Miss Manhattan Hangs Out

Dearest readers,

Welcome to the newest project in the Miss Manhattan family: Miss Manhattan Hangs Out!

I'll be spending time with some of the most wonderful and fascinating New Yorkers across all fields--fashion, music, media, medicine, comedy, social justice, theatre, and so much more--then delivering the experience straight into your inbox via TinyLetter. Here is the link to subscribe, and here is a link to the Miss Manhattan Hangs Out Archive on the blog. 

Since I am both a writer and a photographer, you'll get a well-rounded view into each person's life, with words (exactly 500, no more and no less as a personal challenge to myself) and pictures (about 15-20 for a full narrative). Some people you may know, and some you may not, but you'll get insight into a person's life that you may never have gotten otherwise, and I'm happy to be your guide!

And by all means, if you're interested in being a subject for Miss Manhattan Hangs Out, please feel free to get in touch with me at elyssa@miss-manhattan.com and introduce yourself! 

Let's get started with drag queen Linda Simpson, a downtown New York legend.

Linda Simpson greets me at her door in a leopard dress, makeup done, with a lush bounce to her chocolate brown wig. Her voice is practically a purr when she greets me and lets me in, gathering her belongings for the evening’s show.

Tonight Linda is hosting her namesake event “Linda Loves Bingo” at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street. Every Friday and Saturday night, the venue’s gallery floor explodes with people—sometimes bachelorette parties, sometimes birthday parties, sometimes just friends on an evening jaunt—all buying dollar bingo cards in hopes of winning ridiculous (-ly wonderful) prizes.

Called “A worldly wit... A kind of mother superior of the New York drag scene” by The New York Times, Linda is a New York icon who has been performing drag in the city since the 1980s. After documenting her life as a queen, coming up alongside RuPaul and Lady Bunny, with a 35mm camera, she has been showing these images in galleries and as a part of a show she has called “The Drag Explosion,” a slideshow and storytelling event presented around the world. A video of these images is currently on view at the International Center of Photography’s “Perpetual Revolution: Image and Social Change” exhibition. She is also a playwright and writer, currently working on a novel.

Shortly, we are in the elevator and Linda, though in full drag, is totally incognito. She is encircled by a long, furry brown coat and dark, circular glasses rest on her face as if she were a movie star in hiding. Her lithe, elegant hand holds a giant plastic orange shopping bag full of crazy bingo prizes peeking out of the top, like a package of Little Debbie Honey Buns, an ornate plastic mirror, and tiny spinning globes.

We arrive in the space, rather dreary with its dark paint, but Linda transforms it with a custom-painted banner in pink and turquoise, satiny and sparkly fabrics, her bingo accoutrements, and a wheel of drink specials. I help her add glittery red, white, and blue stars to each table.

The space is soon swimming with people laughing and drinking. Linda and her assistant sell bingo cards then it’s time to get the show on the road. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to bingo!” she says into the microphone to uproarious applause and an intermittent “WOOOOOO!” “I’m your host Linda Simpson.” More applause, more “WOOOOOO,” and an occasional “YAAAAS” accompanied by an upraised arm of manicured fingers snapping finds its way out of the audience. Linda quiets the rowdy crowd, explains the rules, and shortly they’re off. She spins the bingo cage and selects a ball. “B1, ladies and gentlemen, B1 is our number!” People mark their cards and soon there’s a “Bingo!” From the audience. A winner is invited to the stage and regaled with not-so-innocuously shaped prizes, cheers and laughter, and then it’s time to begin again. Linda pulls a ball from the cage. “Oh, it’s our Sexy Number!” she says. “O 69!!!” The crowd goes wild.

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