Lady Bunny is basically the newest Disney princess. Though if you were to ask her about it, she’d prefer “empress.” And this month, New York’s shadiest queen co-stars with Brooklyn drag superstar-cum-Opera singer Monét X Change in “Huluween Dragstravaganza,” a Halloween special streaming now on Hulu (the House of Mouse owns the streamer, hence, Lady Bunny is a de facto Disney empress as far as we’re concerned).
The “Dragstravaganza” is hardly the the first time they’ve worked together. Monét and Bunny host the controversial podcast “Ebony and Irony,” where Bunny expresses her point of view through barbed jokes and Monét, mostly, shares her views in a calm and stated manner. It makes for entertaining conversation when their styles clash. (Keep reading for some of that in real time.)
The plot of “Huluween Dragstravaganza” is inspired by 1960s TV shows like “Bewitched”: Two drag queens, Ginger Minj and Monét X Change, become trapped in a haunted television, and the only way out is to host a Halloween TV Special. Naturally. They host a troupe of drag queens and kings, including Lady Bunny, who perform original spooky-season musical numbers and sketch comedy.
Brooklyn Magazine spoke with Monét X Change about her first time witnessing drag (on the subway in Brooklyn), and with Lady Bunny about her New York debut at Manhattan’s Pyramid Club in the 1980s. The duo explain how “Ebony and Irony” inspired the Halloween special. Bunny clears up whether RuPaul actually is her drag mother. And Monét and Bunny share their reaction to Netflix’s new Marilyn Monroe movie “Blonde.” But first, we had to wait for Monét to show up for the interview …
Bunny, did you visit Trixie Mattel’s new spot, the Trixie Motel, when you were in Palm Springs recently? Lady Bunny: I did not. Trixie’s made a very lucrative career out of being a Lady Bunny impersonator! Maybe one day Lady Bunny will have a lucrative career … Come on, bitch! Where is that skank?
[Monét logs on, though both of their cameras are off.]
Nice to meet your … little gray box. Monét X Change: [Laughs.] Hi, Joshua, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I do this in solidarity with Lady Bunny. She’s a fright to look at. Bunny: I’m the one with the gray box, honey. Monét: My box is pink, Joshuaaaaa. Bunny: You mispronounced “stink.”
Will you talk about how your podcast “Ebony and Irony” inspired the “Huluween” special? Monét: Bunny and I often rant about things on our podcast and we had an episode where we talked about how none of the major streaming networks — Netflix and Hulu — wanted to invest the budget into drag, and really highlight drag for the stars that we are. And then Hulu was like, “Oh, really? Y’all bitches have something to say? Here you go, here’s a Halloween special.” Bunny: There’s a lot of drag competition shows. One in almost every country now! But sometimes it’s nice to see drag queens do what they might do in a club. Now, this is on Hulu, so it’s not dirty. In the spirit of Halloween it can get a little demented, though.
I remember an episode of the podcast where Bunny talked about her phone sex operator character Pepper, and in the Halloween special, you use it in the skit “Ghoul Talk.” Bunny: Pepper was my phone sex personality from the ‘80s. I know you’re all trying not to stimulate yourselves right now listening to me. But yes, Justin Martindale, who proposed the “Huluween Dragstravaganza,” listened to the episode with Pepper and there is a skit in the show that has Jujubee, Mo Heart, Selene Luna, and I as ghoulish phone sex operators.
The Halloween special brings together newer drag queens like Ginger Minj and Monét X Change and “stateswomen” of drag Lady Bunny and Jackie Beat. We don’t see different generations of drag together very often. Monét: Lady Bunny and Jackie Beat are seasoned professionals, and a lot of queens clamor at the chance to work with them. I’m lucky that I get to work with Bunny on our podcast every week — unlucky on some weeks. Their presence meant everyone brought their highest level of comedy, wit, and professionalism to the show. I’m very proud to be part of it and I think it’s the first of many more to come. Bunny: There’s musical numbers on the show and I think Hulu is releasing a five song EP. Monét: The songs are really fucking good. I don’t want to be shady… They’re not the typical ones you hear on other shows [i.e., “Drag Race” songs], these are really catchy.
Monét, you’ve said your first encounter with drag was as a kid on the subway in Brooklyn. Years later, were your first performances in Brooklyn? Monét: I still don’t know what queens I saw, but when I would ride the train to school, I would see queens every so often getting off the train in the morning. They were probably coming home from the bars. But no, I started in the Manhattan scene. I was doing a young artist program with my friend Jasmine Rice, and one day after class we went to a drag show. We ended up going to the Ritz Bar and Lounge, [where] Thorgy Thor had a show called “Saliva!” on Tuesdays and we just stumbled into the show. Me with a bald head and some Ruby Woo lipstick on. I played Brooklyn here and there. I would go to Sugarland Nightclub and This n’ That [both long gone now] but I mainly worked in Manhattan.
Lady Bunny (courtesy Hulu)
Bunny, when you came to the city… Monét: Dinosaurs roamed the earth! Bunny: Pyramid Club was my first venue. I drove to the city in drag from Atlanta to open with RuPaul for this band called Now Explosion and I became a resident gogo dancer and performer at Pyramid Club throughout the ‘80s. That was my main stomping grounds, but I did them all! Limelight, The World, Palladium… Jesus, if I had any memory I would write a book! I also performed at Bushwig about two weeks ago, this festival of Brooklyn oriented drag queens. I’ve done that about four times now.
It’s written in a few places that RuPaul is Bunny’s drag mother because she’s the first person to put Bunny in drag. Bunny, do you consider RuPaul your drag mother? Bunny: Well, she would put me in drag in ways that she wanted. One time she put me in Boy George drag and took the time to put in the same extensions he was wearing at the time. I would later win a costume contest in it. She would give me a few tips here and there, but she would bring me along to her gigs more than actually giving me tips. I had an earlier drag mother in Chattanooga before I met Ru, who was a fantastic performer named Tasha Con, Chattanooga’s own bubbling brown sugar, and she taught me about stage presence. We’re still in touch today.
Have either of you seen the Marilyn Monroe movie “Blonde” on Netflix? People on Twitter say it’s like watching torture porn for three hours. Bunny: Well, isn’t that what the Jeffrey Dahmer show is? Monét: Our society has been leaning into trauma porn for a long time. Bunny: I haven’t seen it or the Dahmer show. But I heard the actor who plays Jeffrey ate that role.
Monét: Oh my god.