An interview with Lady Bunny
By Gregg Shapiro
A living legend in her own time, Lady Bunny is one accomplished drag diva. A performer known as much for her dead-on parody lyrics as she is for her big, blonde bouffant, long lashes and short dresses, Lady Bunny is a laugh riot. Co-creator of the annual drag festival Wigstock, which was revived in 2018 after going on hiatus, Lady Bunny is a true drag ambassador. She’s also a smart cookie, politically active, and vocal at a time when we need her voice more than ever. I spoke with Lady Bunny during that scary period between Halloween and the midterm elections.
Lady Bunny performs January 4, 2019 at 9:30PM, and January 6, 2019 at 9:00PM.
Gregg Shapiro: Lady Bunny, this interview is taking place during Halloween season. Do you have a favorite Halloween costume from your childhood?
Lady Bunny: Yes! When I was 10 or 11, I found a matronly, thrift shop wig, and got in drag with heels and all. My best friend went as “my husband” in a suit. No one said a word and this was back in the 1960s!
GS: Do you have a favorite Halloween costume from your adulthood?
LB: Not really. I just did my usual drag this year. So, in other words, I went as a scary old hag!
GS: How did you cultivate your signature look?
LB: I grew up in the 1960s and never lost my taste for the big hair worn back then. I would often sketch Marlo Thomas in That Girl and focus on her gorgeous flip. She also wore custom mink eyelashes, and lashes are a big part of my look. But mine aren’t mink, they’re rat fur and I make them myself [laughs]. You show off what you can, so I often wear mini-dresses to showcase the legs.
GS: In addition to your blonde locks and short frocks, you are known for your humorous song lyrics. Please say something about your process for writing parody lyrics.
I DJ as well, and that makes me aware of the hit songs which register with everyone, like “Uptown Funk.” Why parody it unless audiences know the original song? I hum along to these songs quite often while I DJ, and sometimes crazy (and often dirty) lyrics pop into my head. I also work with a comedy writer named Beryl Mendelbaum, who hails from Boca.
GS: Please say a few words about how you see the evolution of drag and your place in the history of the genre.
LB: [Laughs] I don’t think this can be answered in a few words, so I’ll just say that I put several wigs on my head and proclaimed, “I’m Lady Bunny” and they believed me. And thankfully, still hire me. When you get what you want, you can’t complain. I wanted a career in drag and I haven’t worked a day job since the 80s.
GS: What was the experience of being a special guest at Christina Aguilera’s concert during the “Let There Be Love” number like for you?
LB: So exciting! I’m a fan, and got tickled when she tweeted that I’d upstaged her with a hashtag #diva. The crowd did go wild because I was carrying on and dancing. I could definitely get used to Radio City, ‘cuz a big girl like me needs a big stage. A lot of people seem surprised that a budding senior like myself can still move. There was one funny moment before I entered where I had to crouch down on my knees so they wouldn’t see my wig in a lift which mechanically raised up. So, in the first shot on my Instagram video of it, I am actually struggling to maintain my balance with some wild arm movements I haven’t done since the Watusi [laughs].
GS: On Facebook you posted a funny comment about RuPaul’s book new book Guru. Do you have plans to write a book, too?
LB: I do! I always thought that I’d wait for my big break so that the book would sell more. But I’m starting to realize that my big break may have already come and gone. And I have to start it soon or else I’ll forget my own life story.
GS: In December 2018, you are going to be performing here in Wilton Manors at The Pub. What can your fans expect from the show?
LB: Lots of new stuff, with riffs on today’s celebs, Drag Race queens, new parodies and though it’s after Christmas, I’ll probably throw in a couple numbers from my holiday show which hits NYC, Seattle and San Francisco. I love performing at The Pub because it’s a great mix of all ages. The younger ones get all the Drag Race and newer pop references, and the older ones remember the classic pop and show tunes.
GS: While you are in Wilton Manors, will you have time to check out the “Nightbirds” exhibit of Michael Fazakerley’s photos at the Stonewall Museum in which you are featured?
LB: Yes! Michael and I are old friends from NYC, so he may even give me a guided tour (hint, hint!) Everything I’ve seen of the exhibit online has looked wonderful, and these photos are from a time when not everyone had cell phones and social media to document every single thing every night. Very few people ran around with cameras back then, so kudos to anyone who stopped the madness of the clubs and purposely said, “Let me document this in a studio with an actual photo shoot.”
GS: This interview is taking place a week before the elections. If you ran for political office, what would your platform be?
LB: If the government wasn’t spending roughly half of our tax dollars to bomb other countries, then all that money could go pay for programs like Medicare-For-All, affordable college and bolstering Social Security. We spend so much time and money destroying countries which never attacked us, that we cry poverty when it comes to popular programs which would help out most. And which are enjoyed in other countries. Sadly, this “Christian” country has given up on peace. Neither party even discusses it.
GS: You have a very political voice on your blog and on Facebook. Were you always outspoken on the subject or is this something borne of necessity due to the current political situation?
LB: I never had much interest in politics until after 9/11. I ran out saw the second tower fall while grabbing a bagel for breakfast. But my thoughts were not “What do we do?” but rather “What have we done to these people?” We’re still doing it. Afghanistan is now the longest war in US history, and most of the people who claim to support the troops don’t even know the current mission that soldiers are on. A top general just claimed that there was no military solution over there. My idea of supporting the troops is getting them out of unwinnable wars.
GS: In closing, would you mind saying a few words about Trump’s recent anti-trans actions and your hopes for the future of the community?
LB: Even though the left is constantly outraged over every crazy thing or lie that Trump utters, it doesn’t bother his base one bit. A large part of his base is evangelical voters who somehow dismiss his affairs, insults, etc. When Trump lashes out against the LGBT community, he’s throwing red meat to his voters. The truth is that the loudest opponents of our community’s rights–and of abortion–are crazy Christians. Very few religions do champion gay rights, and most actively call us sinful and want to reform us. It’s time to attack our attackers. Worship whatever you want to on Sunday, but when your chosen interpretation of your chosen fairy tale informs legislation which affects the entire country of people who don’t subscribe to any religion or to a different one? Sane voices need to remind the country of the importance of the separation of church and state. Republicans won’t, and Democrats don’t have the guts to state this openly for fear of losing votes. Now, we’re in a trap in which many Republicans want to strip us of our rights, but Democrats don’t always give us a full-throated endorsement. Remember that it was 11 Democrats in North Carolina’s state senate which based the famous anti-trans bathroom bill. Democrats are much better on gay issues than the GOP, but if Democrats voting for the bathroom bill is “better” we need lots more improvement. Democrats count on LGBT votes, yet they sidestep a litmus test in which politicians support LGBT rights or they can’t be a Democrat. We give them our votes, yet we can’t count on their support? Not a very good deal. Any activist for our community needs to demand more than that.