The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
There have been some big changes taking place in the Big Apple even though you might not have even realized it. With Bianca Del Rio winning the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she’s clearly not going to be around nearly as much, that leaves a larger than life and an obnoxious void in the city’s drag scene. Mimi Imfurst has moved on to greener pastures and a fresh start in the City of Brotherly Love. Dallas DuBois retired from drag and moved to LA, presumably after the Rockettes refused to hire her. Epiphany is spending large chunks of the year overseas and I can’t blame her even slightly for that. But even with the outgoing talent there is still a lot of established talent in the city as well. Drag Race villainess extraordinaire, Phi Phi O’Hara made the move from the Windy City to New York. Legends like Lady Bunny, Sherry Vine, Hedda Lettuce and others are still killing it. The cupboard is clearly not bare.
But now, more than ever, there is a young, hungry (by hungry I mean ambitious…and, well…hungry. Most of these skinny bitches need a sandwich or three) crop of drag talent ready to burst into stardom. As a part of this series, NewYorkNowNext, we’re going to be taking a look at some of this talent that is blooming all around the Big Apple. Ladies and gentlemen, I am very happy to talk with Miz Cracker!
Chiffon Dior: Happy New Year, Miz Cracker! You’re my first interview of 2016! Wait, why are you up? Most drag queens don’t awake from the New Year’s Eve haze until the 2nd or 3rd at the earliest!
Miz Cracker: Well, I don’t drink, and I just quit smoking, so the things that keep most drag queens asleep all day aren’t a problem for me. No offense, Monet X Change.
CD: To be fair, some of them up wake up in far off places like New Jersey or Staten Island today and it takes them until the 2nd to walk of shame it home.
MC: I’m doing well—most importantly I’m finding that balance between a performance career where I can express myself, and a personal life where I can play out patterns set during my dark childhood. By the way, I love working with Judy because she’s mentally unwell, too, so we really understand one another.
CD: Well crazy gets crazy so its a good pairing I think. Speaking of your dark childhood, let’s hop in my Delorean and head back in time a bit, shall we? Hang on, let me just get that Chipotle bag off your seat. There. So tell me, where are you from originally?
MC: I always say I was born in Times Square, because that’s where I started drag with Bob the Drag Queen. At the time, she was running Drag Queen Weddings, a series of demonstrations raising awareness about the struggle for marriage equality.
CD: So if you were born in Times Square, does that mean that sketchy looking Elmo who reeks of weed might be your dad?
MC: I identify as fatherless. But I had this incredible experience the other day. I was surfacing in Times Square in the late evening, when I saw four Tickle Me Elmos gathering to collect payment from a guy with an envelope full of cash.
CD: I’m sure that was all on the up and up.
MC: I was like: Is there an Elmo business? And I thought, What a nightmare–dressing up in some itchy costume to amuse midtown idiots, then collecting cash from a busted-up envelope at the end of the day. And then I realized that’s also a description of my job.
CD: That might be the first time Elmo has been compared to drag queens.
MC: Look at Maddelyn Hatter‘s wigs–it can’t be the first time.
CD: I believe you mean 2015 WERRRK.com Drag Photographer of the Year Maddelynn Hatter’s wig. Wow, that was shameless even for me.
MC: I’ll let it pass.
CD: Very gracious of you. How did you wind up working with Bob on those demonstrations?
MC: It’s a semi-infamous tale. I met Bob on the street when she was struggling to get a bookcase home in the snow. I was like, “Maybe if I help that handsome dude, I can get in his pants!” When I got into his apartment though, I saw all the wigs and freaked out–I didn’t know anything about drag queens. So I friend-zoned him basically—we went out for coffee a lot, and he started asking me to try drag. Like, every week. For 6 months. “Come to Times Square and do Drag Queen Weddings,” He said, “You’ll love it.” Finally, because I’m a bottom, I submitted and tried drag for a January “wedding.” And here we are today.
CD: That’s basically the plot of the worst romantic comedy ever I think.
MC: Is there such thing as a romantic tragedy? Oh, yeah, Philadelphia. ANYWAY!
CD: I was going to say Twilight.
MC: Shakespeare had one or two. It’s all coming to me now. I read books.
CD: What kind of books do you enjoy?
MC: I just read Their Eyes Were Watching God with my dear friend Larry, and it’s a phenomenal book. And I’m a Virginia Woolf nerd because she’s extravagantly morose. I also carry books of art criticism on the train so people will think I’m smarter than they are.
CD: So how does your dark childhood fit into all of this?
MC: Oh word? Hello, Barbara Walters.
CD: I’ve been called the Barbara Walters of Drag Journalism….and not just because I slept with Castro like she did.
MC: My childhood is the source of my drag. A lot of my performances are my way of working out my experiences as a kid. Also, my childhood taught me the importance of art. My mother and sister and I turned to art as a coping mechanism for some of the hardships we faced, learning to see every scrap of material lying around the house as a possible inspiration. Today, my mother and sister make many of my costumes.
CD: So would you say drag turned out to be an outlet for you that you didn’t even know you needed?
MC: Well, that question resonates with the question people always ask me on a first date: Are you going to do drag for, like, ever? What’s being asked is: do I need drag? Is it a permanent disorder? Was I born with it? The answer is that I am a creative person, I come from a family of creative people, and so I am always involved in an activity that gives me a creative outlet. I’d say drag is a NEW outlet, but it’s not like I didn’t know I needed an outlet. That’s my complicated answer. The simple answer is Sweet Jesus did I need drag, and I didn’t even know it.
CD: What was your apprehension to get started when Bob was hounding you to do it?
MC: I just had never had any interest in wearing dresses. Or that’s what I said. But I think it was actually a delightful combination of homo- and trans-phobia that stopped me. I didn’t want to be that kind of gay. And I didn’t want to acknowledge my own gender issues. I’m on the fence about being a guy, but that was a terrifying idea to broach. At that time, anyway.
CD: This is getting deep! I’m starting to feel like you should be laying on the couch for this session.
MC: There are so many fluffy drag interviews. I always err on the side of dark and serious when I interview, because it’s an antidote for all that other cotton candy.
CD: Great….now I want cotton candy. There goes my weight loss resolution. Thank you very much.
MC: *Laughs* Do you they make a cotton candy from Splenda? Would that help? Hello waistline, farewell intestinal flora!
CD: Another first…..the first time a queen has said “intestinal flora” in one of my interviews. You’re quite the ground breaker.
MC: You’re welcome.
CD: So after your stint with Bob’s protest, what was the next step for you as a queen?
MC: I went about as this semi-Winehouse character for a while. And then I started watching Star Search with Mimi Imfurst at Barracuda, and I thought., “Wow, if they call that performing, I can certainly perform.” Which led to me premiering at Bob & Frostie Flakes’ show—a disastrous mess of a number that made me dig in and say “I want to be good.” That first number was performed in front of a gentleman who broke my heart shortly thereafter, and nowadays when I’m backstage about to perform for a thousand people I sometimes think, “If you had stayed, you could be here with me. Asshole.”
CD: Were you Miz Cracker right from the start?
MC: No. *Laughs* My first name was unprintable. Then I became Brianna Cracker after my favorite snack. When I found out there was another girl by that name, I tried Miss Cracker, but Facebook wouldn’t accept “Miss,” so I had to go for “Miz,” which is clearly a real person name.
CD: Well, there is former Real World star and current pro wrestler Mike “The Miz” Mizanin….so there’s that.
MC: Real enough.
CD: When you said to yourself “I want to be good,” what did you do to improve from that point because you’re a whirling dervish of movement now when I saw you perform the other night.
MC: Brenda Dharling. A while back, Suite Bar uptown had a competition, and the prize was eight consecutive Friday shows, so I went. But then Brenda, one of New York’s foremost queens, showed up. I thought, “G-d. Damnit. There’s no way I can beat her.” Well, we tied that week. And the next four weeks. Now that eight week show has become Blackout Friday, which has run for three and a half years. Brenda has been my mentor for all that time. She taught me cartwheels, my version of the splits and basic dancing, how to stack and secure wigs, what tights to wear, and most importantly how to show up at 100% no matter how you or the audience may feel. I always say Bob is my mother, but the Big Brother / Big Sister program brought me Brenda.
CD: As Hillary Clinton said, “It takes a village to raise a drag queen.”…..or something like that. Maybe The Village.
CD: Were you surprised to get that kind of mentorship from someone you were competing with?
MC: Yes, very. But I should not have been. The lion’s share of NY’s successful drag queens have the confidence to be generous. And Brenda in particular is a generous person. Also, I think it pained her to see how busted I was, so I think she fixed me up to reduce her own suffering.
CD: That is actually something I have seen in the last few years covering the NYC scene more closely. Considering how many queens there are competing for limited shows, it does seem like there is an awful lot of support out there among each other, especially at the top like you said. Isn’t New York supposed to be the mean and rude city though?
MC: Here’s the thing. New York has no time for excuses. But New York is very kind to people who are genuinely struggling and working. At Miss Hell’s Kitchen this year, a newer queen arrived sweating and messed up. She looked a wreck. But, she had genuinely tried, and so the other contestants dropped their stuff to essentially repaint her. A tip for visitors: Stand frozen and open-mouthed on the street, and New Yorkers will stomp you. But ask for directions, we’ll kill one another to help you. We really care for those who push to succeed.
CD: People standing still on the sidewalk deserved to get trampled honestly. No court would convict you.
CD: So the city has more queens than you can shake a wig at these days. What do you think makes you unique and able to stand out in a very crowded crowd these days?
MC: Um, when I look at myself, all I see is this Groucho Marx nose dancing around arhythmically beneath harsh eye liner. But I’m told that I stand out because of my wit. I come from a bright family, and my sister Sylvia is the world’s leading insult artist, so my mind has been trained from childhood for this career. Once, my mother asked, “Should I go grocery shopping or hang out with you kids?” and Sylvia, who was a teen at the time, said, “You can either stay and know you’re not wanted, or go and know you won’t be missed.”. Concise, incredibly hurtful—so drag.
CD: So basically Bianca Del Rio couldn’t say anything to hurt you by the time you became a queen?
MC: No, Bianca is a sweetheart compared to my sister. Also, Bianca only has a rolodex of hate. My sister has a fountain from which fresh hate springs eternal.
CD: Sounds like no tampon or pad could stop that kind of heavy flow.
MC: It’s very Exxon-Valdez.
CD: The focus of this series of interviews I have been doing with the young queens of the city has been about the period of change that the New York City drag scene is going through. What changes have you seen in the time that you’ve been a part of the NYC drag scene?
MC: Girl. That’s like when people ask me how Harlem has changed. I’ve experienced both for only five years, but still the transformation I’ve seen is enormous. Just five years ago, you could number the stars in the drag scene (that’s a Jew joke, for my fellow Jews) but now there are innumerable drag queens, even drag babies are having drag babies. Also, more people generally know a little bit about drag, and want to share it with you. Like, women on the street will say, “Oh I’ve been to Lips.” Thank you, ma’am, I’m glad. And idiots in gay bars will say, “Work that lace front!” to show that they know the words “lace front” now. On the up side, this kind of atmosphere makes queens have to work harder to be seen and appreciated. End rant.
CD: There might be that certain tv show they’ve seen too which clearly makes people an expert in drag after watching it.
MC: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not going to leave all of contemporary drag culture at RuPaul‘s doorstep but she was certainly a catalyst for the recent explosion.
CD: With some of the more established queens in the city moving on to new projects and phases in their careers, there is a bit of a vacuum at the top. Who do you think is poised to fill that void?
MC: Monet X Change’s drunk ass.
CD: Just her drunk ass or all of her?
MC: Just Monet’s ass. To be fair, she’s all ass, especially when she opens her mouth. I mean, I literally know who’s taking over for whom, but I’ll answer the question like it’s philosophical. Probably, inexplicably, Judy Darling. And Aquaria is on the rise.
CD: This time of the year, everyone is making their New Year’s Resolutions and setting new goals. What goals do you have for yourself as a performer?
MC: Most urgently, I need to begin dance classes. Sometimes I wiggle convincingly, but there is some video of me out there where I make Bible Girl look like Brenda Dharling. I’m impossibly bad sometimes. Also, I want to be known in DC and Philly as I am known here. And I want to use my voice to draw attention to the persecution of LGBTQ people in Senegal, where my godson lives.
CD: So where can people come if they want to see you wiggle convincingly?
MC: I always tell people this, if you’re out and drunk, I’m probably doing a show.
Tues / Barracuda / 11 PM
Thurs / Pieces / 11 PM
Fri / Suite / Midnight
Sat / Boots and Saddle / 10 PM
Sunday / Hardware / 10 PM
Sunday / Monster / Midnight
CD: That’s it?
MC: *Laughs* Ummm, I have a Monday show coming up. I’ll give you an exclusive when it’s announced.
CD: I’ll hold you to that. I think we have just about reached the end of the road here this evening my dear. Thank you so much for your time and I’m glad I got to meet you this year! Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with our readers?
MC: Wisdom. Um. There are so many mini-wisdoms about being honest, working hard, staying true to yourself. If I may be more practical?
CD: Go for it.
MC: It’s so wonderful that we love one another. But if you ever find yourself trying to choose between a lover and a friend, or a lover and a booking, or a lover and study time, or a lover and family, I beg you to de-prioritize the lover. Put your work first. Put your mission first. Because there are serious problems in this world that require us to battle, not snuggle. I can’t say this emphatically enough. I think I’ve said this in every interview I’ve ever given, but to no avail—chlamydia is still rampant.
Photographs courtesy of Jenn Witek Photography.