Drag at the Castro: LeMay Eats Peaches

From SF Weekly

February 8, 2011
By Steven LeMay


Contrary to most people’s natural assumptions upon meeting me and experiencing my flamboyant nature, I did not grow up digging through my mother’s and sister’s clothing and lip-synching into a hair brush (although that did happen two weeks ago)! When I self reflect, (as we all should) and try to see if there were inclinations in my childhood that would clue me in to the fabulousness that awaited me, I don’t come up with much. I do, however, have great recollections of the style and personality of my mom and her forays into fashion and her burgeoning womanly independence (Big words…I know darling.)

One frequent question I am often asked during my incessant interviews is “Who are your idols?” Well, to be honest, when I think about this, I am a bad gay and the best gay, all rolled into one. You see, I was not blessed with the Broadway show-tune gene, or the movie-actress-quote gene, (or the floral-arranging gene either, for that matter…not to mention tying a bow), but what I do have is the best mother, who taught me countless things about style, fashion, personality, substance, and perseverance.

Those characteristics, as embodied by my mom, are most likely the same things that drew me to an early acceptance of the brilliance of Cloris Leachman. Like most people, I consider Young Frankenstein to be without a doubt one of my favorite movies, and her performance as Frau Blücher (insert horse whinny) is simply unforgettable.

So needless to say, I was thrilled to hear that one of our local drag idols (in training), Peaches Christ, would be interviewing Cloris at the Castro Theater as part of the finale to SF Sketchfest, on the same weekend that an art show of work inspired by Peaches and the Christ family is opening at Glama-Rama.

Now I know some of you may think Peaches is getting preferential treatment by being mentioned here two weeks in a row, so I just want to be clear: That couldn’t be closer to the truth! Frankly speaking, Peaches is one of very few performers in S.F. who have parlayed their name into a symbol of quality. (I know, that was even hard to type with a straight face.) However, she has the ultimate resume for idol-worshipping (and not just because that is also the name of one of her ‘hit’ singles.) Her interviews with alternative movie icons rocked 10-plus seasons of Midnight Mass shenanigans at the Bridge Theater.

Something should have told me we’d be in for a special treat at the Castro on Saturday night, when we arrived, and the line went down the block…around the corner…down the block….around the corner…(I am not lying)…down the block…well, and after that, who cares, ’cause that’s where we ended up. At first I felt cheap for having to sleep with someone for the tickets, and still having to wait in line…but everyone was in a great mood and once the line moved, it moved very quickly. Also, a well placed text to someone in the front of the line can work wonders (thank you Johnny).

In typical Peaches-production style, the thematic pre-show, fueled by local drag performers re-creating some of Cloris’ signature roles, whipped the audience into a frenzy, and when Cloris finally arrived, the 84-year-old received a thunderous, well-deserved, standing ovation.

The interview was tremendous and irreverent and unexpected. I would like to say Peaches did a great job, but truly, Cloris ran the show. She is a spitfire, (which always just sounds like a word for a crazy old person) with great timing and reckless abandon.

For instance…it seems that Ms. Leachman has a history of wig-snatching, and honey, oh yes…she didn’t let down…during the interview, while Peaches sat back and did his best to wrangle her unbridled humor, she just up and said “I want to take your wig off.” Now you could have knocked me over with a feather, ’cause I know some queens are touchy about their hair. But baby, if Cloris wants to snatch your wig, you just let her! And that’s what Peaches did, the consummate professional, she just sat there, slightly unfazed, wig in a heap on the floor behind her, laughing it off, and moving on the the next subject.

The interview ended with one of the best audience Q & A’s that I have ever experienced. At first, when they opened the floor up to questions, you could sense that a lot of people, like myself, wanted to ask something and share a special private/public moment with the star, having the focus of the audience on just you and her. Well, be careful what you ask for. As I sat there formulating what I should ask, she jokingly dissuaded anyone from asking “What was it like working with Mary?”, “What was it like working with Mel?” as no doubt she has ​heard those endlessly. So when the first person stood and asked his question “Do you like working on TV better, or movies?”, her sarcastic reply of “That’s always a good question!” was met with deafening laughter and applause. Unfortunately the two other people asking questions did not fare any better, as she turned the spotlight on them and gave them a memory to last a lifetime, even to the point of making one of them get on stage and jump rope over the mic cord…for reals!!

All in all, it was a great evening and wonderful night of Idol Worship that was enjoyed immensely by the 1,000-plus people in attendance. When a legendary actress and a drag queen can fill a sold-out theater with howling and hilarity, all is right in the world…at least for a day.

And if you missed Cloris, well…that’s your tough shit, but your gain is that you can still worship Peaches and her clan by checking out the great artwork that went on display for Sunday nights opening of “Popcorn, Blood and Glitter: Art Inspired by the World of Peaches Christ” at the Glama-Rama Salon on Valencia St. Seriously, where else but in S.F. could you find an art show inspired by blood and glitter? A lot of great local artists are on display, and who knows, one day when Peaches is dead, it will be worth, well, probably the same, but who knows, right?

I give this weekend five out of five ding-dongs!!

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