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COVID-19 crisis can’t keep a good (Jackie) Cox down

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“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 we go without a kick-ass national response 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 the shuttered clubs, bars, and theaters that are sources of income and 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 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 what 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: What can we expect to see on April 18’s Digital Drag Fest show?

Jackie Cox: I’ll be bringing back “The Jackie Cox Variety Show” for a fourth installment that features new segments, songs, and a couple surprises as well as good old nerdy fun! (That may or MAY not include a Star Trek bit!) I’ve had such a blast doing the last couple of shows—and for those who haven’t yet seen me perform, this is a chance to see what Jackie Cox is all about!

Photo via Jackie’s Facebook

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?

Jackie: 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?

Jackie: 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?

Jackie: 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 comforts of their own homes!

Photo via Jackie’s Facebook page

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?

Jackie: 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!

Don’t miss Jackie Cox! She’ll bring “The Jackie Cox Variety Show” to StageIt.com’s “Digital Drag Fest” series on Sat., April 18, 11 AM Pacific. Runtime: 30 minutes. A limited number of tickets ($10 per household) are available, in the spirit of creating the intimate vibe of a live performance. To order, click here.

Missed the show? Get your fill of Cox by following Jackie on Twitter (JackieCoxNYC), on Facebook (click here), and purchase merch by visiting jackiecoxnyc.com. On Sat., April 25, 3 PM Pacific, Jackie, Silky Nutmeg Ganache, and Pandora Box comprise Pop Culture Hero Coalition’s “Community Strong Identity Panel,” at Holocon. It happens live, at twitch.tv/popculturehero.

Photo via Jackie’s Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/JackieCoxx21

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Celebrity News

British Olympian Tom Daley knits his way to success with a new enterprise

A journey for me that started when I first picked up my knitting needles- fast forward 18 months & I’m so proud to introduce these kits

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Photo courtesy of madewithlovebytomdaley Instagram

LONDON – During the entire course of the Olympic games in Tokyo 2020 this past summer, audiences following the diving competitions were certain to see British Olympian Tom Daley quietly and intently focused in-between matches- on his knitting.

The Gold medalist diving champion only picked up his first set of knitting needles in March of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic first spread across the globe, strangling normal daily routines in its deadly grip.

Now, the 27-year-old British athlete has launched a company to encourage others to take up the hobby.

Photo courtesy of madewithlovebytomdaley Instagram

“It’s been a journey for me that started when I first picked up my knitting needles in March 2020. Fast forward 18 months and I’m so proud to introduce these kits to you all so that you can experience the joy I found learning to knit,” Daley said on his newly launched website.

“I designed these knit kits to help encourage you to pick up those needles, learn the basics, and fall in love with knitting at the same time – all whilst creating something to show off or pass on.

Ready? Pick up your needles, learn the basics and let’s have some fun!”

 

The website offers various kits for beginners, intermediate and experienced knitting and crocheting enthusiasts. One of the kits, a winter warmer hat already sold out but the collection ncludes a vest, scarves, cardigans, jumpers, stockings, and a blanket.

Kits include needles, biodegradable yarn made of Merino wool, and knitting patterns. 

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Online Culture

Critics call gay Santa ad ‘creepy’ accusing it of ‘sexualizing’ Christmas

The ad was posted to Youtube on November 22 to pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Norway’s decision to decriminalize homosexuality 

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Courtesy of Norway’s postal service, Posten Norge

OSLO – A Norwegian Christmas ad for Norway’s postal service, Posten Norge, that depicts a gay Santa struggling to balance his Christmas day duties and a male love interest has sparked an online debate with critics saying it “sexualizes” the holiday figure. 

The ad, titled “When Harry met Santa,” shows a burgeoning romance between Santa and Harry that starts when the two meet one Christmas Eve. As leaves the house through the chimney that night, fireworks fill the night sky. 

Over the years, the two continue to see each other on Christmas Eve and fall in love. Frustrated with only getting to see his lover once a year, Harry pens a letter to Santa that says, “Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is you.”

At the end of the nearly 4-minute ad, Santa and his lover engage in a seconds-long kiss. During their embrace, the camera pans out and a message that reads, “In 2022, Norway marks 50 years of being able to love who we want,” appears. 

The ad, posted to Youtube on November 22 to pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Norway’s decision to decriminalize homosexuality, has garnered over 1 million views. 

“In addition to showing the flexibility of our services, we want to put it in a socially relevant setting,” Posten Norge said in a statement, according to Reuters

“Everyone should feel welcome, seen, heard, and included. This year’s Christmas ad embraces this,” it said.

Many have responded positively to the ad. 

Canadian Member of Parliament Randall Garrison called it “strong and moving,” saying the ad caused him to break his “no Xmas before December rule.”

Former U.S. ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford tweeted: “Oh man I love Scandinavia. Imagine if the US Post Office put out an ad like this.”

Others have voiced issues with the ad, calling it “creepy” and arguing that it “sexualizes” Santa.

English journalist Dawn Neesom, a columnist for the Daily Star, said as much on TalkRadio with James Max. 

“This is an advert for the Norwegian postal service celebrating 50 years of being able to love who you want. However, they have sexualized Santa,” Neesom said.

Max interrupted her, saying, “No they haven’t sexualized Santa, this is a nonsense and you are jumping on a tabloid bandwagon. If Santa came in and kissed Mrs. Claus, you wouldn’t say a word.”

Neesom pushed back and maintained her point, adding that it was different because Santa married Mrs. Claus. She also argued that Harry was cheating on his spouse, but there is no indication in the ad that he has one. 

Commentator Melanie Blake made a similar argument, tweeting: “If #Santa is gay these days then good for him but should we be seeing him getting off with anyone in Christmas adverts?! Seems a bit of an odd concept to me – if he was snogging a woman, it’s still sexualising a figure that’s mainly around for children which looks creepy to me.”

In response to such comments, the Independent published an article that said, “Really? I mean … really?! Now, I know that woke-bashing has become de rigueur, and that, after the backlashes against the #MeToo and BLM campaigns, we’re supposed to protect our precious and delicate cultural icons from the clutches of the baying woke mob – but are we really saying that the heartwarming romance between Harry and Santa is a woke step too far? Has Posten sexualised Santa? Oh, go and stuff your face with a selection box and give it a rest!”

It continued: “The truth is that Christmas and Santa have been sexualised for years already, and few people have batted an eye.”

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Theater

Broadway gathers to honor Sondheim in Times Square

They were gathered to pay homage to legendary Tony, Academy Award, and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim

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Broadway gathers to honor Stephen Sondheim (Screenshot via YouTube)

NEW YORK – Light snow flurries swirled around the stars of theatre and stage of New York City’s ‘Great White Way’ as they gathered Sunday in Times Square- members of every Broadway company assembled singing in a powerful chorus “Sunday,” the powerfully emotional act one finale to “Sunday in the Park with George.”

They were gathered to pay homage to legendary Tony, Academy Award, and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. That piece being performed had garnered Sondheim a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985.

Broadway’s best were joined by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban, Kathryn Gallagher and Lauren Patton at ‘Sunday’ Performance in Times Square.

The man who was heralded as Broadway and theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century died at 91 Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

“This felt like church,” Bareilles told Variety after the performance on Sunday. “In his remembrance, we did what theater does best. We sang and raised our voices and came together in community.” 

Variety also noted that during the celebration, Miranda offered a sermon of sorts. Foregoing a speech, he opened Sondheim’s “Look I Made A Hat,” an annotated anthology of the composer’s lyrics, and read from a few passages before the crowd.

“Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George memorial for Stephen Sondheim

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