Very few people have tackled the tired, poor, huddled masses of New York City for as long or as lustily as Lady Bunny.
A downtown drag fixture for over two and a half decades, in her new show Clowns Syndrome the self professed “pig in a wig” has crafted the funniest, most engagingly thoughtful and by far the most entertaining drag show I have ever seen.
Fans already know Bunny’s been a gay cultural icon and an international star for most of the two and a half decades she’s worked the scene. But along the way she’s become something much more: a brilliant standard bearer for an attitude of mind and a way of life that seems to be as lost to the Big Apple now as Tara was to Scarlett O’Hara.
The organizer of Wigstock, unarguably the most important drag festival in modern times (forget the highly scripted Drag Race) Bunny’s the new elder stateswoman of rock and roll transgression and she’s the one whose stayed truest to her sock ‘em and shock ‘em countercultural roots.
Like anyone who’s lived in New York City for over a decade, along the way Bunny’s noticed herself becoming a sociologist and a cultural historian. It’s unavoidable. The changes on her block (and in gay life) have become a barometer for the entire metropolis.
In fact drag queens may be among the best observers of this kind of cultural change, because since Stonewall they’ve been standing on the crest of it.
Bunny’s own east village milieu has seen some changes: AIDS, ACT UP, DOMA, and the marriage fight. But along the way the artists who were once her friends and neighbors moved out over rising rent spikes and the new world order of endless Duane Reade’s and the glass and steel tower blocks of moonlighting stockbrokers moved in.
As she notes in her new show, in the past the scene could absorb most changes, but not now. Artists move out and they stay out. In the process the city is becoming something it never was before in its history: really square.
Clowns Syndrome is the best kind of antidote to that creeping mediocrity. Like standing in a jet trail this do-not-miss-it show is guaranteed to muss your hair, make you gasp and wake you the hell up the way this city used to do.
Fighting the good fight against the neo-nannies and scolds who have identity politicked the community to distraction this year, she’s a blast of boundary crossing realness whose first and foremost impulse is to delight.
The first rule of gay life is never piss off a drag queen. You will lose. Bunny’s new show reminds us that it takes fierce eloquence as well as fierceness to makes a drag queen a star.
Playing every Tuesday night through July at La Escuelita in Times Square, on 39th between 7 and 8 avenues, the show includes drinks, songs, pornographic interludes, moments of total mayhem and some moments that are surprisingly sweet. Don’t tell anyone but underneath that punk rock exterior (Debbie Harry was in the audience the night I attended) there’s a surprisingly sweet southern girl who knows how to entertain.
Get your tickets here.
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