Monthly Archives: February 2014

Live: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Battle of the Seasons

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Willam, Detox, Michelle Visage, Pandora Boxx, Ivy Winters, Carmen Carerra, Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderfuck and Manila Luzon perform in “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Battle of the Seasons. Via Pandora Boxx/Facebook

On Feb. 6, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Battle of the Seasons brought eight performers from the reality television show, as well as host Michelle Visage and RuPaul himself, to Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles for a phenomenal display of theatricality.

Individually, Willam, Alaska Thunderfuck, Pandora Boxx, Sharon Needles, Detox, Manila Luzon, Carmen Carerra and Ivy Winters all took the stage to show off their individual talents at least twice.

Interspersed between performances were videos of the stars backstage and on the road, as well as promotional material from the sixth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which will premiere on Feb. 24. The entire event was incredibly seamless and professional. But with a lot of dick jokes.

While I would deem the whole evening a success, some performances stood out more than others. My jaw actually dropped in awe at Ivy Winters, who juggled gigantic knives while wearing a tall, silver-horned helmet and walked on stilts to Little Mix’s “Wings.”

Alaska wowed me with her singing talent and impressive vocal range during an impassioned cover of Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” (a nod, perhaps, to announcing the breakup with longtime boyfriend Needles late last year), as well as her original song “Ru Girl.”

Detox and Willam were fantastic as usual as two thirds of DWV (missing fellow drag queen Vicky Vox, who has not appeared on “Drag Race”) while performing their parody songs “Chow Down (at Chick-fil-A)” and “Boy is a Bottom.” Detox, especially, is not a bad rapper, and her black light shoes were fantastic, although her solo numbers were considerably less interesting. Willam, however, looked amazing, performed flawlessly and had a commanding stage presence throughout. But, of course.

And Needles, my personal favorite and the fifth season winner of “Drag Race,” was as hilarious, creepy and sexy as I’ve always dreamed she would be. For her first number, she was carried onstage in a coffin before launching into “Call Me on the Ouija Board” from her 2013 album “PG-13.”  It’s a really, really great goth-pop song with a catchy hook, smart lyrics full of tongue-in-cheek references to classic horror movies and a super polished sound. I actually haven’t stopped listening to it since. In the song, Needles declares, “I’ll be your Carol Anne, / I’ll be your pentagram. / Let’s dabble in the black arts.” Onstage, Needles picks up a dollar bill that was thrown at her and takes a few bites out of it before throwing it back.

Fun aside, there was also talk about the growing popularity of the show and its increasing influence on creating “drag queen society,” which is not entirely an exaggeration. The show and its contestants appeal to a wide range of audience members, reaching many underrepresented demographics. The wide appeal of fun, kitschy drag queens has allowed for stars that use the platform for political advocacy.

Carerra, who came out as a transgender woman after competing on the third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” has since become a very public proponent for transgender equality. In January, she appeared alongside “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox on Katie Couric’s talk show to speak about transgender issues, and last year, an online petition aimed at persuading Victoria’s Secret to have Carerra as its first transgender model gathered around 45,000 signatures.

Luzon, also a competitor from season three, has been pretty involved in AIDS awareness since appearing on the show. She and other “Drag Race” alumni appear regularly in public service announcements on Logo TV promoting safe sex and HIV testing.

Fittingly enough, the Battle of the Seasons show took place just as I’ve been following another story of drag queen activism unfolding overseas. On Feb. 1, Irish drag queen Panti Bliss spoke (amazingly effectively and eloquently) about gay rights and oppression in Ireland. Shortly thereafter, a video of the speech garnered such international attention that it has been discussed everywhere from Ireland’s houses of parliament to Russia, where anti-gay legislation was famously passed in 2013 to prohibit “propaganda” in support of “non-traditional” sexual orientation.

All of this just makes me feel like there should be way more drag queens occupying political office.

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Film: ‘Let’s Ruin It with Babies’

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The RVIP mobile karaoke unit sits outside of Arena Cinema in Hollywood where Kestrin Pantera’s “Let’s Ruin It with Babies” is playing. SCREAMfmLondon

We’ve been waiting anxiously for this moment. I’ve passionately waved my can of Tecate in the air and belted out the chorus to three Oasis songs already. The ground and walls have been shaking as we’ve swayed back and forth, rockin’ and a-rollin’ to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

But we were all really looking forward to the man who, while hidden behind dark sunglasses, would take the microphone to perform Captain & Tennille’s “Muskrat Love.”

Kestrin Pantera (founder of the RVIP mobile karaoke lounge and writer/director/star of “Let’s Ruin It with Babies,” the film that immortalizes it) comes up behind me, wearing flaw-free winged eyeliner, tapered false eyelashes and a floor-length silk robe.

“There is a rain stick right behind you. I think this is the perfect song for that,” she says before disappearing toward the front of the bus amidst a glow of rope lights and multicolored laser projectors.

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Karaoke underway. SCREAMfmLondon

The RV parked in front of the Arena Cinema in Hollywood for the Los Angeles premiere of “Let’s Ruin It with Babies” on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Following the screening, a theaterful of people filed onto the tricked-out, customized RV (equipped with a full bar, a lounge area and, of course, a karaoke cabaret, all of which are free of charge all the time) for revelry that lasted long into the night.

The RVIP karaoke bus is a full-time business for Pantera and her husband Jonathan Grubb, who drive it around town, allowing all manner of riff-raff on and off at their leisure, and attend events such as the South by Southwest festival. “Let’s Ruin It with Babies” tells the based-on-real-life story of how they decided to spoil all that fun by having children.

The film follows Channing (Pantera) as she embarks on a cross-country roadtrip in the RV with only herself and a few friends to take charge after her husband Chaz (Grubb) is suddenly required to stay home in Los Angeles for work. Before leaving for the trip, Channing is pressured by a number of outside sources who remind her that her biological clock is ticking, although she doesn’t feel ready to have children and doesn’t want to slow the upward momentum of her career.

Grubb is very obviously not an actor, and the film is obviously amateurish at times, but it’s nonetheless cleanly made, likeable, and a great showcase of Pantera’s creative talent.

There are some great, well-written scenes as the RVIP’s roadtrip continues. Two particularly standout bits include a maniacal mechanic (Patrick Daniel) who tries to swindle the crew out of some money when a broken fanbelt leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere, and a prophecy in the form of Linda Phillips-Palo, an older woman who “only gave birth to dog-children.”

The film is ultimately quite endearing despite (or maybe, in part, because of) its flaws.

Channing’s internal debate on motherhood frames the film and is probably relatable to other late-20s hipsters going through a quarter-life crisis (I, personally, relate a lot more to Bunnie, the ne’er-do-well road companion who gets drunk and fucks things up). The film could have been improved with more focus and backstory on the bus, though, as that makes a rather more unique and compelling story.

Back on the bus, I input my go-to karaoke song choice on the high-tech tablet system and put on the best possible performance in about three feet of space, packed to the brim with partiers. I think the RVIP lounge accomplishes its goal of creating a magical experience for passersby who hop onboard for the night.

I certainly hope that I stumble across it again.

‘Let’s Ruin It with Babies’
Release Date:
Dec. 5, 2013
Director: Kestrin Pantera
Starring: Kestrin Pantera, Jonathan Grubb and Eva Kim
Genre: Drama
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A-