Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

COVID-19 can’t keep Jackie Cox down

Drag performers keeping busy in digital realm

Published

on

Jackie Cox, gay news, Washington Blade
‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ season 12 contestant Jackie Cox. (Photo courtesy of VH1)

We’re navigating the current COVID-19 crisis as best we can—but each day forces us to admit how little we’ve learned from what pandemic-themed science fiction, countries with universal health care, and people who cut their own hair have been trying to tell us for years.

Yeah, everybody’s pretty much making it up as they go along—and in the case of entertainers displaced from shuttered clubs, bars, and theaters that are sources of income as well as community, stay-at-home drag queens are keeping the cobwebs off their wigs by entertaining fans in the digital realm.

The Blade recently reached out and touched one such indefatigable gal (via email), to get her take on innovation in this time of isolation.

Thanks to her presence as a contestant on the currently airing season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the whole world has been discovering what New York City has known for years: There’s nobody out there quite like Jackie Cox.

Born in Canada, the Star Trek-loving “Persian princess of drag” wears her nerdy nature, Iranian heritage, obsession with Disney, and love of ’80s/’90s pop culture as badges of honor. Pin those badges on a dress as pick-and-choose accessories, and they work just as well on the “Drag Race” runway as they have on the cabaret stages of New York City, where writer/performer Cox fashioned and refined the sharp, sassy, clever, campy, and occasionally political persona that’s put more than one smile on the hard-to-please faces of Mama Ru and Michelle Visage.

That persona changes slightly according to the hat Cox wears. As writer/star, she put her own spin on Barbara Eden’s iconic bottle-dweller, in the three-part “I Dream of Jackie” series, which followed the adventures of a magical genie who emerged from underneath the stage of Manhattan’s Laurie Beechman Theatre to find a chaotic and cynical world that was no match for her sweet, optimistic nature. Also at the Beechman, Cox appeared in a series of shows with The Hell’s Kitchenettes, an Andrew Sisters-like trio of singing waitresses whose wacky schemes to save their diner always backfire, but never fail to bring it back from the brink of disaster. And last year, also at the Beechman, Cox and frequent collaborator Chelsea Piers put the Romy and Michelle/Laverne & Shirley friendship dynamic into a blender, added some iconic songs from the ’80s/’90s, and created the tasty comedic smoothie that was “Jackie & Chelsea’s High School Reunion.”

The Blade: On April 18, you presented “The Jackie Cox Variety Show” as part of StageIt.com’s Digital Drag Fest series. What songs and segments did you serve fans, and how was the experience? Can we expect to see more of you on the Digital Drag Fest platform?

Jackie Cox: I’ve now done two editions of the “The Jackie Cox Variety Show,” with a new, politically minded version performed on April 21, as part of the campaign to “Drag Out The Vote,” and get the LGBTQ+ community registered to vote! Both versions keep a similar structure, in that it’s a variety show with different comedy segments and songs. I do a cooking segment, a faux-news segment, and recurring gags that happen throughout. It very much harkens back to that 1960s and 1970s variety show feel. I hope to continue doing them, and it’s a great creative space for me to try new ideas in this format. Visit stageit.com/digitaldragfest for the latest information on all their upcoming events.

Blade: Has this forced time away from public performance impacted your creativity, creative output, and approach to using online/social media as an expression of your artistry?

Cox: I think this time away from performing on stage has definitely given us a new frontier of what drag can be in the future, and live performance in general. Having the ability to connect with fans through live streaming platforms presents a lot of fun ways to creatively think outside the box. I’ve been finding myself actually able to engage with fans online in meaningful ways that I probably wouldn’t have been able to if I had been traveling and performing all over the country, as was originally planned.

Blade: Spoilers and gag orders aside, tell us everything you can/want, about part of “RDPR” Season 12?

Cox: Participating in this season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has truly been a dream come true. I learned so much about myself and about my drag from participating in the competition. Spoilers aside—I think from what the audience has already seen, this season is filled with so much talent, personality, and heart.

Blade: Have you had any notable virtual interactions with fans during this period of social distancing?

Cox: Well, the fans have CERTAINLY been vocal and I must say, I feel a bit behind in how the kids talk these days, but I’m learning. (Cool Aunt here.) That said, I’ve been trying to engage with fans as much as I can. I have had so many fans reach out saying they feel represented by who I am and what I’m doing on the show. I’ve also had fans who are either too far away, or otherwise would be unable to come see a live show, and are just so thrilled they get to see live drag from the comfort of their own homes.

Blade: How did you come to be involved in the April 25 Community Strong Identity panel (via witch.tv/popculturehero)? What can we expect?

Cox: I have known Randy Frank, the founding member of the Lambda Quadrant non-profit, which is putting on the event, for a number of years, since we originally connected through our love of “Star Trek.” (It’s not just the glasses—I really am a nerd!)

The panel will be moderated by Chase Masterson (from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) and Raymond Lister, in support of their “Pop Culture Her Coalition”—the first-ever organization to teach empathy, resilience, and real-life heroism over bullying, racism, misogyny, LGBTQ-bullying, cyberbullying, and other forms of hate, by using stories from TV, comics, and movies, which kids find relatable and accessible. In our panel (which includes “Drag Race” alums Silky Nutmeg Ganache and Pandora Boxx, among others), we will be discussing how we tackle these issues in our lives, and share our experiences.

Blade: Are there any other ways, now or upcoming, that fans can access you in the digital realm?

Cox: Yes! I’m @jackiecoxnyc across all social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook… even TikTok!), where I will post the latest information on any and all upcoming shows and appearances.

Blade: The all-clear is called and we’re allowed to gather in public again. What are the first things you’re going to do?

Cox: Definitely go have a good laugh and a margarita (and HUGS!) with friends at any of my favorite bars in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC! I miss salty rims!

Continue Reading
Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Arts & Entertainment

Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight dazzle at AIDS Healthcare Foundation World AIDS Day Concert at Kennedy Center

Renowned vocalists delivered show-stopping performances

Published

on

Patti LaBelle performs onstage during World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) hosted its 2022 World AIDS Day Concert on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the concert hall of The Kennedy Center in D.C. Renowned multi-Grammy Award-winning vocalists Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight delivered show-stopping performances to the packed crowd, which included supporters, dignitaries such as: Harold Phillips, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and New Orleans Mayor, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and more, in a night of hope and celebration.

The legendary Gladys Knight performs at the Kennedy Center during a free concert hosted by AHF to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, 2022, in Washington. (Joy Asico/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), is the world’s largest HIV/AIDS care provider, currently operating in 45 countries. The concert is held every year to commemorate World AIDS Day, observed internationally each year on Dec. 1. This year also marked the global organization’s 35th anniversary. 

At the event, longtime humanitarian and AIDS advocate, Princess Diana was honored, posthumously, with AHF’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Under its “Keep the Promise!” banner, AHF also acknowledged progress made in the global fight against HIV and AIDS and continues to raise awareness about “The Other Pandemic” as a reminder of the significant work still to be done on HIV/AIDS, as well as remembering the lives that have been lost over the years.  

Legendary entertainers Patti LaBelle (L) Gladys Knight (C) and AHF President Michael Weinstein, together at The Kennedy Center during a free concert hosted by AHF to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, 2022, in Washington. (Joy Asico/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

Michael Weinstein, President of AHF, said, “As millions remain affected by HIV/AIDS around the globe, World AIDS Day annually provides an opportunity to honor those we’ve lost and those living with HIV/AIDS today, as well as reminding leaders and the community of the work that still remains to address this epidemic. From providing compassionate AIDS hospice care in those darkest early days to growing to become the largest global AIDS organization today, now providing lifesaving care and treatment to more than 1.7 million people around the globe, we also celebrate the tireless work of all those who help make today’s AHF possible: our staff, Board, affiliate organizations and affinity groups, friends, family and elected officials and community partners across the globe, but most of all, our clients and patients—with our annual 2022 World AIDS Day event. It was a momentous night to host our World AIDS Day concert at The Kennedy Center for the first time, and welcome back the legendary Patti LaBelle, and have another great American icon, Gladys Knight join us, while also being able to honor the legacy and humanitarian work of the late Princess Diana.”

President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein and Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, Harold Phillips attend World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee and Patti LaBelle attend World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Derek J. attends World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Streisand’s ‘Live at the Bon Soir’: Birth of a diva

Album finally released 50 years after being recorded

Published

on

Album cover for 'Barbara Sreisand: Live at the Bon Soir.'

Happy days are here again!

Sixty years ago, for three nights in November 1962, Columbia Records recorded a young (20-year-old) singer as she performed at the Bon Soir, a small nightclub in Greenwich Village. The singer’s name was Barbra Streisand, and the recording was slated to be her debut album. Streisand wasn’t that widely known then. But as (the character) Miss Marmelstein, Streisand was stopping the show nightly in the Broadway production “I Can Get It for You Wholesale.” After the show’s curtain call, she took a cab to perform at the Bon Soir club, according to the website barbra-archives.info.

But though the recording of Streisand live at the Village club was talked about the way you’d chat about an awesome legend, the album was shelved for more than half a century. Instead of releasing the “Live at the Bon Soir,” Columbia in 1963 released “The Barbra Streisand Album” (which was recorded in a studio) as Streisand’s debut album.

If you’re queer, you know Streisand rules! To the delight of critics, fans and mid-century history aficionados, on Nov. 4, six decades after it was recorded, “Live at the Bon Soir,” wonderfully remastered, was released on vinyl and SACD. It is also available on streaming services.

If you’ve fantasized about spending an intimate evening with Streisand (Barbra singing and engaging in witty repartee for just you and your intimates), “Live at the Bon Soir” is a dream come true. When Streisand says, “I wish there were another word for thank you…I mean, like, anything, you know” and introduces the club audience to her “boyfriend’s suit,” you feel that she’s talking directly to you.

Streisand’s voice is at its youthful, gorgeous best and her one-of-a-spectacular-kind personality comes through in her banter between songs. Listening to the album is an immersive experience. You’re witnessing the birth of a diva.

The album’s 24 tracks range from an indelible version of the torch song “Cry Me a River” to a playful rendition of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

One of the best things about “Live at the Bon Soir” is its comprehensive, illuminating liner notes. Produced by Streisand, Martin Erlichman and Jay Landers, the CD of the album is packaged in a hardcover book with 32 pages of historical notes, photos and a message from Streisand. The vinyl version comes with a 12-page booklet. The notes provide insight into not only the making of the album, but of most interest to Streisand devotees, what it was like to perform live at the beginning of her career.

“I had never even been in a nightclub until I sang in one,” Streisand writes in the album’s liner notes about performing at and recording “Live at the Bon Soir.”

“I sang two songs in a talent contest at a little club called the Lion and won,” Streisand adds, “which led to being hired at a more sophisticated supper club around the corner called the Bon Soir, with an actual stage and a spotlight.”

The sound on the restored version of “Live at the Bon Soir” is much better than it was on the original recording.

“The science of recording has made quantum leaps since 1962,” writes Landers on the album’s liner notes, “Grammy Award winning engineer, Jochem van der Saag, has subtly solved audio issues in ways his predecessors could hardly have fathomed.”

Streisand has recorded albums with political and contemporary songs. These recordings are often superb. (Is anything by Streisand ever remotely bad?)

But “Live at the Bon Soir” is a gift to anyone who loves standards from the American song-book – from “I Hate Music” (Leonard Bernstein) to “Right as the Rain” (Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg) to “Come To The Supermarket (in Old Peking)” (Cole Porter) to “Happy Days Are Here Again” (Jack Yellen/Milton Ager).

Even if you’re allergic to show tunes, you’ll be entranced by “Live at the Bon Soir.”

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

Continue Reading

Calendar

Calendar: December 2-8

LGBTQ events in the days to come

Published

on

Friday, December 2

Center Aging Friday Tea Time will be at 2 p.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of choice. For more details, contact Adam ([email protected]).

GoGay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Social” at 7 p.m. at The Commentary. This event is ideal for making new friends, professional networking, idea sharing, and community building. Admission to the event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

Saturday, December 3

Virtual Yoga Class with Jesse Z. will be at 12 p.m. online. This is a free weekly class focusing on yoga, breath work, and meditation. Guests are encouraged to RSVP on the DC Center’s website, providing their name, email address, and zip code, along with any questions they may have. The link to the class will be sent out at 6 p.m. the day before the event.

LGBTQ People of Color Support Group will be at 1 p.m. on Zoom and in-person at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. This peer support group is an outlet for LGBTQ people of color to come together and talk about anything affecting them in a space that strives to be safe and judgment-free. For more information and events for LGBTQ People of Color, visit thedccenter.org/poc or facebook.com/centerpoc.

Sunday, December 4

GoGay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Coffee + Conversation” at 12 p.m. at As You Are. This event is for those looking to make more friends in the LGBTQ community and trying to meet some new faces after two years of the pandemic. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

AfroCode DC will be at 3 p.m. at Decades DC. This event is an experience of non-stop music, dancing, and good vibes, and a crossover of genres and a fusion of cultures. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

Monday, December 5

Center Aging Monday Coffee and Conversation will be at 10 a.m. on Zoom. LGBT Older Adults — and friends — are invited to enjoy friendly conversations and to discuss any issues you might be dealing with. For more information, visit the Center Aging’s Facebook or Twitter

Center Aging Advocacy Meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. Participants are welcome to provide guidance and feedback on programs and services for LGBT older adults here at The DC Center for the LGBT Community. Second, this group will focus on advocating for LGBT older adults in the District of Columbia. For more information, email [email protected]

Tuesday, December 6

Center Aging Women’s Social & Discussion Group will be at 6 p.m. at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. This group is a place where older LGBTQ+ women can meet and socialize with one another. To register for this event, visit the DC Center’s website

Gay Men’s Chorus will be at 7:30 p.m. at Washington DC Temple Visitors’ Center. The Gay Men’s Chorus will perform at the Washington DC Temple Visitors’ Center for Festival of Lights. Tickets are free and can be purchased on Eventbrite

Wednesday, December 7

Job Club will be at 6 p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking — allowing participants to move away from being merely “applicants” toward being “candidates.” For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.thedccenter.org/careers

BookMen DC will be at 7:30 p.m. on Zoom. This is an informal group of men who are interested in fiction and non-fiction gay literature. For more details, visit BookMen’s website.

Thursday, December 8

The DC Center’s Food Pantry Program will be held all day at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. To be fair with who is receiving boxes, the program is moving to a lottery system. People will be informed on Wednesday at 5 p.m. if they are picked to receive a produce box. No proof of residency or income is required. For more information, email [email protected] or call 202-682-2245. 

Comedy and Cocktails will be at 6 p.m. at Pure Lounge. Guests are encouraged to come out for laughs, libations and drinking games with the best DMV comics. There will be a comedy show, live DJ, dancing, 2 for 1 drinks and drinking games. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular