Let’s go back to where it all started for Sharon Needles—That artist-nurturing womb of a city where the current winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race came from—Pittsburgh! Find out where Miss Needles got her start, enjoys a good green smoke, shops (it’s not Party City) and what she really thinks about that gay ol’ show that once thrust the Western Pennsylvania town into the big pink spotlight—Queer as Folk. Pittsburg is the gay little steel mill town that just keeps on giving so let Miss Sharon Needles take you on a tour. Just mind the shade.
1—Are you still living in Pittsburgh?
Duh, of course I still live in Pittsburgh. In my opinion, Pittsburgh is the filthiest kept secret. It’s poor, dilapidated, and rough around the edges, just like me. Due to my recent success, of course I’ve upgraded my living situation. But I did live for 7 years on Carroll Street in the heart of Bloomfield, a mixture between Willamsburg, Brooklyn and Hell.
2—Describe Pittsburgh in 3 words.
Rusty, dusty, and musty.
3—Tell us your most “Pittsburgh” story – like what’s something that happened to you in Pittsburgh that probably wouldn’t have happened anywhere else?
Like a true Pittsburgher, I don’t remember anything past 8:00pm. We are the City of Champions, and by champions, I mean alcoholics.
4—Can you tell us your Pittsburgh “musts” for visitors?
Primanti Brothers—The world famous sandwich shop. Where else can you get cole slaw and French fries on your sandwich? It’s a Pittsburgh thing, get into it.
Kennywood Amusement Park—One of America’s oldest amusement parks. Where else can you get called a f****t ten times before being able to ride the Thunderbolt wooden roller coaster?
Mt. Washington—Smoke a joint and enjoy the view, no one else has a better view of their downtown skyline.
5—Can you give us a few Pittsburgh “AVOID AT ALL COSTS” for visitors?
Station Square—Nothing but a collection of high end chain restaurants and bars catering to the worst of humanity. (i.e. frat dudes with tucked in shirts, and sorority sluts who spend their evening making sexy face phone cam photos with their girlfriends.)
The Oakland neighborhood—Though in it’s heyday, it contained several underground punk haunts, it is now home to two of the largest universities in the nation. All of the establishments in that area cater to those under 25, who may have a good education but bad taste.
6—What should the traveler know before visiting Pittsburgh?
Study up on Yinzer vocabulary, “yinz” is you guys, “dahn” is down, and “bumbershoot” is umbrella. Also, never speak of Cleveland Ohio, because we are natural rivals. In fact, if you’re from Cleveland I suggest finding a new destination for your vacation. Lastly, purchasing any other ketchup besides Heinz is grounds for extermination. Touch the Hunts and prepare to die.
7—Which character on Queer as Folk was most you?
I may play stupid on TV, but I’m actually quite intelligent. I don’t spend the small amount of free time I have watching the most overrated primetime soap operas. Queer as Folk depicted Pittsburgh in the most unrealistic way. If you find 6-pack abs in Pittsburgh, call me.
8—Who is your favorite local celebrity?
9—Where in town would you place a statue of Sharon Needles?
On the North Shore, nestled next to the statue of Mister Rogers. I find us both to be Pittsburgh institutions, designed to teach the world about kindness, imagination, and though Fred Rogers never choose this tagline, perversion.
10—Who is your favorite famous person from Pittsburgh?
11—Should the Warhol Museum be in Pittsburgh?
I selfishly say yes, but Warhol probably would have said no.
12—The restaurant you eat at the most is….
Thai Gourmet, the best Thai food with the worst décor. Remember, beautiful things come from ugly places, have you seen my mother?
13—The restaurant you wish you ate at the most is….
Home. I wish I could say I’m a decadent chef, but unfortunately Alaska and I use our kitchen as a second dressing room. We eat out every night. That’s supporting the American dream, supporting people from other countries making me dinner every night for the rest of our lives.
14—Your favorite cafe?
Pittsburgh has several independently owned cafes. Before RuPaul’s Drag Race, I spent 8 years being a barista at one. In my opinion, I find all cafes to be equally annoying. If I hear the word Latte one more time…
15—Your favorite dive bar?
My favorite bar is a dive bar. I’ve never been one to patron the big boom-boom gay clubs. I would say that the Brillobox is the best bar in Pittsburgh, a great mixture of gay, straight, high end, low class, good music, and even better art. And a staff that flirts with you, and means it.
16—Your favorite gay bar?
The Blue Moon—they were the first gay bar that gave me and other outsider drag queens a stage to do our art. It’s tragically decorated and always full of unsavory characters. If I could bottle the smell of The Blue Moon, I would, and I wouldn’t make a dime.
17—Your favorite straight bar?
Howlers, also known as Coyote Café, a great mix of punks, rockabilly chicks, and fall down drunk Yinzer locals. Don’t know what a Yinzer is? Look it up. Also, the prices are great, and the service is terrible, what more could you ask for?
18—Your favorite place to see live acts?
Gooski’s, a great punk rock shithole dive bar. It’s also the best jukebox in the world, not one of those f****t touch screen monstrosities you see at your local gay bar. They harbor the best of local and national underground punk and rock n’ roll. Not for your average gay guy, but I suggest giving it a try. You will be amazed at what Lady Gaga is NOT doing.
19—Your favorite local band/musician?
I would never declare a Pittsburgh band or performing artist to be my favorite, but I will say that Helter Shelter, a Lawrenceville punk collective, puts on better shows in their living rooms than anything at the Carnegie in NYC ever will.
20—Your favorite place to shop?
I frequently shop at a little independent boutique in Pittsburgh known as Salvation Army. From sequin gowns to vintage tees, they have it all. $100,000 later and I still have anxiety about buying anything over $70.
21—What’s the best neighborhood to shop?
I can’t believe I’m saying this—Carson Street on South Side. It’s the original home of douchebaggery. There are more consecutive bars on Carson Street than anywhere else in the world. And for shopping, if you can’t find it on Carson Street, you won’t find it anywhere else in Pittsburgh. From costume shops, to fetish wear, to the universally needed H&M. It’s also the best place to witness a frat boy pissing on a street side.
22—Your favorite day trip from Pittsburgh?
Just Ducky Tours, it’s cheap, campy and completely leotarded.
23—What’s the best neighborhood to go in drag during the day?
Shadyside—it’s Pittsburgh’s premiere GLBTQ mecca. Everyone is so PC in Shadyside that you almost feel cheated for not being called a fag.
24—Best place to escape Pittsburgh for the day is….
Fallingwater—It’s one of the best pieces of architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s 45 minutes outside of the city, tucked away in the beautiful natural foliage of the Appalachian Mountains.
25—Quirkiest thing about Pittsburgh is….
Our accent, which is considered Pittsburghese.
26—The most fun thing about Pittsburgh is….
The diversity of its neighborhoods. Though it’s a smaller city, it has a NYC feeling where each neighborhood has a piece of culture and ethnic background that makes the beautiful quilt known as Pittsburgh.
27—The most annoying thing about Pittsburgh is….
I love that Pittsburgh is a blue-collar town, but unfortunately in that culture, ignorance and prejudice still remain, so it isn’t uncommon to get razzed for the way you look or for who you are. But if someone doesn’t make fun of my outfit at least once a day, I am doing something wrong.
28—The most unexpected thing about Pittsburgh is….
Our flourishing art scene. People may know Pittsburgh for The Mattress Factory Art Museum and Andy Warhol Museum, but it’s also hard to go into a neighborhood and not run into one of its independently owned art houses or collectives.
29—Which queen on RuPaul’s Drag Race is the most “Pittsburgh”? Why?
Tammie Brown. Unconventionally beautiful, creatively different, and the more disturbing she is, the more entertaining. Pittsburgh is a city who appreciates their underdogs, and I certainly appreciate Tammie Brown.
30—Anything we missed that you wanna say about your hometown?
Pittsburgh is the City of Champions. For anyone that questioned Sharon Needles was going to win, clearly underestimated the power of southwestern Pennsylvania. We are the Hollywood of Blue-Collar America.