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Known as the queen of New York nightlife and, indeed, at one time one of Michael Alig’s infamous Club Kids, Lady Bunny is a legend in pop culture and drag circles alike. Now, Bunny is taking her diva chops to Detroit when she visits Motown as part of “A Drag Queen Christmas,” the latest “RuPaul’s Drag Race”-related tour put together by Detroit’s own super event producers Murray & Peter.
Lady Bunny, of course, was never on “Drag Race” as a contestant. But she and Ru go back to the early ’80s in Atlanta when the two were both just starting out as performers. They moved together to New York and their careers have continued to intersect through nearly the last four decades. While RuPaul was busy declaring herself Supermodel of the World, Lady Bunny stayed based in NYC where for many years she put on the annual Wigstock event, where RuPaul would often appear.
It’s undeniable that Lady Bunny has shaped LGBTQ pop culture drastically, having released various singles and been featured in songs like “Lick it Lollipop,” as well as appearances in iconic films like “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.” She is also known for her comedy routines and skills as a DJ. Between The Lines spoke with Lady Bunny as she was preparing to hit the road for the new tour. She talked about life on the road, her longlasting friendship with RuPaul and why giving advice to those who are “young and thin” makes no sense. She kicked off the interview with an introduction.
“First, before we get started, my correct pronouns are slutty and sugar tits, my sexual preference is often, and I identify as transslender because I used to be.”
That’s good to know. I’m very familiar with Murray and Peter and their productions, especially of the “[RuPaul’s] Drag Race” queens. Then I saw your photo amongst them. How did you come to be a part of this tour? Is it a Christmas miracle?
Well, I did the “Haters’ Roast,” the last tour, with Murray and Peter, and I had a blast. It was probably the biggest tour that I’ve ever been on. I’m used to maybe 8 or 10 dates or something like that. But I was ready to do it again this year.
Best and worst things about being on the road that long?
Sometimes being on a bus in those bunk beds isn’t the most easy or glamorous thing. And it was definitely not glamorous the night our show went well in New York and I celebrated with a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream and the rest of the cast got to learn that I am lactose intolerant. So, you do have to respect people’s personal spaces when you’re drag queens in a crowded space. But when you weigh it up against performing in these large venues, which are often sold out and full of cheering crowds. It’s fun. I’m not a “Drag Race” queen. Obviously, I’m an old friend of Ru’s and will make an appearance occasionally, but I love mixing it up and I’m glad Murray and Peter feel the same way.
What’s it like to be on the road with so many young girls? They must look to you for guidance, though I read in no less than The New York Times that you’re not trying to be a mentor like Mama Ru. And that instead you consider yourself to be hateful and demented.
First of all, why do I want to give tips to somebody who’s young and thin? Why? What do I get out of it? Honestly, I’m not hateful and I’m happy to dispense with advice to anyone who asks me. But as someone who likes twisted and raunchy humor I’m a little sick of the drag queen as role model or mentor because that’s not what I am.
While there’s always the semblance of a rivalry between you two, you and Ru go way back. You met in Atlanta in the early ’80s. What do you remember from those early years of your friendship and careers?
Not much. We were pretty fucked up. We moved to New York together — me to perform a guest spot at his first show at the Pyramid. Those were crazy times. We lived in Atlanta on the gay strip where there were also trans hookers who Ru and I idolized and got to know. So this is why when people say RuPaul is transphobic I have to giggle. He’s the furthest thing from transphobic.
After all these years in the business, what’s the secret to staying young at heart and still relevant?
Cocaine. No, that’s not going to be young at heart, that’s going to be a decrepit heart about to blow. I’ve been lucky to do things that I am passionate about. I’m doing a new number I wrote and will be performing in the Drag Queen Christmas tour. So that will be fun to try out. I also DJ, I record original music and then there’s the comedy stuff. So between all of that, I can’t get bored.
In recent years you’ve begun to speak out politically. In fact, in 2016 you stumped so hard for Sanders that I heard folks were calling you Lady Bernie.
My political awakening was speaking out against George W. Bush’s Iraq war which, sadly, Democratic frontrunners like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden voted for, which I think is gross. Listen: you’re never going to find a politician as honest as Bernie who has kept the same positions for decades, for the most part, and who is rejecting corporate donors which poison our elections. Trust me, you’re not going to find it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate who is addressing income inequality and our ridiculous health care costs. I just posted an article about how Pete Buttigieg, Pete BootyJuice, was supporting Medicare for all two years ago. Well, what happened between then and now? He started taking money from the health care industry. I get flak from people who say you’re eating your own by dissing Mayor Pete. And I’m like, “No, I’m not. I want affordable health care, the same kind that works in so many other countries [like] in Europe and in Canada.” So, the fact that he’s gay that’s like a tribal thing. I don’t like everybody in my community. Do you?
You’re going to be on the road for much of the holiday season. Talk to me about Christmas. Do you have a special memory?
Holidays are for family, and they know that I’m a heathen who does not know the Lord Jesus. … It’s kind of sappy. My parents were never big on giving gifts. We would get socks and that Life Savers book. And we’d get a toothbrush.
Lady Bunny, it’s been every bit the delight I knew it would be to talk with you. Any famous last words before you head out on the road?
I just hope that Latrice isn’t going to be cooking roadkill on the bus this year.
“A Drag Queen Christmas”
Friday, Nov. 29
Tickets start at $55
350 Madison St., Detroit