When it comes to queer entertainment, Jonny McGovern has been front and center for over twenty years. The charismatic jack of all trades has covered everything from singing, podcasting, interviewing, and emceeing in venues worldwide.
You’re currently in France with longtime collaborator Dita Von Teese for her show Glamonatrix. How is it going? And how’s life on the road with Dita?
Fantastic. Doing these shows with Dita for the last few years has really been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. She’s incredible. The show is always of the highest caliber, and the glamor is high. I’m wearing a tux and custom Louboutin’s, and the crowds are so wild. It’s kind of like being the MC of a rock concert.
So it’s a dream. It’s a dream come true. We’re touring Europe, and honey, it’s a version of a European tour that one could never afford on one’s own dime. The luxury is strong. It’s great to be in the Dita-verse. She’s fantastic. She’s so chic and stylish and stunning, but she’s really down-to-earth and fun and funny and cares about the people on the show and the crew. I just love working with her. Plus, I keep trying to convince her to take me to fancy places to go shopping so I can watch her buy luxury goods.
Greg McKeon and I, who has been my best friend for so many years, came up with the idea around 2010 for a now-defunct game network. It was something that I thought then really had a lot of potential, but it wasn’t until just last year when OUTtv heard the idea that it started to become a reality. And it was because they believed in me after having worked with me on so many different shows that we produced for them that they gave me the chance to do it.
Working with go-go boys for my entire career, starting off as a nightlife promoter in New York, go-go boys have always been friends of mine and people that I’ve worked with at parties. And I’ve seen how smart, funny, dramatic, and over the top they are.
I knew that they would be the perfect fodder for reality TV, especially a reality competition show. I think go-go boys get overlooked a little bit, just sort of as muscle on the box. A star go-go boy has so much charisma. I knew that they would be a natural for the competition setting, and I was right. These guys brought it and brought it hard. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
Why do you think this art form deserves its own spotlight?
Well, you know that the two star groups of the queer nightlife scene have always been the drag queen and the go-go boy, and much like drag queens before Drag Race, go-go boys have been overlooked. I remember being in New York and always being in love with drag, but at a certain point, trying to pitch parties that were very drag-centric and people telling me, “Ugh, drag is over…” That was a couple of years before Drag Race came out, and it became everyone’s new obsession.
I think it’s just a natural time to give the spotlight to the other stars of the queer club, which is the go-go boy. They’ve been around for so many years. And I’ve personally met so many go-go boys who I knew could be huge stars if they had the right platform. So doing Gogo For The Gold is kind of a tribute to all the go-go superstars that I’ve worked with all through the years.
This show aims to be inclusive with a trans contestant competing and contestants of all body and personality types. Why was that a crucial decision when casting the series?
I think that it’s really important to show what’s really going on in the clubs. It’s boring if you were to just see twelve muscle guys with the same body and the stereotype of a go-go boy. But I think today, people are so much more open to all of the different types of sexy, whether that’s your body type or your gender expression or whatever it is.
It was really important to all of us when creating the show that we really showed a wide range of what is sexy. So that does include what people would normally think of as the sort of “muscle go-go, boy,” but also includes a skinny queen in heels turning it on the go-go box. It includes big hairy guys. It includes thick guys. It includes, of course, all ethnicities.
We really wanted the cast to be inclusive, to show how wide of a variety that go-go superstars are and that you don’t have to just be some stereotypical version of what people think a go-go boy is to be a go-go superstar.
What can people expect to see when tuning in each week? I know a Jonny McGovern production always aims to bring all the juicy drama.
All the challenges are based on the type of challenges go-go boys face when actually performing in nightclubs. So that includes performing for different audiences, surprising audiences, and performing in strange situations and tiny spaces. It also encompasses the type of challenges that go-go boys of today, who are also social media stars and influencers, have to excel at. So there’s a wide variety of challenges.
And, of course, the boys all brought the looks. I mean, we weren’t sure what to expect. These motherfuckers came and turned out the looks. Plus, there is drama, you know, everyone starts off loving each other so much, but the competition does start to get a little spicy as we go on. The other thing is that we really get to know these guys, and we really get to see other sides of them.
So beyond what you would normally know about them, either looking sexy on the box, we really get to know their stories more and get to know them, and what has made them the people they are today. Plus, we have the “Gogo Gods,” who each represent a different facet of what makes a go-go boy. So that’s, “Body. Dance. Individuality, and Fantasy.” That’s what each of the judges are sort of basing their critiques on. And they also came prepared to the nines with the looks, so you can get a lot of eye candy.
You’re gonna get a lot of fun, a lot of humor. For me, the great thing about the show is that the whole show has sort of a wink to it. When you’re competing for the title, the long-winded title of “America’s #1 Champion Gogo Superstar Star,” you know that the show has a sense of humor. When the go-go boys are eliminated, I tell them, “Pack your junk, put it in your trunk. Don’t gogo, just go.” And that is said with all sincerity and love, but the guys take the competition extremely seriously and really are doing their best. And that’s, I think, when a reality competition show shines. When there’s a sense of humor in the overarching show, but the people on the show really care about winning that title.
I think a lot of people are used to RuPaul’s style of hosting when it comes to queer reality shows, what has your experience been like as the host of this show?
One can only hope to even come in anywhere near as close to the Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Grammy-award-winning performance that RuPaul gives every single week. I spend most seasons of drag race gagging over how great RuPaul’s delivery is on every line, every reaction, every whatever. So, of course, we’re always kneeling at the altar of RuPaul.
I thought for me, my job really was to facilitate the challenges and to be a removed sort of “boss of the guys.” To move the show along, bring humor to it and not be afraid to be a little tart and ask the tough questions in some eliminations.
Which you are very good at and have a lot of experience in.
Right. I have a lot of experience asking questions to stars. So I knew what to do and how to do it. It was a natural fit for me. I loved filming this show.
What do you personally think it takes to be “America’s #1 Champion Gogo Superstar Star?”
It really is the go-go that represents body, dance, individuality, and fantasy is the one that is going to win. To be the winner, you need to have all of those aspects as part of your package. It’s really about star quality.
One thing that we definitely did not want this show to be about was anyone critiquing anyone’s looks or body. And I’m talking about physical attributes. Because we assume if you’re in the competition, you’re sexy, you’re beautiful. You are what you are.
We’re critiquing the performances and those elements that made the performance either great or not great. A lot of the judgings was very tough because all of these guys were really good, but the judges had to make tough decisions and send someone home every single week, sometimes even more than one.
That sounds exciting and something to really look forward to. Looking back, I feel like the work you produce always finds a way to go viral online, and this time it seems your song “Man Areas” has taken over TikTok and Spotify. What does it feel like to have your work still resonate on all these different social media platforms after all these years?
Well, you know, it’s good to be a young youthful pop star. Hold on. Doja Cat is calling the other line. I can’t talk now, Doja; I’m doing an interview. It’s extremely gratifying. Especially “Man Areas,” which was a song I released in 2012, which had its own little day life. I think it had about three hundred thousand views on YouTube, and that album sold pretty well.
But I had not thought about that song. It certainly wasn’t the song that I thought was going to suddenly pop off, but it was extremely exciting and fun to see it not only take over TikTok, but get streamed nine million times on Spotify. It was thrilling, and you know, it really made me understand that I’ve always been ahead, unfortunately ahead. I’m always about ten years early on a lot of things I did.
I had a viral music video before YouTube existed. I started a podcast in 2006. I was in the Top 10 of iTunes before everyone had a podcast. I started interviewing drag queens in a serious manner way before anyone took that seriously. I’m always very early, which has not been great for me financially, but it has always been gratifying to see that what I’ve done so many years before now becomes the trend.
I’m happy to see that the work that I’ve done that I believed in at the time has legs and continues to make people laugh, make people smile, make people horny, whatever it’s meant to do. I love it. And I’m hoping now that I’m right on time with Gogo for the Gold. It’s kind of boring to be ten years early and then watch everybody else get rich later on the idea you had ten years ago.
Finally, you’re known fondly as “The Gay Pimp,” but if you had your own go-go alter ego name – what would it be?
JM: Oh my God. One thing I’ve never had the desire to do is get on the box and take off my clothes. I’ll take off my clothes, but in the privacy of my own home and with a private gentleman, not in front of people. If I had to have a go-go name, I don’t know. What would it be? Maybe “The Beast” because I’m so hairy.
But that will never happen. I have no desire for it to happen. Just like I never wanted to get in drag. I just wanted to love it. I feel the same way about go-go dancing. I love it. I want to celebrate it, and I want to showcase it and spotlight it.