From New York City nightlife to Los Angeles stage and screen, Jackie Beat is a legend in every sense of the word. Her work with fellow nightlife legends like Sherry Vine and Mario Diaz has led her to working with entertainment icons like Joan Rivers and Ross Matthews, cementing Beat as someone who not just defines what humor is in today’s day and age, but a reminder as to why it is so important. As Jackie Beat and Sherry Vine got ready to hit The Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach, DE on Monday July 8th with Battle Of the Bitches, Ladies of the 80’s , I caught up with Jackie to talk about her storied career, the memories that stand out with her famed sisters, and what the keys are to truly making something funny.
Michael Cook: For those that have never seen Jackie Beat on stage, how would you describe your performance style and “drag” as a whole?
Jackie Beat: I always call myself a fuckable clown. (I’m not sure if you can print that! LOL… Maybe use an asterisk or two)? I say, if you are blind then at least you can hear my gorgeous singing voice. If you are deaf, then you can drink in the fabulous look. But if you happen to be blessed with both sight and hearing, then you hit the jackpot!
MC: Your writing and on stage humor is biting and absolutely brilliant; when did you know that you could write and other people would find it absolutely hilarious and relatable? What do you think the keys are to great writing?
JB: I guess the key is to find that balance between making something sound polished and prepared, but conversational. When I wrote for Joan Rivers she could make it seem like she was thinking of the joke right off the top of her head; she was amazing that way. Anyone can memorize a bunch of jokes, but to make it seem in-the-moment and downright dangerous, like anything can happen, is a true skill. And with Joan, ANYTHING could happen! Obviously, she was no stranger to going off script and ad-libbing – it often got her in trouble. People want their comedians, and drag queens, to be outrageous and push the envelope – then, if they go one inch over “the line” they freak out. It’s like begging for rough sex and then getting upset when someone pulls your hair a little too hard. But back to the original question… It’s also important to know the voice of who you are writing for. I once wrote a filthy joke for Ross Mathews and he just looked at me and said, “Jackie, I’m not Joan Rivers!”
MC: Take me back; How did Jackie Beat get her start in the extremely competitive Los Angeles, then New York City drag scenes?
JB: I started in LA and then went to New York to star in the off-Broadway stage version of Valley of the Dolls. I was a big deal in Los Angeles, but New York always scared the hell out of me. I remember going to all the clubs, with a cassette tape – that’s how long ago this was – and saying, “I’ll do a number for free!” After about a week of that, my phone was ringing off the hook. I sang live and I was funny. I mean, what’s not to love, right?
MC: You were part of a legendary time for New York City drag; what do you recall as the best aspects of that era?
JB: Most of my memories are of being exhausted, honestly. For instance, on a Sunday morning Sherry Vine and I would wake up, get in drag, perform at brunch. Then run to The Cherry Lane Theatre to do our off-Broadway show Tell-Tale, twice! A matinee and then another show at 8 PM. Then we would go home and keep our faces on and take a disco nap and then go work at Tunnel until four am! It was crazy, but fun; nd back then an artist could still afford to live in Manhattan, but not anymore. I always say, the New York City that I miss doesn’t even exist anymore.
MC: You have so many legendary stories about that time; what is one experience or story that truly stands out about that era?
JB: Oh my God, so many. The time Sherry Vine said to me, “Girl you’re on fire!” and I said “Thank you!” thinking she was giving me a compliment. Turns out I was actually on fire! My feather-trimmed bed jacket had brushed against a candle and BOOM! Scary! Hanging out downstairs in the Squeezebox dressing room with people like Boy George, Debbie Harry and Courtney Love. And don’t even get me started on the shenanigans at Mario Diaz’s party Foxy, where people would do outrageous things to earn Foxy dollars. One Thanksgiving, a Lesbian pulled a roasted turkey leg out of her vagina and proceeded to take a bite. You know, sophisticated stuff like that!
MC:“Wig” premieres on HBO this weekend. Wigstock was an absolutely formative event for the drag community during it’s original incarnation. What do you remember the most about it? What do you think about the state of drag today?
JB: I don’t want to talk about the current state of drag. I just come across like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard bitching about The Talkies! Listen, Drag Race has given me so many amazing opportunities. Traveling all over the world and working with people like Bianca Del Rio, Alaska Thunderfuck and Jinkx Monsoon. You know, the three good ones!? But I think you can tell a queen who has worked night after night, year after year, in clubs and honed their craft and persona – and the ones who just watched a reality TV show and some YouTube makeup tutorials and thought, “I could do that!” Wigstock was amazing, but brutal. Wake up early, get in drag, and then wait hours and hours – sweating your balls off – to go on. But it was all worth it.
MC: The gay community has had a very trying year and politically things are very dark. What do you think are the biggest issues facing our community and what do you see as your part in helping to address them?
JB: I feel like my main job is to remind people that THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Trump and all his racist, homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic cronies want people to become so exhausted and overwhelmed by the daily bullshit, that we just give up. Trump is an unqualified, egotistical moron. The pendulum will swing back; it has to.
MC: You have made music, done television, and crafted full stage productions; what is left that Jackie Beat possibly could want to do?
JB: I always say that I want to do Broadway, but then the reality of it hits me: The same show over and over and over again? I would be bored to tears! And I don’t want to live in New York, sorry, I love my big gorgeous house here in Los Angeles with my two adorable dogs too much! I would like to do more acting. I just shot an amazing movie called Stage Mother with Jacki Weaver, Adrian Grenier and Lucy Lui. So fun! There’s nothing more fun making a movie!
MC: What does “pride” mean to you?
JB: Embracing who you are. Thank God for the unicorns, huh? Can you imagine this world with no LGBT people? It would be nothing but monster truck rallies and hot wings. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love me some wings but come on! It’s important to remember that LGBT people are born. Unlike religion, it is not a choice. It is biological. So LGBT people will never cease to exist. We have always been here and we always will be.
(All Art Courtesy of MissJackieBeat.com)