To many NYC nightlifers she seemed to come out of nowhere, but this wicked queen has actually had quite a long and storied drag career. And now, her weekly drag competition at Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up has very quickly become a staple for queens wanting both a real shot at winning and a great time at getting there. Thotyssey looks deep into the magic mirror and learns the key to this show’s success, as well as the truth behind the terrifying evil (and, in real life, super sweetness) of Sheila Tack!
Thotyssey: Hi Sheila! Thanks for talking! This is an exciting time in nightlife, when some of our favorite queens start vanishing! Have you noticed any of these disappearances yet?
Sheila Tack: Ha! Yes. Yes, I have. The Vanishing of the Queens is a cosmic phenomenon that happens every year. It’s the universe’s way of thinning out the herd. All for the best, mind ya. But.. I do know the names of the chosen, however.. and for a dollar or a cocktail, I would probably spill the Tea! *wink*
By the time this gets posted, every bitch will know too! So, I saw that gorgeous Cruella spread in your Facebook, and some great Maleficent and Joan Crawford realness. Is Sheila an evil queen?
Evil is such an easy word. I mean, people called Jesus evil, and his dress wasn’t even close to as good as mine. But yes. I guess you could call me THE evil queen. It’s better than what my mother called me when she first held me in her arms… which was “Oops.”
Evil queen, evil old lady, wicked witch… all compliments.
Who’s an evil old wicked witch lady queen that you are dying to pay homage to, but haven’t yet?
Totally the same!
You’re an interesting case of dragdom, because your Tuesday night show “God Save the Queen” at Vodka Soda / Bottoms Up is kind of like an overnight success. Every queen wants to compete in it. But no one seems to know anything about you! So let me get to the man behind the queen. Where are you from?
Some things are best left a mystery *evil laugh* No no, that’s true, though. And I can credit this overnight, in-the-shadows success to how I work in this shady lady business. That, and the amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to work with like Richie Friendley, Ian Ford.. oh and also… Satan! [Laughs]
But I digress. To answer your question, the man behind the Queen, he is a little boy born in upstate New York. But I’ve lived all over this wicked land we call America: Georgia, Florida, California. That’s what happens when you’re wanted by the FBI *wink*
Wow, so you have been there and done that!
Haven’t we all? [Laughs]
Were you always a Queen in the making?
Yes. I remember the moment exactly when.. I knew. Well, there were two. One when I came out of my mother’s closet at the age of 8, in her heels, silk scarf over my head, giant sun glasses, and a skirt, demanding the family call me “Martha.” And also, back in Florida when I came out as Zombie Dorothy: a twisted version of that little bitch from Kansas–if she didn’t survive the fall in that shack of a house, that is. I had straight guys hitting on me. Talk about necrophilia!
Well, I’m sure Zombie Dorothy was everything.
I wish i had pictures! But I don’t always show up on film.
When and where did you create Queen Sheila?
Let’s see. This son of a witch was always brewing, honestly. But she really came to life when I landed in NYC. That has to be.. 10 years ago? Manhattan had no idea that evil had just came to town! *wink* But as time went on, I evolved more and more into the mean old lady you see before you. Now get off my lawn!
I love your drag name, but it took me a few seconds of saying it out loud to get it.
I’ve actually had friends of 10 years who just now get my name *laughing* ahhhh.. we’re not friends anymore. *glare*
Tell me what brought you to New York.
I guess you could say my broom. No, the real reason was, I found out how horrible it was to live in Los Angeles [laughs] Sorry, Cali queens! That, and I’ve always been an east coast queen at heart. Home is where the heart is, right? Ugh, that was too sentimental for me.
What sucks about LA?
What doesn’t? [laughs] If it wasn’t for their beautiful weather (the only redeeming quality, mind you), I don’t think anyone would live there. Yikes. sound jaded!
No, I did have some great times in LA. But when I was there–you know, back when people carved pictures on stone tablets–I just didn’t get the sense of community. And also, drag wasn’t as big as it is now, there. So it’s probably a HELLuva lot different. Thanks, Mama Ru!
Do you feel that sense of community with the New York queens?
Absolutely. And that’s important. This can be, as I said earlier, a shady lady business. So we should all look out for each other in some way or another. A helping heel is always ideal. *smirk*
Preach! So, what venues were you going to here in the city as Sheila when you first got here? How did you start mixing it up with the local queens?
Ya know what’s funny? I arrived and didn’t pick up drag right away. Then one year, I rolled out this crazy, evil lady called Sarah Palin, and I was off! A lot of queens didn’t even know who I was, or where I came from–I just sorta surprised the scene.
Then little by little, I started to spread and creep into the lives and hearts of people, sometimes against the odds, sometimes with a little friendly help. But eventually, Sheila became a scary whisper that everyone knew of, and I couldn’t be happier.
Surprisingly I didn’t. And I think that was why I got the raised eyebrows at times. Because those can be seen as a right of passage and a bonding tool.
I, however came in and started working shortly after my arrival, so I sorta missed out on that experience.
Not to say I wouldn’t have, or still wouldn’t throw down my heels for a fierce competition (RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10, can you hear me?!)
Where was your first gig here?
My first venue that I consistently worked for was The Ritz. They were really good to me in my beginning, and kept this evil witch working. Then, I haunted the dingy halls of the 9th Ave Saloon for a little bit, Therapy, the 4th bathroom stall to the left on the upper level in Penn Station… ah, mammories.
Wait, the 9th Ave Saloon? They have drag shows?
Once upon a time, yes, yes they did. Back in the days of prohibition. I remember way in the back, behind the popcorn machine, was a stage on a drawstring. She lowered down, and when you got on top, you prayed to hell below that it didn’t give way. I believe she’s in a landfill in Jersey somewhere now. But isn’t that one in the same anyway? *evil grin*
Oh gawd, I do remember that plywood plank, they used to put karaoke singers on there! Fun times!
Yessssss! I can’t count the splinters I pulled outta my feet after a show there.
What were these early shows like? What were you doing in them?
My competition hosting only started maybe a couple years ago. I was hosting parties, bingo, seances, and special events in the beginning. That’s also why many heard of me yet never saw me. A lot of my gigs were not cemented in the scene every single night, every single week.
What’s the “private sector” of drag like? I know the ladies of the Haus of Mimosa are very happy and successful in that realm. Does it require a different skill set then hosting at a venue?
It does. I actually know those two. It’s a whole different platform. One that requires more interaction, thought, coordinating, and marketing. Walking in and hosting a wedding (which I’ve done) is completely opposite of walking in and hosting a show at a gay bar. I love both, however.
Are you still doing private gigs on the regular?
I do, yes. And I’m also available for palm readings, demon summoning, and coven casting. *wink* It got way too serious for a bit there!
So, what’s a Sheila Tack performance like? Are you a mix queen, a dance queen, a comedy queen, do you sing, etc? Put yourself into a neat little category!
Nobody puts baby in the corner! Sorry.. I have theatrical turrets. Hmm, a Sheila Tack performance. I mix a lot of my own numbers, especially if I am doing a character. I’m also on mic being a sarcastic, dry, s.o.w. as much as possible. I do sing.. so beautifully that it shattered Sandy Duncan’s glass eye once (I think i just aged myself). The only thing I don’t do, and can’t, is dance or death drop. But then again, that’s all some queens have! Shade! [Laughs] I kid. I kid.
When and how did God Save the Queen come to POSH?
Ahhh yes. POSH. Well, I had been doing trivia there for about a year on Tuesdays, and after earning my keep I pitched the concept, rubbed the right crystal ball(s) and poof! We had ourselves a damn good drag competition!
She had a good run there, but it just wasn’t the right venue for her. That’s why I couldn’t be happier to have resurrected the beast at Vodka Soda / Bottoms Up.
Let’s talk about VSBU! You’ve been hosting the competition there Tuesday nights for about a month now, right?
Yep. GSTQ just celebrated it’s one month anniversary there.
Congratulations! Isn’t it a cute space?
It’s an amazing space, and getting bigger and better. Richie and Xavier have a great thing going. I’m very lucky to be apart of it. My spell casting worked
Your VSBU incarnation of God Save the Queen has rapidly become hugely popular. Other weekly drag contests come and go. What makes this one special?
It’s all in the delivery, my dear. Truly. You have to make it about everyone. It needs to feel less like a competition, and more like a sleepover with your best friend.
Not only does the winning Queen walk away with a crown each week, but also $100, and a guaranteed spot to defend the following week. I’ve noticed that each queen–and even king–who enters, feels like they are at home, and on an even playing field. And that comes from delivering [a number] in a way that makes her different and stand out.
Plus, it also helps that VSBU graciously serves all queens free of charge. I mean, can it get any better than that?
It’s sounds like the dawning of the Cult of Queen Sheila! Well, all the girls must bring it, because patrons rave about it too. Anything in store for this show? Are there, like, semifinals and finals?
*evil grin* I like the sound of that. Hold on, let me jot that down.. “Cult of Queen… Sheila..” yes yes.. very nice. Ha! So.. where were we? Ah yes.. yes! I’m working on making a God Save the Queen All-Stars! Where a collective cavalcade of queens who won rally up and compete against each other for a bigger and badder prize. This is still in the cauldron, mind you, but believe you me, something wicked this way comes.
Cool. What advice would you have for a queen or king that wants to enter the weekly show?
Be afraid. No. Honestly, be yourself, don’t second guess, and don’t overthink. Also, bring a bevy of fans, because after all it’s the people who decide the winner.
Cool. So I predict that there will someday soon be a full-on “Miss VSBU” pageant. Would you be up for hosting?
I like a good, accurate prediction. Did you get your crystal ball from Broomhilda’s Shoppe too? But yes! How could I resist! It would be a devilishly, high honor to host such an event.
And you have another night in the works at VSBU, don’t you?
Oooh, hang onto your head, my pretty. There’s a lot of evil doings on the way. I’m actually going to be hosting a RuPauls All-Stars viewing party every Thursday [starting August 25th] with NYC’s Drag JAP herself, Lady SinAGaga. We’ll be providing the commercial commentary, as well as running some drag trivia where patrons can win a little something special.
Great! Who are you rooting for in All-Stars?
Katya, of course! The one who should have won to begin with.. am I right? *wink*
Have you met any of the girls on this season’s All-Stars?
Whoah! What’s he like?
Very tall, very frightening to see at first, but probably one of the funniest, genuine actors I’ve met to the day. And the voice.. it.. is.. everything! I actually did him to him once he found out I could do impressions–his voice being one of them.
I gotta hear you do that in drag for my nightmare logl
You got yourself a deal with the devil my friend!
How did that meeting happen?
Funny story though, I accidentally collided with him as he was walking out of a Crunch Gym in Los Angeles. I was only going in there for the boys and the booze, however. But I had knocked his bag out of his hand and as I was fumbling to help pick it up, I realized exactly who it was.. and I nearly lost my mind.
Awesome! A meet cute!
So, the Queen occasionally graces us with other appearances beyond her Tuesday night show.
I do. I love scaring it up with other Queens.
I absolutely loved performing with Brita and Terra at the Haus of Mouth. Those gals have a lot of hilarious shit to say, and then they brought in this frighteningly opinionated lady! It was a blast. I did my Joan Crawford character. The audience died, and I friggin’ loved every second.
And this Sunday you guest-starred at your VSBU sister Marti Gould Cummings’ show, right?
It was wicked! I had so much fun performing with that crazy lady. We both share the heart of “letting go” when we perform, so it was like we had been performing with each other for years. The crowd was amazingly responsive, kind, and totally into my evil old self. I would definitely do it any time again.
Any other appearances scheduled?
Are you worried about being under harsher scrutiny then other contestants there, because you have your own competition?
I’ve learned in all my diabolical years to not stress, don’t fret, and not worry what others may think. If I did that, I would probably still be in my mother’s closet. But no, my craft (no pun intended) speaks for itself. So I am really looking forward to performing with some savvy talent!
Good luck! Okay, last question: being a Queen is great, but let’s talk what happens when you are eventually crowned Empress of All Things Drag. What will be your first royal decree?
First order of business. Shots for everyone! Then doing away with the word “moist” *shivers* Hate that friggin’ word!
I think you will get a standing O for that one! Okay, thanks so much Sheila!
Sheila Tack hosts “God Save the Queen” at Vodka Soda / Bottoms Up on Tuesday nights (10pm). On Thursdays beginning August 25th, she will also co-host (with Lady SinAGaga) a viewing party there for RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars. She will compete in the Miss Lady Liberty drag competition at Boots & Saddle on August 22nd (8pm). Sheila can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
[photos watermarked Streetwalker Studios credited to Bryan Cash]