Friday, November 18, 2011

Take Me To the Candy Shop

Peppermint is tall and muscular, with light cocoa skin and cheekbones like nobody’s business. Her eyelashes bat open and closed like hurricane shutters and her golden orange hair is thick and voluminous. In a long, emerald green dress, she takes the small stage at Therapy, a gay bar in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Neatly coiffed men and the occasional woman sit behind bar tables and stools and in booths, their eyes glued to her as she greets the crowd. The deejay’s disembodied voice rings from the back, introducing her to rabid applause and cheers of “WERRRKKK!” “SERVE IT UP!!!” and even a “YES BITCH!”

Peppermint is a drag queen. Moments before, I met her and shook her hand, and with a breathless ‘Come on!’ she whisked me down a staircase speckled with red glitter. Having the pleasure of interviewing Peppermint for an article I’m writing for a magazine, I came to her show this evening and had little idea what to expect. Downstairs, in front of a mirror with seven other queens applying realistic wigs and exotic eyeliner, Peppermint takes a couple of fiery paddlebrush strokes to her hair. My camera flashes as I take pictures for my article. Seconds later she’s running up the stairs again.  

A tall drink of water who slightly resembles Jennifer Hudson, Peppermint hosts a show weekly at Therapy called Cattle Call, a talent show for both drag and non-drag performers. Almost all of them will lip synch, but Peppermint will also sing live, in a voice beautifully rich and creamy like chocolate fondue. She warms up the audience with deliciously witty, sassy and sexy banter, and she is absolutely magnetic. Stage presence like that is what makes or breaks a performer. That and “it.” That thing that everyone looks for in a brilliant performance, that thing where someone sparkles so much that you actually feel yourself begin to sparkle—that’s what Peppermint has.

Raised on drag, I have seen a few lip synchs in my day, but Peppermints are the tightest I have seen since Manila Luzon’s “Macarthur Park,” so perfectly performed and choreographed that I forget more than once she is not actually singing. She is a consummate professional, assembling her acts thoughtfully and creatively. My jaw drops and stays there until the end of her performance. Truth be told, I have trouble closing it back up after that, too. There are other queens on the bill, but they are amateurs and in comparison to Peppermint, they’re almost nothing at all. “She’s a star,” a man says to me in the audience. He is absolutely right.

Peppermint is well established in the drag scene, touring the world, premiering songs on Logo, recording an album, and much more. Currently she hosts shows all over New York, including the one at Therapy (Wednesdays at 11pm), and others at XES (Sunday at 10pm) and Barracuda (Mondays at midnight).

Going to see her show last night was one of those incredible things that I still can’t believe I saw. I sat in the cab on the way home talking to my roommate in halted speech because I could just not get the words out to describe this glorious creature. What also amazed me is that seeing Peppermint perform is entirely free. New York is bubbling over with fantastic performers like Peppermint and they’re not all on Broadway either. In fact, Peppermint’s was probably one of the best performances I’ve seen since I moved to New York, along with Douglas Hodge in La Cage aux Folles. I would go see her again in a heartbeat, so if you’re free any of the times listed above, you already know what we’re doing.