RuPaul, Girl in a Coma among this year’s queer Independent Music Award nominees

Earlier this month, the nominees were announced for the 11th Annual  Independent Music Awards and a few queer artists were among the 300-plus artists and bands nominated. The awards celebrate self-published musicians and independent labels. The winners will be determined by an esteemed panel of judges that includes Keith Richards, Tom Waits, Suzanne Vega, Tori Amos, Shelby Lynne and Ozzy Osbourne among the mix and will be announced in April.

Singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick made the cut with two nominations. Her Still Right Here release from 2011 was nominated for best folk/singer-songwriter album and best acoustic song for “Singing in the Wind.”

—  Rich Lopez

My life with a Drag Racer: Willam Belli

A NEW pic of Willam, who didn't like how he looked in the last one.

I didn’t get a preview screener of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 4, which premiered last night on Logo… probably because last year, they were pissed that I spilled the beans a few days early that Dallas’ Shangela would be the series’ first returning contestant. Maybe to get back at me — maybe to toy with me — this season began with Shangela again jumping out of a box as if she’d be the surprise 13th contestant… only it was a fake-out: She was in fact booted instantly with Ru reminding everyone this is her show, her rules.

Fair enough.

The premiere was pretty good, with lots of other past queens returning as drag zombies. But what really piqued my interest was the appearance of my former roommate, Willam Belli.

I wrote about Willam living in my house for two weeks (scroll down) about three years ago, when he was in Dallas filming Ticked Off Trannies with Knives. Aside from the “drag bomb” that turned my guest room into a clothes hamper, Willam was a very agreeable roommate with lots of experience as an actor. (I remembered seeing him on My Name Is Earl.) But he has already become “the bitchy one” on Drag Race, irritating the other queens by, apparently, reminding them that he is not a club dancer, but a cross-dressing actor who has worked with Oscar winners. You really get a sense for how much he antagonizes the more insecure queens on RuPaul’s Untucked after-show.

Still, I have nothing negative to say about Willam. But it will be interesting to see how the series plays out. Watch the first episode after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Starvoice • 12.09.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Susan Powter turns 54 on Monday. The fitness trainer gained fame through informercials, The Susan Powter Show and her catch phrase “stop the insanity” in the ’90s. The former Dallas-based entrepeneur came out in 2004 and has three sons. This year, Powter was a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race in February and profiled on Good Morning America in October.

……………………

THIS WEEK

Mars in Virgo sesqui-square Jupiter in Taurus goads people to be more stubborn, assertive and critical. Listening patiently and graciously, and learning how to improve, gives you an edge. Being a cranky know-it-all doesn’t.

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SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Trying too hard to be a big shot only guarantees you’ll never be one. Focus on modesty and your hard work speaks for itself. Learn from criticism, but consider the source.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Knowing your inner strength makes you generous and kind. Being mature, thoughtful and aesthetically conservative helps you get ahead. Being smug will only bring you down.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Difficult family secrets can leave you wondering who you really are. Analyzing sibling rivalry can shed some light on the mystery. Feeling lost is the admission that leads to finding your true self.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
You might be able to avoid arguments that threaten your relationships and career. You don’t have to like, accept or agree with everything you hear, but you should consider it.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Even when working on organizing minutiae, don’t get caught up in details. Keep an eye on the larger picture. You may need to sacrifice a battle to achieve victory.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Getting more physical and less cerebral helps you live a more balanced life. Instant gratification is a distraction from meeting your real needs. With thoughtful planning you’ll achieve the latter.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Start work on recent relationship problems. You feel stuck at first. That will pass. Evaluate your patience and commitment and your partner’s, but save that information for a later decision.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Looking too far ahead trips you up. Hone your expertise on details that need immediate attention. It takes effort to be diplomatic, especially at work. Criticism is best focused on oneself.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Playing hard hurts friendships and your reputation. Striving for a personal best is better than crushing your opponents. Focusing on technique and personal accomplishment helps you at work.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
If you can’t avoid fights, make an effort to listen. Consider other viewpoints, little as you may like them. It will all make sense later. The best solutions may come slowly. Be patient.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Worries about mortality or the meaning of life make you eager to figure it all out. Talking it out with a good friend raises more questions than answers. That’s good, honest and real.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Pessimism and striving for control drive away those you love. List your priorities and another of your assets. Some problems you can solve. Others you just need to let go of.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Logo announces cast for Season 4 of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

The new season won’t kick off until late January, but Logo has already announced the 13 contestants competing on Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race … and none are from Texas.

Of course, that was true last season, too … until Shangela made a surprise return in the season premiere, so don’t write anyone off yet. But it looks like the producers concentrated on Chicago, Florida and the Caribbean more than Texas. Joining Ru again will be judges Santino Rice and Michelle Visage, and the winner gets a healthy $100,000 cash prize, plus the title of top drag superstar.

Here are the contestants, and their cities:

Dida Ritz, Phi Phi O’Hara and The Princess (all from Chicago), Kenya Michaels and Madame LaQueer (both from Puerto Rico), Alisa Summers and Lashauwn Beyond (both from Tampa), Latrice Royale (Fort Lauderdale), Milan and Jiggly Caliente (both from New York City),Chad Michaels (San Diego), William (L.A.) and Sharon Needles (Pittsburgh — who wins my award for best drag name).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What to see at FIT: ‘Lady Bright,’ Tennessee

The offerings at this year’s Festival of Independent Theatres are making it one of the best yet.

The fest opened with the double bill of Upstart’s Wasp and Second Thought’s Bob Birdnow, the former an absurdist charmer and the latter a one-man tour-de-force from actor Barry Nash.  Two more plays this weekend have similar credentials.

WingSpan mounts a double bill of short-short plays. One, Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot by Tennessee Williams, is like Streeetcar Lite: Two ageing Southern ladies (Nancy Sherrard and Cindee Mayfield, pictured) who dress like they were trained in fashion at RuPaul’s Drag U, troll the bars of Chicago looking for conventioneers they can bed. In typically Williams style, they mask their lack of morals behind a veneer of moral indignation and ethical relativism, bathed in film of self-delusion and exaggerated gentility. It’s a bitter, catty pas-de-deux with laughs — more laughs, at least, than its companion piece, John Guare’s The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year. A sort of romantic take on Albee’s Zoo Story, it follows a couple who meet in a park under less-than-ideal circumstances and come to a halting understanding about their relationship. There’s not much there there, as you might say — neither funny nor poignant, but just quirky.

So goes the absurdism; the one performance that rival’s Nash’s is surely Larry Randolph’s in ONe Thirty Productions’  The Madness of Lady Bright. Randolph plays an ageing drag queen, surrounded by the memories of his once-glorious romances and catalogue of friends. Now old and alone, he’s dressing up like Bernadette in Priscilla: Haggard, defeated, still craving affection.

This early play in the gay culture movement is a prickly, tender and sad, but also phenomenally realistic and well-realized portrait of growing old and alone, whether gay or straight. And Randolph’s resourceful, exquisitely wrought performance, full of tarnished dignity, sells it. This is a show — a performance — not to be missed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: ‘Drag Race’ winner Raja premieres her 1st video, ‘Diamond Crowned Queen’

As Drag U gets under way, how perfect that last season’s winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race would have her debut video premiere. Raja (Sutan Amrull) debuted the video for her new single “Diamond Crowned Queen” on Friday. Even though the video is rather simple, it’s not shy on racy and sexy. In a myriad of outfits, Raja runs with the edgy drag shtick and even shows up without it. Although that I didn’t like. It kinda took me out of the illusion and Raja creates striking looks that are easy to stare at.

The song itself reminds me of a cross between early Nine Inch Nails and Jeffree Star. I think the song lacks some hook, but she’s definitely not delivering the obvious, which I can appreciate.

—  Rich Lopez

Class in session

Ru & crew, back for ‘Drag U,’ Season 2

RuPaulThere’s a difference between a TV show that is intentionally cheesy and one that induces cringes by mistake. Thankfully, RuPaul’s Drag U knows exactly what it’s doing, laying the puns on thicker than Jujubee’s makeup. They can still induce groans, but at least we’re all in on the joke.

After all, Drag U is all about the fun side of our favorite competitive drag queens. Leaving (most of) the drama over at the Drag Race, each week queen “professors” (including Season 1 winner Bebe Zahara Benet, pictured) are tasked with making over three ordinary women and unleashing their inner divas, complete with drag personas and styling. On the line are sorta-fabulous prizes like jewelry, a vacation and a cash prize of $3,166.17 (seriously).

But it’s what the women gain in self-esteem that’s the most valuable parting gift, and don’t think the producers don’t know it. In the first episode alone, one of the women is trying to overcome the pain of having her ex-husband end their marriage via email; she, of course, learns “to love herself again” with the inducement of wigs and outrageous makeup. That’s some powerful Oprah-level stuff, but Ru, “Dean of Drag” Lady Bunny, guest judges like Beverly Johnson and the rest of the girls give advice that’s equal parts sassy and sincere.

The result? Incredible transformations at the end of an hour of deliciously fluffy television — and every one of these straight gals owes it to the gays. For anyone in withdrawals since Drag Race ended, or in love with makeovers, or just interested in learning more about one contestant’s husband’s “diesel mangina,” the second season of Drag U is more than deserving of a season pass on your DVR.

— Steven Lindsey

Premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on Logo

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Bunny hop

Lady Bunny comes out! (as more than a drag queen DJ)

LADY BUNNY
Axiom Sushi Lounge,
4123 Cedar Springs Road.
June 3 at 8 p.m. 214-443-3840.

………………………

The Lady Bunny is most recognizable as that funny queen who created Wigstock, or as the DJ spinning at a circuit party in full drag. But the lady has a lot on her mind that’s not all fun and games. Though she’s never far from the sass.

“I really like to talk about issues because there is a lot of fluff on TV,” she says. “How great would it be if a gay channel would take on gay issues? I’d love that. Hear that, Logo?”

Bunny, who has practically made Dallas a second home lately, returns for a double gig this weekend: On Saturday, she shares the bill with Tony-nominee Kelli O’Hara as the DJ for the Dallas Theater Center’s Centerstage benefit. But Friday she returns to her performing roots for a birthday dinner and roast at Axiom Sushi Lounge at the ilume. And she knows the fish jokes should be easy that night.

“I am that tacky,” she laughs. “For me, I love sushi but drag and dinner only mix if there’s a girdle handy.”

Bunny is deeper than she usually gets credit for. Seeing Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart on Broadway forced her to recall activism then vs. now. Minus the makeup and music, Bunny is impassioned about that which affects LGBT people today.

“I think that gay people have to a large extent lost their fight,” she says. “I don’t really know how putting ‘Equality’ as your middle name on Facebook, or a piece of tape over your mouth, helps. I can’t see how these trendy campaigns substitute for hard work.”

She’s also inspired by her work as the Dean of Drag on the upcoming season of RuPaul’s Drag U. With an increased role this time out, Bunny still keeps the camp but adds heart for her makeovers. Real life women get makeovers, but also come with dramatic back-stories.

“These women, they give up everything for their kids and their man,” she says. “I cried a few times. It made me appreciate that nurturing vibe that mothers have. I don’t think gay men know that kind of sacrifice. This season has been a real eye opener.”

For now, she snarkily warns of her own eye opener Friday.

“Well, I have this delightful tribute to Burlesque,” she says. “Did you see the movie? Ugh.”

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Drag Race’ tour hits S4 this month

As anyone who watches the show knows, one of the perks of winning RuPaul’s Drag Race is that the victor gets a victory lap … around the country. Raja will come to Dallas as part of the Drag Race/Absolut Vodka Tour later this month — on my birthday, no less. (Hold the applause.)

The tour kicks off in Denver on the 14th and goes to eight cities; the only Texas stop will be at Station 4 on Wednesday, May 26.

In addition to Raja, other queens from the show (names are not yet available) will be on hand, as will Absolut mixologist Justin Winters. We’re holding out hope someone from the “Pit Crew,” pictured, will make it, too. Sigh.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones