RuPaul crowned another winner… what did you think?

Maybe I’ve become tired of the format, but for me, this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race — which moved, inexplicably, to a Friday night on VH1, giving up the nothing-better-on catbird seat of Mondays on Logo — was the most boring ever, with queens who never really stood out. Was I the only one who quickly grew brain-dead to the constant self-confidence crises of Nina Brown? Did anyone else not have a favorite all season… including into the finale? Did anyone else find the cop-out of sending four queens to the finals, and then round-robin-ing them with lip-synch battles, a lazy abrogation of the entire purpose of developing the competition over 13 weeks?

When Sasha Velour was eventually declared this year’s winner, it was less a coronation than a resignation — she outlasted like a schemer on Survivor, rather than impressing with consistently outstanding performances. The good news was, Ru finally chose another conceptual winner — art drag, which brought Kim Chee close last season (only Sharon Needles arguably took the title for conceptual drag before).

Did you have a favorite? Think the right queen was chosen? Or were you too bored to make it through?

Hopefully next season will raise the stakes.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 08.26.16

Friday 08.26 — Sunday 10.09


The stars turn out for ‘Constellations’

Nerd alert! Roland is a beekeeper. Marianne is as Cambridge academic, a physicist who studies theoretical cosmology. They meet and fall and love. And that should be it. But there’s chaos theory and wormholes and tons of other intellectual justifications for the myriad ways this girl-meets-boy story could play out … all of which do in this sophisticated two-hander, a romance with the universe of love at its feet. Alex Organ and Allison Pistorius star in Nick Payne’s Constellations, the season-open for the DTC.

Wyly Theatre
2400 Flora St. (Studio Theatre)

Saturday 08.27


Drag Racer Thorgy Thor performs at Marty’s Live

The new All Star edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race is underway, but last season’s quirky contestant, Thorgy Thor, is the draw this weekend in Dallas. She’ll bring her live performance to the gayborhood with a late-night set that promises to be as sassy as she is.

Marty’s Live
4207 Maple Ave.
Doors at 9 p.m., show at midnight.

Friday 08.26 — Sunday 09.11


‘The Toxic Avenger’ musical makes its North Texas debut

The musical version of The Toxic Avenger is a legend of things that never quite were. It got its initial staging at Houston’s Alley Theatre, before moving to off-Broadway for retooling and an eventual move to B’way. But the move never took place, despite widespread acclaim, and the rights to the show never came free… until Uptown Players snagged them for this cult classic about a green superhero.

Kalita Humphreys Theater
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The queen strikes back

Alyssa Edwards tackles ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ again, this time as an  All Star.  And she’s more prepared than eve



When Alyssa Edwards walked onto the set of RuPaul’s Drag Race for Season 5, she was shocked to see her longtime rival Coco Montrese among the queens she’d be competing with. The drama made for delicious television, but probably threw Edwards off her game — she finished in the Top 6, but failed to be declared America’s Next Drag Superstar.

So when she was asked to join the cast for the second incarnation of Drag Race All Stars — which begins airing on Aug. 25 on Logo — she decided to play a smarter mental game. She didn’t ask past All Stars for advice. She didn’t worry about who would or would not be her competition. She went all Zen on those bitches’ asses.

“I told myself don’t overly coach — go in there and be you,” Edwards says. “Don’t get inside your head. You need to do this like you do every single day of your life — whether you’re in the studio teaching, or onstage performing, you’re tackling the challenges you’re faced with. You should avoid letting it becoming a mental battle.”

That was certainly good preparation, because once filming began, it was a free-for-all. First up was the discovery that the rules had changed.

“[This season is] borderline Big Brother, because Ru doesn’t make the decisions this time,” she says. “We found that out on Day One. We had no clue! And you’ll see how cracked out we are. All of your dreams have been crushed because guess what? [We were told,] ‘You are going to be sending yourselves home.’ And I’m just like oh-my-gosh.”

This surprise definitely changed dynamics among the contestants, because even though the competition has always been cutthroat, this development took it to another level of intensity.

“I was looking around the room like, ‘Well OK, I’m glad I’m kind of friends with everyone almost.’ Luckily, I do have a good rapport with the girls. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to send you home, honey, because you’re a threat or you’re the possibility that could get in the way of cashing that check.”

One of the girls in the room, it so happened, was Coco Montrese … again. And three other queens from Season 5, making it a reunion of sorts (though not necessarily the good kind).

“I was a little shocked [that] five of the 10 girls came from [my] season. I thought there would have been two, maybe three of us. But we all knew each other — you know somebody and you know when they’re having a bad day or moment, and therefore not overanalyze things that they say,” says Edwards.

That pressure was modulated by other rule changes … including the ultimate reward.

“The stakes are a little different this time around. I’m talking about the coin, the dollar,” Edwards says. “I think everyone that watches the first episode is going to be in for a treat because they totally ru-vamped the idea [of the show]. ‘Coming for you’ is a nice way of putting it.”

But Edwards was prepared this time. Before, she was a pageant queen with a long list of titles. Now, she has not only one season of RPDR under her belt, but the web-based series Alyssa’s Secret and a work ethic rivaled by no one. She went in a stronger queen than ever before, but also a wiser one: She has a solid grasp of her strengths and weaknesses — as well as those of her competitors …. and where they would best be served.

“We are all good in one thing [or another],” she says. “I would never want to step foot on a runway or a photoshoot [to challenge] Violet Chachki, but we can lip sync [against each other] all day. I don’t ever want to get into a Snatch Game battle with Chad Michaels. And why on God’s green earth would I ever ponder a comedy challenge against Bianca Del Rio?”

But Edwards — aka Mesquite native Justin Johnson — also knows something about showmanship. She worked with former Dallasite Rey Ortiz — a fashion designer and himself a former Project Runway contestant — to come up with her smashing debut look, a dazzling ruby gown with a majestic collar.

“I told Rey, I’m OK with doing something fashionista. I don’t consider myself a fashion girl and I don’t think I have the body to model. But I wanted something avant garde, something sexy with my platform heels. I wanted something that just speaks royalty — like she’s the queen. It has a touch of regalness to it but a touch of okurrrr. He was like, that’s a lot of inspiration.”

That costume may have contributed to her secret weapon: Attitude.

“This time I presented myself to be open, confident … and not to tell myself ‘no.’ Just like I teach my kids every day: ‘Can’t never could.’ You better get up there to sing and sew,” she says. “Alaska said it very well: When you’re in Drag Race it’s kind of like a constant fight-or-flight mentality.”

Her newfound calm even informs how she wants fans to watch All Stars this time out.

“I hope the fans watch it this time from a different angle. Drag Race is such a sport — we all get caught up in it, so involved. Just watch it this time: laugh, giggle, have fun with it. Ride it like a rollercoaster; let the ups and downs be equally exciting. Support all the girls, all the queens. It is so difficult when there is a platform and you’re under a microscope. Remove that microscope and live for what it is. Cheers to that.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.

—  Craig Tuggle

WATCH: Todrick Hall and Bob the Drag Queen got the ‘Wrong Bitch’

Screen shot 2016-07-06 at 9.17.51 AMHere’s a pairing as inspired as Dorothy and Toto: North Texas native and YouTube sensation Todrick Hall and RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen has teamed up for a new single — part of Hall’s Straight Outta Oz Tour, coming to Dallas on July 21 (get tickets here) — called “Wrong Bitch.” The style (and lyrics) are taken directly from The Wizard of Oz, but with a tremendously sassy gay twist. Check it out!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tickets to Bianca del Rio’s Dallas show go on sale Friday morning



If you’ve been lucky enough to see Bianca del Rio — the hilarious Season 6 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race — in person, you know she lives up to her rep as “the Joan Rivers of drag:” Quick-witted, snarky, smart. She’s currently touring Australia, but AEG Live just announced the North American leg of her Not Today Satan Tour will launch in September, and Dallas is on the itinerary. She’ll perform Oct. 29 at the South Side Ball Room. Tickets go on sale Friday starting at 10 a.m., so lock yours in early. You can browse here or go directly to the link Friday morning here or here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Royale (with cheese)

Latrice-by-Erika-Wagner‘Drag Race’ fan favorite Latrice Royale joins her fellow queens for Divas of Drag, a nationwide tour that proves drag is bigger than Latrice herself

As anyone who has ever seen her perform could tell you, Latrice Royale is larger than life — in a multitude of ways.

Although she began performing drag in the ’90s, it wasn’t until 2012 when she chose, on a whim, to audition for Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race that she became a star. Her deep baritone, huge frame and saucy attitude kept her in contention through the Top 4, alongside Phi Phi O’Hara, eventual winner Sharon Needles and Chad Michaels, who himself went on the win the first-ever All Star edition. When Royale was cut from the competition, Entertainment Weekly called the elimination “shocking.” (Royale was later voted Miss Congeniality by the show’s fans.)

Fans also know that life hasn’t always been easy for Royale, who spent time in prison for possession of marijuana and prescription painkillers. But she managed to survive the experience. “My size helped. The other prisoners didn’t mess with me. They knew who I was on the outside and gagged at my splits. The worst part of prison life was losing my mother,” she says. “It was the most alone I ever felt.”

She sings about the tragic loss in “I Need You Now,” a gospel song by Smokie Norful, on her new full-length album Here’s to Life. “It was the hardest song to record. It really speaks to how alone I felt at that moment, grieving in isolation,” she says.

The album reveals another surprising fact of Royale: She can sing, not just lip-synch. Unfortunately, unless you buy her album you’ll just have to take her word for it when she’s in Dallas Thursday at the House of Blues as part of Live Nation’s Divas of Drag Tour, which reunites her with fellow Racers including Alyssa Edwards, Kennedy Davenport and more.

“Because we all travel so much, we are bound to bump into each other, so I’ve grown to love a lot of these women,” she says. “As we were putting this together with Mimi, we were brainstorming on who we wanted to work with. It’s been amazingly fun, and a learning process — I’ve never done anything like this before.”

The resulting show is “a mixure of duets, groups live singing and powerhouse drag numbers with a lot of eclecticism,” Royale says. “You have Milk, who is very avant garde, and then you have the likes of Yara Sofia who dances, and Jujubee who is beautiful and gives you goddess — everybody gets something out of this show.”

And there’s what Latrice herself has to offer: A towering disco ball of sassy femininity with a basso-profundo voice. She often jokes how her deep baritone voice sounds like Barry White in drag, which she embraces on her album. “I’m not trying to sing like a woman,” she says. “My goal is to be authentic to myself, my voice and my experience.”

Screen shot 2016-04-07 at 11.37.46 AMHer style is so distinctive among the cast, it’s something she almost can’t get away from. While some queens can go incognito by dressing in boy-drag, Latrice admits, “I can’t hide this no matter what!” She loves the chance to interact with her fans, though.

“When you’re trying to eat [at a restaurant], it’s a little awkward sometimes, but still I’m gracious because you don’t know what kind of day that person has had — so why not? We’re all going to have bad days, but a rule for me is to always be gracious when they recognize you … cuz if they don’t recognize then you’re not doing something right!”

Latrice concedes that the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race has created some tension in the drag community between pageant queens, club queens and those in the middle who simply want to be on the show, but in general, the impact has been incredibly positive — not just for Royale, but for the culture at large.

“It has really elevated the art as a whole and put us in a place where we are exposed to the world,” she says. “Before, it wasn’t so easy. The show has afforded us the opportunity to travel the world  — it’s what you do with that opportunity that matters. But now people have something to aspire to that is greater than what we’ve had before.”

Arnold Wayne Jones
with additional reporting from Shane Gallagher

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: ‘Drag Race’ Edition

RhuPaul1The Season 7 finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs on Monday, so we have this untuckable cocktail that shows charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent: The RHU-Paul’s Orange Tic Tac (inspired by the girls’ “lunch” of a single orange breath mint). Bring it out for your hunties at your watching party and shantay, you stay.

1 oz. Art in the Age rhubarb spirit

1 oz. O.J.

2 oz. sparkling wine

Cranberry juice

Orange peel

Optional: Galliano.

Making it: Mix spirit and O.J. in a glass over ice. Top with bubbly and a splash of cranberry; garnish with a flamed (flaming?) orange peel (and stir in a teaspoon of Galliano if you want a disco flair). Annnnd …. werk it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones