There is no shortage of colorful characters in Brooklyn’s art-cum-nightlife crowd, but even in that vivid swirl the performer known as Chris of Hur is a standout. With hur Elizabethan wigs, beautifully bizarre costumes and paint, and one of the most eclectic lip sync lexicons in the biz, Chris is one of those nightlife performers who is redefining what a nightlife performer actually is. Tonight heralds the return of hur monthly party DOODZ, and there are more things to come as Thotyssey learns in this exclusive interview!
Thotyssey: Hi Chris, thanks for talking! How was your Pride weekend?
Chris of Hur: I had a lovely Pride, I didn’t do much though, so I think it was a lot less stressful for me than other performers. I’m super into the concept and expression of Pride, but it’s rare that a “Pride” event interests me. It’s like with Halloween and New Year’s; it takes a really, really special event to get me to want to go to it or to perform at it. Otherwise, I’d rather just avoid the madness.
You started an interesting new monthly party this past Thursday, though, at El Cortez, right before Pride weekend kicked in. Tell us about that.
Mahalo Puta is a new monthly with me, Elizabeth James, B Hollywood and Aja, and I am in love with it! I’m so glad Liz asked me to be a part of it. It’s such a great collection of performers, and El Cortez is a fantastic venue. I mean, they have a stage and a killer sounds system, plus a patio that’s open all night so I can enjoy my two loves–drinking and smoking–at the same time! Oh, and the frozen drinks! I recommend the frozen mojito. Did I mention it’s not a gay bar? That’s actually my favorite thing about it.
How do non-gay audiences behave differently then traditional gay audiences, from your perspective? I guess they have to be a little less jaded with everything?
I mean, both audiences are great. The conversations tend to get a little deeper and heavier with a non-gay audience just because they have more questions. For me, the issue though is that gay bars don’t need more drag–the world needs more drag. So, I never do regular events at gay bars; it just feels like hiding. I’m really only into queer inclusive ally spaces, and there are so many of those in Brooklyn that there’s really no reason to go to a gay bar.
That’s an interesting critique!, By the way, that was a fun little promo video that you three made for the party. Who shot that, and when?
Thanks. It was shot by Josh Lee, who is one of the bartenders at El Cortez. We just picked a day to all show up at a place and shoot a thing. We weren’t really given a storyline, just told to wear something colorful. Of course, I still ended up wearing all tan and brown, womp womp.
When we arrived, Josh just started directing and shooting. It went pretty smoothly, and overall it was one of the best experiences I’ve had being in drag during the day.
Three days later, Pulse happened and we panicked a bit, unsure if the use of waterguns would come off as insensitive. In the end, though, I think everyone saw it for what it was, just some queens havin’ fun in the sun!
Pride was very bittersweet this week, in the wake of Pulse. Did you feel a little bit on edge this weekend?
Not on edge, but definitely in a darker place.
Understood. Let me ask some prerequisite questions about *drum roll* The Brooklyn Scene! First of all, it’s safe to say that the nightlife queens and club kids there are directly mixed in with the art scene–the Brooklyn painters and writers and musicians–right?
Well, yeah, sorry Manhattan, but I think the “Brooklyn scene” is much more oriented toward culture. Like, all the Brooklyn dragunz can actually tell you the last concert they saw, or the last gallery show they enjoyed. Also, so many of us in the drag community out here are visual artists, musicians, writers, etc., so it all ends up being part of the conversation.
That brings us to you. What are all the ways that you make art? Obviously you’re a performance artist, and I’m guessing a designer. Do you also write, paint, compose, etc?
I wouldn’t call myself a performance artist, more a drag performer. Drag and gender play too essential a role for it to be just performance. I do also make all of my outfits and wigs, but I’m not sure I qualify as a designer cuz none of it is designed. I just lay out stuff I want to work with, and start cutting and sewing and hope for the best. I don’t make patterns, and I don’t sketch out things beforehand. I have thought about doing a small line of onesies, sort of an athletic and loungewear line for dragunz but that’s down the road.
Over the past year, I’ve been working on doing videos that speak that language of my performances. But boy, they have turned out to be way harder than I anticipated. I have about six in the works, and have only came out with one so far. I highly recommend it, though. It features one of my fav squirrel-friendz, Tyler Ashley, The Dauphine of Bushwick.
Before I started drag, photography was my main thing. You can see some of it on my wildly out-of-date website. I have been shooting a lot since drag took over my life three years ago But haven’t had the money or time to produce it properly, so I’m just holding onto it for now.
What’s your favorite type of music to perform to?
My taste is kinda all over the place, but I use mostly punk, soul and gospel. The thread being, music that has a performative and physical quality. I don’t find myself often attracted to heavily manipulated sounds. Which is partly why I can’t handle many of bigger name dance parties with house (or whatever they’re calling it at the moment). I’d love to hang with the cool kids turning looks at those parties, but after 10 minutes of that music I wanna stab myself in face. I can really get into a lot of hip hop though, but I think that’s just because of how performative it becomes within the vocals.
The piece actually uses a total of four tracks, one from the 80s (B-52s), the early 90s (Deep Forest), the late 90s (John Prine), and one released last year (FIDLAR). In a way, first started being assembled when Patti performed at the first DOODz, back when it was at Macri Park (when it wasn’t a gay bar). She performed the B-52s “Dance This Mess Around” and it was so good, it stuck with me.
Over a year later, when we learned we were going to be at the Austin International Drag Festival together, we came up with the idea of doing a long sequence to showcase “Brooklyn.” I suggested we use that B-52s song as a starting point. The original idea was to involve everyone that was there from Brooklyn, but we quickly realized that would be a logistical nightmare, so we pared it down and decided to bring in just one other person. I spent a while assembling the piece and making some very painful edits, I mean, I could have easily made it an hour long, but I managed to get it down to 13 minutes with 4 songs. Once I did that, based on the material, the obvious performer to reach out to was Sasha. I sent her and Patti the finished track, they learned their parts on their own time, and a few days before the festival, we met up to learn the choreography which took just over an hour. I was worried it was gonna be a mess, but the performance went great!
So I asked Merrie Cherry about bringing it to the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards, and even though she had already booked the performers, she managed to find a spot for us.
So back to you: Where are you from, and what was life like for you growing up?
I was born in Maine, but grew up in Maryland. A suburb. I was just a loner arty kid; I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t bullied much either. I think I was too out there for them to process, so they left me alone. Also, I was in a lot of theater and our school was known for it’s theater program, so I think that gave me a level of social power I would not have had.
When did you get to Brooklyn, and what were your earliest impressions of the scene then?
I have lived in NYC for many years, and I’ve seen it change a lot. I lived in Queens before, and started going out more in Brooklyn around 2011 and loved what I was seeing, especially in drag, but still felt too disconnected. Eventually I had had enough, and got my shit together and moved to Bushwick, and my life has been so much better and more artistically fullfilling since.
Mostly what struck me was how much more performance-oriented nightlife was in Brooklyn. Even when they weren’t that good, there were always shows!
While you were making your first appearances as Chris of Hur, did you have any idea of what you ultimately wanted to be as a performer?
Yes. I have developed a lot aesthetically since then, but I always knew I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do in drag. I actually made my drag debut in 2010 as Chris of Fur at a Queens warehouse party, and what I did there is pretty much the same stuff I do now.
It was a lot of fun. I love Austin, and I met a lot of great performers because of the festival. It’s a reminder that I need to travel more. This year and last year are the the only times I’ve performed outside of NYC!
Yes! We are on the first Friday of the month.
How long has DOODz been running now?
It’s been about a year an a half since the first one. We’ve changed venues a couple times, but it remains the same general format: I perform, 3-5 others perform, Lady Simon emcees and the DJ plays danceable rock, punk, soul, etc. No house or diva pop.
it’s the only party I run by myself, so I think it’s got my own distinctive flavor. The music is my taste in music, the performers are my taste in performers, and the venue is my taste in venues.
What kind of a venue is Flowers? Did it used to be a florist shop?
Yeah, I believe so. I think it actually had “Flowers for all occasions” on the window beforehand, so they just kept it and used that for the name. It’s a super cute Bushwick cafe and restaurant during the day, and there’s a great art gallery in the back which is where we do the shows. There are a lot of other shows there too throughout the month, not just DOODz. The venue does a lot of different things besides putting on drag shows, and it caters to a wide variety of people–not just gay boys–so the overall vibe is way different than anything at a gay bar.
What else is coming up for you?
Some of the Bushwig queens and I are planning a mini Eurotour to Berlin and London at the end of July, but before that we are gonna have a big fundraiser event at Secret Project Robot on July 16th. Definitely keep your eye out for that! It’s gonna have Horrorchata, Merrie Cherry, Untitled Queen, Tyler Ashley, Aja, Patti Spliff and me! We are still working out the details, but there will be a raffle with all of the girls contributing something, as well as some of Brooklyn’s best artists and designers. Plus, of course, shows, shows, shows! It’s actually going to be the last event at SPR, so it’ll be a super big affair to honor them as well.
I’ll be talking to some other folks about that later in the month! Final question: Since your look kinda reminds me of a wizard, I was wondering… if you obtained some sort of spell book, what do you think the first spell would be that you would cast?
First, thanks for not saying I remind you of a lion. I get that like 4 times a night.
Second, if I were to cast a spell I would want to start with something simple. I drink almost a gallon of milk a day, so I’d love a fridge that magically restocked itself with the stuff. It would save me so much time running to the grocery store everyday.
Such practical spell-casting. Long may you drink of the magic milk, Chris of Hur! (And PS, OMG, you do look a little like a lion!)
Chris of Hur’s monthly party DOODz returns to Flowers for All Occasions on Friday, July 1st. His new monthly event Mahalo Puta (co-hosted with Elizabeth James, Aja and B Hollywood) at El Cortez will return July 21st. He will also perform for the “Bushwig Does Europe” fundraiser at Secret Project Robot on July 16th. Chris of Hur can be followed on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube, and his photography is displayed on a website.