Playing Coy

Plus: Dude, You Owe Us, Like, $95,000; Edit Yourself

Playing Coy

"It's not easy to play a woman,'' playwright Charles Ludlam once observed. "I often think it must be hard for a woman to play a woman.'' Dallas actor Coy Covington would agree. He's been donning hip pads and heavy pancake for women's roles for a decade. But don't dub him a drag queen. This son of a Marine prefers simply "actor,'' one who specializes in gender switching. Currently he's starring as the glamorous Mary Dale in Uptown Players' Red Scare on Sunset, the Charles Busch send-up of the Hollywood red-baiting panic of the 1950s (at the Trinity River Arts Center from April 23 through May 16). Over tea and cookies at, where else, Celebrity Bakery, Covington offered a glimpse into the man behind the makeup.

How did you get so good at playing girls?

Now you see him, now you don't: Coy Covington
Now you see him, now you don't: Coy Covington

Back in the '80s, after I'd let my acting career sort of wander off, I started doing impersonations at nightclubs. For contests, I did a big Les Miz number, playing all the roles. Then I started lip-synching dialogue from Mommie Dearest, Sunset Boulevard and Gone With the Wind, with costume changes in front of the audience. I'd end with the "I'll never go hungry again'' speech and bring down the house. It was a creative outlet.

Hours in front of the mirror for practice?

Yes, and you wear the heels [size 11] around the house. You vacuum in your heels.

I know I do. So the contests led to...

Hosting, as a woman, a touring show of male strippers all over the Southwest and Southeast. That was fun. If you think drag queens are high maintenance, try a bunch of dick dancers.

When did you start getting cast as females in legit theaters?

In the early '90s, somebody told me the old Moonstruck Theatre was doing a couple of Busch comedies. I auditioned and got cast as a woman in all of them. Then I worked at Pegasus Theatre, also now closed, and was hooked for good. At Uptown Players, I played the female lead last year in Ruthless! [another Busch comedy]. It's been steady work since 1998. How do you maintain your girlish figure?

I work out three times a week. I wear a size 10 or 12 dress, depending on the length of sleeve. I have long arms. And even though I'm 6 feet tall, I always wear heels. There is no glamour in a flat shoe.

Your makeup onstage is very old Hollywood, very Joan Crawford-finds-her-keylight.

It takes a full two hours, sometimes three, to do the makeup. It's mostly theatrical products, with 99-cent eyelashes and drugstore Coty face powder. Lots of powder. Nothing worse than a shiny mug. When I scrape it all off after the show, I look like a peeled onion.

Afraid of getting typed as the "drag'' guy?

I've gotten so much notoriety for female roles, people forget I'm an actor. Uptown is doing Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! later this year. I'd love to play one of the men in that. We'll see.

OK, woman to woman, give me some secrets for how to be more glam.

Pay close attention to foundation garments. Very important. Fishnets. I'm a big believer in fishnets. They flatter any leg. Always stand like you're on a red carpet, one foot in front of the other with a little twist at the ankle. Real glamour is all in the bevel of the foot.

--Elaine Liner

Dude, You Owe Us, Like, $95,000

The Dallas City Council voted unanimously on April 14 to fund a safety survey of the Dallas Zoo's gorilla habitat. It is the exhibit from which Jabari, a 13-year-old, 350-pound gorilla, escaped last month, injuring three zoo visitors before he was shot and killed. The survey will cost the city $95,750 and is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before the gorilla habitat can be reopened.

The city and the zoo might not level with you, but we at Full Frontal will: Friends, that ship has sailed. The gorilla exhibit is as dead as Jabari. With that in mind, we've come up with some alternate uses for that 95 large.

Training a monkey police force. Dallas Zoo obviously has a security problem, one that a simple survey will not cure. It's time to let the inmates run the asylum, so to speak. Now, monkeys--even, say, a dozen of them--would not be able to stop a rampaging gorilla like Jabari. But, if properly trained, they might be able to stop those kinds of situations before they start. Plus, let's face it, nothing will get the kids laughing like a monkey in DPD blues. And we could all use a laugh right about now.

Luring some celebrity talent to the zoo. We're talking Marcel from Friends, Clyde from Every Which Way But Loose, Roddy McDowall from Planet of the Apes. OK, at least two of these are dead, but you get our point. The kind of celebs who don't get out of bed for less than $10,000. Or a really big stack of bananas. Like, really big.

Finally fielding a competitive team in the slow-pitch, primate-only softball league. Dallas Zoo has had its furry behind handed to it on a regular basis by zoo teams all over the Southwest, even the spider monkey-led squad from Waco's Cameron Park Zoo. They need money for a real field and proper equipment, especially uniforms that withstand chronic, almost obsessive masturbating. The zoo needs a morale boost. This might be it.

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