Lady Bunny returns to Dallas to DJ for the annual Resource Center fundraiser Toast to Life
“We toasted those who were living and those carrying on,” Resource Center CEO Cece Cox explained. This party, she said, lets the center recognize people who carry on the mission of the organization and toast those who continue to live with HIV and AIDS.
“And allies who stand with us,” Cox added. “We can’t thank them enough.”
It’s also an opportunity to raise unrestricted funds to cover expenses — such as maintaining the facility and staff — that government and foundation grants don’t pay for. Funding from Toast to Life goes toward new AIDS services as well as new youth, elder and trans programming.
This year, the party moves from downtown to the Empire Room in the Design District. A number of restaurants — some repeats and some new — will have tasting stations. Face painters and fortune tellers reflect the party’s “New Orleans Voodoo on the Trinity” theme.
Drag icon Lady Bunny is guest DJ for this year’s Toast to Life, and she said she hopes to turn the event into more of a dance party.
Best known as the creator of Wigstock, Lady Bunny now serves as the dean of drag and as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag U. She said her friendship with RuPaul goes back to the early 1980s.
Bunny was raised in Chattanooga, Tenn. After she graduated from school, she moved to Atlanta where she roomed with RuPaul and began appearing in the clubs.
She described southern drag as a reaction to the polished pageant drag popular in Atlanta at the time. But while she loved southern drag, Bunny’s idea of what drag could be blossomed when she moved to New York a few years later.
“It was not limited by lip sync,” Bunny said. New York’s tradition of theater was part of the drag tradition there, and “Drag queens were writing and starring in plays.”
Suddenly, Bunny said, she felt she had permission to do comedy and anything else she wanted. That’s when she and a few others started Wigstock. She said Wigstock started when she and a few friends were drunk at the Pyramid Club on the East Side and decided to put on a show at nearby Tompkins Park.
“The first one was modestly attended,” she admitted, but by the next year, Wigstock had grown into a phenomenon. The show took place annually on Labor Day, and as it grew it moved to larger Union Square Park and then to the piers along the Hudson.
In 1995, Wigstock: The Movie was released, and Lady Bunny was introduced to an appreciative international audience.
But there is much more to Bunny than just her drag persona. She is a New Yorker, which means the terrorist attacks of Sept.11, 2001 did quite a bit to shape her view of the world. And Bunny isn’t happy with Bush, Obama or the prospect of Hillary.
“I was getting a bagel on 13th Street and saw the second tower fall,” she recalled about that day. But rather than immediately think of revenge as most Americans did, Bunny said she asked herself, “What have we done to make ourselves a target?”
In her view, as a result of those attacks, the U.S. invaded Iraq “for no reason,” causing 500,000 deaths there and leaving a million people displaced.
She said she voted for Obama but is disappointed in his administration. Will Hillary Clinton be any better?
“Gays hate me for saying this,” Bunny said, “[but] at least the GOP has a choice of bad presidential picks.”
While Bunny identifies personally as a gender
queer drag queen, she said she has strong admiration for trans people. “The trans community is addressing one of society’s last taboos,” she said.
Bunny said that she doesn’t live as a woman during the day, although her mother refers to her as “Bunny” and refers to herself as Momma Bunny.
“She threatens to storm the stage and show who the real talent in the family is,” Lady Bunny said.
Although her gender identity might be male, her gender expression is definitely not. Bunny said she is regularly called ma’am on the phone.
“Drag queens understand transgender more than anyone else,” she said. “When you choose a job that involves wigs, the same jerks who are going to bash me are going to bash trans people.”
Bunny said she is very proud of the strides the trans community has made, especially in the entertainment field, citing Transparent, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock.
“The hardest ones to convince are straight men,” Bunny said, but she thinks that’s about to change.
Depending on how the media handles it, she thinks Bruce Jenner’s transition will resonate with straight men. With Jenner, she said, people remember one thing — an Olympic champion whose face was on the Wheaties box, an athlete who was at the top of his field. Bunny said for someone like that to transition is powerful and will make a difference in the way straight men view the trans community.
From the trans community to AIDS activism, Bunny’s opinion comes with every appearance. She said she saves her raciest politically incorrect humor for her bar performances, but she loves gigs like Toast to Life because events like these remind her of the 1980s.
“Activism was so popular then,” Bunny said.
She said she’s looking forward to her Dallas appearance to reignite old friendships and meet new people at Toast to Life.
Lady Bunny will be DJ at Toast To Life, the annual fundraiser for Resource Center that takes place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28 at Empire Room, 1225 N. Riverfront Blvd. Tickets at RCDallas.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 27, 2015.