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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Return to Grey Gardens

I interviewed Peaches Christ, who will star as the Big Edie-like character from the Grey Gardens movie, in advance of Return to Grey Gardens, at the theater at Baruch, 17 Lexington Ave. (off 23rd St.) in Manhattan. Shows at 7 and 9 pm. Here's our ensuing conversation:

Buddy Beaverhausen~ You are coming to NYC in Return to Gray Gardens, a show that had its original production in San Francisco at the Castro Theater. How was that received and have any alterations been made to the show since then?

Peaches Christ~ We first did the show in my hometown of SF where my production company is based and it was extremely well received.  This show was somewhat different than our traditional cult movie send-ups are because it isn't strictly comedy or horror.  The source material here is so near and dear to our hearts and it was important we capture some of the real drama and anxiety that the Edies express so that there's a truly emotional element in our production.  I was nervous about it because ultimately it's still a very silly, funny drag show.  But the audience embraced it and the experience was very rewarding.  We then took the show to Seattle (Jinkx's hometown) and then Los Angeles and now New York City.  Because the show itself is set in whatever city we're performing in I have to re-write the script a bit for each location.  We also have had special local guests in every city so in Seattle we had BenDelaCreme and Sylvia O'Stayformore in the show and in Los Angeles we had Squeaky Blonde.  In New York we have Bob The Drag Queen playing Jackie Mo'Lasses and I'm a big fan of Bob's so I'm really excited she agreed to do it.  

When did you get John Waters star Mink Stole on board and can I assume she will be assaying the Jackie O part?

Mink is a very dear friend who first came to SF and did my "Midnight Mass" show almost fifteen years ago.  I grew up in Maryland and worshipped her and the Dreamlanders growing up so when I invited her to come and do my cult movie event and she said yes, it was a dream come true.  Over the years we've become very close and she co-starred in the feature film I wrote and directed All About Evil.  We went on tour together when the movie came out and have done shows all over so it's always a thrill to have her come to SF and be in a production.  She actually plays herself in the show and because Jinkx and I are playing versions of ourselves so is Mink.  She shows up at Big Peachy's birthday and tries to talk Jinkxy and I into moving on with our lives.

As you know, I'll be coming with Jerry, the real-life Marble Faun from the documentary. Will there be a Jerry character in the show?

Ohmygod, I can't even begin to tell you how exciting this is for us!  As soon as I knew it was confirmed I texted Thomas Dekker who's playing "Jerry" in the show and let him know.  I wrote "no pressure"!  Thomas and I are thrilled.  Thomas also starred in my film All About Evil opposite Natasha Lyonne.  He's a fantastic actor and is currently on Fox TV's "Backstrom".  He's been in a ton of television shows and movies and has this big Hollywood career but is super generous with his time and has been able to come and be in a number of our shows including Hocus Pocus, Witches of Eastwick, and Grey Gardens.

The show stars Jinkx Monsoon as Little Jinkxy and you as Big Peachy. How far back does your working relationship go?

We met briefly when I was in Seattle in 2010 for a movie premiere and then we were familiar with one another and had talked about working together.  When her season of Drag Race was airing she came to SF for a viewing party and we went to lunch.  I had seen commercials advertising her as Edie on the "Snatch Game" episode and I suggested we do a Grey Gardens show.  She loved the idea and then her Edie episode aired that same night.  I knew then we were going to have a great show and I really wrote the show for Little Edie and for Jinkx because there's something so wonderful and magical about this performance.  It's true homage.  Jinkx is wildly talented as you know and since this collaboration she's also performed in my Hocus Pocus show "Coven" and the upcoming Drop Dead Gorgeous show we're doing "Death-Drop Gorgeous".  Oh, and later this year she'll be in our Addams Family Values show as Betty.

When did Peaches Christ first come into being and how has she changed over tie?

Peaches was born in my college senior thesis film, Jizmopper: A Love Story back in 1996.  I was studying film production at Penn State and the actor we’d hired to play the drag queen in the movie I was directing didn’t pull through for us so Peaches was born and stepped in to play the part.  My advice to first-time drag performers is always- “Try not to put your first-time in drag on 16mm film or in a movie so that people can discover it forever”.  Peaches Christ was always a character that celebrated cult movies and my love of cinema and so in that way she's stayed the same over the years, but as the audiences have gotten larger and I've written and directed more stage-shows I'd say that the productions have gotten better over the years- larger, more elaborate, better performances, writing, etc.

Who were your entertainment inspirations? Who are your favorite dance divas?

Divine. I grew up in Maryland so the discovery of Divine and the Dreamlanders are what drew me to drag at a really young age.  I first saw her in Hairspray and then Female Trouble, Pink Flamingos, and Polyester.  The fact the John Waters, Divine, Mink and the gang were making these movies just down the road from where I was growing up blew my mind.  I was transformed by the discovery.  Most of my big inspirations come from movies so besides Divine I was also greatly inspired by movie divas like Dr. Frankenfurter, Elvira, Joan Crawford by way of Fay Dunaway, Norma Desmond, Baby Jane, Freddy Krueger, etc. 

I read your Facebook post about the idea of remaking Rocky Horror Show as a tv movie. I agree, ugh! Horrible idea. But what if you were cast in it? Which character would you want to play and why?

Hmmm, Rocky Horror is one of those shows where I'd be willing to play ANY character just because it's so good and I love it so much!  But I'd have to say my favorites to play are Frank, Magenta, or Riff-Raff.  I've always been drawn to gothic fabulousness and these three are so dark and twisted and spooky and perverted that I'd be excited to play any of them.  

No doubt you've seen the original Grey Gardens documentary and the HBO movie. What are your opinions on each?

The documentary is tied as my favorite documentary ever with Paris Is Burning.  And I absolutely LOVE documentaries.  It's just brilliant and I was prepared to dislike the HBO narrative film.  I really thought it would bum me out and I have to say that my expectations were wrong.  I think it's the best thing Drew Barrymore has ever done and the whole structure of it was brilliant with the flash-backs and filling in the stuff that the documentary couldn't.  I'm a big fan of it.

Anything special you plan on doing in NYC when you're here this visit?

The best part of visiting NYC is seeing so many dear friends who live there so I plan on seeing as many as possible.  I'm also a big fan of food and so I hope to indulge in at least a piece of pizza, a bagel, and a cupcake- three things I think are done best in NYC.  Pizza blows in San Francisco.  

The NYC show sold out its originally scheduled 7 pm show and added a 9:00. Clearly, New Yorkers are clamoring for it. What might you think chances are it could be extended or return here?

I don't think an extension is possible unfortunately due to all of our schedules and other commitments but if it does well and people enjoy it I'd love to come back and do it again.  Much like cult movies, we know a show of ours is good when people want to see it again and again.  Later this summer we're doing a run of it in Provincetown so if East Coast folks see it in NYC and want to see a smaller, more intimate version of it they'll be able to catch us in P-town. 

Peaches, what the hell s going on in this country and what do you think Big Edie would think?

Oh my, that's just the kind of question I'd have to wrap my head around for a few hours.  I'd love to think that she'd be thrilled with some of the progress that's been made since her time, but she'd also be very aware of the hypocrisy of some of it and the injustices that still pervade our government and legal system.  Wow, I can't even get started.  It's too much to answer!   

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