Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Dishy drag queen docu-series is a ‘Werq’ of wonder

Published

on

Dense with dish and details, “Werq the World” takes you behind the scenes, and beyond. (Photo courtesy of World of Wonder)

Put aside the fabulous dresses, formidable heels, life-giving lip-synching skills, and the ability to delight legions of fans night after night—and the queens of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are just like you and me. They have their good days and bad, and who they really are is tucked somewhere between the work clothes they show to the world, and the naked truth seen in unguarded moments.

That’s the tasty, oftentimes touching, takeaway, when viewing any given installment of “Werq the World’’—director Jasper Rischen’s deliciously RuVealing 10-part docu-series, airing weekly on WOW Presents Plus, through August 8.

Filmed with the blessing of “Drag Race” production company World of Wonder (WOW)—and all the unfettered access that goes with it—the series chronicles 2018’s May/June European “Werq the World” tour, which featured Alyssa Edwards, Shangela, Valentina, Latrice Royale, Sharon Needles, Kim Chi, Detox, Violet Chachki, Aquaria, and Kennedy Davenport.

Each queen just mentioned gets their own stand-alone episode, but the whole group inevitably shows up during the course of any given installment, to varying degrees of interaction with the main attraction. (A consequences-be-damned gesture of support from Violet Chachki, for example, looms large in Valentina’s episode, which does a particularly good job at lifting the veil on what goes down before, during, and after those meet-and-greets with fans.)

From waking up at ungodly hours to afternoon tech rehearsals in an unfamiliar venue to slaying it in performance to post-show shenanigans to tour bus bonding with fellow queens (and the occasional bunkmate picked up along the way), each installment seems much longer than its 35-minute runtime—and that’s a compliment. But like the “overnight success” of a girl who makes it to “Drag Race,” Rischen’s epic project didn’t announce itself to the world out of thin air.

Another opening, another show: 10 queens stand before you, in Jasper Rischen’s all-access docu-series. (Photo courtesy of World of Wonder)

“I started doing a couple little video projects for World of Wonder about a year and a half ago,” Rischen recalls. “The first thing they had me do was make a couple ‘Day in the Life’ shorts of some of their queens,” including Gia Gunn and Aja. WOW liked the fly on the wall style of what they saw, and invited Rischen in for a meeting, during which it was proposed he turn his eye for detail on the queens slated for WOW’s upcoming summer tour. Other than that, specifics were sparse.

“It was a blank state mission,” Rischen says, other than the directive to “come back with, like, six to eight episodes of 10 minutes [each].”

Originally, the plan was to make “an episode per city. You know—the Berlin episode, the Paris episode, the Spain episode. But the reality of touring is, you are never on time. You do not see the outside world. If you think there was going to be a cute scene where the queens go to the Eiffel Tower, there’s just no time. You’re inside buses, inside theaters, getting whisked from hotels… Based on that, and coupled with the fact that I realized all these girls have their super-unique fan bases that are going to want to see everything that was shot, it wasn’t until I was on the way back that I came up with the idea to do one episode per queen, to isolate their story on the tour.”

Rischen returned to WOW and “was like, ‘Guys, I think I can do something much bigger than this.’ ” To WOW’s credit, Rischen says, “they sort of let the story lead to 10 episodes.”

Of the disorienting experience of moving from country to country, town to town, Rischen says, “You’re in this together, on these insanely long days, sometimes 17-19 hours. Whenever I wanted to complain about getting up at 5 AM, I would look at these queens. They still have to get into makeup for three or four hours, then bust their asses on stage. I got a lot of respect for how hard they work, and I hope that’s something that these fans take away.”

Super trooper: Latrice Royale didn’t let disaster keep her from slaying it on stage. (Photo courtesy of World of Wonder)

Among the standout moments, Rischen cites the Latrice Royale episode, in which her luggage got lost on the way to Finland. (“The one time we took a flight,” Rischen notes, as opposed to the omnipresent tour bus.)

Undaunted, the reality sets in that, “We’re not gonna find her type or size or color, because it’s the land of white people,” Rischen recalls, noting, “She does the show out of drag, and finds a way to still make it work, and the crowd just goes bizonkers… That really resonated with me, because as Latrice said [a week before the luggage incident, regarding another potential disaster], ‘The show must, and will, go on.’ ”

As for the show going on past its current run, there’s plenty of footage that had to be consigned to the cutting room floor, but could supply future drag fans with a sense of herstory and hindsight.

“I made a bunch of all these really fun outtakes, these funny moments that didn’t really fit anywhere [in the series],” Rischen says, “and I think our press team has some of that to work with—but it would be nice to let some of these moments just sit in the vault, and maybe in five to 10 years, take the lid off and see what’s still there. But I have definitely filed a couple of hours of those outtakes aside for future use:”

Fans of the current show won’t have to wait that long to get their next fix of fabulousness.

“I’ll have to confirm this, but I’m pretty sure,” Rischen says, of plans to document September’s U.S. Werq the World tour, which is slated to feature “half the same cast, and half a new cast. Some of the girls of Season 11 are coming on, so it will be interesting to get some new gals into the mix.”

Asked about his hopes for viewer takeaways from the series, Rischen says he wants fans to solidify the notion that the drag queens “are human behind these characters, and know that they work really hard for you. So the next time you think of typing up something mean, you’ll think twice.”

Pre-show ritual: It takes a village to prep a queen. (Photo courtesy of World of Wonder)

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

Movies

Celebrate Judy Garland’s centennial by watching her movies

The dazzling force of nature made 34 films

Published

on

‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ is one of Judy Garland’s iconic film roles.

When the world ends, aficionados will still be watching their favorite Judy Garland movies.

Queer icon Garland was born 100 years ago this year (on June 10, 1922).

Everyone knows how tragic much of Garland’s life was. MGM feeding her uppers and downers when she was a child. Bad luck with husbands. Getting fired from movies because of her addiction issues. Her death at age 47.

You can’t deny that Garland’s life was often a mess. Yet, it’s too easy to encase Garland into a box of victimhood.

Contrary to the misperception of her as a sad figure, Garland wasn’t a morbid person. She was a fabulous comedian and clown, John Fricke, author of “The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated History of the American Classic,” told the Blade in 2019. Lucille Ball said Garland was the funniest woman in Hollywood, Fricke said. “‘She made me look like a mortician,’ Lucy said,” he added.

In the midst of the sentimentality and morbidity shrouding her legacy, you can readily forget Garland’s prodigious talent and productivity.

Garland was a consummate, multi-faceted, out-of-this-world talented performer. She (deservedly) received more awards than most performers would even dream of: two Grammy Awards for her album “Judy at Carnegie Hall,” a special Tony for her long-running concert at the Palace Theatre and a special Academy Juvenile Award. Garland was nominated for an Emmy for her TV series “The Judy Garland Show” and for Best Supporting Oscar for her performance in “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

Garland, a dazzling, force of nature on screen, made 34 films. There’s no better way to celebrate Garland’s centennial than to watch her movies.

Garland was renowned for connecting so intimately with audiences when she sang. She’s remembered for her legendary musicals — from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Meet Me in St. Louis” to “A Star is Born.”

But if you watch, or re-watch, her movies, you’ll see that Garland wasn’t just a singer who sang songs, and sometimes danced, in production numbers in movie musicals.

Garland was a talented actor. She wasn’t appearing on screen as herself – Judy Garland singing to her fans.

Whether she’s tearing at your heartstrings as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” performing brilliant physical comedy with Gene Kelly in the “The Pirate,” breaking your heart with “The Man that Got Away” in “A Star is Born” or unrecognizable as Irene Hoffmann in “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Garland is acting. Her performance etches these characters onto your DNA.

Picking Garland’s best movies is like deciding which five of your 20 puppies should go on an outing. But, if you’re cast away on a desert island, take these Garland movies with you:

“Meet Me in St. Louis”: This luminous 1944 musical, directed by Vincente Minnelli, has it all: Garland in top form, the Trolley song, Margaret O’Brien, along with a stellar cast, and the best Christmas song ever.

“The Clock”: This 1945 movie, also directed by Minnelli, showcases Garland as a gifted dramatic actress. Shot in stunning black-and-white near the end of World-War II, the movie is the story, set in New York City, of a young woman (Garland) and a soldier on leave (Robert Walker) who fall in love.

“Easter Parade”: Sure, this 1948 picture, directed by Charles Walters, is thought of as a light musical by some. But, who cares? It’s in Technicolor, and Judy’s in peak form – dancing with Fred Astaire.

“A Star is Born”: If you don’t know the story of this 1954 film, directed by George Cukor, starring Garland and James Mason, you’re not a member of queer nation. There have been other versions of “A Star is Born,” some quite good, but this is still the best. Garland should have gotten an Oscar for this one.

“Judgment at Nuremberg”: This 1961 film, directed by Stanley Kramer, will never be a date night movie. It’s long (3 hours, 6 minutes), grim (about Nazi crimes) and Garland is only in it for about seven minutes. But the story is gripping and Garland’s performance is mesmerizing. When you watch her as Irene, you won’t be thinking that’s Judy Garland.

Happy centennial, Judy! 

Continue Reading

Books

New ACT UP book is part history, part memoir

‘Boy with the Bullhorn’ chronicles hard work, grief, anger

Published

on

(Book cover image courtesy of Fordham University Press)

‘Boy with the Bullhorn: A Memoir and History of ACT UP New York’ 
By Ron Goldberg
c.2022/ Fordham University Press
$36.95/512 pages

The sign above your head shows what’s going on inside.

Last night, you made the sign with a slogan, firm words, a poke to authority – and now you carry it high, yelling, marching, demanding that someone pay attention. Now. Urgently. As in the new book, “Boy with the Bullhorn” by Ron Goldberg, change is a-coming.

He’d never done anything like it before.

But how could he not get involved? Ron Goldberg had read something about ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and he heard they were holding a rally near his workplace. It was 1987, he’d never participated in anything like that before, but whispers were everywhere. He and his friends were “living under a pervasive cloud of dread.”

He “was twenty-eight years old… scared, angry, and more than a little freaked out” about AIDS, he says.

Couldn’t he at least go down and hold a sign?

That first rally led Goldberg to attend a meeting, which, like most, as he came to realize, were raucous and loud and “electric.” Because he was “living fully ‘out and proud’,” and because he realized that this was an issue “worth fighting for,” he became even more involved with ACT UP by attending larger rallies and helping with organizing and getting his fellow activists fired up. He observed as women became involved in ACT UP, too. Monday night meetings became, for Goldberg, “the most exciting place in town.”

There, he learned how politics mixed with activism, and why ACT UP tangled with the Reagan administration’s leaders. He puffed with more than just a little ownership, as other branches of ACT UP began spreading around the country. He learned from ACT UP’s founding members and he “discovered hidden talents” of his own by helping.

On his years in ACT UP, Goldberg says, “There was hard work, grief, and anger, surely, but there was also great joy.” He was “a witness. And so, I began to write.”

Let’s be honest: “Boy with the Bullhorn” is basically a history book, with a little memoir inside. Accent on the former, not so much on the latter.

Author Ron Goldberg says in his preface that Larry Kramer, who was one of ACT UP’s earliest leaders encouraged him to pull together a timeline for the organization and this book is the result of the task. It’s very detailed, in sequential order and, as one reads on, it’s quite repetitive, differing basically in location. It’s not exactly a curl-up-by-the-fire read.

Readers, however – and especially older ones who remember the AIDS crisis – won’t be able to stop scanning for Goldberg’s memories and tales of being a young man at a time when life was cautiously care-free. The memories – which also act as somewhat of a gut-wrenching collection of death-notices – are sweet, but also bittersweet.

This book is nowhere near a vacation kinda book but if you have patience, it’s worth looking twice. Take your time and you’ll get a lot from “Boy with the Bullhorn.” Rush, and it might just go over your head.

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

Continue Reading

Sports

Trailblazing Scots pro soccer athlete comes Out and inspires others

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, saying “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders”

Published

on

Screenshot/YouTube

EDINBURGH – Two weeks after making headlines as the first-ever senior Scottish pro soccer player to come out as gay, Zander Murray is revealing the impact his courageous decision has had on at least one closeted player. Murray tweeted a message he received that shows the difference an athlete coming out can make. 

“I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been a massive inspiration for me to come out to teammates and family,” the anonymous player told Murray, according to the tweet. 

“As a young footballer I find it difficult to be myself as it is but being gay and keeping it secret was so challenging. It felt amazing when I told my teammates, they were super supportive.” 

Murray shared the message with a heart emoji and the words: “Makes it all worthwhile young man.”

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, the Gala Fairydean Rovers, on September 16, explaining “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders.”

Screenshot/YouTube

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Jake Daniels of Blackpool came out as gay in May, the first U.K. male pro soccer player to come out in more than 30 years. Justin Fashanu was the first in Britain men’s soccer to come out back in 1990. Homophobic and racist media reports drove Fashanu to suicide eight years later. 

Reaction to Murray’s coming out last month has been “incredible,” he’s told reporters. One of those reaching out to congratulate him was Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley. The U.K. diver sent him a DM, Murray told a British interviewer. 

“He messaged me while I was on my way back from football training in a car with four boys. I had tears in my eyes seeing his direct message, and I messaged him back.

“I said, ‘Look I am in a car on the way back from football with four boys and I’ve got tears in my eyes and I don’t even care.’”

Prior to coming out, Murray had been “living in fear 24/7,” he told Sky Sports. “I can’t explain it. You’re hiding your phone in case you get messages from friends, constantly double-checking if you have a team night out, you’re cautious with what you’re saying.

“It’s very hard, especially for myself, I’m a character in that dressing room. I’m not quiet in that dressing room, I like to have the banter and to get stuck in, so very challenging.”

But Murray said he couldn’t have decided to come out “at a better time, at a better club.” So why now? He posted the answer on Instagram with several bullet points, including:

  • “Gay male footballers in the UK need role models. 
  • Majority are terrified to come out to friends/family/teammates (trust me a few have reached out already!).”

STV Weekend News Sunday, September 18, 2022 Zander Murray

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Advertisement

Popular