GAYLETTER

GAYLETTER

Monday 09.27.21

LINDA SIMPSON

Linda Simpson is one of those New Yorkers who makes you remember why you love New York. The downtown drag queen has seen it all, and documented a good chunk of it with her camera. The list of people she’s photographed, and befriended, is long and illustrious. Having moved to the city back in the early ’80s from Minnesota to study at NYU, Linda quickly became a part of the downtown scene hosting parties and publishing a street zine called My Comrade. Linda was there when RuPaul, Lady Bunny, and Leigh Bowery were making names for themselves in local East Village bars like the Pyramid Club. She got to know Joey Arias, Tabboo!, and Justin Vivian Bond.

 

This year she released her coffee table book The Drag Explosion, which features candid photos of those I just mentioned, plus many others. The book is a love letter to her community and to New York. Early one April evening we sat down with Linda to discuss the book, her life and her first impressions of some of the people that make this city so special.

 

We love the book, it’s so fun to look through. So much queer New York history and so many interesting people. How did you end up in New York City? I grew up in Minnesota. I originally came to New York for school. I went to NYU for about a year and a half. I actually dropped out and then moved away for a while, but then I came back and went to FIT. …

Thursday 09.23.21

Justin Vivian Bond

Justin Vivian Bond is the definition of a multi-hyphenate, an actress, singer-songwriter, artist, and writer, the list goes on, but maybe the most accurate title is cabaret phenomenon. Vivian’s star first rose with the success of Kiki and Herb, a self-consciously camp act where Vivian played Kiki DuRane, a broke-down showbiz diva, and Kenny Mellman her pianist, Herb. Since then she’s established a singular career that spans Broadway, opera, musical albums, and an autobiography. Vivian’s good friend actress Gwendoline Christie caught up with the powerhouse over zoom. The duo had a rollicking good time reconnecting. They discussed everything from human contact to tips on how to stay juicy.

 

 

I want to see your eyes. Can I see them? I’ll show you mine crying.

 

Oh, sweet heart. How are you? I’m all right. I had a crazy night last night, but I just got off the phone with my psychoanalyst. He was very helpful. He said this wonderful quote, that healing comes from doing unto others that which was not done unto you. It’s taking it one step further than those lazy Christians.

 

Not only are you one of our greatest living performers, a modern-day Maria Callas, but you’re also effortlessly beautiful. How do you stay so juicy? That is a very good question. Obviously I hydrate, I drink water. I’m from the South where it’s very dry, it just leeches all the moisture out of your brainstem. It’s sort of like magic mushrooms, you’re basically tripping.

 

So if you want to have an out of body experience, dehydration will take you there. …

Monday 09.20.21

CARLOS MARTIEL

With his body at the center of his durational performances, Martiel pushes his own limits while also calling attention to deplorable histories.

Perhaps we should start at the beginning; could you speak a little bit about what it was like coming up in Cuba? When did you begin performing? I started working in performance in 2007. I remember that back in the day I was studying goldsmithing at the San Alejandro Art Academy, and alongside my jewelry work, I was also making unconventional drawings. I say unconventional because the materials I was using to make them were not traditional, like oil or acrylic paint, or even using a canvas. I was using different pigments, such as iron oxide diluted in vinegar, coal, beeswax, and blood. And it was the use of my own blood, specifically, which catapulted me to working with my own body. To extract my blood and make drawings, I had to go to public clinics and ask the nurses on duty to perform a phlebotomy on me. At first they agreed to do it, but as I started coming to the clinic more often, they began to either decrease the amount of blood extracted or refuse to do it altogether. This caused a great deal of frustration, since I couldn’t materialize the type of work I wished to make. That’s when I had the idea of using my body as an object and a subject of my conceptual interests, without having to depend on a third party. This is how I came to realize my first performance.

 

 

I am blown away at your roster of past performances; you are quite prolific. …

Wednesday 09.08.21

QWEEN JEAN

She's is a true force of nature. She’s an activist and, in her own words, a “fearless woman” working tirelessly to advocate for trans liberation. She tells us about her mission, her inspirations and the kind of world she’s trying to create.

I love to start every conversation with a bit of joy and positivity. So what is bringing you joy right now, Qween? At this very moment, well, in terms of today on the 14th of June, what’s really bringing me joy is the love that I felt yesterday. It was the second annual Brooklyn Liberation March at the Brooklyn Museum, organized by Black queer and Black trans, intersectional community members, and activists who wanted to create a safe space for community and particularly the transgender community, the transgender youth. People came from all parts of New York City, also from Jersey, from Upstate, from Philly, from D.C. They really came out for liberation.

 

When you look in the mirror, who is Qween Jean to you? Queen Jean is a bad girl. She is a fearless woman. She’s curvy, she’s beautiful. She’s dark, she’s rich, and she loves to smile. That’s who I see.

 

 

How did growing up Black and trans in Florida inform and influence your activism and the community that you cultivate today? Growing up Black and trans in Florida, honestly, I felt alone. I felt a lot of doubt. I questioned everything about myself. I questioned so much that I considered and contemplated, you know, “would it be better if I wasn’t here? If I wasn’t alive? If I wasn’t a burden to the people who said that they loved me?” And to be honest, I think as soon as I moved away, I actually made a promise to myself that I could never go back to that headspace. …

Monday 08.30.21

ERIC RHEIN

In his new book, the southern writer and artist channels the unknown and documents the intergenerational experience of HIV.

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Monday 08.23.21

YANNICK LEBRUN

Yannick Lebrun is a 34-year-old dancer and a principal at the esteemed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He spoke to us about growing up in French Guiana, moving to New York City, and performing for Beyoncé.

 

How did you end up in New York? I moved to New York at the age of 17 after I graduated high school. I was born and raised in French Guiana, which is an overseas department of France in South America, between Brazil and Suriname. So my environment was Amazon forests, tropical — a very green territory. I started dancing in French Guiana when I was nine years old. I did a lot of different dance competitions, got a lot of different scholarships, and had opportunities to attend summer programs in New York and France. When I received the scholarship to come study at the Ailey School in 2004, this is when I was like, okay, New York will be the place where I follow my dream and become a professional dancer. I wanted to go dance in a company that would accept my background, my unique cultural identity as a person of color. So, joining Alvin Ailey was my goal. First, I joined the Alvin Ailey School where I trained for two years. Then, I joined Ailey II in 2006, and then I joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater officially in 2008. That energy coming to New York City and being surrounded by all these amazing, young and talented Black dancers — I was so inspired. …

Friday 08.20.21

ROBIN FRANCESCA WILLIAMS

“I want it to feel as though these women are getting the last laugh,” artist Robin Francesca Williams explains about the toothy grins in her atmospheric portraits. With much of her work, Williams aims to show how women have been mistrusted, scapegoated, and demonized, but also to expose the expectation of their moral superiority, that they must kindly demonstrate purity and unconditional love on behalf of mankind. Interested in flawed, malicious, menacing, and wild female characters, she has a fascination with B-movies and cult classics, gravitating toward erotic thrillers because they tend to argue that the flaws of women are inherently more dangerous than the flaws of men. “They make tidy stories out of this belief,” she asserts. “My paintings are looking to untidy those stories and test these cultural contradictions.” She always renders her figures with a twist — a pregnant ghost, a kind troll hanging upside-down, or a dark angel as the embodiment of outer space. “None of my witches have pointy hats,” she laughs. “Sometimes I think about that test they did during the Salem witch trials — how they would throw a woman into the water. If she sank, then she wasn’t a witch, but she drowned. And if she floated and lived, then she was seen as a witch, and they would burn her. But I always thought if she was a real witch, she would constantly be a few steps ahead of them. She’d dive right in. She would just turn into water. Or turn into stone, sink to the bottom and walk out.” …

Friday 08.13.21

MS. BOOGIE & TRANNILISH

A conversation between besties and musical collaborators

Miss Boogie: Hey sis. For those who don’t know, tell them who you are.

 

Trannilish: It’s Trannilish. You could call me Lish, AKA Ms. Titties Gigantic. My look is dramatic.

 

Miss Boogie: Miss Boogie over here, AKA Miss Boogie What’s Goodie also known as Ms. Douche Down. Sis, so what song are you starting your day with?

 

Trannilish: I’m going to start my day with a little bit of Kaytranada, Teedra Moses “Be Your Girl.” What about you?

 

Miss Boogie: So it’s this cute song. It’s like an older song, but it’s called “Hold It Down” by this collective 4hero. I really love the lyrics so you should check that out. I don’t know if I’ve sent it to you yet, but I will soon.

 

Trannilish: Yeah, definitely send that over.

 

Miss Boogie: Yes sis, okay. My memory is usually faded because I smoke too much, so what’s our link up story? How did we link up?

 

Trannilish: We linked up in summer 2009 when I was doing my little fashion thing, you know, body paint, makeup. And you hit me up because you were walking the Latex Ball and you wanted me to do your makeup. Myspace days.

 

Miss Boogie: Right, a decade ago. I remember like it was yesterday.

 

Trannilish: Over a decade ago, bitch.

 

Miss Boogie: So it was the Latex Ball and the category was Female Figure Runway and they said bring it like a magazine editorial. …

Wednesday 08.11.21

François Sagat

The GAYLETTER Back Page

Since his first scene in 2004, porn star François Sagat has been dominating the erotic film world with his beefcake figure and rugged good looks. A muscular Frenchman of Slovakian descent, his career boasts an eclectic mix of mainstream adult acting and non-pornographic projects (including a brief appearance in Saw VI). Over the course of his nearly two decades-long career, he’s also released several songs as well as the dance EP Chamelia (available on Spotify), played the lead role in the 2010 art film Homme au bain, had his genitalia replicated for a line of signature dildos, and been the subject of a documentary exploring his multifaceted persona.

 

While much of this work was put on hold during the pandemic, he hinted that his months of quarantine were still full of life, rhythm, and drama. François has no intention of being tied down, by a relationship that is. A quick dive into his Instagram will reveal a cheeky dance with a green blanket, BTS shots from an upcoming music video, film stills of glossy 1980s studs, and more.

 

During our conversation, it became clear François has a wild imagination and few inhibitions. On the subject of sexual fantasies, the actor highlighted his interest in having intercourse with a François Sagat clone (a fantasy many of us share). His drink of choice is Champagne rosé and his favorite city is Paris — though it’s a love-hate relationship. According to François, the best sex tip he’s learned from a fellow porn star is to avoid salad before douching. …

Thursday 08.05.21

Perfume Genius

Michael Alden Hadreas has been writing, producing, and performing music under his nom de plume Perfume Genius since his debut album, Learning, was released in 2010. Since then he has released four more albums, with the most recent coming out mere days before the world shut down in February 2020. His newest album, titled Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, is a haunting creation filled with beautiful melodies and, in the words of Pitchfork writer Madison Bloom, “grimy, guttural dissonance” (the publication gave it a rare 9.0 score). Other reviews piled on similar praise.

 

I chatted with Hadreas from the Los Angeles home he shares with his boyfriend of 12 years, who’s also a frequent collaborator, Alan Wyffels. In 2020, not only were Hadreas’ tour plans derailed but he also fell prey to a “really bad Crohn’s flare up.” This thrust the musician into a dark place that he has since been working his way out of. I found Hadreas to be open, intelligent, and witty. It was a pleasure getting to know him.

 

 

Where are you now based and where were you last year during the pandemic? Me and my partner, Alan, we moved to Los Angeles from Seattle three years ago. It feels more recent than that, but I guess it was three years ago. So that’s where we were when the pandemic started and we moved in the middle of it, just because our house was cave-like and pretty dark. I liked our neighborhood, but we were not in the neighborhood, we were in our house. …

Tuesday 07.27.21

Richie Nath

When I spoke to artist Richie Nath via Zoom, he was unsure how long he would have Internet because a bombing had recently happened only blocks from his home in Myanmar (formerly Burma). About the turbulent political climate he explained, “We were looted by the British and were under a dictatorship for 60 years, and we are currently under another dictatorship.” His brother had been in prison for over a month because they found protest gear in his car at a roadside checkpoint. Over the past several months, protesters have been subjected to violence and even death. And while clubs and bars frequently had “fab nights” for queer people before the pandemic, afterward they were pushed back onto Grindr, a wasteland of blank and fake profiles. Nath is often overwhelmed by talking about the difficulties of living in Myanmar and also feels conflicted about how much he should let it inform his work. “They want to see the anguish,” he sighed. And sometimes he gives it to them. As example, his first show of paintings was titled Chauk — a derogatory term for gay men that means ‘dry,’ alluding to their inability to have children. But more often, Nath focuses on female empowerment and tender homoerotic scenes rendered in a blend of traditional Burmese and Indian styles.

 

While Nath’s mother is Christian and part Burmese and part Shan, his father is both Hindu and Buddhist with a mostly Indian background. It is not unusual to have mixed lineage in Myanmar. …

Thursday 07.22.21

Mark McKnight

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