Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Dr. Wang Newton

When I meet Dr. Wang Newton outside of Di Di Dumpling on E. 24th Street, the sky has just recently cleared from a flash downpour. Wang arrives, hair majestically coiffed, black and streaked through with a flash of blond. Somehow, though it’s just rained, they are a vision of capital F-Fashion, long tasseled earrings, sharp and flowing shapes of black fabric encasing their frame and black sneakers decorated with gold accents. Wang isn’t normally photographed out of their drag king attire. Rather, their onstage persona is often the focus, that of a 1970s-Vegas-style emcee, a Taiwanese version of Wayne Newton attired in a red or black embroidered suit, an Elvis wig, aviator-style glasses, thick eyebrows and moustache, a giant red lace thong in their pocket to dab away perspiration for comedic effect.

Wang has chosen Di Di Dumpling because they say it has the dumplings that most closely recall their mother’s. We dive into a batch and Wang tells me the story of how their drag came to be. Wang (which is, of course, just their name onstage) has been a drag king since 2004, when they attended a Halloween party calling for black attire and a wig of some kind. Wang Newton was born that night, lyrics of “Danke Schoen” in hand. The “Wangpire” has since evolved, and they have performed around the globe, beloved by Time Out New York in particular as “joyously mad.” They host and produce a variety show full of what Wang describes as “gaysian flair,” called Happy Beginnings. The next one, themed “Crazy Rich Slaysians,” will take place August 15 at C’Mon Everybody in Brooklyn.

By day, Wang works in marketing. A few times a week, they spend time at The Assemblage, a wellness-driven space in the Flatiron District. Upon entering, a crystal and dried flower arrangement asks us to set an intention for our visit. We head to the roof, decorated in wood, stone and lanterns, with a magical view of the city’s skyline. Some seats are still wet from the rain but we find some dry tables and make ourselves comfortable.

Wang’s preferred brand of comedy includes what they call culture-fucking and gender-fucking, messing with perceptions of culture and gender we’re fed, parodying these ideals to show how ridiculous such things are. Among Wang’s inspirations for comedy are Dave Chappelle and Sacha Baron Cohen, whose new show Who is America? Wang found particularly revelatory. Wang hopes to bring a ferocity and swagger of performance they like to call “Big Wang Energy” to the stage, each time further realizing the Wang Experience.

Light begins to fade from the rooftop. We head downstairs to a communal space laden with chandeliers, tuffets, pillows, and an installation of mushrooms plastered onto the walls. The energy is quiet before we go back out into the world for bubble tea, one of Wang’s favorite treats from Taiwan. Wang readies a straw and smiles, about to puncture the tea’s plastic lid with a pop. “This is my favorite part.”

Follow Wang on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
Buy tickets for “Happy Beginnings” on August 15.

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