“Little Miss Sunshine of the Bywater“ operates on the principle that, well, Bywater’s got talent. This we already know thanks to the Marigny/Bywater scene that plays hosts to drag, burlesque, comedy and music shows from Elysian Fields to Poland and St. Claude avenues.
It’s with that belief that I signed on as a judge for Friday’s (Nov. 6) drag-themed talent contest being held at Bar Redux, which I helped tout as one of New Orleans’ five best new bars for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune:
You can’t walk inside Bar Redux and not fall in love with co-owners Janya and Russ Mercado and son Damian (at the bar), rock ‘n’ rollers from New York who work feverishly to bring a slide of the Lower East Side to the back of Bywater. On any given night of the month you can check rockabilly, goth and burlesque theme nights, with Russ working out of the kitchen to produce pub grub and his own ‘Yankee gumbo.’
It’s also with this belief that I asked co-host Lana O’Day, a talented drag queen whom I interviewed for a story about the sale of the French Quarter gay nightclub Oz, to serve up her five favorite drag inspirations. (For more on the show, which starts at 8 p.m. and is $10 at the door, visit the Facebook page. Sponsored by Research Association for Missing People, it’s all part of the Faux/Real Festival running through Nov. 22. Learn more here. If you’d like to participate in the contest, contact Lana at Lanaoday@gmail.com.
Given some of the answers, Lana turned out to be a great pick; her alter-ego pens the very cool Blame Mame: A Classic Film Blog. Here’s what Lana had to say:
“Some Like It Hot” — “If you haven’t seen this film, you need to have your head checked! You’ve got Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon cross dressing in an all girls band to hide out from the mob and you’ve got Marilyn Monroe! What else could you want or need?! The scene that has always stuck out in my head is the train scene where we are first introduced to Daphne and Josephine (Tony and Jack). They are trying to walk in heels and look feminine, but they just can’t get it. And than it cuts to the voluptuous blonde bombshells herself … Marilyn Monroe, who struts passed the fellas and shows them how it’s done. Daphne’s quote puts it all into perspective: ‘Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!’ How’s that sound? Now this is what I’m talkin’ bout. It sounds perfect.”
“To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” — “This one is pretty obvious. A film about drag queens in the 1990s was taboo. Throw in top film stars Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes and you’ve got a recipe for fun. The opening scene to this film is one of my favorites of all the films I’ve ever seen. It starts with Salt-N-Peppa asking, ‘Where is the body?’ Than the beats drops and It cuts to Vita and Noxema getting ready for a night on the town. There’s eyelashes, huge powder puffs, girdles, stockings, wigs, gowns … oh my! I was hooked from the first time I saw this … in elementary school! And of course Noxema schooled us on what exactly a drag queen is: ‘When a straight man puts on a dress and gets his sexual kicks, he is a transvestite. When a man is a woman trapped in a man’s body and has a little operation he is a transsexual. When a gay man has way too much fashion sense for one gender, he is a drag queen. And when a tired little Latin boy puts on a dress, he is simply a boy in a dress!”
“The Little Mermaid” — Yes, even Disney has its fair share of connections with the cross dressing community. After all, the best villain and my favorite sea witch Ursula was modeled after the one and only Divine! From her high, arched eyebrows to her large red lips, Ursula just screams QUEEN! She is vicious and knows what she wants! She will step on anyone who gets in the way … even the skinny pretty girl. Sounds like a queen to me! ‘And don’t forget the importance of body language!’”
“Victor/Victoria” — Words can not express how much I love this film! You’ve Mary Poppins … yes, Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) playing a woman who can’t get a job as an entertainer dressing as a man who entertains as a cross dresser. Mind blown, right? It’s like cross-dressing inception! The story line deals with men questioning their sexuality, equal rights for women, and a whole lot of amazing music numbers. Everyone has seen the ‘Le Jazz Hot’ scene right? No? Than why are you reading this? It’s so good even ‘Glee’ had to remake it … that means you’ve made it!”
Jayne Mansfield — Ok, so technically, Jayne Mansfield isn’t a movie, but she is the definition of camp, glamor and drag. To put it simply, Jayne Mansfield was Vera Jayne Palmer’s drag persona. Jayne learned early on what she needed to do to be successful and get attention. Jayne Mansfield was over the top, gaudy, and a caricature of a glamorous woman. She wore revealing gown, big hair, big lashes, and even had a pink house. Like the entire house was pink and furry. If that isn’t a drag queen’s doing I don’t know what is. Jayne talents shine best in her two most popular films: ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ and ‘Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?’ Many stars in Old Hollywood created personas that they would play on screen and in public. Jayne Mansfield’s persona just happened to be that of a drag queen.