Jackie Beat: America’s Perennial Drag Superstar

I have spoken at great length about my love of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but as gay America prepares to crown its next drag superstar, I thought it would be sporting to take a moment to honor America’s perennial drag superstar. No, I’m not talking about RuPaul, treasure that she is. I am referring to the foremost aesthetic auteur in the drag community that has left an indelible mark on the hearts, minds and mugs of nearly every drag queen that has walked the glittering runway of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I refer to none other than the world’s biggest bitch, Miss Jackie Beat.

For 25 years strong Jackie Beat has reigned as the most hilarious, most outrageous and arguably most influential drag queen on Earth. She is well known for her twisted humor, having set the standard for nearly every comedy queen that has come after her, but I would argue that Jackie Beat deserves far more credit than she receives. Aside from being one of the greatest drag comedians ever, I believe that Jackie Beat has done just as much to cultivate the cultural palettes of gay America as RuPaul has. Like RuPaul, Jackie Beat is a direct aesthetic descendent of Divine and, also like RuPaul, Jackie Beat formulated her character within the now nearly extinct gay underground. But while RuPaul has risen out of the underground, Jackie Beat has retained a connection to it. Though she will never be as sheerly iconic as RuPaul is, she is still just as influential, and her ability to remain just under the cultural radar has allowed her to reach artistic heights that RuPaul couldn’t.

There are those who will disagree with me, but to them I must point out that nearly everything that has been done on Drag Race was either pioneered or perfected by Jackie Beat. Before Sharon Needles was hailing Satan, Jackie Beat was channeling her. Before Willam Belli was haughtily waiving her SAG card, Jackie Beat was acting on Sex and the City and sharing the stage with Roseanne Barr. Before Mimi Imfurst was belting out song parodies, Jackie had mastered the art. Before there was an entire half-drag challenge on Drag Race, Jackie had perfected the look. Hell, even Bianca Del Rio owes Jackie a debt of gratitude, as Jackie Beat was cultivating and refining insult drag while Bianca was just a little Cajun faggette. This isn’t to take anything away from the contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The new queens from Drag Race are extending and extrapolating on the example set for them by elder queens like Jackie Beat. I aim to take nothing away from them, as they are all deserving of their accolades, however it’s difficult to discuss their art without in some way mentioning Jackie Beat. That’s the thing. Jackie Beat is simply that influential and far too few people realize it.

Those that know Jackie Beat know her for her incredible song parodies. No other performer of any comedic genre has demonstrated the absolute mastery of musical parody that Jackie Beat has. She has simply conquered the genre and no one will ever match her. For the benefit of the uninitiated, start with Baby Got Front, move on to Filthy Whore and Beaver, then proceed to her impeccable Christmas material. Jackie Beat tours nationally with her Christmas show every year and her performances regularly sell out. Her sick and twisted version of Santa Baby is a timeless tasteless epic that has come to be played regularly as a Christmas time classic amongst irreverent queers. What’s even more astonishing is that Beat can reliably entertain with even the most absurd scenarios. Take her Katy Perry parody I Kissed a Squirrel. Beat’s ability to draw magic out of such a paper thin premise is unmatched. Her creativity shows seemingly limitless depths and it’s truly astonishing.

From her artistic foremother Divine, Jackie Beat inherited a deep appreciation for that which is generally considered to be crude and tasteless. Case in point, her epic 18-minute 80’s melody that takes the already classless song parody genre to stunning new lows. If I had to pick a favorite Jackie Beat song parody, I’d have to go with her deeply inspired take on Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama. Everything about this is art. Beat is quick to note that comedy is above all hard work, and this performance shows that perfectly. She’s one hundred percent committed from beginning to end, collapsing to the ground in the finale. A lot of queens do parodies, but Jackie Beat is no mere Sherry Vine or Hedda Lettuce. Beat’s the real deal. Why else would throngs of regional drag queens regularly lip sync to her material? There are many small time queens who exclusively perform to her parodies. Some even lip sync her stand-up and onstage banter. Many queens have admirers, a few have imitators, but no other queen can boast the same impressive roster of Regional Krustys that Beat can. The bitch should start a clown college.

What makes Beat’s humor particularly satisfying is that she uses her platform to actually say something. Beat doesn’t just entertain her audiences, she provokes them and never hesitates to challenge her predominantly gay audience. On the topic of gay assimilation, Beat famously opined, “Mainstream acceptance is the worst thing to ever happen to the gay community. Congratulations, faggot. Now you’re boring!” Gays these days are, like the rest of drab society, chained to their smart phones and are conditioning to think of drag as background bar entertainment. Jackie Beat does not suffer texters gladly. Do not let her catch you texting during her show. Regarding this she has memorably quipped, “I hate it when people text during the show. I was performing the other night and I was like, ‘Please stop texting while I’m performing!’ and the girl in the audience was like, ‘For your information, I’m texting my friend about how fabulous you are.’ I was like, ‘Great, that’s like telling a kid I’m only molesting you because you’re adorable.’ ”

More than any other drag queen working today, Jackie Beat represents the power of voice. That can be taken literally, as Beat is a phenomenal vocalist. (Take her parody of Diamonds Are Forever where Beat matches every formidable note of the Shirley Bassey original as proof of this.) But Beat goes beyond that. Jackie Beat has been very open about her distaste for the ubiquitous lip synching that dominates present day drag and she has set an example to inspire her contemporaries to rock the mic as well as the catwalk. Furthermore Beat has used her platform to convey a message with her trademark filth. Throughout her career Jackie Beat has challenged complacency within the gay community. Most drag queens live in slavish devotion to divas like Madonna and Lady Gaga, but Beat has encouraged the gay community to support themselves and not pander for external accolades. She has spoken out against the legacy of gay bullying long before it became the sloppy saccharine cliché that it is today and she has encouraged drag queens to conduct themselves as legitimate entertainers and not just fashion models pantomiming pop hits. Drag Race has injected a bit of this rebellious spirit into the mainstream via queens like Mimi Imfurst and Sharon Needles, but the genesis of this spirit came straight from the overdrawn lips of Miss Jackie Beat.

Creating original music has become the latest craze within the drag community. This trend is largely attributable to RuPaul’s extraordinary legacy as a purveyor of incredible dance jams, but Jackie Beat’s original music is equally inspired. Too few people know about Beat’s electroclash band Dirty Sanchez. Performing alongside nightclub impresario Mario Diaz with beats by DJ Barbeau, Dirty Sanchez is an electrosexual homage to the type of glorious hedonism that pervaded the gay community before its tidy marriage equality reinvention. Tracks like Dig It, Give Head & Be Beautiful and Fucking on the Dance Floor are classic electroclash jams that will live on in the playlists of discerning DJs for years to come. There have been a few quality cuts from the new breed of drag queens, but enterprising queens would be better off turning to Dirty Sanchez (see also: Toilet Boys, Pansy Division and Jobriath) for inspiration rather than providing yet another reiteration of Supermodel.

If there is ever a Metropolitan Museum of Faggotry, it should prominently feature the work of Jackie Beat. While keen viewers will be able to decipher hints of RuPaul’s punk roots in her current work, Jackie Beat is perhaps the most punk queen of all time. Herein lies her enduring relevancy. If I was curating an exhibit of Jackie Beat’s work, I would name the exhibit The Resistance. How did we get from Divine’s punk rabblerousing in the 70’s to the mainstream penetration by drag today? Drag can still be plenty rebellious, but there seems to be a missing link from drag’s punk conception to the firm niche it presently enjoys in the mainstream today. Jackie Beat’s work is the essential missing aesthetic link between Divine’s seminal early art and current mainstream gay acceptance. Beat’s work embodies the rock and roll rebel spirit of the gay underground in all its filthy glory. This is why it needs to be preserved, however it can. Beyond that, Jackie Beat presents a yet unmatched standard of professionalism, creativity and excellence. She is our George Carlin. She is our Joan Rivers. Hell, she even wrote for Joan Rivers, that’s how extraordinary she is. Jackie Beat’s work is proof that gay themes by gay comedians can be the artistic equivalents in quality of their much more famous straight peers.

As someone who appreciates contemporary drag, I would like to thank Jackie Beat for doing so much to influence it. Every single comedy queen on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and a great many of them who don’t do comedy, are direct artistic descendants of Jackie Beat. They crawled out of her cavernous pussy, swathed in rhinestones and mucus, and grew into the fierce queens that they are today. Of course RuPaul deserves a great deal of credit for giving today’s young queens a platform, but may we never forget that today’s legendary children share an essential artistic link with both Mother Ru and Miss Jackie Beat.

While Beat is still actively gigging, recent years have seen Beat concentrating her talents on comedy writing. A proud member of the Writers Guild, she has written for Joan Rivers on Fashion Police and Ross Matthews on Hello Ross in addition to writing for other acclaimed comedians like Roseanne Barr and Rosie O’Donnell. It’s only a matter of time before her writing talents are snatched up and she spends less time touring. Jackie Beat may be a goddess, but even goddesses don’t gig forever. If you’re a student of drag or a student of comedy, do yourself a huge favor and catch Jackie Beat live before she retires from the stage, leaving it forever empty in her wake.

Dear God No: The Rocky Horror Remake

The last dim light of my adolescence was just extinguished with Fox Studio’s announcement that they are remaking Richard O’Brien’s classic 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show as a made for TV movie.  Slated to be a “reimaging” of the film (whatever the fuck that means) and not a remake, the made for TV special is tentatively slated to air in fall 2015.

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While remakes are nearly always poor ideas, this is a particularly terrible one.  For one, it is basic common sense that bad movies should not be remade.  Despite my love for the film, I have to admit that, objectively speaking, it sucks.  The film has basically no plot with only the audience’s familiarity with the B-movie clichés that it references moving the narrative forward.  It’s hard to imagine how anyone could salvage a decent film out of the source material, yet somehow the 1975 original worked.  Roger Ebert didn’t consider the film a genuine movie so much as a “long-running social phenomenon” and he was right.  The unique shadow cast culture that sprung up around the film saved it from obscurity.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show would have been all but forgotten were it not for the cult phenomenon that emerged in its wake.  Questionably acted with trite dialogue and cheap costuming, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of the cinema’s greatest bad movies and that kind of success is simply inimitable.  The film was propelled into the zeitgeist by the legions of fans who gathered in rundown art theaters for years to worship it.  This is the essence of the film’s enduring popularity and this phenomenon is impossible to replicate, much less on the small screen.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show simply has no aesthetic connection to television.  As a musical, it lends itself to theater while the film’s endless references to the sci-fi B-movies that birthed it lend it to the cinema.  There is no such link to television.  In fact, Rocky Horror shadow casts consider people who have only viewed the film on TV to be rocky virgins.  As the old saying amongst Rocky fanatics goes, watching it on TV doesn’t count; that’s just wrong.

Remakes of classic films consistently fail.  The 1998 remake of Psycho was an embarrassing failure, as was the recent remake of Carrie.  It took years for the smirch of NBC’s 1983 Casablanca remake to be scrubbed from the film’s legacy.  All of those movies are invariably tied to the cultural milieu that they arrived in.  The only classic movies that work as remakes are broad action films like King Kong and Godzilla, movies that are comprised almost entirely of explosive spectacle and marketed to a distinctly undiscerning palate.  All other classic movie remakes lose prestige and, of more relevance to the film’s producers, money.  40 years after its release, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is still making money for Fox Studios.  This is presumably why they want to remake it but a disastrous remake will inevitably compromise the film’s brand.  This will harm merchandising revenues, still going strong four decades since the film’s original release, and it threatens to kill the steady trickle of revenue that comes from the continual showing of the film in cinemas.  Rocky Horror is a cultural phenomenon that could potentially be destroyed by a crass remake.  The studio execs blinded by Rocky dollar signs should strongly consider the real possibility of losing revenue from the film long term.

It’s understandable why the older set of producers who greenlit this project would think that it’s a good idea to remake it now.  RuPaul’s Drag Race has exhibited a growing cult interest that shows no signs of slowing, Conchita Wurst’s brilliant genderfuck drag persona slayed the last Eurovision Song Contest while the LGBT community stands at an unprecedented state of visibility and acceptance.  But The Rocky Horror Picture Show has only a distant, tenuous connection to this modern phenomena.  The LGBT community, as it presently stands, is a highly organized, highly politicized conglomeration of respectable people, a far cry from the unrestrained libido and amoral bacchanalia of Tim Curry’s Frank N. Furter.  Frank N. Furter is an anti-hero who stands only for decadence, self-indulgence and perversity.  It’s a glorious spectacle but it’s also the exact antithesis of what the newly respectable LGBT community has been fighting for the last thirty years.  This character is distinctly unpalatable to today’s ultra-politicized and easily offended gays.  The producers of the remake claim that they want to stay as true to the source material as possible, but that’s impossible.  The Rocky Horror Show episode of Glee necessitated several cuts to the source material and they still got in trouble anyways.  Clearly the producers can’t stick to the source material without running afoul with the modern day LGBT community, so what’s the point?  History has shown that remakes of classic films consistently fail outside their original cultural setting, the film has no aesthetic connection to television and the current cultural landscape is potentially unreceptive to the film’s source material.  Upon closer review, the proposed reimaging of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is simply pointless.

Slated to appear in fall 2015 as The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event, the TV remake is likely already in development.  It’s a shame that Fox Studios has decided to recklessly sully the cinema’s longest running movie, but hopefully the film’s dedicated shadow cast fan base will be resilient enough to withstand the remake.  I have met some of the most fascinating freaks, geeks and nerds that I know at showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I think when the TV remake drops I’ll just pop on a pair of torn fishnets and go to one of the shadow cast showings of the original film instead, remembering all of the wonderful, filthy good times that I’ve had celebrating Richard O’Brien’s transvestite alien masterpiece.

Madonna’s Grill Is Not On Fleek

The premier of a new Madonna video is a cherished event for gay men, with homosexuals the world over collectively taking pause to absorb her newest artistic masterpiece.  Presumably rushed out following the commercial failure of her 90’s house homage “Living For Love,” her newest video for “Ghosttown” is unlikely to reinvigorate her fan base.  It’s a serviceable song but the video is hopelessly doomed by the repeated appearance of one of Madonna’s greatest visual faux pas.  Brace yourself for the unsightly return of Madonna’s white lady grills.

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I have repeatedly railed against the tomfoolery that are white lady grills.  I didn’t like it the first time she wore them, I didn’t like them when Katy Perry followed suit afterword, and I still don’t like them now. Madonna’s grills have never been well received which makes their reappearance all the more baffling.  The rationale for her grill criticism varies.  Some feel that this is a woeful instance of black cultural appropriation, while other think that they’re just plain ugly.  Personally, I just think it’s tired.

Grills on white people have not been fashionable, audacious or avant-garde for many years.  Jeffree Star rocked a grill in his Myspace days.  That was the better part of ten years ago and that was the last time that grills on a white person ever registered any sort of audacious effect.  It’s been done to death.  At this point grills on a white chick are about as fashion forward and avant-garde as a fanny pack.  Madonna’s stylist would do well to take note.

Due to its inherent comedic value, I am not necessarily opposed to all instances of white performers appropriating aspects of black culture.  I cannot reasonable expect the entertainers of this nation to maintain any standard of creativity or originality, so I understand the constant need for it, but the white folk grill is just lazy.  In a post Iggy Azalea world, rocking a grill just isn’t enough.  Effective cultural appropriation requires a certain amount of diligence and Madonna clearly no longer has it.  Madonna has repeatedly failed in her recent attempts at copping black culture.  Her collaborations with rap artists have been consistently terrible, her homage to Doctor King was poorly received and she’s still clinging to tooth bling.  This is just a tired series of clichés.  If Madonna was truly enterprising in her appropriation of black culture she would get shot by the police.  She needs to quit repeating herself and steal something fresh and new.

It’s not easy for me to say this.  I am always hesitant to criticize Madonna for fear that it will jeopardize my chances of one day sleeping with Andy Cohen, but I love Madonna too much to sit idly by while she repeatedly pushes out the same sloppy clichés.  Lately Madonna has been putting up a seemingly exhaustive effort to keep up with her younger contemporaries and it only serves to age her.  It’s dispiriting to see one of pop culture’s greatest architects constantly on Instagram, ensnared by the same smart phone social media culture that diminishes so many of her colleagues.  Madonna’s bizarre pandering to fad technology just makes her look desperate.  She baffled her fan base by premiering her debut Rebel Heart video on Snapchat and she followed that with an even less successful attempt at debuting “Ghosttown” on Meerkat.  The gimmicky smart phone app premiers are tiring, however I have to applaud her for Grindr Rebel Heart Sweepstakes.  Some felt that this was in extraordinarily poor taste, but this wasn’t self-promotion.  This was Christian charity.  Anyone who would wrap their Grindr profile pic in Madonna styled wire clearly has no prospects of ever getting laid, so they should at least be given free Madonna albums for the futile use of that application.  It’s good to see that Madonna still looks out for her gay fan base, particularly the unfuckable ones that are most in need of her guidance.

It’s too easy to dismiss Madonna as a dated prune in thigh highs, but Cher has shown us that a pop diva can continue to enthrall well into their autumn years.  Factoring out the grill, Madonna still looks fabulous.  She’s serving Stevie Nicks by way of Patsy Stone and I am absolutely living.  Madonna is one of pop music’s greatest auteurs and I will always love her.  I’m sure that Madonna will go on to thrill us once again, but she needs to get rid of that hideous grill first, and the sooner the better.

Tears of a Clown: The Trixie Mattel Story

RuPaul’s Drag Race is perhaps the most convincing argument for owning a television.  Drag Race is a reliably entertaining program but its greatest service to humanity is its yearly introduction of fabulous new entertainers who would otherwise be ignored by the mainstream media.   Each year Drag Race presents us with an intriguing mix of the extremely glamorous and the mentally ill.  The illustrious lineup of RuPaul’s Drag Race is generally comprised of a steady stream of washed up reality stars and amateur porn stars, but this season they gave us sometime truly special.  I refer to none other than the supreme ingénue of The Cream City, Miss Trixie Mattel.  Behold:

For those who don’t know, Trixie Mattel is a drag vixen, a comic, a supermodel and the world’s whitest Indian.  Trixie is acclaimed for all her talents, but she is perhaps most revered for her masterful visual artistry.  Trixie Mattel is essentially the aborted aesthetic lovechild of Lisa Frank and Bozo the Clown.  We’ll never know if Bozo ever discovered the erotic allure of cross dressing, but if he ever did, chances are he would sport a very close resemblance to Trixie Mattel.

The artistry of Trixie Mattel is so great that it defies classification.  It’s hard to pin her down.  I could say that Trixie resembles a partially deflated heat damaged blow up doll, but that doesn’t quite encapsulate her powdered, pulpy essence.  I could say the she resembles a My Size Barbie doll that’s been weathered by the elements, but I’m still not quite there.  I could even go so far as to proclaim that she is the realization of Tim Curry in It as styled by Betsey Johnson, but that still doesn’t quite nail it.  Words can’t do Trixie justice.  You simply have to experience Trixie Mattel firsthand.  It’s a terrifying spectacle but one that you’ll never forget.

I thank RuPaul for finding it in her infinite wisdom to introduce Miss Mattel to the masses.  The world needs Trixie Mattel.  Not since Monique Alan have I witnessed someone so completely devoted to the pursuit of glamor.  We live in a world soaked past saturation in pretty and it’s nauseating.  Our culture is drowning in Kardashian cute, Katy Perry pretty, Taylor Swift fluff… and it’s totally gross.  The tropes of contemporary fashion do nothing to move my spirit, although they regularly move my bowels.

Trixie Mattel represents pure, unbridled glamor and we should revere her for all that she does.  What’s more, Trixie doesn’t merely titillate, she teaches.  Her coloring book, available for free at www.TrixieMattel.com, is an invaluable tool in educating small children about the glories of transvestism.  Furthermore the stylistic sample set by Miss Mattel can elevate anyone’s fashion game.  Trixie shows us that one’s lips can never be too big, nor their ass too padded, and her fearless use of fascinators is the most inspired use of a headpiece since Aretha Franklin’s iconic headpiece at Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

It would seem that Trixie Mattel has lead us to a new stylistic golden age yet suddenly, a mere four weeks after discovering her, tragedy struck.  Somehow, someway, in some terrifying alternate reality, RuPaul saw fit to send Trixie Mattel home after her 4th week on Drag Race.  This is incomprehensible given her awe inspiring artistry.  We can only imagine how Trixie feels about being defeating in a lipsync battle by a partially sedated woman in a shapeless onesie, but the sting of rejection will not be soon forgotten by her legions of fans.  The twittersphere was quick to declare its outrage, with the hashtag #JusticeForTrixie blowing up the twitter feeds of homosexuals the world over.  I fear that this outrage will burn out and fade away all too quickly.  We must hang on to our anger and never let it go.  I believe it was Edmund Burke who said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of busted drag is for good queens to do nothing.  If you are a true student of glamor, I implore you, grab your pitchfork and flaming torch and storm the offices of Logo TV.  Let them know that we demand vengeance.  We demand justice.  We demand Trixie.

If you’ve ever been scorned for your fashion principles, Trixie knows your pain.  For those that have been mocked for wearing that extra coat of lip gloss, that extra set of falsies, or half a couch worth of padding, Trixie is your redemption.  She represents victory over a sad, drab society.  Following Miss Mattel’s example, we will be lead not into trendy temptation, and delivered from busted evil.  Trixie, show us the way.

Babe of the Month: Thanksgiving Edition

One of my earliest gurlhood traumas can be traced back to my infatuation with In Living Color.  I remember watching it in absolute awe as a child and I was particularly taken with The Fly Girls.  To me The Fly Girls were heroic, neon vixens.  They were the sexual embodiment of 90’s glamour and everything that I ever wanted to be.  For a fleeting moment The Fly Girls provided a respite from my bleak, sissy gurlhood, but my dreams were to be crushed just as soon as they hatched as I realized that they were beautiful, curvaceous women and I was but a faggy femme imposter.  I could wiggle and jiggle all I want; I was no Fly Girl.  I would never fuck Jim Carrey, I would never be a girl on the 6 and I would never marry Marc Anthony.  In the end The Fly Girls’ buxom, jiggly beauty was forever a reminder of faggy inadequacy.  Tragic.

Flash forward many years later.  An unexpected detour during a routine Jiz and the Mammograms video search lead me to Fly Young Red’s seminal rap epic Throw That Boy Pussy.  Curious, I turned it on and my world was fundamentally rocked.  The now classic video features the dashing young rapper spitting tight rhymes over Lil’ Wayne’s “Wowzers” beat, all the while flanked by lithe, enticing, sexual… Fly Boys.  At that moment humanity collectively took a giant leap forward.  Fly Boys- at last!  The video presents a harem of supple, slender, enticing ladymen thrusting their buttocks mightily towards the heavens all to a pulsing beat.  When he spits, “Clap that ass in this pit/Let me see you clap that ass like a bitch/Yeah, I’m trying to get you back home/See if you can clap that ass on this dick,” the surrounding Fly Boys clearly mean every writhing thrust.  This was a revelation.  My gayness was no deterrent after all.  I too could be a Fly Person and I could do it on my own terms.  I thank you, Fly Young Red, for teaching me this lesson.

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But what of the man himself?  It’s fitting that he titled his debut mixtape Pretty Boy Realness because he’s an absolute beauty.  Fly Young Red is a suave, smooth piece of man candy and he is eminently lickable.  The man is a latter-day matinee idol and a queer dreamboat.  When he raps, “Man, I’m cool with his and hers/But I’m ‘bout that his and his/Let me eat that boy pussy/It taste good like M&M’s,” Fly Young Red takes me to a sexual dreamworld and I never want to return.  Sometimes it’s not enough to just be hot, you have to be clever, too.  Fly Young Red is a visionary, a revolutionary really, and he’s poised to take the gay community to exciting new places.

As I sat to savor my yams this Thanksgiving, I gave some thought as to what I was truly thankful for.  The answer was clear; I was thankful for boy pussy and I tore into my turkey like it was a savory piece of hairy man ass.  I have Fly Young Red to thank for this.  Here’s wishing that you all one day know the joy that I know.

Babe of the Month: Halloween Edition

Babe of the Month returns just in time for Halloween.  Halloween is a special time of year.  It’s a time when even the most mundane, mousy and reticent amongst us can reach deep down inside their closets and their souls and reveal their true selves.  All too often, their true self turns out to be a huge slut, thereby validating my world view.  Whether your true self manifests itself in the form of a sexy carrot, a sexy ear of corn, or the sure to be ubiquitous sexy ebola nurse, may the spirit of Halloween infect you all with mirth, merriment and trichomoniasis.

I have spent all month ruminating on a suitably foxy goth to take the Babe of the Month crown for the Halloween season.  After a turbulent month of internal deliberation, I present to you the perennial princess of the gothic kingdom, the inimitable Mana.

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Mana rose to fame as the guitarist for venerable Visual Kei band Malice Mizer but he has since gone on to claim international superstardom as a goth fashion icon.  Icon isn’t a strong enough word.  Mana is an absolute titan in spooky fashion.  Picture a transvestite Dita Von Teese mashed with a goth Bob Mackie and you have some idea of the awesome breadth of Mana’s iconoclastic glamour.  Look, we all went through a gothic lolita stage in high school.  If yours was anything like mine, it was dominated by Hello Kitty lunchboxes, a shit ton of bracelets, Manic Panic Deadly Nightshade lip color (I learned the hard way that black lipstick is never conducive to giving a decent blowjob) and treasured dog-eared issues of The Gothic Lolita Bible.  It was then that I was introduced to Mana’s breathtaking beauty and my dreams have never been the same.

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Mana’s life is shrouded in mystery, sheathed in stretchable glow in the dark spider webs, and adorned with black lipstick.  Little is known of his personal life but if the rumors are true, Mana is a heterosexual.  Ryan Gosling and Nick Jonas can fuck off into oblivion.  If you’re looking a fucking stud, it’s Mana.  Transvestites get a bad rap.  Far too many women are too intimidated to date a man that’s prettier than they are but that is a pity.  If anyone can erase this prejudice, it’s Mana.  This man’s beauty transcends gender and sexuality, emerging in a higher plane of human fuckability.  I could stare at Mana for hours, quaking in rapture.  Mana is a cosplay legend and his luminous beauty has inspired countless admirers to vie for fashion glory.  Godspeed little goths.

It is my hope that Mana’s immeasurable foxiness will inspire you to strive for your own personal cosplay glory this Halloween.  Knock yourselves out, kids.  Just don’t take any unwrapped candy.  That didn’t work out for Rock Hudson and it’s not going to work out for you.

An Ode to Joan: The World’s Finest Cunt

By virtue of being a gay man who exists in the world, I was deeply moved, profoundly inspired, and endlessly entertained by Joan Rivers.  Her voice sounded like it took two loads and three shots of Jack all at the same time.  Her face was an eerie amalgam of flesh, plastic and collagen.  Her wardrobe dripped in a bizarre mash-up of designer clothing and QVC jewelry.  All of this framed and adorned one of the most blessedly filthy mouths that has ever graced the Earth.  Yes, Joan was an absolute original.

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She’s gone now having ascended to heaven to hold court with the departed spirits of Lenny Bruce and Robin Williams.  I like to think that she’s doing the wheelbarrow with Andy Kaufman right now.  She will be forever missed.

Rather than crying over a corpse, I think it would be far more sporting to take a moment to reflect on just how truly unique and special she was.   Though Joan has inspired and informed countless lady comics during her half-century-long career, there can be no inheritors to her kingdom.  There was Joan and only Joan.  And so it will always be.

Joan Rivers was always a lady, even when she was being a foul mouthed cunt.  See, Joan Rivers was never influenced by modern day feminism.  She helped create modern day feminism.  Joan started her career before the National Organization for Women even existed.  Joan Rivers wasted no time brandishing rhetoric or marching with picket signs.  Rather than endlessly talking about women’s equality, Joan Rivers embodied women’s equality.  There was no template for her comedy.  There was no women’s group congratulating her for working twice as hard as her male peers.  Joan Rivers had to be so visionary as to create her own template, her own genre of comedy.  This was an awe inspiring testament to an indomitable will.  Despite all the flattery that has poured out after her passing, we still have not truly comprehended the awesome breadth and scope of her accomplishments.  She was the ultimate feminist and she accomplished everything without ever once brandishing a single academic buzzword or tired liberal platitude.  Her actions spoke infinitely louder than academic jargon ever could.

Despite her herculean efforts to demonstrate, not articulate but demonstrate, women’s equality, Joan frequently found herself at odds with feminism throughout her career.  The main reason why another female comic will never truly inhabit Joan’s realm is that they are all invariably influenced in some way by feminism.  Feminism was and remains a hugely important social movement, but like all political movements it is hopelessly awash in stigma and dogma.  Feminism works to reaffirm social and political identities; comedy, at its core, works to destroy them.

Comedy serves no master.  It’s commonplace for most contemporary artists to pander in some way to the tenets of liberalism, but art and politics have never had a happy marriage.  Most political movements are built in some way on an idealized version of the people who created them.  It works chiefly for self-perpetuation and by doing so, invariably compromises its sagacity.  Feminism and its sister LGBT political movements are no different.  The bedrock of Joan’s humor was the delivery of unpleasant truths.  A careful examination of Joan’s humor reveals a view of gender as a few immutable truths compounded by a hell of a lot of bullshit.  One gets the impression that as much as things change, they stay just as much the same.  If you’re the type of person who agitates for hope and change, it’s rather inconvenient to be reminded of that.

Upon her passing, Andrea James noted, “Now that Joan Rivers has died, we should retire the word ‘comedienne’ in her honor. She was the last one. Every female comic since is simply a comedian.”  I think this is very true.  Some feminists criticized Rivers for what was perceived to be an endorsement of compulsory femininity.  There is a sense that Joan felt that, on some level, men would always be men and women would always be women.  Joan was a product of her time.  She never altered her act to endorse the long fashionable belief that gender was entirely a cruel social construct.  Had she compromised herself and her humor, she would have stopped being Joan.  Thank God she was such a stubborn bitch.

There was a sense among many that Joan was mean.  There were even laughable assertions of misogyny.  Joan Rivers has done more for women’s equality than all of her activist detractors put together.  Joan Rivers nearly single handedly created a template that all bawdy funny ladies in some way work from.  The woman was making abortion jokes long before Amy Schumer made it passé …and in the 60’s, no less!  The balls.  The absolute fucking balls.  It’s still so hard to believe that she did it.  Joan mocked everything.  Everything.  And she proved just how profoundly healing that could be.  Joan recognized that suppressing things gave it their power.  Joan showed us how comedy could empower and heal.  This was an essential cornerstone to her work and a precious gift to her audience.

Yet still she was derided as backwards and mean.  Jennifer Lawrence provided a typically uncritical analysis of Joan’s work when she criticized her popular TV show Fashion Police for contributing to a hostile social environment for women.  Lawrence was, for a brief time, hailed as a feminist hero for calling out lookism, sizeism and sexism in her industry.  I call it bullshit.  Of course Fashion Police was mean.  Of course Fashion Police was misogynistic.  Fashion Police was all these things because the world is mean and the world is misogynistic.  Fashion Police had the nerve to treat the industry as it was.  Any celebrity who decries lookism in their industry while simultaneously benefitting from it is a twit.  Joan Rivers was not mocking common women for having the audacity to appear gauche or gain weight.  Rather Joan Rivers made a career out of calling out the world’s most cosseted and privileged people.  The beautiful people featured on Fashion Police all made a killing out of pandering to the whims of a shallow, stupid industry.  These people were playing a game, pure and simple.  That’s all it ever was and Joan intimately knew that from her decades-long time within it.  It would be far more pernicious to pretend that the industry was, or could ever be, anything different.  Joan had no interest in entertaining the preposterous notion that these people aren’t benefiting from the same twisted social mores that they professed to decry.  Cutting a Kristie Alley fat joke from Fashion Police would have no effect on the social realities that created and perpetuate sizeism.  Joan’s jokes were a way of calling attention to the world as it really is, savage and cruel, and humor is our greatest weapon for surviving such a world.

For Joan, jokes were jokes.  They were reflections of an absurd world and she adamantly refused to apologize for them.  Joan started to gain the ire of an increasingly hyper sensitized LGBT community towards the end of her career.  This is a sad irony as Joan was one of the LGBT community’s greatest allies.   Joan was completely aloof to political fashions.  She mocked everything and everyone, for that is the way of the comic.  There was sometimes an attitude that Joan should have left some people alone, that if Joan just didn’t mock this one group or this one thing everything would be fine.  To Joan, this was pity.  And pity was death to her.  Joan Rivers had an unwavering respect for gay people.  Even before her death it was not uncommon to see Joan’s smirking, plastic face popping up in a drag queen’s twitter feed.  Unlike present fashion, Joan never pandered to the gay community.  Instead she worked with them as equals, as peers, and created art that was relevant to them.  Whether it was her late night talk show, her daytime talk show, her late career web series or simply guesting at a Gay Pride, Joan never hesitated to engage gay artists as anything less than her peers.  May we never forget that one of Joan’s first career breaks was playing Barbra Streisand’s lesbian admirer in a play during the late 50’s.  Yes, in the motherfucking 50’s.  And playing a lesbian was her idea.  For years Joan Rivers has enjoyed a semi-mythical status as a folk hero amongst slutty queers.  That reputation was well deserved.

Reflecting on the way of the comic, Joan remarked, “We don’t apologize for a joke.  We are comics.  We are here to make you laugh.  If you don’t get it, then don’t watch us.”  It’s hard for more sensitive people to understand Joan’s view that laughter always justified the means.  If Joan was truly driven solely by celebrity and fame as her detractors alleged she would have long since compromised herself for mass appeal.  Joan never apologized, never changed because working was her greatest reward.  For her to stop working was to stop living.  It is fitting that Joan’s last gig was in a small comedy club the night before the ill-fated throat operation that killed her. Her work ethic was awe inspiring; she was a millionaire many times over and had absolutely no financial incentive to perform at small comedy venues.  She did it for the love of comedy and the love of her work.  Her work was her life and she desperately loved life.  Joan Rivers may have been an avid proponent for self-induced miscarriages, but her unyielding enthusiasm for living was one of the most genuinely pro-life aesthetics that I’ve ever seen.

Everyone has seen Joan Rivers on the red carpet, or on a comedy special or, if you were really lucky, at one of her stand-up appearances, but to truly understand Joan Rivers you have to watch her documentary.  Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was released in 2010.  It remains the most intimate and revealing portrait of her genius.  I have a special place in my heart for that movie.  I was at a particularly shitty time in my life.  My plan B, plan C, and plan D had all fallen out.  I was unemployed, crazy and so incredibly broke that I couldn’t afford drugs.  In short, I was miserable.  I wandered into the theater in a daze.  I was at that very special place in life where I just thought, “This is it.  I guess I have to figure out how I’m going to kill myself.”  I sat there, absorbing Joan’s filthy genius.  Joan knew death intimately.  Her husband killed himself in 1987 and it devastated her.  She fittingly blamed herself remarking, “My husband killed himself. And it was my fault. We were making love and I took the bag off my head.”  Towards the end of the movie I started to hear a little raspy voice in my head saying, “Kill yourself?  What kind of fucking idiot are you?  Think of all the cocks you could be sucking instead!”  Wise counsel, Joan.  For Joan life was the greatest gift and that’s why she never stopped working.  Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was Joan’s chance to explain her life and work, which she did with her own inimitable mixture of savage intellect and cunning wit.  Do yourself a favor and watch it.

It’s only appropriate that I end with Joan’s stand-up.  Joan hated ass kissing (oops) and preferred to let her work speak for itself.  I present to you Joan’s monologue at the end of her Comedy Central roast.  This is a master at work.  She fittingly declared her intention to never stop, citing that comedy needs her.  She was right then and it’s still true.  We fucking need Joan Rivers and we are poorer for having lost her.

Joan worked and worked, struggled and struggled, but she’s at peace now.  Though I will always miss her jokes and antics, I can take heart in knowing that she’s up in heaven now, cracking abortion jokes with the angels.