Mother Has Arrived: A Review of Hurricane Bianca

For most Drag Race divas, their winnings are quickly spent on a dance single, a garish video, and a clusterfuck with a gaggle of rent boys. Thankfully Bianca Del Rio is not your typical queen.  Vying for legendary status, Bianca has ditched the usual disco orgies and taken a completely different tack to post-Drag Race success.  Enter Hurricane Bianca, her cinematic debut.

Most gays know Bianca Del Rio from her dominating win on Drag Race season 6, but Bianca was a star long before she set foot in the Interior Illusions Lounge.  Bianca had begun crowdfunding for Hurricane Bianca years ago, even before she ever auditioned for the great race.  After a plethora of fundraising campaigns, and a hefty paycheck from Mother Ru, Hurricane Bianca has finally arrived and it’s every bit the campy spectacle we hoped it to be.  Equal parts To Wong Foo,Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire, Hurricane Bianca is an ultra-campy, feather light satire of employment discrimination and small town homophobia.

Del Rio plays the deliciously nerdy Richard Martinez, a NYC school teacher who moves to Texas for a teaching gig, only to be promptly fired when he’s outed as a homo. Enraged, Martinez teams up with a local trans woman to exact revenge on the town who wronged him.  Martinez returns to school disguised as Bianca and naturally hilarity ensues and hijinks commence.  There are gags, satire, drama, intrigue, and even a bit of skin via co-star Denton Blane Everett’s smooth twunk body.

In short, it’s good.

While there’s no doubt that Bianca is hilarious, I wondered, is she glamorous enough to be a movie star? Visually Bianca is best known for serving Mrs. Potato Head realness in a 90’s ball gown, so when I heard that she was going to star in a gay version of Mrs. Doubtfire, I had doubts that she could ever be that passable.  I’m glad to say I was wrong.  Though I didn’t think it possible, through the magic of dedicated hair, make up and wardrobe, Bianca looks the best she ever has.  She almost looks good!

Speaking of fashion disasters, Rachel Dratch is a sight to behold as the Kim Davis-esque tyrant Deborah Ward.  Dratch’s constipated, authoritarian pearl-clutching is one of the best parts of the movie. She is the perfect overdrawn villain and she has a wardrobe to match.   It’s astonishing that the filmmakers ever managed to find such a thorough collection of tacky, dated selections of Sears’s formalwear.  They must have raided Lady Bunny’s closet.  The costumers deserve an Oscar, or at least a Grabby, for Dratch’s incredible ensembles.

Del Rio is joined by Drag Race alums Willam, Shangela, Joslyn Fox, and Alyssa Edwards in the film.  I have to say, Bianca put these queens to work: Willam plays a slutty himbo, Shangela plays a sassy drag queen, Joslyn plays a bar queen named Joslyn, and Alyssa Edwards plays a drawling southern chanteuse.  Astonishing.  I’ve never seen such range.  Fuck Meryl Streep; these queens are redefining versatility.  Someone better get a Golden Globe out of this or I’m rioting.

Look, this isn’t Annie Hall or The Royal Tenebaums, but it is better than White Chicks, and that’s the standard by which I judge drag queen comedies.  The film doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know about homophobia or employment discrimination, but it’s funny and hopefully it will reignite a conversation about ENDA in the complacent, post-marriage equality gay community.

It’s good to see a queen broaden the scope of what Drag Race girls can do.  Hopefully her example will encourage other Drag Race winners to create their own productions.  While I won’t hold my breath for Tyra Sanchez’ film debut (sorry, a webcam show doesn’t count as a movie), it’ll be interesting to see how other Drag Race winners up their game following Bianca’s success.  Hurricane Bianca was almost entirely crowdfunded and it shows what can be accomplished when the drag community comes together to support a project.  This is only the beginning.  Picture it: Bob the Drag Queen in B.A.P.S. 2, Sharon Needles in Bathhouse of Horror, Kim Chi in The Joy Fuck Club.  Get those Kickstarter drives going ladies and make it happen!

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.

For Filth.

(Spoilers ahead… duh.)

Another season of Drag Race has come to climax and again we are left to congratulate the winner and mop up the mess.  Heinous bitch Bianca Del Rio pulled off a deserved win as the undisputed star of this season.  Drag Race has been frequently criticized for ignoring established drag veterans in favor of featuring fishy newcomers, but as her competitors frequently pointed out, Bianca is a seasoned drag veteran.  See, Bianca didn’t win (just) because she was the most talented.  She won because she was the smartest.  Bianca knew how to create a compelling narrative and she set to work in formulating her Bitch with a Heart of Gold-schtick from the get-go.  Much has been made of the fact that the show allows the audience to vote and choose the winner but it doesn’t matter whether the audience votes or not.  TV has a set formula that nearly everyone bows to.  If you can make your story read and combine it with a little wit and sparkle then the audience will arrive at the same conclusion that the producers would.  Bianca got this and now she’s got one hundred thousand dollars.  Smart bitch.

But if you’re a cunt like me, you don’t care about that.  With no real underdogs, rebels or wild cards in the season to distract them, the audience was left with one prime target for the kind of A-Grade filthy pleasure Schadenfreude that Reality TV is founded on.  Thank you, gay Jesus, for the gift of Laganja. Laganja Estranja’s slow, protracted demise was the ultimate cunt-pleasure of season six.  If Alyssa Edwards was so bad she’s good, then Laganja Estranja was so bad she went past good and back to bad again.  Laganja was a cornucopia of guilty pleasures.  The busted outfits!  The shrill catch phrases!  The endless tears!  The strained affectations!  The girl delivered.  Laganja did all she could to ape the mannerisms of her drag mother, Alyssa Edwards, and her persistent failure to effectively do so made for incredibly compelling television.  She’s my pick for All-Stars Season 2.  If Alyssa Edwards is the Beyoncé of the Haus of Edwards and Shangela is the Kelly Rowland, then Laganja Estranja is the Solange.

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Harsh, I know.  But hey, she’s got legs for days and no one can take that away from her.

Enough analysis.  Time to read these hoes for filth.  Consider this the definitive T on season six:

Kelly Mantle: Last?!?  Has the world turned upside down?  Any queen that has done a proper homage to the motherfucking queen deserves immunity for at least 3 eliminations.  That’s just common sense.

Magnolia Crawford: This bitch knows about commitment to a bit.  After debuting as the absolute worst Drag Race contestant in herstory, she followed that up by releasing the absolute worst Drag Race track ever.  Hey, if you’re going to be the worst, be the worst of all time.  I have a certain respect for that.

Vi Vacious: When you’re upstaged by a Styrofoam wig head then you know your act’s got problems.

April Carrion: Out of drag, she’s the absolute twinkiest.  She must be a veritable magnet for dirty old men, so I understand why she crossdresses.

Gia Gunn: Gia Gunn is a terribly underrated drag queen. Not only is she pretty but she defies stereotypes. She proves that not all Asian people are smart.

Milk: Artfully curdled.

Laganja Estranja: I’d say that she’s a clown but clowns are supposed to be funny.

Trinity K. Bonet: This season’s most decorated entry into the Drag Race Dental Hall of Shame.

Joslyn Fox: The girl was so damn sweet I almost lost a foot.

Ben Delacreme: I preferred her out of drag.  None of the other queens on this or any other season has served menwholooklikeoldlesbians.com realness like this bitch and no one ever will.

Darienne Lake: The world’s whitest drag queen.  We’re talking Spiced Pumpkin Frappuccino in a Lexus level white.

Courtney Act: I saw a YouTube video of her performing on a gay cruise.  It’s crazy that YouTube has the power to simultaneously depict her past and predict her future all at the same time.

Adore Delano:  She’s not the first washed up Reality TV star to wind up crossdressing for singles at Hamburger Mary’s and she won’t be the last.

Bianca Del Rio: I’ll have to admire her from afar.  The heavy unblended eye shadow is giving me shades of Pogo the Clown.  I’m scared that she’ll chop me up and bury me in her basement.

Stay gorgeous, ladies!