She works all over the city and beyond. She sings, dances, lip syncs, interviews celebrities, paints amateur queens, hosts parties and leads karaoke, and she does it all clean and sober, uncensored and unfiltered. And on the evening of April 1st (THIS FRIDAY), she’s gonna rock your fucking face off. Thotyssey’s got Marti Gould Cummings in the house!
Thotyssey: So Marti, you have a lot of shows. A LOT of shows. How do you find the time to do anything that’s not drag or stage related?
Marti Gould Cummings: I think it is important to have a life outside of my work, so I really make an effort to spend time with friends and my boyfriend. And I tend to not go out when i am not working.
Where are you from, and when did you know you wanted to be an entertainer?
I grew up on a farm in Kennedyville, Maryland and went to school in Delaware my entire life. I knew I wanted to be an entertainer the moment I escaped the crips of my mothers womb, and heard the applause of the maternity wing announcing a new child had been born.
How come you never took a drag name?
Good company! You have a pretty distinctive drag look, sporting your natural hair. How did this look evolve?
When I started drag, I was NOT pretty. I did this androgynous genderfuck look, so I didn’t use wigs because I wanted to do something different. I wasn’t looking to be a queen, I was looking to do genderbend and genderfuck, which is actually how Ru started. From there, it evolved and grew into the persona I am today, which is still a mix of the androgyny, but also with more “fish” mainstream drag. I like being able to change it up daily.
So, what was your first drag gig in New York?
Were those early gigs similar to what you do today?
My show is so different today, because I am more comfortable in my body and confident as a performer. I have run out of fucks to give, so I just have fun. But I am still professional, which a lot of these gals today aren’t so much. I tell jokes, stories that are funny and personal, sing and lip sync. To captivate an audience for two hours by yourself, you have to be able to do it all.
And you succeed! Let’s get right into the shows, and we’ll start with the big event on Friday, April 1st. You’re going to be performing with a live rock band for a showcase at 54 Below. Congratulations, this is gonna be awesome! What inspired you to do this?
Tony winner Cady Huffman directed a show written by the brilliant Kenyon Phillips, starring him and Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega, and she asked me to star in the show with them at Webster Hall. It changed how I view myself as an artist. It put a fire under my ass, and showed me I am so much more than I thought I was. I can do anything I want if I put in the work – anyone can! You have to believe in yourself for others to believe in you, so I said, ”I wanna be a rock star for a day.”
Yes! There isn’t enough rock music in the world of drag these days, but the two seem to go together really well. Divine and Jayne County rocked their wigs off in the 70’s and 80′s. Why do you think that’s died off in nightlife over the years?
Everyone wants to do mixes and Beyoncé and yada yada yawn…be weird! Be vibrant! Be larger than life! Rock music is larger than life and it tells a story. We are cross dressers, let’s stand out and not just blend in with conformity. Be big, bold, and weird!
Speaking of bold and weird, “Show Me Your Dick” was a fun video you did with Big Dipper. Any more video projects in the near future?
Okay, let’s run through the other shows. Sunday afternoon, you do the second brunch show at Boots & Saddle, 3 to 5pm. Is day drag its own challenge?
It is definitely a different feeling, but I love it! Wake up and drag!
By the way, a general question about your performing style: You shoot rapidfire jokes through your whole act. Do you pre-write most of your material, or is it all improvised?
It’s a 50/50 mix. I write a lot, but I also feed so heavily off the environment and people and situation I’m put in.
Back to the shows: Sunday nights, you’re at Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up in Hell’s Kitchen for On the Rocks, where you sing and perform and interview guests performers. I’ll get to the interview process more in-depth when talk about Stage Fright. This is VS/BU’s first weekly drag show, and it’s really new. How’s it going so far?
It’s a fucking blast! It’s the newest bar in HK, and has a great staff and gorgeous interior! It’s such an honor to be the first show and to go on that journey with them.
So, Stage Fright is Monday at Therapy, which is where you get a lot of big names in Broadway to come and be interviewed by you, and sometimes even perform. This wasn’t your first live interview format show, was it?
I did the show at New World Stages for a long time before moving to Therapy.
That’s right. I wonder if it’s challenge to do those interviews. On the one hand, it’s an interview, and you need to engage the guest. On the other hand, it’s a bar, so you have to work with a loud, drunk audience, and entertain them.
It’s like balancing a scale.
Your pianist Bradford is adorable and talented. How did you find him?
We met in P-Town when we were both doing shows up there; he is the best collaborator to have. Genius.
So, how do you book your guests? For Stage Fright, and for On the Rocks?
I just send them messages and say, “Hey, let’s do a show!”
It was sweet and emotional when you interviewed Alan Cumming a few weeks ago. You’re obviously a big fan. What was that experience really like for you?
It was a full circle moment of joy, realizing I’m doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing in my life.
Stage Fright follows a RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party, where Bob the Drag Queen is already kicking ass this season. You’re a close friend of his, and you made a cameo in his alter ego Hood Pussy’s video, “Deck-A-Hoe.” Is it exciting to watch him on the show?
Bob deserves this more than anyone I know, and I can’t wait to see him take home the crown!
Now, Tuesday nights, you host the first half of karaoke (starting at 8pm) at Pieces (Kareem McJagger finishes out the night). I notice that when you sing, you very rarely finish the song! Why is that?
Songs are just so long.
Yes, they are. Then it looks like after that, you’re one of many hosts at Frankie Sharp’s weekly Tuesday night party at the Jane Hotel. From the banners it always looks like there’s 700 people with bizarre names hosting, performing and DJing these parties, so it seems kinda like an old school club kids sort of thing. Is that the case?
It is the single greatest party ever! Frankie is the king. Frankie’s party is fun because it is not in a bar or a club, it is in an old school ballroom of a legendary hotel with a mixing of people from every genre of nightlife.
Sounds fun. Wednesday nights, you and a guest give us Drag Academy at G Lounge. What exactly goes on there?
Drag Academy is where I have a guest queen and emerging drag artists, and we put people in the audience in drag and make them part of the show. It is an event to showcase how fun and silly drag is!
After Wednesday, you enjoy some time off, and then on Saturday nights you’re back at Boots & Saddle for Politically Incorrect. Miz Cracker is usually your co-hostess, and she’s also a very joke-heavy queen, is it a challenge to work with someone who might be approaching material the same way you are?
It’s a lot of fun because we just play off each others’ humor.
You work out of town gigs very frequently as well. Where’s your favorite place to perform out of New York?
Performing in San Francisco and P-town is the best. The audiences are overwhelmingly supportive, and both places are fucking gorgeous.
You’ve been open about your substance abuse problems in the past, but you’ve been in recovery for a long time now. Is it hard to work in nightlife sober?
It depends on the day, but generally I know that I am a better human being all around if I stay on the beam. So fuck drinking, I have no time for it.
Caitlyn Jenner: You’ve openly discussed an incident way back when a tabloid paid you to be her body-double while they were trying to out her as transgendered, back when the world knew her as Bruce Jenner. You’ve expressed a lot of regret about this decision.
But, for what it’s worth, she’s kind of an asshole now, isn’t she? She’s a log cabin republican who thinks Ted Cruz is a feminist, she doesn’t support gay marriage, her reality show got cancelled for being boring, and she’s a terrible driver. Is it okay to not feel bad about that little photo anymore?
I feel bad for the photo in the sense that I was deceived by the magazine in what I was doing, and would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings the way that may have. All money I made was donated to the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth.
And finally, one last question about the April 1st show at 54 Below: what song are you looking forward to performing the most? Or is that giving away too much?
I’m singing a song for my parents who inspire me every day. Come to the show and find out what it is.
Marti Gould Cummings and her rock band perform at 11:30 on Friday, April 1st at 54 Below. Get more info & tickets now! She appears Sunday afternoons at Boots & Saddle 3-5pm, Sunday nights at Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up 10pm, Monday nights at Therapy 10pm, Tuesday nights for karaoke at Pieces 8pm, then later Tuesday nights hosting at Frankie’s at the Jane Hotel 11pm-ish, Wednesday nights at G Lounge, and Saturday nights with Miz Cracker at Boots & Saddle 10pm. Whew! She can be followed on Facebook (twice), Twitter, Instagram, iTunes and YouTube.
See Also: Marti Gould Cummings (9.26.2017)