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Lady Bunny’s comedy special slays sacred COVID-19 cows

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Lady Bunny’s COVID-19-themed digital comedy special, “C#ntagias,” becomes available for download on June 5. (Photo by Santiago Felipe)

At a time where nothing seems certain, legendary drag queen Lady Bunny’s ignorance is our bliss.

“Oh, I’ve never seen it,” says Bunny, when the RuPaul Netflix vehicle “AJ and the Queen” came up as a topic during our interview.

Lack of first-hand knowledge didn’t stop the NYC-based DJ, actress, singer/songwriter, upcoming comedy special star, and creator of Wigstock from skewering “AJ” mercilessly, while co-hosting two recent Voss Events-presented digital drag benefits that raised funds for queens out of work because of COIVD-19.

“Listen,” says Bunny, “I make jokes about ‘Drag Race,’ and I don’t watch that either. Honey, I don’t watch anything… I know Miss Vanjie said, ‘Miss Vanjie, Miss Vanjie, Miss Vanjie’ on her way out, in a way that was odd, but I don’t really know what else happened in that episode, or why she was eliminated, or why she said that.”

Bunny, whose television has not been hooked up for 10 months, admits, “Whenever you see me make a joke about pop culture, that is based on what I see other people talking about… I will run it by friends who are more keyed into that kind of thing.”

With no boob tube at home and no burning desire to binge online (her flirtation with Netflix didn’t last past the free trial period), Bunny’s been spending her COVID-19 isolation “trying to catch up on things I said I didn’t have time for before the quarantine, like filing taxes; and exercising, and dieting, so I don’t have that excuse, ‘Oh, I have to run here or run there.’ ”

Bunny is also buckling down on long-planned personal projects, including a book she’s penning in partnership with her mother, and an autobiography. (“Just my life, before I forget it,” she says.)

And in a moment in time when there’s never been more spare time to sit around the house, hit a few keystrokes, press a button, and share your opinion on anything, everything, and often, nothing, with the world. That’s part of why Bunny says she’s “trying to stay off of social media a bit more, because I was hitting it hard during the first few months of COVID-19. But now, things seem to have turned sour, and it’s disconcerting.”

Known to those who follow her online as a steadfast supporter of Bernie Sanders (Bianca Del Rio often referred to Sanders as her “boyfriend” during the two Voss Events digital drag benefits they co-hosted), Bunny cited the trigger topics of social distancing and mask-wearing as among her reasons for dialing back on the sheer volume of postings and tweets. (She remains a presence on Facebook and Twitter—but these days, she’s just as likely to be writing about work from fellow artists as she is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

“I realize people are scared, and I realize people are broke,” she says, of the COVID-19 tensions. “But I don’t understand the desire to lash out at people that aren’t observing the precautions that they decide to observe. It’s almost like they’re trying to prove they’re a better Democrat, because they dip their vegetables in Clorox water, and they wear masks everywhere. It’s just, like, I don’t understand what it is about a frightening, deadly pandemic that makes people want to scold others. If I walk down to the [NYC West Side] piers, as I do, almost every day, and I see people who don’t have masks on, and they’re coughing? Well then, I walk away from them. I don’t yell at them… At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own self-preservation. I mean, if someone who weighs 90 pounds and has a syringe sticking out of each eye tells me he wants to screw me without a condom, well, that situation may arise—but it’s up to me to say, ‘No,’ to protect myself.”

Asked how COVID-19 has impacted her creative output, Bunny noted, “All of my work involves dance floors and audiences—and we’re not gonna have either of those for many, many months. So basically, my paychecks have stopped, but my bills have not. So I’m in the same position that, you know, most drag queens or club employees are in.”

With little hope of audience flocking to her bread and butter public gathering places any time soon, Bunny turned to what she does best: Parody songs, groovy dance segments, sketches, satire, insult humor, and raunchy jokes.

That brings us to the June 5 VossEvents.com debut of her downloadable ($9.99) comedy special, “C#ntagias,” in which, press material note, “Demented drag diva Lady Bunny shamelessly interrupts your isolation in an attempt to give what may be your last laugh before the apocalypse.”

COVID-19-themed humor is front and center. Along with four signature sky-high wigs and 12 costume changes over the course of the 35-minute show, the press release further promises “brand new song parodies from artists as varied as Lizzo, Justin Bieber, and Madonna.” Gender-blending provocateur Christeene duets with Bunny on a pandemically updated version of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is,” and Bunny will perform her timely parody of the RuPaul song, “Sissy That Walk.”

Currently available on YouTube inteaser form, which can be seen by clicking here (the full song premieres as part of the June 5 show) channel, the video for “Sissy That Cough” finds our quarantined gal noting, ‘’

If I forget to use Lysol

I’ll end up in the hospital

I’m climbing up my fu**ing walls

Those walls aren’t a problem, at least not in the video, which sees Bunny singing and dancing around an empty white space that is occasionally populated by, right on cue when the lyric comes in, bats she’s worried will

Fly, fly, fly,

Uh-oh

From Wuhan Chi, Chi, Chi

Photo by Santiago Felipe

Bunny claims sole responsibility for crafting the lyrics to “Cough”—but overall writing credit for “C#ntagias” is shared with Beryl Mendelbaum, the Facebook drag persona of Bruce Jope, described by Bunny as “a fascinating character who hung out with everyone from Divine to Holly Woodlawn to Cher, back in the day.”

There’s a reason for that. Long before Mendelbaum burst onto the scene, Jope and his late partner, Francis Toohey founded the magazine Hit Parade (1978-1983, first based in Boston, then NYC). It chronicled, with gusto, the sort culture and mind frame that drew people like RuPaul and Lady Bunny to NYC.

Michael Musto is a longtime nightlife chronicler and pop culture commentator whose contributions to Hit Parade are among his earliest career credits. Musto launched his weekly “La Dolce Musto” column in the Village Voice in 1984. It became essential reading until his 2013 layoff. Later, with the Voice under new ownership, Musto was brought back as a freelance writer, with “Dolce” making a Sept. 2017 return for the publication’s final print edition.

Writing for Paper Magazine in 2015, Jope and Toohey’s legacy earned them a place in Musto’s “10 Gay Club Legends Who Lit Up the NYC Nightlife.”

Noting Hit Parade’s pages were filled with “colorful chatter, gossip, interviews, travel reports, and photos from then-hot clubs” such as the Red Parrot and Interferon, Musto recalled, “They [Jope and Toohey] let me do virtually all of the above for them, and I adored sharing my innermost attempts at witticisms with their readers. It was all so glam, back when gay was a lot more fringe-y and different.”

Times sure have changed, but not everything is gone: Jope is still channeling that era’s eccentricity, and rebel spirit—online, as Mendelbaum, and via co-writing credits on “C#ntagias” as well as past Lady Bunny stage shows (including “Clowns Syndrome” and “Trans-Jester!”)

Those two worlds, and personas, pleasantly collide, says Bunny, who praises Jope/Mendelbaum’s ability “to write as an older, Jewish retiree kleptomaniac, which is her online [Facebook] character. And I thought, if she can write in the voice of someone who she is not, maybe she can write for me, a pottymouthed, Southern, over-the-hill Showgirl!”

In addition to several new songs, the Bunny/Mendelbaum collaboration for “C#ntagias” content yielded some new skits. One of them, notes, Bunny, “was inspired by three emails I got claiming they had activated my computer’s camera when I was on a porn site, and I needed to send them $2,000 via Bitcoin or they were going to send this footage to all of my email contacts. So I started writing a reply, not that I even thought they were a real person, because I’m not the biggest porn fan, and so I came up with some stuff that was pretty funny. I sent it off to Beryl and we finished off the skit… She has a way of either pulling back or taking things in a different direction if I become too preachy, too vulgar, too whatever. She’s kind of like half writer, half director.”

 

For more information on Lady Bunny’s comedy special, available for digital download as of June 5, visit vossevents.com/digital. For Bunny and Mendelbaum, see ladybunny.net and @BERYLMENDELBAUMFANS, respectively.

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Television

Ellen signs off after 19 seasons

In her final monologue DeGeneres reflected on the journey across the years then took a moment to dance through the audience with Twitch

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Screenshot/YouTube

BURBANK – The lights went dark forever at the Warner Brothers Stage 1 complex on the lot at Warner Brothers Studio, home to the Ellen show, as comedian Ellen DeGeneres ended her daytime talk show after a 19 season run Thursday.

In a highly charged emotional hour, DeGeneres paid tribute to her staff, executive producers and a global audience of loyal viewers. Highlighting the end run of the show DeGeneres brought on guest Jennifer Aniston, the actress having been the comedian’s very first guest on the first show.

In her final monologue DeGeneres reflected on the journey across the years and she then took a moment to dance through the audience with her ‘DJ’ Twitch. During the course of the hour she discussed the progress that had been made since the series premiered in 2003, noting that she “couldn’t say ‘gay’ on the show” when it started or make a reference to her wife, Portia de Rossi, because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal.

“Now I say ‘wife’ all the time,” she said.  Noting that there was resistance to the show and that few gave it a chance of surviving, DeGeneres promised that she wouldn’t be gone for long. “Today is not the end of a relationship, it’s more of a little break,” she said. “You can see other talk shows now.”

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Celebrity News

Crown Prosecution Service UK charges Kevin Spacey with sexual assault

The CPS told the BBC it could not confirm or deny whether or not Spacey will need to be extradited to the UK

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Screenshot/Sky News UK

LONDON – The Crown Prosecution Service announced Thursday that actor Kevin Spacey has been charged with five counts including three complaints relating to sexual abuse, which is alleged to have taken place in London, and one in Gloucestershire during the time period between 2005 and 2013.

Crown prosecutors told media outlets that the decision to move forward was based on a lengthy investigation by the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Directorate at Scotland Yard. The Directorate is a national police agency which handles specialist crime investigations such as e-crime, sex crimes (paedophile unit) or kidnappings.

In its reporting Thursday, the BBC outlined the cases against the actor.

The first two charges relate to alleged sexual assaults on a man, now in his 40s, in London in March 2005, while a second alleged victim, a man now in his 30s, is claimed to have been assaulted in London in August 2008.

The serious sexual offence charge – causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent – also relates to the second alleged victim.

The third complainant relates to an alleged assault on a man who is now in his 30s in Gloucestershire in April 2013.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, told the BBC that following the Met’s review of evidence the CPS had “authorised criminal charges against Kevin Spacey, 62, for four counts of sexual assault against three men”.

She added: “The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Spacey are active and that he has the right to a fair trial.”

The CPS told the BBC it could not confirm or deny whether or not Spacey will need to be extradited to the UK.

Spacey’s alleged sexual assaults occurred while he was living in London and employed as the renowned Old Vic Theatre’s artistic director in London between 2004 and 2015.

Spacey has been embroiled publicly and later in court over sexual assault allegations since October of 2017 when Out actor Anthony Rapp told the world that the Oscar-winning actor had tried to “seduced” him when Rapp was 14 years old. 

Rumours about Spacey’s behaviour had circulated in film and theatre circles for a considerable length of time previous to Rapp’s allegation.

Spacey’s response was immediate. He apologized and came out. “I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,” Spacey wrote on Twitter.

“This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me, and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my own privacy,” Spacey said, adding “I now chose to live as a gay man.”

In July of 2019, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe announced that a charge against Spacey which accused the actor of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old boy in a Nantucket, Mass. bar had been dropped.

In court documents, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said the charge was dropped “due to an unavailability of the complaining witness.”

News anchor Heather Unruh accused Spacey of getting her son, William Little, drunk at the Club Car, a bar in Nantucket, Mass., and groping him in July 2016 when Little was 18 years old.

In October of 2019, the office of then Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that prosecutors have declined to move forward in a sexual battery case against the actor because the accuser had died.

That case, one of several involving accusations of sexual misconduct and assault by the Oscar winning actor, allegedly occurred after an October 2016 incident. A masseur had claimed that Spacey had inappropriately touched him in a sexual manor at a private home in Malibu as he was giving Spacey a massage.

A statement released by the LADA’s office notes that the masseur’s allegations against could not be proven without his participation in court proceedings. The alleged victim had also civil suit pending in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Spacey for the same incident.

Kevin Spacey charged with sexual assault:

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Notables

Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith named to Time’s Top 100 list for 2022

“In the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith”

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Courtesy of Equality Florida

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. – Time magazine released its annual 100 most influential people list and this year one of the honorees was Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. In the biographical sketch accompanying Smith’s listing, Time writer Kristen Arnett noted “in the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith.”

“I am deeply honored to be included in the TIME100,” said Smith, a Black, queer woman. “This recognizes decades of work not only by me, but by the dedicated team of volunteers, staff and supporters I’ve had the privilege to work with at Equality Florida.  Our work is far from done as Florida, once again, stands at the center of the fight against extremism and hate.  We are bearing the brunt of a governor willing to sacrifice the safety of children and destroy our most basic liberties in his desperate bid to be President. But this is not simply Florida’s fight. The wave of anti-LGBTQ, racist, freedom-destroying bills sweeping the country calls each of us to fight for our rights and, indeed, our democracy.”

The list, now in its nineteenth year, recognizes the impact, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. 

Smith comes from a long line of activists and barrier breakers. Her grandparents helped form the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to fight for the rights of sharecroppers. While in college, Smith co-founded IGLYO, the world’s largest LGBTQ youth and student organization. She co-chaired the 1993 March on Washington that drew a million marchers and she was part of the first Oval Office meeting between a sitting President and LGBTQ leaders. In the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Smith and her team coordinated a national response including raising millions in direct resources for survivors and families of the 49 killed. 

Smith’s recognition comes as Florida has taken center stage in the right wing, anti-freedom agenda aimed at erasing LGBTQ people from classrooms, propagandizing curriculum, censoring history, banning books, and putting politicians in control of personal medical decisions.

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambitions have fueled bills like Don’t Say Gay, the Stop WOKE Act, a 15-week abortion ban, and dangerous national rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize LGBTQ people in service to the most extreme segment of his base,” Equality Florida stated in a press release Monday.

The 2022 TIME100, and its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, with related tributes appear in the June 6/June 13 double issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, May 27, and online now at time.com/time100.

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