Part drag show, part game show and a lot of circus side show!
As I entered Dillons Lounge it was quite deceiving; at first glance it seemed like your ordinary run-of-the-mill bar with its extremely cozy setting. However, as I made my way to the back of the bar I entered the performance area and it was quite spacious.
The Ultimate Drag Off is set up like a live game show ala The Price Is Right and Let's Make a Deal, where your hostess Sweetie takes you on a riotous romp through entertainment highlights and lowlights, as several contestants fight for fame and superstardom in this weekly variety show. The winner of the night gets to come back the following week and defend their title. This vaudeville-sideshow-talent competition is also interactive theatre where YOU, theaudience, vote for the winner throughout the night. And like The Gong Show you also get to kill the losers, in a variety of fun and improvisational ways.
On this particular night, the room was crowded with excited show goers that eagerly greeted Miss Sweetie. Momentsafter the lights dimmed the show began and a beautiful young brunette appeared in a glamorous red gown, holding up an APPLAUSE sign. What else could we do, we applauded on cue. Sweetie then graced the stage in a beautiful pink-sequined ensemble and was, well, Sweetie: charming and witty. The show this night was to be a contest for women to dress up in male or female drag & lip sync. They did renditions from Patsy Cline to Madonna and Lionel Richie to Eminem. Some were better than others, but it was all great fun.
An Interview With Sweetie
You have long been one of the leading party promoters in New York City, with diverse crowds and clever angles. Were all those parties the build up to the Ultimate Drag Off? What inspired the creation of the show?
Sweetie: I have been performing in NYC both in and out of drag since 1985 and to me always found live theatre to be a much different arena than working in a club. Still, I suppose that all of that experience is always a lead in to the next place on the journey. My party's have always elevated and celebrated drag, but I love a room full of people of all identities. It makes the night a lot more interesting. The Ultimate Drag Off was different as it was an off Broadway show. I did not conceptualize the show. That was the vision of Alex Perez. He also directed and produced. I had the luxury of simply being a cast member.
TGLIFE - Did the show come off the way you first envisioned it, or did it take on a life of itself and lead you places you didn't expect to go?
The fantastic part of Drag Off was that I was given a chance for a tremendous amount of improvisation with the audience. I love that connection of being in front of a live audience. When I do film or television I always miss that immediate response. When I work in nightclubs my humor can get extremely raw. Playing in front of people from "Any Town USA" was a real challenge. I actually had to be A LOT smarter with my humor, and not always go for the crotch joke. I never knew what to expect from audience to audience. It was always a wild ride.
TGLIFE - You're always so busy, whether promoting or performing, what is next on the horizon for a diva like you?
I actually have a brand new shindig beginning Thursday March 23. It's called HERSHEY HIGHWAY. I promise the shit isgonna hit the fan EVERY Thursday night at Heaven on 6th Ave!! My parties have always been for the most part very successful because I really believe in an all-inclusive atmosphere. What I mean is JUST a gay party, or JUST a trans party, or JUST a straight party gets boring really fast. My party's have always elevated and celebrated drag, but I love a room full of people of all identities. It makes the night alot more interesting.
I just returned recently from London. It is really becoming my European home base. Drag is so embraced and respected in the UK. What I find really amazing is the effortless way trans people move thru the world there. I came across so many people every day on so many different levels of gender. Cross dressers rode the tube with ease. I felt extremely safe wherever I went. My persona as Sweetie is larger than life. Nobody batted an eyelash at this explosion of sequins and hair walking up the street. Back to the question. I have been in the works with some people in London to star in either a one-woman show or possibly a gorgeous play called "Women Behind Bars". Either would be fantastic. I adore working in nightclubs, but my real passion is theatre. I see myself working a lot more frequently on both sides of the pond in the coming year. That is very exciting. Having a great reputation in NYC has enabled me to be accessible other places. When you work overseas it raises your profile here. They both feed each other.
TGLIFE - Well thank you for taking the time to speak with us, and all the best in your endeavors.
Thank you, it was my pleasure.