Entertainment » Theatre

Catch the Jackie Beat!

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Thursday Mar 31, 2011

Jackie Beat has been called the Queen of YouTube due to the popularity of her numerous video parodies of pop songs by such pop divas as Gaga, Katy, Britney, Madonna, Mariah, Cristina and Cher. But unlike many of the new generation of drag queens (thank you RuPaul!), she sings live - no lip-synching for her!

The LA-based drag queen ruled the New York scene for years before heading west. Her cabaret show played an unprecedented 18 months at the Manhattan nightspot Fez and her annual holiday show is one of the most anticipated of the season.

You may recognize her from appearances on Sex and the City and such films as Adam and Steve, Flawless and Wigstock The Movie. She’s appeared off-Broadway, opened for Roseanne in Vegas, performed on countless cruise ships, performs in Ptown for two months every summer, and is the lead singer for the popular electro-rock band Dirty Sanchez, who toured with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. Their debut CD on Hypnotic Records is available in stores now.

Roseanne called her "the greatest drag queen on Earth." The Village Voice has written that Beat "is a trained theater actress, but no amount of training could make a person this talented, this witty, or this scathing. The show should just be called ’Jackie Beat is a F**king Genius.’" And in reviewing one of her shows, the LA Weekly said "Jackie Beat is superb. Rippingly funny... Equally hilarious and oddly moving. A polished performer, her wigs and costumes reveal rather than mask."

Even the august New York Times offered an opinion - a warning, actually: "Some small children may be frightened."

It is doubtful that they’ll be any small children in the audience this weekend at Machine when the LA-based drag legend comes for two shows, April 1 and 2, at 8pm. (click here for more information.)

While Beat has appeared in virtually every city - from Ptown to Seattle - she’s yet to do her cabaret show in Boston. (Her Boston appearance is produced by the Gold Dust Orphans.)

EDGE spoke to Beat recently about her career, her upcoming show and the new popularity of drag.

Expect to laugh

EDGE: Have you played Boston before?

Jackie Beat: Not a full cabaret show like this. Needless to say, I am VERY excited!

EDGE: What can Boston audiences expect in your show?

Jackie Beat: First and foremost, they should expect to laugh. That, after all, is my job. I need everyone to check their sensitivity at the door because I intend to "go there!" I am doing a new parody of Cyndi Lauper’s "True Colors" about a minority within a minority -- it’s called "Jew Coloreds." I also do Bryan Adam’s classic ballad "Heaven" as "Seven" and no, it does not refer to size, but rather age. A man got up and stormed out during the song in New York City! Do you how difficult it is to offend the community that invented double fisting!? I was so proud! So please, if you have "irony poor blood" you may want to sit this one out and stay home and watch Glee.

EDGE: How do you think the crowds in the Northeast compare to the West Coast?

Jackie Beat: I love everyone -- who pays. Seriously, I have not found much of a difference between audiences anywhere. People are people and they all just want to laugh at songs about poop. Hey, it bought me a house!

Story continues on following page:

Watch Jackie Beat’s High-Fructose Corn Syrup Spoof:

The real Jackie

EDGE: Is it true you started doing stand-up?

Jackie Beat: I have essentially been doing stand-up comedy my entire career, but out of fear -- and the fact that I was wearing a dress -- I never really called it that. But that’s the only thing you can call it when you tour as the opening act for Roseanne Barr. So yes, I a ready to stand up, take a deep breath and finally admit that... My name is Jackie and I am a stand-up comedian!

EDGE: Were you Jackie Beat then?

Jackie Beat: I have done stand-up out of drag, but I surprisingly, I feel more like the real me when I am in drag. I can say and do anything and no one can take it too seriously or get offended by it, although there are always those rare people who are just itching to be offended. To be honest, I kind of LIVE for those people!

EDGE: How did your drag persona evolve?

Jackie Beat: I started out doing glorified stand-up comedy disguised as Beat poetry -- you young folk should Google it! I wore all black with a turtleneck and a beret and I told the audience to snap their fingers instead of clapping. I needed a name and I thought that Jackie Beat sounded very 1960s. My first song parody was Madonna’s "Vogue" that I did as "Vague", al about washed-up B-list celebrities. I won a talent contest at the tacky WeHo gay bar, The Rage, and the rest is history!

EDGE: Are you a control freak?

Jackie Beat: One might think so when they see the attention to detail in my makeup, but no. I have learned that audience just wants to have fun and if I stress out over a less-than-perfect sound system or a missed cue then they will stress out, too. When I studied improv comedy at Second City my teacher told me, "Your job is to have so much fun on stage that everyone in the audience is jealous and wishes they were up there!"

Story continues on following page:

Watch Jackie Beat’s parody of Mariah Carey’s "Touch My Body" entitled "Retouch My Body:

Katy loved it!

EDGE: Your videos are enormously popular. How do you like being called the Queen of YouTube?

Jackie Beat: I love it! Although that bitch Sherry Vine is giving me a run for my money! She makes a Lady Gaga video about 30 seconds after the real thing comes out! But Sherry is my best drag girlfriend so I wish her the best. No, really I do.

EDGE: Your videos are always so on-target. Is it ever difficult to come up with the parodies?

Jackie Beat: I put more into the song than trying to match the video. In this day and age, everyone makes parodies and they do it so quickly like I said. So I need the song to go somewhere -- to have a story, peaks and valleys and maybe a twist at the end. And the videos are usually more about me than the original artist or song.

EDGE: Has any performer come back at you for a parody you’ve done?

Jackie Beat: Katy Perry told me that she loved my "I Kissed A Squirrel", that it was her favorite parody of that song. Mostly the fans give me a hard time. I have written horrible songs about George W. Bush and Jesus, but it wasn’t until I did "Filthy Whore" ("Gimme More") that I got death threats from Britney fans. Death threats!

EDGE: Do you have plans for covers of any of Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears or Lady Gaga’s new singles?

Jackie Beat: I am working on lots of new stuff, yes. Some of these songs are really hard to make fun of because they are so repetitive and they are so robotic, but I try!

Story continues on following page:

Watch Jackie Beat’s parody of Thelma Houston’s "Don’t Leave Me This Way" entitled "Don’t Tell Me Your Gay":

Musical in the works

EDGE: What do you think of drag’s new popularity?

Jackie Beat: Well, not to sound bitter, but as someone who has been doing this a LONG time -- and someone who can do a 90-minute show of live singing and comedy -- it’s tough when cast-offs, not even the winners mind you, get so many bookings and all they do is lip sync a number or two. Many of them look great and some are very talented, but it’s just that I feel like I am more talented than famous and that’s a tough place to be in this business.

EDGE: Do you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race?

Jackie Beat: Of course! I want to be fully informed about everything I bitch about! You should read the blog I wrote about Shangela.

EDGE: Do you watch much television?

Jackie Beat: I have to limit it, but I do love climbing in bed with my dogs on a night off and watching some mindless entertainment! I love Nurse Jackie, Dexter, Mad Men, Hoarders and of course Golden Girls reruns!

EDGE: Lip-synching is getting popular again. Do you think that’s a step back for drag performers?

Jackie Beat: Yes. I will never understand how moving one’s lips can be considered "talent." But I will say this: If you are going to lip sync, at least pick an interesting song -- not the most popular hit that the DJ has already played twice that night. And know the fucking words!

EDGE: I saw on your blog that you like to shop in thrift shops - any great finds

Jackie Beat: Oh God, yes! Too many to mention here! Let’s just say that there’s a very good reason I like to watch "Hoarders!"

EDGE: If you weren’t a performer, what profession do you think you’d be in?

Jackie Beat: Advertising or Interior Design.

b>EDGE: If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

Jackie Beat: Yes, I would have stepped in and helped my grade school friend Lucia when her brother was beating her up. I froze and did nothing and it haunts me to this day. Other than that, no.

EDGE: With The Book of Mormon off-the-wall is big on Broadway these days. Have you thought of writing a musical?

Jackie Beat: I am actually working on one, but it’s based on a ’70s horror film and I don’t want to give it away. And no, it’s not Carrie!

Story continues on following page:

Watch Jackie Beat’s parody "Baby’s Got Front":

Advice to aspiring drag queens

EDGE: Are you ever recognized out of drag?

Jackie Beat: Very rarely. I think that voice may give it away occasionally or a real die-hard fan will recognize one of my tattoos or something.

EDGE: Is it hard to separate your drag persona from your everyday life?

Jackie Beat: Not really. My drag character is really me, just heightened for the stage. I think I am a naturally funny, entertaining person. Jackie is a little butch and the real me is not afraid to be fey. I feel no psychological tug-of-war!

EDGE: Any advice for aspiring drag queens?

Jackie Beat: Yes, don’t do it! It’s very hard work and lots of heartache and there is a glass ceiling that no one tells you about and you are going to smash your makeup-covered face against it over and over and over again! And it’s going to hurt! It will be hard to find a boyfriend, you can be supremely talented and still not "make it" and people will poke at you with a stick like some freakish zoo animal. But if you are really meant to do it, then you will ignore everything I just said.

EDGE: Any advice for old school drag queens, like Varla, Hedda and Heklina?

Jackie Beat: Varla doesn’t need any advice! My advice to Heklina would be "blend!" And I don’t think you should print the advice I’d give Hedda because if she went through with it I would feel just terrible.

EDGE: Who are your inspirations?

Jackie Beat: Sandra Bernhard, Carol Burnett, Catherine O’Hara and Andrea Martin from SCTV and Joan Crawford. When faced with a challenge I often stop and ask myself, "What would Joan do?" She had such style!

EDGE: What’s the hardest part of maintaining your lifestyle?

Jackie Beat: The travel is hard and I miss my dogs, but I know that I am blessed. I don’t know what a real problem is. I have never wondered where my next meal was coming from. There are people in this world who are really suffering. I have nothing but luxury problems.

EDGE: What’s next for you?

Jackie Beat: I am working on that musical and a few other projects. I just wrote another song for Roseanne. I’m excited to be interviewing Lisa Lampinelli for a magazine I wrote for. And then it’s off to Ptown this summer! Wish me luck! Perhaps we should sacrifice a goat, actually.

EDGE: How would you answer the remark, "You know how bitchy drag queens can be"?

Jackie Beat: "Fuck you, that’s a filthy lie!"

Jackie Beat appears at Machine, Friday and Saturday (4/1-4/2, 2011) at 8pm. For more information and how to buy tickets visit the Gold Dust Orphans Facebook page.

Story continues on following page:

Watch Jackie Beat’s parody of Mariah Carey’s "Touch My Body" entitled "Retouch My Body:

Robert Nesti can be reached at rnesti@edgemedianetwork.com.


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