Tag Archives: Manila Luzon

Drag roundup: Trannyshack LA at The Dragonfly

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Toxic Waist performs at The Dragonfly in Hollywood. SCREAMfmLondon

It was my birthday, and a drag queen clocked me in the head with a cauldron during a dramatic reenactment of “The Silence of the Lambs.” So, that happened.

Trannyshack LA was the scene of the aforementioned cauldron incident. For the record, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intentional; she was just generally throwing a cauldron, and my head was in the line of fire. Story of my life.

Since 1996, Heklina has hosted Trannyshack, a regularly-occurring drag event in San Francisco. It’s become a relatively big deal over the years, and the event occasionally takes the show on the road — to LA, for instance.

On May 31, Heklina emceed the event at the Dragonfly Bar in Hollywood. It was one of the last of her events to use the name “Trannyshack” before making the switch over to “T-shack” (at least in the interim). She addressed the issue onstage, explaining that the ultimate point of her show was to be inclusive, and that includes eliminating language that makes others feel oppressed. Although the use of transphobic words has been a divisive issue in the drag community in the past few months, Heklina handled it professionally and with a good attitude. Right on.

As for the show, it was pretty tame (save Toxic Waist, who closed the evening with a great Leatherface-in-a-jockstrap number during which the audience was sprayed with fake blood).

My favorite act was Devan M., who performed a high-energy routine in a “Phantom of the Opera”-style half-face mask and cape. I really appreciate the added androgynous factor of bearded drag queens such as Devan. The trend of wearing facial hair while in drag has been gaining momentum recently, likely influenced by RuPaul’s phenomenal hair and makeup artist Mathu Andersen and by Conchita Wurst, the Austrian drag queen who won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.

More traditional drag performances came from Ambrosia Salad and Killer. The “traditional” element of Ambrosia’s act being the lip-sync to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” not necessarily the sexy Jesus backup dancers nailed with glittery blood to “YOLO” crosses. Killer brought out a great long-form Judy Garland impression, and there can never be too much Judy Garland.

Also impressive was Cupcake Canne, who performed a “Black Swan”-themed routine entirely on pointe. Although it’s really difficult to see anything that takes place low to the stage at a drag show because everyone in the crowd is about 20 feet tall in gigantic heels and hair.

The special guests of the evening were rapper Cazwell and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Manila Luzon, who joined him onstage for their duet, “Helen Keller.” Cazwell performed “I Seen Beyonce at Burger King,” which is somehow the weirdest, catchiest song in existence. (My favorite verse is “She was looking around for some customer service. / I walked up to her, made her security nervous. / She said, ‘How much for a case of beer?’ / I says, ‘Girl, are you drunk? I don’t work here!’”).

The rest of Cazwell’s set was okay. Meaning, he played “Ice Cream Truck,” and it was the first time I’ve listened to that song without watching the accompanying video. I’m not sure that song should even exist separately from the video.

All head injuries aside, I’m really glad I attended. I feel like this is a pivotal time for drag, and I’m excited to watch the evolution of mainstays such as “the club formerly known as Trannyshack.”

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.