By Samantha White
December in Detroit is going to heat up this holiday season with a shot of hot Coco. Coco Peru, that is. The beautiful and talented drag queen – with a capital Q – will bring her New York attitude and flavor to Detroit and perform a “best of” her work.
Coco got a taste of the hometown hospitality a few months ago while in town shooting for a now defunct TV show. And now she’ll get a taste of our winter weather when she performs at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Five15 in Royal Oak.
“I am going to come from this nice warm weather to Detroit,” says Coco, who lives in Los Angeles. “It’s cold in Detroit right now, isn’t it? I had the chance to meet some local peeps when I was filming an episode of ‘Detroit 1-8-7.’ I love the people in Detroit – they’ll keep me warm!”
Coco is a quadruple threat – singer, comedian and actor. Not to mention, she writes all her material.
Looking back, “I would change those one-night stands. I gave it away for free for too many years!” Peru says frankly when asked about her groundbreaking 20 years in the business.
Inspired by the humorous grownups in her life, Coco, born Clinton Leupp, knew while growing up in the Bronx that she wanted to perform.
“I grew up surrounded by adults who I thought were funny. I liked being around adults more than children,” she says. “From the time I was small I knew. I loved being around them and I liked making people laugh.”
It helped that Coco had parents who encouraged her enthusiasm for performing. “I was very fortunate, because my parents realized I had a love for the theater. My parents took me to Broadway shows, Radio City Music Hall, all of that. It made me realize, ‘Hey, I can do this.'”
The city itself also played a vital role in her desire to perform and make a career out of being funny. “There was this edginess that New Yorkers had back then. Their sense of humor was borderline blue and there was a lot of innuendo to it that was really funny.”
Coco took all that inspiration from her childhood and, years later, gave birth to the alter ego Coco Peru. But even industry veterans spend time arduously writing engaging and entertaining shows. Comedic genius takes time – and can be scary as hell.
“I literally sit in front of my computer for hours. It can be terrifying, and I think to myself, ‘Do I have a show here?’ It’s scary until you get into it.”
Peru is well into it, with critically acclaimed one-woman shows like “Miss Coco Peru in My Goddamn Cabaret,” “Miss Coco Peru: A Legend in Progress” and “Miss Coco Peru’s Liquid Universe.” The latter garnered her one of several GLAAD Award nominations. In 2004, she won for “Miss Coco Peru is Undaunted.”
Her most rewarding moment came from the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center in 2009, winning the Board of Directors Award for her activism in the LGBT community.
Peru has many accomplishments onscreen, in addition to her stage and activism endeavors. She has appeared on “Arrested Development,” “Will & Grace,” “New York Undercover” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
“I really enjoyed working on ‘How I Met Your Mother’ because everyone is happy there,” Coco says. “There’s nothing worse than an unhappy cast who complains about everything. What do you have to complain about? You are making millions of dollars. I hate when they complain. It makes me want to smack them across the face. But, that show has a really lovely cast.”
She goes on: “I told myself I’d never play a tranny-hooker because that’s one of the stereotypes in our community. And, I ended up playing one on the show! Hey, they dangled money in my face. I’m only human.”
Two decades in the business has afforded Coco dozens of accolades and fans, great opportunities to work with some of film and television’s biggest stars and a few one-night stands here and there. She gets the spotlight, but Clinton just likes being at home in the backyard.
“I like watering the plants in my backyard and pulling weeds. I like to talk to my fruit trees and I have a beautiful lime and lemon tree,” Coco/Clinton says proudly.
The multi-talented performer was born to perform but enjoys the simple life with a husband of 16 years. The key to being together for so long? “A mortgage.”
7 p.m. Dec. 4 ($25)
515 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak