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Queens of the Holiday Scene

Drag digs its December heels into the Laurie Beechman

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Peace on earth is intangible. Frankincense and myrrh are cliché — and expensive! A gift card is worthless, once it’s been maxed out. But the memories you and those on your “Nicely Naughty List” take from a holiday drag show will last a lifetime. This month, the star that beckons hovers not over a manger, but directly above the Laurie Beechman Theatre — a cozy little den of drinks, sass, and sin located below 42nd Street’s West Bank Café.

Throughout December, a stellar roster of drag acts will offer sweet and salty takes on what makes this special time of year tick. Gay City News spoke with a few of them, for the skinny on everything from politics to parodies to planetary consciousness. So fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a tightly tucked ride.

One legendary queen is eschewing Santa, and embracing Satan. From December 7-9, “Jackie Beat: Menstrual Krampus” finds the formidable hellion on an anti-Christmas tirade fit for a defensive atheist. It’s the iconic drag performer’s 20th annual holiday show, full of “hooters and horns, makeup and macabre merriment,” as Beat sets out to make the season anything but bright.

“I am going to take everything the Hallmark Channel holds dear and ruin it,” Beat vowed. “I’m going to mock it and twist it and pervert it. It’s what I do. People have such a soft spot in their hearts for the holidays — especially family traditions and childhood memories — and I like to soil and sully all of that!”

The bastardization of beloved carols will be a large part of amply bosomed Beat’s show. Those familiar with her act can attest to the high quality of her retooled lyrics. But has the well run dry?

“I always say that coming up with new material for my holiday show is the complete opposite of my dick: It gets harder every year,” she quipped.

But just as Viagra is the hamburger helper of boudoir shortcomings, her new take on an old standard will extend the performer’s creative reach a few more crucial inches.

“Every year,” Beat explained, “I do an updated, topical version of ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.’ Of course, my version is called ‘It’s The Most Miserable Time of the Year,’ and it focuses on everything that went wrong. Needless to say, it pretty much writes itself!”

At press time, Beat was also prepping a selection from “Mame” and crossing her fingers that she’ll be able to put Wham’s “Last Christmas” in the win column.

“It’s giving me a little trouble,” Beat confided, in a moment of vulnerability so rare, it was probably a clever ruse.

But why focus on the negative? Because it’s good for business!

“I really have nothing against love and family, and warmth and kindness, and generosity,” Beat asserted, “but I have a mortgage to pay. So I often take the less-traveled, winding, bumpy road of irony. People seem to really enjoy me focusing on the negative aspect of the holidays, everything from alcohol and drug abuse to beautifully decorated Christmas trees bursting into flames. I mean, let’s be honest, comedy is really just focusing on the negative and/ or complaining!”

From Jackie Beat’s well-aged brand of uncorked rage, we segue to December 19 and 20 performances from Jackie Cox — a genie let loose from her bottle, whose show promises something no dysfunctional family gathering can come close to offering: closure.

“Jackie’s Winter Wish” is the final installment of the “I Dream of Jackie” trilogy. Part I saw tongue-in-cheek Cox (an award-winning Lisa Rinna impersonator!) perform in the persona of a magical genie freed from her longtime hibernation under the Laurie Beechman Theatre, only to discover “things outside her bottle aren’t as idealistic as she’d hoped.”

For Cox, a sly comedy queen and Disney enthusiast known for her pop song parodies, the debut installment of “I Dream” was an opportunity to acknowledge “what was happening in our political atmosphere. I’d never really explored my own Persian heritage in drag before,” Cox said of the show, which also addressed “what it means to be a young queer person of some color.” Noting the impact of the 2016 presidential election, she added, “This racist ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries wove its way into the plot.”

The silly sequel, “Jackie’s Nightmare,” found Cox’s “dizzy princess” character confronting her evil twin sister — who will return with a vengeance “to earn her spot on the Naughty List,” as this final episode of the trilogy sees Jackie take audiences on “a fantastical, holiday-themed magic carpet ride from the wintry streets of Hell’s Kitchen to the great snowy North.” Along for the adventure, Christopher Sanders makes his debut as Jackie’s “twink on the brink” sidekick, and Vicky Boofant plays a brassy mermaid. And those who put the gift of leering on their wish list, rejoice: the series’ signature hunky harem boys (Drew Bloom, Blake McIver, and Adam Sarette) are back.

“It’s a holiday spectacular, a bit bigger than anything else I’ve done,” Cox vowed. “It’s not quite Radio City — but hey, I’m inching my way there… Jackie, she’s a take on me,” said Cox, who “didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas. It’s not a big Persian holiday. But there are some Persian traditions around Winter Solstice to explore. One of the ones I thought to extrapolate, in a queer kind of way, is the tradition of Shab-e Yalda. On the longest night of the year, you stay awake as long as you can with your friends and family having fruit. They’ll definitely be songs — and you’ve seen my cast, so there will definitely be fruits, as well.”

Coming off a year when the fruits of their labor — the consciousness-themed album “Amethyst Journey” — successfully took their sound in a new direction, two longtime friends and creative collaborators are falling to earth for eight nights, December 12-19. “Alaska & Jeremy: Christmas in Space” finds the duo taking “a musical journey through space and time,” during which they promise to perform some seldom-seen numbers, while answering the burning question, “What is the best way to hang tinsel in space?”

Asked about the set list as well as the challenge of zero gravity tinsel-hanging, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2” winner Alaska played it close to the vest — or whatever one wears with a highly fashionable spacesuit.

“I don’t like giving away any spoilers,” she said, “but I will say most of the music has nothing to do with Christmas. We love doing a holiday show — but at the Laurie Beechman, we get to be more experimental than we would if we were on the road. We get to do material we’ve been aching to do all year.”

“I would only supplement that,” Jeremy said, “by saying we’re going to find a narrative in here somewhere that will give people some funny and some feels, and that’s what I’m excited about. They may not be holiday songs, but I feel the holidays are the time when we sort of clarify our perspectives and get ready for the winter.”

Alaska acknowledged, “I find the wintertime to be really challenging and depressing. It’s so cold, and I get cold so easily. I’m just this shivering bird creature that just wants to crawl up in a ball. So I’m glad we have a place like the Laurie Beechman, where we get to do music that we love and gather around people we love.”

Alaska explained that the show’s celestial aesthetic was inspired in the same way the duo is moved whenever the call comes from the Beechman to deliver a December performance.

“It springs to us from the ether,” she said, “which is to say, we just make it up — and we build a show around it. So that’s what happened this year. I’m really into watching ‘Star Trek’ right now, especially ‘Next Generation.’ So we really wanted to be inspired by that.”

“We do want,” Jeremy said, “to have this ‘Amethyst Journey’ moment, where we think bigger and bigger about the planet, the solar system, the galaxies, and the great big universe… We know the winter can be harsh. And sometimes, some of us get really isolated, or want to be isolated, or just want to hibernate. So it’s an opportunity to enjoy each other’s presence, and sing along a little bit, and feel more connected.”

Which is to say get the hell out of the house and down to the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Or, as Cox so eloquently put it, “Get out and support your local queens. Because it’s their chance to earn an honest buck.”

JACKIE BEAT: MENSTRUAL KRAMPUS | Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 8 & 9 at 7 & 9:30 p.m. | $24, plus a $20 food/ drink minimum

JACKIE’S WINTER WISH | Dec. 19 & 20 at 9:30 p.m. | $22, plus a $20 food/ drink minimum

ALASKA & JEREMY: CHRISTMAS IN SPACE | Dec. 12-14, 16, 18-19 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 15 & 17 at 9:30 p.m. | $30, plus a $20 food/ drink minimum

Laurie Beechman Theatre, West Bank Café, 407 W. 42nd St. | westbankcafe.com/laurie-beechman-theatre

Bonus Round Question #1: Who, living or dead, would be your dream duet partner when covering a beloved holiday song?

JACKIE BEAT: I really love “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” because it’s kind of sad. It seems like the kind of promise someone would make right before their plane tragically flies into the side of a mountain during a blizzard. And I would love to sing it with Karen Carpenter, because her voice always had an underlying layer of lethargic heartache in it. Uh oh, I’m getting too serious... Time to make a dick joke!

JACKIE COX: Oh my gosh, that’s a big question! What I do with Jackie is very similar to what Judy Garland used to do on her [1963] Christmas special [episode of “The Judy Garland Show”], where she’d get a bunch of her friends and they’d all sing songs. So I think it would be amazing to sing with her. She was so generous, singing with Barbra Streisand, who’s a much better signer than her [laughs]. I feel like she’s so giving in her duets. So maybe sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with Judy. I mean, can you beat that?

Bonus Round Question #2: Gift-giving is always a challenge. Suggestions for our readers?

JACKIE BEAT: Tickets to my show, of course. Followed by a shopping spree at The Jackie Beat Gift Shop where we will have this year’s JB Collectible Holiday Ornament, T-shirts, sleep masks featuring my world-famous award-winning eyes, coffee mugs, and CDs. Yes, CDs. Because everything old is new again. Hell, Rihanna has a fucking flip phone. It’s retro, just go with it!

Updated 9:06 am, December 5, 2018
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