Hey babe, take a long walk on the wild side.
New Yorkers think they know from drag, but the art of cross-dressing has gotten a lot more sophisticated in recent years. “It’s not enough to just put a dress on anymore,” says Charles Busch, who, like Ridiculous Theatrical Company founder Charles Ludlam and John Epperson (Lypsinka), is among the pioneers of smart, original drag. Epperson seconds Busch’s assessment: “I agree with Charles—you’ll still see lip-syncing to Mariah Carey, but for a drag performer to have any kind of longevity now, you need something unique.” In other words, you gotta have a gimmick.
One act to keep an eye on is the painfully funny (if often frightening) duo Kiki and Herb, who have a new show, Coup de Théatre, in previews at the Cherry Lane in the West Village. Justin Bond plays the drunk, aging nightclub singer Kiki opposite Kenny Mellman as Herb, Kiki’s accompanist. They’re best known for their Christmas shows, at which Kiki has been known to tell the Little Match Girl tale while throwing lit matches into the crowd.
Shequida is a Juilliard-trained soprano who performs everywhere from the gay club Barracuda in Chelsea to the performance-art bastion P.S. 122 in the East Village. Supastar Flotilla DeBarge does race commentary—at one show, she sang “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” to a cotton tree and then used it to blot her makeup. The glamorous Cashetta recently turned to magic. Frequently decorating drag shows and parties are the Dazzle Dancers, who have been performing “for the upper and lower echelons of Downtown Society” since 1995. Says founder Mike Albo, “We began as a joke dance troupe, but soon found that being as nude and glittered as possible was important for our city’s quality of life.”