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BenDeLaCreme talks about new tour, 'Drag Race'
by Jerry Nunn
2022-03-21

This article shared 1009 times since Mon Mar 21, 2022
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Drag artist BenDeLaCreme is racing back into Chicago for a solo tour after postponing due to the COVID pandemic. The openly gay RuPaul's Drag Race All-Star is bringing "BenDeLaCreme is…Ready to be Committed" to Thalia Hall this May. Playing off real-life marriage plans and relationship expectations, BenDeLaCreme is also combining elements of burlesque, comedy and original music into her new act.

The drag personality of Benjamin Putnam was a standout on the sixth season of Drag Race, and was eventually cast on the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars. Putnam has brought to life several solo shows in the past, such as "Cosmos" and "Terminally Delightful." Putnam also co-created the shows "Freedom Fantasia" and "Homo for the Holidays."

In 2002, Putnam attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and eventually performed in drag around the Windy City. He takes his name from the French term "creme de la creme" and prefers male pronouns as Putnam and female pronouns as DeLa.

Windy City Times: I noticed you are calling me on a Chicago phone number.

BenDeLaCreme: Yes; I never changed my number. We live in a time when a phone number doesn't reflect where you live. I moved to Seattle in 2006 and we just moved to LA two days ago, I'm standing in my furniture-less yard right now.

WCT: Who was the first drag performer you ever saw?

BDLC: I saw RuPaul as a teen when she came out with "Supermodel." I didn't even know what she was. I saw her as a magical creature that I somehow identified with. I didn't have a concept that RuPaul was a male person.

When I would take the train into Boston, a bar there had underage nights. That's when I saw my first drag queen live. After her number, I remember following her around the club. I wanted to figure out how she did it.

Varla Jean Merman was a big deal for me when I was 18. She was doing her Christmas show, "Varla Jean Merman's Holiday Ham," in the basement of Machine Nightclub. I had never seen anything like it. She was beautiful, with a gorgeous singing voice. She was silly and had props and videos. I never knew drag could be all that.

WCT: I met you at Roscoe's Tavern many years ago.

BDLC: Roscoe's was the place I first performed drag on stage. When I turned 21 and was still going to school, Roscoe's was running a Drag Race competition before RuPaul's Drag Race. I wanted to get into doing drag and worked with one of the winning queens just down the street at [restaurant] Nookies Tree. I competed and got through the first two rounds, then lost miserably.

WCT: I probably ordered a burger from you back in the day at Nookies! Talk about constructing your current show.

BDLC: This is my fourth solo show. My first show was a biography. My second was about science. My third was based on Dante's Inferno. This one was inspired by my partner proposing to me.

This brought up a lot of crazy emotions that I was blindsided by. If I can't wrap my mind about something, then I make a show about it!

My boyfriend proposed, so this is about DeLa planning her own wedding. There are personal things in the show, but it's not autobiographical, because I consider Ben and DeLa two different people. She's exploring topics I was thinking about but in a really different way.

She wants to have a big wedding and party, then realizes there's a lot entailed in a wedding. She needs to get a cake, a dress and a groom. She takes to dating apps to find the perfect man. She meets a pervert on Grindr where she misunderstands things because she's so innocent.

Culturally, there are so many ideas that have been put on us about what real love is or what a successful relationship looks like. Most of them are not realistic. They are based on fairytales and romcoms. The pressure is to find the one and live happily ever after. I wanted to make something different than that. That is not most people's experience. Many of us have trouble finding love. It's a lot of work and so is being single.

WCT: I've noticed that some people act like being single is a failure.

BDLC: Exactly. Maybe you can meet someone to spend a life with or a certain amount of time with, but none of that is a reflection of someone's self-worth. A lot of it is a coincidence.

WCT: As a single guy, could I meet someone at your show?

BDLC: [Laughs] Maybe you will be brought together by your mutual love of BenDeLaCreme.

In every audience, there is always a happy couple, an unhappy couple, a happy single person, an unhappy single person and someone that's loved and lost. I want the show to speak to everybody.

WCT: How have things changed since the postponement of the tour?

BLDC: As eager as I am to get back on the road it's been nice to have some time to up the ante on the production value. I have been working with designers and artists to make the visuals more spectacular for a larger tour. The material has held up surprisingly well.

It deals with the ideas of being alone, mortality and isolation. This has only become more relevant and immediate for all of us over the last couple of years. That universal need for connection only raises the stakes on DeLa's desperation to race to the altar.

WCT: How have you bonded with your lookalike RuPaul Drag Race judge Michelle Visage?

BDLC: We did and were on tour together when Battle of the Seasons was in full swing. It was usually me, Jinkxs Monsoon and her sharing a dressing room, which was by far the loudest experience you could ever imagine.

We do check in a lot. When Gus proposed, she was one of the first people I messaged.

WCT: Do you regret dropping out of the All-Star competition?

BDLC: Oh god, no. My experience on All-Stars was the ideal version of what it could be. I got to go in and show the world of what I had to offer. I proved that I could win the game, but didn't accept the terms. That was a powerful feeling.

People have reached out to me and said they were able end a bad relationship or quit a job that they hated after seeing me on the show.

WCT: Did you get any flack from RuPaul about quitting All-Stars?

BDLC: Well, it's not like any of us have personal relationships with RuPaul. She very much keeps to herself. I have the utmost respect for that. Everyone needs alone time and she is always out in the public.

I would be shocked if she didn't love it. It was so good for ratings and that episode was one of the most viewed episodes ever.

At the end of the day, RuPaul made a reality show and she wants it to be the best it can be. I doubt she gives a shit about who wins and who doesn't!

WCT: Have you picked a front-runner for season 14 yet?

BDLC: I don't pick frontrunners. That has never been my thing, but there are a lot of girls I'm very impressed by. Willow Pill, Angeria Paris VanMicheals, and Bosco have all been a blast to watch.

There seems to be a feeling of joy in what they are creating this season. You get a sense that some of these girls have a real deep connection to drag, not as a fad or a means to fame, but a genuine love of the art form, and that's my favorite thing to watch.

WCT: What advice would you give the new queens on RuPaul's Drag Race?

BDLC: It's so hard to take deep breaths and be present when you are in the moment. It's a rollercoaster ride when you first get all that attention. So much of it is positive and so much of it is negative. With all of it, you have to take it in stride.

Remember who you are and what you are about. Don't listen to the negative stuff. With the positive stuff, it's about what you love about you, not what others love about you.

WCT: Do you think there should be a budget limit on RuPaul's Drag Race to level the playing field?

BDLC: There should be a budget period! Why are some of these queens having to take out loans for dresses? Why are we rewarding privilege over creativity?

Give every girl the same amount of money and see what they can do with it. They shouldn't be allowed to go over the stated amount and they all start with that level playing field. That way we get to see what each queen can do with the same resources. Now that would be a reflection of their creativity and resourcefulness. No one should have to gamble away their money while dressing for a reality TV show.

WCT: What are your plans after the tour?

BDLC: I go straight into rehearsal with Jinkx for our Christmas show. We do all the holiday shows, so it's bam, bam, bam!

WCT: Drag Racer Shea Coulee just talked publicly about retiring from drag at age 40. What are your thoughts on drag queens aging?

BDLC: I came from pre-Drag Race days. I have been doing drag, at this point, for more than 15 years. My idols Varla Jean Merman, Miss Coco Peru, Lady Bunny and Jackie Beat really created the scene that inspired me. There's no age cap on them because they are not about being youthful models. They are about fun, amazing characters that are ageless and timeless.

For me, I love performing. I'm going to perform until my hips give out, which might be sooner than later, since I dance around in stripper heels. I have arthritis in both hips already and I'm not even 40 yet!

I do so much writing, directing and producing that I will move into that when I'm not physically able to do drag anymore. Drag is such a deep-seated thing in my heart that I can't imagine being without it. I have done it my whole life and will always be a drag queen, even I can't perform anymore!

BenDeLaCreme is…Ready to be Committed will take place at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St., on Thursday, May 26, at 8 p.m. Commit to tickets at BenDeLaCreme.com or ThaliaHallChicago.com .


This article shared 1009 times since Mon Mar 21, 2022
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