This Saturday, drag queens from all five boroughs and beyond will gather at Secret Project Robot to outdo one another in their costumes, performance innovation, and general obscenity at Bushwig, the neighborhood’s second annual festival of drag. The emcee of the fest will be Bushwick-based queen Macy Rodman, who in April won North Brooklyn’s first drag pageant, an eight-week long performance showdown called Mr(s) Williamsburg.
Macy looks like a long-legged Amazonian supermodel (“I’m 6’4,’” she told us, “and like 7 feet tall in heels!”) and has been giving groundbreakingly fresh and weird performances for the past year at Bathsalts, her weekly show at Manhattan Avenue’s divey Mexican rock bar Don Pedro’s.
We met up with Mason King, the Alaskan native and Parsons dropout who becomes Macy when he puts on a blonde wig, at Skytown in Bushwick to learn about how “Bushwick is just becoming gayer and gayer” and why drag in North BK is not quite like anywhere else or anything that’s come before.
I’ve been in New York probably 5 years. I came here to go to school and then I ended up dropping out. And then I moved to Bushwick because it was cheap. I started doing drag two years ago, on the Lower East Side at this bar called Sweet Paradise. I was DJing this weekly party, and I just showed up one night [in drag]. And then I just started doing it randomly all around. It’s a lot of trolling and just showing up for things.
It’s been great! It introduced me to everyone who’s doing this kind of thing. Everyone’s usually kind of separate, and there are so many things happening almost every night and you can’t go to everything. So this was a nice way for everyone to come out and see everyone else. And it wasn’t such an intense competition – everyone was just showing off for each other.
I mostly try to either make people laugh or make people uncomfortable. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff that’s been kind of spur of the moment, because I have to do my show every week. I think when I do performances as Macy, it comes more from my subconscious and I allow myself to address things that are either so ridiculous that they become laughable or I get really dark and just show the audience the weird, bleak, in between places I can sometimes go mentally. It’s often a very fine line, though.
I saw a great video of one of your performances, in which you give a lap dance to this long-haired hipster guy, who looks very alarmed.
The difference in style kind of goes along with what I said before about Macy being more from my subconscious. For the stuff I’ve put out as Mason, I have noticed that some of it gets really specific, and possibly less relatable because of that. Macy’s music is what I listen to: a mix of mindless pop and beat-driven R&B that’s mostly about narcissism.
The drag scene in Bushwick has gone from almost nonexistence to a huge output of creativity in just a couple of years. How is Bushwick drag different from drag shows elsewhere, especially nationally visible drag like the performances on Drag Race?
There’s definitely a heavy mixture of performance art in the shows here. Some queens are also artists, and have performance art backgrounds. So there’s that, and there’s also an importance placed on humor and social commentary, and a less of an emphasis on grace and beauty. Not to say that some of them don’t achieve that! But it’s not so much about the fantasy of having perfect hair or anything. It’s more free form.
Drag in other parts of the city definitely looks a lot more like drag on TV, but that’s only because what you see on TV is based on the experience of those kinds of places. It should be mentioned, though, that actually going to a party in Hell’s Kitchen is not the same as watching Drag Race. Whether you’re in Bushwick or off-Broadway, a drag queen is usually the product of emotional scarring and a non-traditional view of the world, and some pretty outrageous shit can go down.
I think the only difference, really, is the starting point. Bushwick queens don’t necessarily care as much about polish or “realness” because they didn’t come up in a scene where that is valued as much. There’s a bit of an absence of the “Drag Mother” in Bushwick because it hasn’t been a place for drag for that long, so no history or showing of the ropes has been necessary yet; we’re all still figuring it out and maybe in a few years we can tell someone what works and what doesn’t.
My friend was DJing for it last year and it sounded really cool so I just reached out to them and asked if I could do it. And it was also something where everyone got to meet each other, like Mr(s) Williamsburg. People came from all over. Jiggly Caliente from Drag Race was there. And lots of people are coming from uptown this year. It’s become a real New York party, and Secret Project Robot as a space is really cool.
When we heard the name Bushwig, we thought of Wigstock. Babes Trust, one of the founders of Bushwig, told us that she and co-founder Horrorchata didn’t purposefully reference Wigstock when picking out a name, although they do love and respect the old Tompkins Square Park drag show. Is the uniqueness of drag in Bushwick today comparable to drag in the East Village in the ’80s and ’90s?
That’s certainly what I thought of too when I heard the name. And Bushwick sometimes feels like the equivalent of the East Village in the ’80s or the West Village in the ’70s. Bushwick is just becoming gayer and gayer. I don’t know if it’s comparable in the same way, because there are also all these questions about gentrification here. A lot of us are white queens who go to art school. So it’s not the same thing.
Not to say that it’s not diverse, but, you know, it’s different. That’s just the reality of living in Bushwick, and it’s just the way that New York is. This is where artists are right now. Before it was Soho, and then the Lower East Side, and then Williamsburg, and now here. Eventually we’ll be in upstate New York or something. Hopefully Bushwick is big enough for us to be able to stay at least a little bit longer, because the name Bushwig is so good. I hope we can keep it.