I happened to ask to shoot Aja just as she was starting, so I cooled my (low) heels for a few while she texted. Then, she announced she was ready, put down her phone and exuded high-class street sex appeal. I loved our pics.
Down in the meeting rooms, I caught part of RuPaul's illuminating chat with the NYT's Charles Blow (I wondered how many in the crowd had arrived to do blow with RuPaul in the basement instead?), in which Ru joked that he thinks it's ridiculous that stars like him are tasked with making voting sexy to try to inspire younger people to actually do it. He also talked about having to check his youthful propensity for getting offended.
This was where I first encountered the fabulous Mayhem Miller, who was collared by fans for selfies in an episode that reminded me of that scene in Jaws where they dump chum into the water.
Next up, I returned to the runway, where Ross Mathews was pulling off a very fun game show, live, wherein contestants guessed the prices of some merch from the various booths, The Price Is Right-style. One of the beaded gowns wound up costing over two grand, which made me grateful for pants.
Ross then segued into a Warwick Rowers-powered Name That Tune sequence. The guys returned in their half-off leotards and obeyed when Ross commanded they get down on their knees. Wow, they're willing to go all the way to prove this straight allies thing! Next, he had two sets of two audience members vying for prizes by correctly guessing snippets of RuPaul songs. I knew it wouldn't go well when nobody got “Supermodel” (!), but it was hilarious to watch anyway.
I ran into Lady Bunny, who was posing in her booth when she wasn't stomping on the mock Hollywood Walk of Fame star that had been set up with RuPaul's name on it (“My gooood friend, RuPaul!” she teased as her heels did the dirty work, and before pretending to poop on it). She welcomed club kid/designer/downtown legend Richie Rich, who was hanging out with Desmond Is Amazing, that little boy who serves drag on the regular. This was probably the ultimate group of the weekend.
I had to get Bebe Zahara Benét on the fly, but luckily, she looked fly. Kameron Michaels had a long line but welcomed me for some shots in her minimalist yet regal booth. She was sort of a ginger dragon queen. Thorgy Thor, I told to simply be herself, which let to an orally fixated portrait (good to know!), and Vanessa Mateo — who appeared in a sort of Kubrick-esque cube with chains and a plastic ensemble, sweetly prayed aloud that I had flash. I had flash! I hear rumors she's back for Season 11, which would only be fitting, since she became one of the series' most iconic queens in a single week.
Now, some of the queens, I was in begging mode to get. One of them was Sasha Velour, who I know is a doll, so I knew it was just a decision that had been made not to slow down her huge line. Still, I came back on Day 2 trying to be more persuasive. When I got a NAW, I asked if I could just shoot from the side, which the handlers allowed (and which, in theory, I didn't have to ask to do). As I did that, Sasha noticed what was going on and gave me a quick but invested pose. Pure class.
Team Cracker, however, I never did crack. It was a hard no from beginning to end. I had her on the runway, so I settled for grabbing a pic of her posing with buddy Matteo Lane, the sexy out comic who I have interviewed for Boy Culture before.
Many Internet personalities were to be seen here and there at RDCNYC, including a half-dressed Alexander Abramov and his popular BF Brett, who seemed to have tight bonds with Kameron Michaels and Trixie Mattel (Trixie has 2 daddies?). As always, they were happy to take time out to pose. Internet personalities, when you ask them to pose for a picture, often have ring lights and drop a shoulder strap on cue, but they were camera-ready.
It was a free-for-all as the day wound down, and I wham-bam-thank-you-ma'amed Ongina (she playfully demanded retouching but didn't need any), Yuhua Hamasaki (her high concept was to hide her face entirely, but I held no grudge) and Carmen Carrera, fresh from a panel and looking like either million bucks or some other very expensive thing.
So much glam!
Fenton & Randy, the men behind the task of putting the whole thing together
Mr. Busch was up and at 'em the next morning for a drag-on-Broadway panel
Carson's look was the gold standard.
The day over, the night was just beginning — I was fortunate enough to be invited to a very intimate cocktail party after-hours on the floor hosted by WOW's Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. The producers of ... just about everything! ... had a great guest list that included Amanda Lepore, Richie Rich, OK!'s Joe Drake & bestie publicist Bryan Kehn, Paper's Mickey Boardman, Peppermint, Charles Busch, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews, Lady Bunny, Simon Doonan & Jonathan Adler, Joey Skladany and many more.
That was a wrap-dress on Day 2. Stay tuned for the final day, plus my Warwick Rowers chat (on video) later this week.
Also ... tons more pics at Facebook.com/BoyCultureBlog: