Let’s remind ourselves that LGTBQ nightlife is fun and amazing, and so vital to our community. Enter kiki-connoisseur Stephanie Stone, drag hostess extraordinaire! Get your life with this exclusive interview.
Thotyssey: Hi Stephanie! Thanks for talking to us. I’m guessing you were out doing something fun last night, somewhere!
Stephanie Stone: No, but I can’t even talk about it [laughs]. The a/c had broken, and let me tell you, that was not a place you want to put a bunch of drag queens. It was like backstage at the Oscars, finding out its a tie, and they called the wrong two names!
Yikes! Where was this?
I’m not saying, ‘cause the venue would hate me. But trust…it was fixed pronto [laughs]!
Broken air conditioning aside, do you generally have more fun when you’re out on the town and not hosting? Or is hosting similar enough to partying for you?
Good question. Well, it’s two different people. If I’m out, you’ll find me in the corner cackling with a few friends. If she’s out, you’ll find her everywhere, and usually draped over a handsome man…or six!
You’ve been at this for a minute now!
Go ahead, you can say it….the early 1800’s [laughs]!
But you look 19, so it just means you’re a vampire! At this stage in your career though, when you attend a new party or venue as either a host or just for fun, can you tell right away whether or not the party works or whether it needs help?
That is actually the most fun now: being aware of the signs, good or bad. It’s like, “Girl, I can tell you exactly what’s gonna happen next!” [laughs]
I bet! I interviewed Vivacious not long ago, and she says one of the many reasons that big-venue parties in the city (the few that are left) struggle nowadays is because these venue owners don’t want to pay performers and personalities to work the parties. Do you think think that’s true?
Well, she was there and she is right. This is what happened, though: all of the jobs used to be separated, which made sense. The big clubs were not created by stupid people. They might have been drunk and high, but not stupid. Promoters made sure it was packed, performers just performed. The tasks and expectations didn’t overlap, because there was enough staff.
Then Giuliani butt-fucked the whole thing (excuse my French). As the clubs started to dwindle, fewer people were hired, and those that were had to “multi-task”. Can you deejay and promote? Can you sing and bartend? That’s who survived. We are still working through that, but we will get back to more clubs and staff soon!
How important to the business are nightlife personalities and performers: drag queens, club kids, etc.?
Small and Big clubs need atmosphere–it is the most important thing, and what people get off their cell phones to see!
But until things change, I guess it’s these smaller weekly parties that are the way to go. Do you feel a lot of the same vibes, and see the level of looks, at these parties as you did in the big clubs from before, or does this scene not compare?
Oh, “then” is happening right now! Cause Ladyfag’s Holy Mountain and Battle Hymn are two giant glorious successes! The same intensity you find at 11:11, same beautiful night creatures, just a smaller space. I can have the same conversation with Desi Santiago as I can with Sussi. The time difference doesn’t matter, they are both creative and amazing.
I’m going to ask about those parties in a bit, but first let’s get to know you. Where are you from, exactly, and when and why did you come to NYC?
I’m originally from Seattle. I moved to New York because Seattle and the suburbs hated me… like, the village was throwing rocks [laughs]! I’ve been here over ten years, I came to go to Parsons.
Parsons has a long history with fostering NYC nightlife.
True! LIke the world’s most expensive prep-school.
Did you start doing drag there?
Did your drag name just roll off your tongue, or did you name yourself after someone or something specific?
I can’t even remember… she was just there one day, in the bushes!
Where was your first gig?
OH MY GAWD [laughs]. I can’t even. One of the earliest ones, though, was at Easternbloc. I knew that Judy Garland had originally been cast as Helen in Valley of the Dolls – she recorded one number before getting fired: “I’ll Plant My Own Tree.” I found it and had to do it. But I never thought about the date….girl, it was Cinco de Mayo. They turned off the twerking jams for Judy! I got ‘em, though, they loved it.
I bet it was amazing! And then there’s pageants. Was Miss Fire Island 2007 your first pageant win?
Yes, “the Black Year” [laughs]. Me and the gorgeous [Fire Island Entertainer of the Year] Sugga Pie Koko!
Drag pageantry seems so expensive and stressful.
It is expensive, boo! And they takes a year to prepare for….no lie.
Aside from the hope of winning a cash prize and recognition, is there anything that you “get” out of those experiences?
I think you get a lot. It’s kind of like Boy Scouts with lace fronts: a Sisterhood that looks out for each other. I still get gigs based on being MFI. That island is magic!
It sure is. So, how do you get into the hosting racket? That seems like a great place to be! Does it usually start with just showing up and looking fabulous?
Be nice. You get more bees with honey in this town. It’s not always easy, but it will make you feel good as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be feeling blah, then someone like Dominique Echeverria would come up to me and make me scream laughing.
That’s the job: spread joy, have good energy. Having a look is cute, but it’s much more than that. We are like social ambassadors, to sound all corny, but it’s true!
I totally agree. I give 100% credit to drag queens and nightlife personalities for making me feel like I was part of a community.
It’s such a gift. I’m thankful everyday. If someone remembers you making them laugh or easing their pain or problems for a bit…what is better than that?
By the way, apropos of nothing… you were in a Seamless commercial!
Yes, it was fun!
Do you still perform at all? Hosts don’t usually get much of an opportunity to take the stage.
Oh, I didn’t know you worked at Lips! How’s that? I love Ginger Snap!
I’m with Ginger all year doing bingo, then Chandelier Period takes over for the summer. None of us should be allowed to be on a mic together…legally [laughs]. It’s a blast. Those girls are funny as hell. Lips is an institution. Or we should all be institutionalized
You said an interesting thing to Next Magazine a few years ago about how day-to-day drag actually gets cheaper over time for a veteran queen, because she accumulates hook-ups, deals and vendor endorsements when her name is out there. Is that still the case, you think?
Oh, for sure. I had a friend just walk up to me in a club a few weeks ago with just a giant bag of the most fantastic jewelry from his office, and he just said “Here, I’ve been meaning to give this to you,” and walked away. Just a mountain of jewels. Where else but in NYC?
So, there aren’t a ton of successful NYC nightlife promoters, but you are working with two of them: Deryck Todd and LadyFag. Let’s start with Deryck’s Strut, Tuesday nights at ACME in the East Village, which just had its 2nd anniversary two weeks ago. What makes that party so fun and successful, on a Tuesday night of all nights?
The mix. Strut is such a diverse group of people, the excitement is inevitable. Sometimes it’s so playful down there, it’s like being at a kid’s basement party when there parents are away, and you could really let loose. People let their guard down and go wild. It’s play time.
Lots of celebs stop into that one. Paris Hilton was there a few months ago, did you see her?
I missed Paris. But yes, it is very easy for celebrities to feel comfortable there. We are a laid back, friendly bunch!
I see that feminist matchmakers Amy Van Doran and Emily Lesser are gonna be a presence there tonight. Do you know anything about them?
I’ve never done online dating or been a part of any sites. I have never met them, but I do think to do that job well, you have to have a lot of common sense and be wise…and those are traits I like, so I’m looking forward. Maybe they”ll hook a sista up?
Let’s move on to Ladyfag, who’s a pretty interesting nightlife promoter and performer. She hosts a number of successful, fun parties in the city like Battle Hymn on Sundays, and the two where we can often find you: Holy Mountain (monthly) and 11:11 at Open House on Friday. What’s Ladyfag’s approach to a good party?
Lady works like a crazy person. She is super passionate about music, people, parties and friends. I’ve hosted all of her parties at some point over the years. Her approach is pretty easy. She gets the right people, with great energy and style, the best music, a cool support staff, and lets it rip! Energy and vibe are key. It’s gotta feel right….and it takes years to know what she knows.
NYC nightlife owes her a lot right now.
Do you know when and where the next Holy Mountain is?
Sweet! 11:11, another Ladyfag party you host (Friday nights at Open House), is in the East Village, but gets a lot of Brooklyn love. Do you notice the Brooklyn vibe there every week?
Of course, a lot of our hosts live [in Brooklyn] due to the “mallification” of the city….it’s way worse than gentrification. Downtown is really becoming a mall.
How do you choose your own looks, night by night?
If there’s not a theme [for the party], and I have an idea what works out well, that’s ideal of course. But when the thing falls apart, I feel the pain of every woman in the country! Girl, it’s panic, shows and drama. The worstI
Let me steal Next Magazine’s idea: What’s the State of Drag in 2016?
Ever-changing. We need to respect all forms of the art. Not just say it, but when the second a big money idea comes along, drop that notion and squeeze yourself into a box…but really get into the community and creativity of it. It can be pretty life-fulfilling.
I also hope that in the future, more folks can live next to each other: that’s been a big change. Candis, Lina, Mona and Jutin Vivian Bond used to all live by me…always there with good advice and help. You can learn a lot from those who paved the way. It’s not all “business” and “career” and “brand building,” folks. You can build a happy, fun life doing this and help others along the way. Okay, enough spirit animal!
So, anything else going on with you?
Some may have noticed my video project STEPHSA, with the ultra talented Matt Sparks. They are [a series of] PSA’s about different holidays, exploring the light and dark sides of each. There is much more to come, so keep your eyes peeled.
Gay nightlife is under fire now… quite literally, sadly. Why does nightlife remain an import aspect of the gay culture?
Orlando. Horrific. Just awful. Now more than ever, we need to force our lawmakers and lobbyists to fight for our safety. I’ve always wanted to get the president of the NRA in a room with the moms of the victims from these tragedies, and have him explain it to all to them. Our community has gotten very good about fighting the injustices of the world, and I know we will do so now, at every level. Gun policies need to change, period. Everyone said gay marriage would never happen, that the ban on cigarette smoking in NYC would never happen, etc. Big things can change. We have the money. Australia did it. We ought to be able to fix this problem. Sending so much love to all the families!
Thank you for everything you do, Stephanie!
Stephanie Stone co-hosts bingo with Ginger Snap for Bitchy Bingo at Lips on Wednesday evenings, and also works and performs Sunday nights at Lips. She usually hosts Strut! at ACME on Tuesday nights (she’ll actually perform there on June 14th) and Eleven Eleven at Open House on Friday nights. She will be a hostess for the Pride edition of Holy Mountain at Slake on June 25th. Stephanie can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.
See Also: Stephanie Stone (11.19.2018)