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RuPaul: 'Starrbooty' Call
by Amy Matheny, Windy City Queercast
2007-12-01

This article shared 8731 times since Sat Dec 1, 2007
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After strutting down catwalks and with that famous phrase, 'You Better Work' in the Supermodel video, RuPaul became a mainstream success. RuPaul then joined Elton John on a duet and assisted Mac cosmetics in a breakthrough fundraising campaign for HIV/AIDS. The evolution of RuPaul continued as artist, actor, activist, singer, talk show host, and much more. Starrbooty is Ru's newest movie venture, it was at Reeling 2007 Chicago's gay and lesbian film festival next week.

Windy City Queercast: What performers were your earliest inspirations?

RuPaul: Thanks to the Mike Douglas show, I was privy to many performers on television. Everything I've ever learned has been on television. The ones that really resonated were Diana Ross, Cher and David Bowie, of course. They are such standouts in their fields, not only because they were so talented but because they pushed the envelope, and I so related to people who could push the envelope.

WCQ: David Bowie really brings into focus the yin yang, male/female, the androgyny, if you will, of you. Even Oprah's got everybody talking about gender. What is different today than when you gave birth to this persona of RuPaul?

R: It's an interesting question, because I was born in 1960. I experienced the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay movement, the sexual revolution—all of those things where our culture was pushing the envelope and really trying new things. In fact, people were encouraged to try new things. That seemed to all come to a crashing halt during the Reagan era except for a small window of opportunity when Clinton got into office, which is when I broke through into mainstream. That window closed very quickly.

We live in a patriarchal culture, and in fact doing drag, or even women toying with feminine energy, is akin to an act of treason in a patriarchal society. So where we are today is the scariest place I've ever seen it, where young gay kids are obsessed with anything 'straight-acting.' Even the gay elite, the media, are obsessed with everything that's straight acting. [ Gay ] magazines [ have ] straight people on the cover. You [ would ] never see Essence magazine, which is focused toward a Black female demographic, put Britney Spears on the cover. But gay magazines justify it because they feel like, well, I don't know how they justify it, because it's sales and they want to make money. I don't know. But it's a scary place. It's a worrisome place for gender in America today.

WCQ: Do you find yourself changing as a result of that?

R: It's always been difficult ... for a man to use femininity as a palate ...but it is extra-difficult today, and I've seen the winds of change turn really ugly in recent years. The things that I get offered on television are ... bite the head off of a live chicken or mud-wrestle Maureen McCormick from The Brady Bunch, or things where the gay character or the femme character is the evil character.

WCQ: How did you break through that mold, then?

R: It's something in my nature, growing up with my mom who question [ ed ] authority, almost to a fault. She encouraged me to do what I needed to do, regardless of what other people thought of it ... to say just screw it, you know? That's gotten me into trouble. I remember when I was growing up in San Diego, I would go to the beach on the bus, because we didn't live near the beach, and when I would come back to my neighborhood all the kids would stand with their arms crossed, and say, 'Oh. So you must think you're white or something' or 'You think you're better than us?' It was that scenario that followed me all of my life, because I've always gone to the places that I felt I needed to go, and it threatened the people who I left behind.

WCQ: What do you think of other people stepping onto this platform of drag? Is the envelope being pushed?

R: I think that Dirty Sanchez, the band, is really exciting. They're pushing the envelope, but we're kind of from the same era. I don't see enough of it from the younger people, and it saddens me. I live in New York, and I was looking at some kids and thinking, I wish they were screwing with it a little bit more, just pushing it. I feel so disappointed with the younger generation, especially the younger gay kids. I hate to say that, but I wish that they could see beyond what's being presented to them. I'm amazed that people are still obsessed with celebrities. It's so a sign of a culture's inability to recognize your spiritual base. If you are focusing on some teeny-bop girly girl who doesn't wear panties, you are looking for opportunities to not focus on your own personal power. And who knows what part the government plays in that, because they love it when we're distracted by some bleach [ ed- ] blonde bimbo or someone who's going to rehab or whatever. But I'm surprised that young people buy into that stuff, and won't go, 'That's crap, we're not gonna listen to this stuff,' you know?

WCQ: Starrbooty is a remake. Tell us about the original Starrbooty film.

R: Starrbooty is a character I created 20 years ago in Atlanta, Ga. Based on John Waters and Russ Meyer films … that palate, that template and my own version of it. I took my brother-in-law's camera and we shot this really guerilla movie, and I edited it with two VCRs and played it in clubs in Atlanta. Well, it made its way across the United States and became a cult classic. Twenty years later, I decided it was time to bring this character back because no one else is doing it. The closest is like Borat or Jackass where it's completely irreverent, making fun of everything. Nothing is spared in this movie. In fact, Starrbooty the character is this self-righteous do-gooder who's righting the wrongs of society. Basically, we're making fun of that mentality, especially in this politically correct climate we've been in for the last 15 or 20 years.

WCQ: Were blaxploitation films and Pam Grier a strong influence for the film?

R: Absolutely. The one and only fan letter I've ever written was to Warner Bros. Pictures in 1973 after I saw Cleopatra Jones. I was in love. And I grew up in a house with all women, so I longed for movies with bitches kickin' ass. I love that, love it. So when I saw Cleopatra Jones, I can't tell you how excited I was. So it did have a huge impact on me. Even today I'll go see many movies with bitches kickin' ass. Most of them aren't very good. Like that thing with Uma Thurman called My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Horrible. Aeon Flux … Domino ... but I go every single time.

WCQ: Kill Bill was pretty good.

R: Kill Bill was awesome. Awesome! Love, love, love Kill Bill. In the movie The DaVinci Code, they touch on goddess energy and the conspiracy against it, and how it's missing from our culture. There's such a deficit of that energy … our culture's inability to accept goddess energy, and to accept love between two men, and anything to do with real femininity. I'm not talking about Hello Kitty and everything pink and fuzzy. I'm talking about feminine energy at its core, the thing that we all have. We deny it so much that it's made an impact on art across the board. So many stories have not been told [ and ] so many songs have not been sung because of our country's fear of goddess feminine energy.

WCQ: Talk about working with Candis Cayne ( Dirty Sexy Money ) , Ari Gold, Miss Lady Bunny and famed photographer Mike Ruiz, the director. What amazing people in this film and what energy!

R: All of the people you mentioned have that same, outside-of-the-box mentality. Candis Cayne couldn't be more of a kind person. She is so wonderful. Ari was over at my house last night. I was uploading his iPod. …All of the people in the movie are from the same mentality, so when I told them I was doing this guerilla movie which was completely irreverent, they just completely jumped at it. You know they make movies for the demographic that spends the money, [ which is ] 14-year-old white boys. I don't want to see [ that ] . I want more and I want more people who are making fun, poking fun at the establishment.


This article shared 8731 times since Sat Dec 1, 2007
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