If you've missed her up until now, Sharon Needles is a fever dream of latex, profanity, b-horror films, failed GED attempts and lewd alleyway sex acts. She's a reflection of a non-comforming generation, a discarded black fingernail floating in the mimosa of traditional drag. And on Thursday night, she'll pop out of her borrowed coffin at It'll Do Dancing Club for Queen, the venue's new dragabration. She called me from a car, on her way to -- wait for it -- Fire Island.
SHARON NEEDLES: I'm on my way to my ferry to take me to Fire Island, and you know what they say: "What happens in Fire Island, stays in Fire Island. Unless you get AIDS!" [Wild cackle] Mixmaster: You're everywhere! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. SN: No problem! I could talk about myself for hours! M: How did you initially find your love for performing drag? SN: Well I grew up in a small town in Iowa and there weren't a lot of imaginative and fun outlets for kids of my caliber, so pretty much my mom's closet and any large pieces of fabric in the Halloween box were my favorite toys. I've always toyed around with creating over-the-top lady characters in my head. At about 15 I started performing in my first show. Then I was bitten by the drag bug, immediately infected and it's still festering until this day.
M: Tell me a little about that first show? SN: I lip synched to "Human Nature," by Madonna. I was really in love with that video when I was a teenager because she wore vinyl fetish wear. And she got tied to a chair. And she whipped a little chihuahua. So I ended up doing a very innocent, 15 year-old's version of a very adult video. It was pretty much like any queen's first performance: God awful and terrible.
M: Even then your characters were not standard-issue, hair shushers. Did you ever dabble with more mainstream, traditionally polished characters? SN: I've always been a little off the beaten path. But I wanted to fit in with the drag world, so I would try out for those pageants, but my brain has always been broken. And after a couple of years I realized that I would always make dead last. And that I must be more different than I thought I was. So I embrace it, and I love other performers who can think outside of the box to put on an entertaining show.
I like blood and guts and puke and things that make me laugh, so while I definitely tried to be accepted in that pageant world, it wasn't really flying with them. M: Needles has gone through a bit of evolution, in those early videos she's a thrashed up prostitute, wrecking through alleys. And now, she's dead. SN: Correct! Sharon Needles was based on two things: That she was beautiful and that she was stupid. I did that because the other queens' personas were to be mean, or attacking, or bitchy. Or as we like to say, cunt-y. I'm no good at faking that: I'm naturally kind of cunty. So we made her stupid and a beautiful prostitute. But she was missing something that made her complete, so I decided to make her dead.
I have such a fascination with horror films, and people like Elvira, Peggy Bundy and Rhonda Shear from USA Up All Night, so we made her beautiful, spooky and stupid. It's advice that I always give queens: Pick three pieces of your formula that really aren't you -- that's just for her -- and stick to it. That allows for versatility but keeps your character consistent.