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Transvocalizers — Lady Bunny

| Aug 11, 2008
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Tranvocalizers Header by Pamela DeGroff

A shy Lady BunnyEver encounter the word “definitive” used to describe a certain aspect of an artist’s career? The definitive album, the definitive song, or the definitive sound? For actors, there’s always that one career defining role in a movie or play. So, can this concept of something being all defining translate to one specific event? Well, if that event is Wigstock and the artist is Lady Bunny, yes it can.

It would be a great disservice to Lady Bunny to only mention Wigstock, regardless of how big it’s become over the years. She is also known for her over-the-top stage persona, and has also done videos, TV and movies, as well as music and song writing. She has also lent her image to advertising. She has two single releases—Shame, Shame, Shame (1996) and Pussycat Song: The Remixes (1997).

Lady BunnyOriginally from Wilmington, North Carolina, she was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After a move to Atlanta, she became RuPaul’s roommate. It was after yet another move to New York City with several other drag entertainers, that she began working as a drag performer professionally. From there, the phenomenon of Lady Bunny has gone world-wide.

In spite of an extremely busy schedule (she told me she answered the questions for this interview while on a flight to London…) Lady Bunny has found time to be a part of our new Transvocalizers feature. TGForum is honored she did.

TGForum: You’re probably best known for Wigstock, but you’re also gaining a reputation as an actress, singer/songwriter, DJ, comedienne, and journalist. I want to discuss all of that, but let’s start with Wigstock. It’s going into it’s 20th year, correct?

Bunny: Actually Wigstock is on a semi-permanent hiatus. After many ups and downs, and I don’t mean hairdos — Scott Lifshutz, my co-organizer, and I have decided to take a few years off. But a twenty year run in NYC ain’t bad!.

TGF: How have you seen it change over the years?

Bunny: The festival originally stemmed from the acts which regularly performed at the Pyramid Club ( in New York), so there was a lot of alternative drag, performance art and rock bands mixing with the drag acts. As the festival grew, there was definitely less rock and more dance acts. At it’s height, the event attracted 30,000-40,000 people. So it became a great place for recording artists to showcase new material. As a result, we had appearances by Debbie Harry, Deee-Lite, RuPaul, Cindy Wilson of the B-52s, Ultra Nate, Crystal Waters, Barbara Tucker, CeCe Peniston, and John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig. Even Vicki Sue (Turn The Beat Around) Robinson.

TGF: Do you have any formal training in voice, theater, music, etc.? Any interest in show business or entertaining while growing up?

Bunny: My dad was a professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, so whenever they needed a child role filled, I would do it, from Oliver to Shakespeare. I always assumed that I’d be an actor eventually, but when I was cast as Baseball Player #3 in the unbelievable boring “classic” American play Our Town, I realized that an actor was just a pawn who had to read the lines they were given in the way that the director required them to. And honey, I’d been trying to pretend that I was straight throughout school and it wasn’t working. Punk and New Wave were influencing fashion and boys were wearing makeup — I wanted to be flamboyant! And with drag, you can choose your own character, dialogue, and music as well as design your own costumes, makeup and hairstyles. I have no real musical training but I love to sing and write music. It has not really panned out into a paying career yet, but it’s what I love doing the most.

TGF: So what really got you interested in doing drag and when?

Bunny: I made homemade eyeshadow in elementary school out of corn starch and food coloring and drew nothing but girls with flip hairstyles, a la Marlo Thomas in That Girl. When I finally snuck , underage, to a drag club, I was mesmerized. I had never seen women in Chattanooga wearing sequined gowns, bug wigs, and false eyelashes. I immediately gravitated towards the queens.

TGF: As you started getting more and more professional, how did you start adding elements such as the comedy, DJing, etc?

Bunny: I was forced to add the comedy as the looks began to fade! And axe-murdering club kid Michael Alig (of Party Monster fame) gave me my first regular DJ gig in a lounge of a club called party Girdles in Manhattan in the late ‘80s. I would often be paid to hostess in clubs. I happened to hit New York nightlife as the magical time when House music was being born.

TGF: Any future recording plans that you can share at this time?

Bunny: RuPaul and I have just recorded a rap duet called Getz Wild for the soundtrack of Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild. It’s a Beach Boys meets hip-pop groove with insane lyrics like:

Now work the latest desgina
Just like you had a vagina
Fake bitches gon’ try ta outshine ya
But they knock-off shit come from China

Lady BunnyI can’t see it topping the charts, but it sure was fun to work with Ru during the writing, recording, and shooting of the video. I’ve also released a single with NYC’s legendary producer DJ Disciple with me on vocals called I Get High and another with an English production team…Boneheadz, called It’s Tonight.

TGF: What film roles have you had?

Bunny: I have a supporting role in Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild. Another role I played recently was the demented Miss Tasha in RuPaul’s Starrbooty. Playing a lesbian criminal with a penchant for prostitutes and a bad case of crabs was something I could really sink my teeth into.

TGF: What kind of overall feedback have you gotten from your movie and TV appearances?

Bunny: A lot of people recognize me from the Pamela Anderson Roast. Even though most of my lines were cut, it was a huge special which aired constantly. And a lot of people recognized me from my brief introduction of Britney Spears on VH1’s In The Zone. And of course, I had one big line on Sex And The City’s final season which many saw.

I’ve also released Rated X (For Xtra-retarded) in 2004. It’s basically various clips from my act from nightclubs to Wigstock with some narration in between.

TGF: You’re also known for your fashion sense. Is you stage wardrobe custom made, or are you a love of thrift shops? What about your wigs? How many do you own? And I just have to ask this-how much do the big ones weigh and are they hard to wear?

Bunny: When the New York Daily News voted me one of the most stylish New Yorkers, I howled, as did the local gay magazine Next. Of course I try to choose clothing which flatters me, but I am pretty clownish. And a bit tacky. I’m definitely not into designer clothing or following the latest fashion. Who can afford a $500 belt which will go out of style in a year in today’s busted economy? Certainly not me. But one thing I can say for sure is that my fashion sense is totally unique-who else would ever want it?

I do love thrift-shopping, but it’s been a couple decades and a few pounds since I’ve been able to wear many real women’s sizes. So most of my dresses are custom made.

As far as wigs, I own about 100. Chris March (the heavy set competitor form last season’s Project Runway) also used to make my largest wigs — one fashioned from 16 wigs-and while I love ‘em big, yes, they hurt like hell! But as they say, beauty knows no pain. I have scaled them down a bit now, but I never feel comfortable with less than three wigs on. It makes one’s shoulders appear less broad to have big hair.

TGF: When you’re not performing, when you’re off stage, do you dress?

Bunny: I don’t live as a woman, but I am definitely somewhat androgynous and have long-ish hair and quite a swish going. I sometimes get in drag just to go out to a fun club or troll the Internet for tranny chasers.

TGF: If you could only do one thing, only one genre’of entertainment (drag, music, singing, comedy, DJ, etc.) What would it be and why?

Bunny: I guess I’ll say drag, since I’ve been able to incorporate all of the others into my drag.

TGF: In reading your promo material and some of the comments on your web site, you’ve been compared to Scarlet O’Hara and Bette Davis, been called Julie Andrews on acid, and your act has been described as Dusty Springfield meets Don Rickles. You agree with any, or most, of this?

Bunny: I don’t see the Scarlet O’Hara resemblance, but I am very southern in my outlook. And you’d better believe I can turn on that southern charm when necessary. I worship the lunacy of Bette Davis but don’t see any parallels. And Julie Andrews on acid I really don’t get-except for the acid part. I do resemble Dusty Springfield but not intentionally. We just both happen to have big blonde hair and lotsa lash to de-horse our long mugs. I also wear a lot of vintage looking dresses from Dusty’s late ‘60s period.

Lady Bunny PETA ad.The Don Rickles reference is to my bawdy humor. I really loved one quote from a Boston review of my one-woman show which claimed that though my jokes were filthy, the audience could forgive me, since my delivery made it seem like a little girl had found a dirty joke book and was innocently reading it aloud.

TGF: What kind of advice would you give to anyone wishing to start as a drag entertainer?

Bunny: Find something you enjoy doing. If you’re a success, you’ll be doing a whole lot of it. And do something unique. Even if you are the best Cher or Beyonce impersonator in Cleveland, no one is gonna fly you to another city unless your impersonation is a stand-out.

TGF: Famous last words? Now’s your chance…

Bunny: Well, I’ve gone up on a PETA billboard which is part of their Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign. I guess Pamela Anderson wasn’t available.

(Author’s Note: For more information on Lady Bunny, and to purchase Lady Bunny merchandise, visit her website.)

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Category: Music, Transgender Fun & Entertainment

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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