If you’re a lover of the art of drag and you have a sweet spot for cult classic movies, you MUST know Peaches Christ. A drag artist and film maker who is known for her campy iterations of over a hundred movies, Peaches is no stranger to the punk rock scene of the 90s. The man behind the makeup, Joshua Grannell, found inspiration in revolutionary artists like Divine and John Waters and used his passion as a launch pad for creating his own revolution of storytelling and entertainment.
With this creative zest for drag, Peaches began to make a name for herself hosting events during her Midnight Mass in San Francisco. Over the last 20 years, Peaches Christ has produced and starred in parodies of movies like Steel Magnolias (Steel Dragnolias), Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Showgirls, The Silence of the Lambs (The Silence of the Trans), Sister Act (Mister Act), The Craft, Hocus Pocus (Hocum Pokem), Mommy Dearest (Mommie Queerest), Clueless, and so many more that I can’t even list!
Peaches Christ is a drag performer who has collaborated with seasoned and rising queens as well as screen actors who have left their mark on cult classic films.
The latest cult classic Peaches has added into her arsenal of spectaculars is the 80s film Troop Beverly Hills, which has toured several cities with as the parody Troop Beverly Heels. The original film stars Shelley Long as soon-to-be-divorced socialite from Beverly Hills who becomes troop mother for her daughter’s Wilderness Girl troop and gets more than she bargained for. The movie is a perfect title to add to Peaches repertoire as it is an over-the-top depiction of Long’s character—who serves look after look in the film.
Troop Beverly Heels stars RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 winner the skinny legend herself–Trixie Mattel. Peaches Christ is also joined by a cast of hilarious and talented artists Visage LaRue, Thomas Dekker, Sam Pancake, Helena Levin, Meatball, Jelly Jellyfish, Nili Segal, Beverly Chills, Aram, Louis Chavez, Frankye Palomares, Victor Reyes, and Leticia Alcuran.
I had a great conversation with the iconic Peaches Christ who shared much about her inspiration, creativity, and the upcoming Troop Beverly Heels, which I can’t wait to see:
How did you get started doing drag?
I was in college in the mid-90s at Penn State University and I was a film major and I was really inspired by Divine and John Waters. I grew up in Maryland so when I discovered them I just couldn’t believe anything like that existed. I discovered Divine and John Waters, I discovered the Rocky Horror Picture Show, so when I was making my own movie I wrote a part for a drag character in the script. When the actor who was playing the part disappeared we were sort of screwed so I ended up putting on the drag and directing the movie while also being in the movie as Peaches. So my start was in my move Jizzmopper.
Would you say that your look is inspired by Divine?
Absolutely! I read everything written about John Waters and Divine. I was always inspired by the fact that she was inspired by clowns and really over-the-top exaggerated makeup. So certainly Divine was a huge inspiration as well as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who do clowny exaggerated makeup.
Have you had the pleasure of meeting John Waters?
We’re actually really good friends! It’s very surreal where you have a career where you are a filmmaker I have been able to invite my idols to come and do shows with me. After meeting people like Mink Stole and doing shows with John Waters and Elvira and actually becoming friends with them, John has been a great friend and mentor to me—which is still very surreal.
How do you think drag has evolved since when you began—or even when Divine was around?
People like Divine are the people that really redefined drag. In the original punk rock, transgressive way, they really put it out into a wider audience. When I got my start in the mid-90s, and performed at places like Trannyshack in San Francisco, it was very much inspired by that punk rock, grungy, kind of offensive renegade style of drag. Political performance and entertainment, for sure, but also art. I would say that over the years drag has taken some of the edge out of it—which of course makes me an old bitter queen! But I miss the edgier more transgressive moments of drag. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this explosion of popularity because I think it’s really opened doors and broken down walls so drag performers and artists can play to big audiences. They can be on television, they can be in movies, they can do anything. So now it’s up to drag queens to find a new way to be transgressive and I think that’s a good thing.
Would you say your career has changed positively because drag is now more mainstream?
Absolutely! I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t more lucrative for me because I work with girls who have gigantic marquee value after being on shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Dragula. And my friends and I who are considered [Laughs] legends—which I guess means we’ve worked more than 10 years in the business—there’s a reward for staying true and putting one foot in front of the other. Careers like myself, and Coco Peru, and Jackie Beat, Varla Jean Merman, Heklina—and lots of my peers—have only been enriched by this popularity. It hasn’t hurt us. I think everyone wins. When one of us wins, we all win. And we just want everyone to just do the best job they can. That’s the really positive thing about all of this.
What inspired your parody performances?
Back when I started my show called Midnight Mass in 1998 it was about screening cult movies, but we would always do a performance tribute to them which was a contest or a special guest from the movie or even sketch comedy. Over the years one scene turned into three scenes and before we knew it we were doing 30-minute shows, and then we were doing musicals, then I was writing bigger and longer scripts. So really it evolved very naturally to where I was doing full stage shows that are essentially drag shows that include stage comedy, traditional play elements, but also break out into giant ridiculous lipsyncs. We do a mash up of the drag character and the regular character and we’ve created our own queer universe around our love of this film.
Of all the parodies you’ve done so far—has there been a highlight?
One of the ones I really love doing—because it’s so bizarre and twisted—is this parody I do with Jinkx Monsoon of Grey Gardens where the whole conceit is that Jinkx and I have performed the same Grey Gardens parody for 40 years. The theater is empty, the audience is invisible, the theater is decayed and crumbling, infested with cats and raccoons, and I love that show because we really are playing ourselves. But I love them all! They’re all my babies. Some of them I’ve done only once and some I’ve performed for years and years and years. I really quite like Mister Act, which we do with Latrice Royale. I do have an affinity for anytime I get to work with Bianca del Rio, where we do a Baby Jane parody. I really love working with these talented people. It’s just super fun performing with your friends.
How do you choose the movies that you parody?
In the early days I just basically did all of my favorite movies because I was such a movie lover. It was years before I had to ask for help or suggestions and now I really listen to people who make suggestions that I hear repeatedly. What I’m finding as I get older and my audience gets younger is that I can’t rely on my own sensibility of what is a ‘cult’ movie to someone who is in their 20s because they grew up in a different time. Something like Hocus Pocus, I was in my early 20s when that came out so I didn’t grow up watching it. I think I watched it once and I thought it was kind of bad, but as I re-watched it and starting seeing it from the eyes of a young queer kid watching it every Halloween I realized “Oh! This is their Elvira! This is drag! These kids grew up watching these women do drag!” As an adult I can celebrate it the way fans want it to be celebrated.
What can audiences expect from Troop Beverly Heels?
The funny thing about Troop Beverly Heels is that Troop Beverly Hills is such a drag movie already that it was sort of a challenge to figure out where to twist and turn because it’s already so right for a drag parody. I think what you can expect is all the bits that you love in the movie we will celebrate for you. Of course Trixie is going to wear some of the amazing, iconic, campy, wild costumes that Shelley Long wore. And there are also some surprises—some twists and turns and connections that are maybe a little more adult or queer that would have existed in the movie.
What are some parodies that are on the horizon?
I think in 2019 we’re finally, after many people asking, going to do Mean Gays. I think I would also like to do The Devil Wears Drag—and I’ve been talking to Bianca about that as the Meryl Streep character—it’s too delicious. A lot of the success in these things is in the casting.
Troop Beverly Heels will make its final stop on its trek on Saturday, December 8th at the historic Montalban Theater in Hollywood for a show at 4pm and 8pm. If you are anywhere near L.A. you gotta get there! Purchase tickets HERE before they sell out!