Drag Queens, Male Strippers, and Gay Cowboys Rock Provincetown—and Wigstock Returns to New York

Lots of backstage dish from Wigstock!

I just spent some dizzying time in Provincetown, MA, the giddy gay resort which aggressively combines bars, drag, seafood, nature walks, and even some straight people. (Lots of them, in fact.) I stayed at the comfortably fun Crew’s Quarters on Commercial Street, where friends of Aquaria hang out and where this time I got to chat with Pandora Boxx and pals, dishing the glories of drag stardom. Elsewhere around town, I had coffee with genius film director John Waters at Joe’s, chatted with Pulitzer winner Tony Kushner, comic Judy Gold and Drag Race star Kasha Davis on the street, and enjoyed the daily footlongs at John’s by the dock, in addition to going to somewhat finer establishments like Bubala’s By The Bay and Front Street. I skipped the immortal “Dick dock,” which is exactly what it sounds like, but I still got a charge at the Boatslip tea dance and outside the underwear party at Club Purgatory at Gifford House. (Not exactly anxious to remove any layers, I didn’t get up the nerve to go in.) Here are the fab shows I saw in my time at Ptown:

In her Crème De La Dregs show at the Crown & Anchor, Dina Martina continues her reign as the most original drag queen on the planet, that planet being Mars. Entering in a masquerade mask and a wild outfit that led to “the big reveal” (don’t ask), Dina came off like that old upside-down cable host Mrs. Mouth (but turned rightside up, of course) crossed with the famed offbeat singer Mrs. Miller, while emerging as her own badass, hilarious self full of phlegm and wisdoms. “History repeats itself. I’ve seen it before,” sang Dina as she barreled onto the stage, but I‘d never seen this before

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Dina Martina performs onstage at Wigstock 2018 at New York’s Pier 17.

Cramming Sound of Music lyrics into rock songs was a tasty delight, and so was Dina’s riotously funny (and poignant) tale of “earthquake clowns” who pile out of small planes to look for quake victims in the rubble and make them smile. Best of all was a video montage of Dina’s happy head superimposed on various debauched images as she repurposed some pop hits from the 1980s. This is Dina’s best show yet, and that’s saying a mouthful. Let me also get a word in for Bobby Wetherbee, who tinkles the keys so ably at the Crown & Anchor’s piano bar. Bobby—who’s all tanned and looking like a delicious sweet potato—throws himself into numbers from Annie and The Wizard of Oz, abruptly changing tempos, and also joking, when the crowd joins in, “That sucked.” He is an utter delight.

Vocal impressionist extraordinaire Jimmy James has been ruling Ptown again with his Divas Are Forever show at the Pilgrim House, commemorating Jimmy’s 35th anniversary in show biz. “I do tricks with my throat,” Jimmy joked on entering. “Do I have a date?” Absolutely! It turns out that “the one and many Jimmy James” started out in San Antonio, went on to lipsynch in a casino, and ended up singing live as Marilyn Monroe on every daytime talk show in creation. But Jimmy won’t impersonate Marilyn anymore, explaining that he felt he’d done her more than she had. [He does show a video montage of him as Marilyn, however, to satisfy our cravings.] Jimmy has also discontinued his Bette Davis, saying, “Nobody knows who she is anymore”. I guess Feud didn’t make as big an impression as we thought. So much for divas being forever, lol. “And clubs now want you to use vape cigarettes, not real ones,” added Jimmy. “What is Bette Davis unless you can choke on her cigarette smoke?”

But there are still plenty of divas in this show, and Jimmy does them to perfection. He trots out a spot-on Madonna, a hearty Patsy Cline, and even a sturdy Elvis. He says he dreamed of being Cher, but now looks like Chaz—which leads to a lot of fabulous Cher impressions. And Jimmy also does the wispy Diana Ross and in fact, for a finale, he invited me up to duet on “Endless Love.” I made sure it wasn’t endless. Anyway, since he’s dropped some of the oldies, I look forward to him hopefully adding Britney, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift.

With the inspired lunacy of Brokelahomo! at Fishermen Hall, Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans have officially become the closest thing to Charles Ludlam’s old Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Brokelahomo! is hilarious and fast paced, as it pulls together dashes of classic westerns like Johnny Guitar, Destry Rides Again, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Calamity Jane, and of course Brokeback Mountain, with songs from Chicago and Seesaw. It’s the tale of a town full of shady LGBTQ people that faces a breeder influx, not to mention puppets, plushies, and a live dog who licks on command (unlike my last boyfriend). Lines like “The noose was rigged. Fake noose!” and a song that plays on Cher/Cherokee are entertaining, along with a relevant plot about gun control, and standouts include Landry as the brusque saloon keeper Vienna and Qya Crystal as a singer of questionable gender named Frenchie Pissoir. The whole thing is a marvel of brilliant silliness, and it’s coming to New York’s Theater 80 St. Marks in October. And after the performance I saw, Landry asked the audience if they would next rather see a sci-fi musical with characters like R2-MeeToo and C3PeeHole or a show called Dr. Jekyll and Miss Thing. The latter won by a landslide, and the crowd went schizo with delight just thinking about it.

Male Call: Student Bodies! is a highly engaging strip revue at the Post Office cabaret, filled with fancy choreography, much of it via ABT’s Robert LaFosse. Yes, a ballet legend worked on a Ptown burlesque show! As a result, Male Call is a cut above most disrobing efforts—the numbers are well thought out, elaborately choreographed, and well-played. “Don’t tip the dancers or touch them,” we were warned before the show. “If they want you to touch them, you’ll know.” They didn’t exactly want that, though they did gladly pose for photos and tips in a meet and greet after the final curtain. As for the show itself? Four great dancers—Dean James, Peter Mercury, Man Drake, and Jason Waterfalls—act out the erotic undertones of repressed schooling, and yes, for extra credit, they do show peen. The longish blackouts (with narration) seemed unnecessary, and I felt bad for the audience member brought up and left for a while in bondage restraints—though she seemed to like it just fine—but otherwise, this summer awakening was a master class in flesh and fantasy, one that puts the gay back in education.

Draggin’ Ladies Have Fun in the Sun at Wigstock

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Back in New York: The long running outdoor drag festival Wigstock resurfaced at Pier 17 on Saturday, as presented by original host Lady Bunny and Neil Patrick Harris (who performed as Hedwig), and it was a long day’s journey into fabulous, all filmed for an HBO documentary. As someone all dolled up to introduce two of the stars, I got to hang backstage and get some fun gossip: Neil Patrick Harris looked at my furry outfit and laughed, “Cruella de Vil!” “But my dalmatians are all faux,” I assured him.

Song interpreter Justin Vivian Bond thought I looked more like the human dildo that was in The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black’s act. “That’s exactly what I was going for,” I replied. Bunny is also doing a Wigstock book. Yes, instead of reading drag queens, you can read about them… When I told Willam Belli I can’t wait to see him in Gaga’s Star Is Born movie (There’s a drag bar scene), he laughed and said, “I deserve a fuckin’ break!” Sharon Needles told me that Amanda Lepore took a good look at Sharon and asked if she was transitioning. She isn’t, but urged, “Spread it around.” Head Over Heels director Michael Mayer was frantically looking for Desmond Napoles, the wonderful boy who loves Drag Race and was all done up at Wigstock. “Maybe he wants to star him in a non-binary version of Annie,” quipped photographer Jeff Eason.

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From left: Michael Musto and Murray Hill attend Wigstock 2018.

Comic Murray Hill has been campaigning to take the lead trans male role in Rub & Tug, since Scarlett Johansson vacated it after controversy about her not being trans. I asked Murray how his campaign is going and he said, “Amy Schumer called them to recommend me!” Fingers crossed. Drag comic Jackie Beat was friends with Roseanne and used to open for her at gigs. Jackie told me Roseanne was always very nice and maternal, and politically quite enlightened. (Which I know. I always liked Roseanne, and in fact, me, Jackie and other LGBTQ people used to pop up on Roseanne’s old talk show.) They once did a seder together and Roseanne went so far as to rewrite her speech to make it more inclusive of gays and people of color, and not just about Jews. But when the shit hit, Jackie tweeted that this wasn’t the Roseanne he knew and he felt like he had been punk’d. Roseanne then blocked him! I guess these days, she can’t handle the truth.

And finally, to the drag queen who sensed that she was being cut for time and responded by running onstage and later hitting me with her high heel, I say, “Put that shoe back on and chill. And don’t think I don’t remember when you used to throw drinks!” At least when another performer, the hilarious Sugga Pie Koko, realized that she was the third person who was set to do “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” she was irked, but adopted a zen-like attitude about it. And they were all fabulous! Congrats to all the queens on a great Wigstock experience, which brought back the subversion of the old with the acceptance and slickness of the new. And Linda Simpson’s remarks about Caitlyn Jenner and Doogie Howser… well, just wait for the telecast.

One last tidbit: Sadly, NYC’s LGBT Expo has been “postponed indefinitely” for September after 24 years of mostly doing quite well. Just like last year, booking it the same weekend as NYC DragCon was probably not a great idea. But I’ll see you at DragCon! I’ll be doing a panel again!

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.