Peaches teaches

San Francisco drag diva and movie whore Josh Grannell aka Peaches Christ brings ‘4D’ movie experience to Dallas nightcrawlers

LAWRENCE FERBER  | Contributing Writer  lawrencewferber@hotmail.com

 Joshua Grannell as Peaches Christ
HORRORS! | Joshua Grannell (in Peaches Christ drag, above) gives scary-smart actress Natasha Lyonne, above right, a role to sink her teeth into.

ALL ABOUT EVIL
Inwood Theater,
5458 W. Lovers Lane.
Friday and Saturday at midnight. 214-764-9106

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Toss a wig and dress on a grindhouse cinema, add a large popcorn with plenty of camp and fake blood on top and you get Peaches Christ. The San Francisco drag star (alter ego of theater manager Joshua Grannell) is taking the world by storm with a 4D tour of her gory-campy feature debut, All About Evil.

Making a delectable comeback, Natasha Lyonne stars as Debbie Tennis, a mousy librarian who turns crazed, murderous exploitation filmmaker. Evil’s co-stars include established genre icons and young matinee idols alike: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ hottie Thomas Dekker, Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson and Mink Stole.

Having gained notoriety at legendary S.F. clubs like Trannyshack and her own 12-year-old cult film series, Midnight Mass, Peaches Christ has now embarked on an old-school “William Castle-style” tour of the U.S. featuring live performances and appearances from the film’s stars and local celebs. To get the scoop on what to expect, plus the 411 on this soon-to-be cult-horror household name, we spoke with Peaches/Grannell.

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Dallas Voice: First, a couple of questions for Josh. For the uninitiated, who exactly is Peaches Christ? Grannell: Well, Peaches Christ is a deluded fan of all things cult movie and B-cinema, trashy old drive-in fare, and likens herself to being a cult leader: Silly, self-deprecating and a big dorky fan of movies and cult icons.

When was she created? I was at film school at Penn State University and making my senior thesis film, which was called ‘izzmopper: A Love Story, and there was a character in the movie who was a drag queen and ran a porn emporium. I loved drag — Divine, Elvira, Joan Crawford — and I wrote this character and the actor playing her was not really working out, so I was shoved into the wig and costume in order to save the movie. I make it sound like they held a gun to my head but I look back and wonder if I wanted to play this part all along.

Do people from outside of San Francisco get you confused with electroclash musician Peaches? Yes, people get confused. Right now in Germany she is doing a show called Peaches Christ Superstar. As if it was not bad enough! I’ve actually gotten to work with her and she’s awesome. I would love to do a duet someday and actually have a song to pitch to her when she’s ready.

OK, Peaches can come out now. You created and present the film event Midnight Mass in San Francisco, and of course Natasha’s character is movies-obsessed and runs a theater. So is All About Evil autobiographical? Peaches: Well, in a sense, yes. I really believe in doing whatever it takes to save neighborhood single screen movie theaters and this film is a way to describe what length we should be willing to go to save these cinemas — even if it involves criminal activity. You know, murder.

Is this a little like John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented? I think Cecil B. Demented was in line with Patty Hearst’s story, and ours is more like Female Trouble and Serial Mom. Because of the filmmaking aspect people think Cecil B. Demented, but it’s more about ego gone wild and a quest and desire for fame. Where sociopathic behavior seems completely appropriate. I love all of John Waters’ films. I grew up in Maryland, worshipping at the altar of Divine and Mink Stole. They were my heroes. The Dreamlanders and that group of renegade performers I really worshipped.

How did Natasha get involved? I’ve been a huge fan ever since I saw Slums of Beverly Hills. She was always at the top of my list and the film’s cinematographer, Tom Richmond, had shot Slums! The best way [to get an actor] is to go through the back door, especially when you’re a drag queen named after Jesus and a first time filmmaker. She read the screenplay and called me directly and we had a talk.

What was she like to work with? Awesome. She’s really smart. Almost scary-smart, like when someone’s so smart it makes you nervous a little bit? She’s definitely got that wisdom. I told her I was inspired to write this by this filmmaker named Doris Wishman, who was really the only woman making grindhouse movies when Herschell Gordon Lewis and Russ Meyer were. Doris said, Fuck it, I can do what these men are doing and make as much money and exploit women the same way. And Natasha said to me, “I knew her, before she passed away.” Like, who the fuck knew Doris Wishman? That was kismet! I had no idea she loved classic old movies and knew Doris personally. So it’s really a perfect fit. In releasing the film I’m discovering that she has a dedicated fan base and her fans are excited to see her in this movie because it’s the kind of role they love her to play, which is wicked and unhinged.

How about Nightmare on Elm Street hottie, Thomas Dekker? Well, Darren Stein, one of the producers and early champions of me making this movie, is a friend of Thomas. So when I was writing the movie and a part for a young man who loves horror movies and he’s kind of naïve and oblivious to what’s going on around him, but loves all the gore and violence, Thomas was on the Terminator TV show and played John Connor.I went to the set and during lunch in his trailer handed him the screenplay and one of the first things he asked was, “Is it true you know Mink Stole?” I said yeah, and he started quoting lines from John Waters movies and pulled out his DVD collection and it was every horror movie I loved from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s. He had every David Lynch movie — he is that kid who loves great underground, transgressive art.

What exactly can we look forward to at this 4D experience? Midnight Mass and Trannyshack and the world I come from is about having fun and not taking yourself too seriously, and one of the things I wanted to do as part of this roll-out is to inject a real spirit of having fun and being ready to participate and dress-up in horror and monster costumes and what we’re calling ‘gore couture.’ We’re really there to have a good time and set the tone for enjoying this over-the-top dark comedy.

How gay are horror films? I think people underestimate how many queer people identify with horror movies. I used to think that was so unique — I’m gay and love horror movies. No. A lot of gay people do. It appeals to our sense of … justice? Darkness? Fantasy? People get to act out things they fantasize about but would never do in life. In general horror movies can be homophobic, misogynist, all the things I don’t like, but they can also be so over the top, something to not to be taken too seriously. I don’t understand humorless drag queens or horror movies.

What is your view on the state of horror films today? I think a lot of people are really negative because they’re down on the remakes or focused on what is making the most money but I would say just dig a little bit deeper because there are some incredible things going on in the world of indie horror. One of the things super exciting about the NYC engagement is I’m going to be introduced by Alan Rowe Kelly, who is this truly indie horror filmmaker working out of NYC. Look him up and you will see why I am so obsessed with what he is doing. For one, as far as I know, Alan appears as a woman but goes by the pronoun ‘he’ and makes these fabulous horror movies where the queerness and oddness is not the point. They’re just outrageous and wild and bizarre. He’s filming them in New Jersey for no budget and churning them out year after year.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens