This recent college grad is already giving NYC nightlife a much needed facelift, drawing guys away from their Grindrs with new parties and events where actual fun things happen. True visual and performance art return to the Manhattan scene! Let’s give it up for Vincent Cooper.
Thotyssey: Hi Vincent! Thanks for talking to us! I stopped into the Miss Lady Liberty semifinals at Boots & Saddle last night and thought about saying hi, but you looked like the busiest person I’ve ever seen: DJing, tech crewing, stage managing, crowd managing… all at once! Did you know what you were getting into with this pageant?
Vincent Cooper: I knew organizing New York’s largest drag competition wasn’t going to be easy, but it’s so much fun and totally worth it! We have seen more than 50 queens compete over the last 11 weeks. So juggling the logistics of all of these girls would not have been possible without the help of my wonderful hosts Brita Filter and Terra Hyman. Brita is the definition of a hard worker when it comes to the planning that goes on behind the scenes. And a very special thanks is owed to the true DJ of the evening, Thomas Trinity. He lugs all of his amazing equipment to Boots every week (from an hour away upstate), so we can have a smooth show. I sit in the DJ booth and push buttons (which he had to teach me how to do), so he can continue his tradition of taking photos of the competing queens. He has never missed a week; he is an angel from upstate!
You all have been doing a great job!
The pageant is drawing a big crowd and a lot of talent. What do you think it is that makes it stands out so much in the sea of drag competitions and pageants?
Well first, I think our $2000 prize package is pretty amazing. $500 cash; $1,000 package from House of La Rue including a custom dress by Casey Caldwell, and heels, makeup, and a custom wig from Elle Emenope; and a $500 gift basket from Abracadabra. Our two semifinal winners also walk away with $100 gift card to BobbiePinz Wigs. So there’s that.
But equally as important, I believe our competition has provided a truly safe space where the queens feel able to give the best performances possible. We want them to succeed, and my hope is that they all feel truly welcome when they compete with us!
Also, Lady Liberty has been so drama-free, and the level of sisterhood I’ve seen amongst the competitors is really special.
That’s great! Okay, more on Lady Liberty and the finale in a bit, but first we should get to know you better. So for starters, where are you from?
I was born in Baltimore, and lived a few years in Amish country Pennsylvania. But the majority of my childhood was spent down the shore in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
From Amish country to the drag empire, wow! So, what were you into early on, as far as artistic interests?
I’m an actor first and foremost. I trained in theatre at NYU and graduated in 2015. While at NYU, I focused on Shakespeare and experimental theatre, including an unbelievable summer program in Amsterdam. I’m making a trip back to Europe this October, and couldn’t be more excited to revisit this awesome city.
Wow, so you’re all up in it! I noticed the nightlife events you’re associated with seem to be associated with theater; I’m guessing that’s where that came from?
Totally! That’s what I want to bring to nightlife. I love immersive/interactive theatre, and think it is just what nightlife needs in the age of cell phones and Grindr. You don’t need to go out to hook up with someone anymore. So why leave the comfort of your home, unless the experience is worth the time it takes to get ready, making a trek in the middle of the winter, spending money on drinks, transportation, cover, etc? If I was able to realize my vision fully, I assure you the experience would be unforgettable.
I’m hoping some of the grants I’ve applied to come through to help offset production costs, so I can actualize this idea of balancing theatre and nightlife. My friend and co-producer Monica Blewinsky and I have begun to do this with our monthly EDEN parties and special events.
We have two big events coming up next month: September 15th is our Fashion Week closing party at Stage 48 with a runway show featuring designs by Yuhua Hamasaki, and huge production numbers choreographed by Phil Orsano, featuring some of your favorite NYC drag queens and former Lady Liberty contestants.
September 23rd, we host two back-to-back events at the beautiful Hudson Terrace. First up from 9-11pm, we have the NY Variety Show with resident judges Michael Musto and Paige Turner. This 15-act competition features performers of all mediums: singing, dancing, comedy, burlesque, drag, circus, and more. Then from 11-4am, we have EDEN, which is a dance party that features interactive performances and activities throughout the night.
How did you break into this aspect of the business, the planning and promoting of nightlife events?
It was a gradual progression. I started as an iPad boy the summer after my freshman year at NYU, then became a host for a bunch of different producers, then started planning my own events.
I love planning surprise parties. They’re my absolute favorite. After planning surprise birthday parties for my angelically beautiful boyfriend one year, and my best friend the next, I knew I wouldn’t mind event planning as a side job.
Awesome. I have to ask, what is this Shelley Duvall drag pic of you on your Facebook? It’s hilarious that you look exactly like her. Was that a Halloween costume?
Haha! Yes! It was a Halloween costume last year. She may be making a return this year, *hint, hint.* I have to admit, I didn’t know who Shelley was before college, but it is uncanny how similar we look. If only she would come out of retirement so I could play her son/grandson/younger self in a movie, I’d be set!
That would be amazing. And I’m surprised the drag bug hasn’t bitten you after all this!
The idea has crossed my mind! But I see how much effort, time, and money drag consumes, and I’m not sure I’m ready to make that investment just yet! I did compete in the drag show at NYU my sophomore year after I lost a bet. Manila Luzon hosted it, and I got second place to Daphne Sumtimez!
Well that’s impressive! So, let’s get back to Lady Liberty for a minute… as a fledgling promoter, how did you get sponsors interested in investing in this pageant, if you don’t mind me asking?
I drafted a solid sponsorship packet, brainstormed some brands I knew and liked, and set emails to the owners of those companies!
And, Terra told us about all the tech problems you were having at the Ace Hotel, where the majority of the pageant was held, that encouraged you to take it to Boots & Saddle for its remaining weeks. Was that a hard decision to make?
It was very difficult. I love the Ace Hotel. It’s a great space, location, and the seating situation is perfect for a show. But when the performances so heavily rely on a solid AV system, we had to take the show elsewhere to preserve the quality of the competition. There were a few bars interested in taking us on, but I’m very glad we ended up at Boots and Saddle!
So this week is the finale! Who are the finalists again?
Can’t wait for it. Let’s talk about the New York Variety Show for a little bit… that had it’s debut last month, right? How did that go?
Yes! It debuted back in July. It was a fantastic line-up of performances. The winner, Charlie Mantione, was actually one of my best friends from high school (and I don’t have a say in the scoring!). He has a phenomenal voice, so I expected your standard vocalist performance. But he blew us all away with an amazing mashup of spoken word Kris Jenner (who he is a spitting image of), which lead into a live singing of I “Dreamed A Dream.” He had some tough competition, including Brita Filter, Aja, and Gary Carmichael in the drag category, but he was able to unanimously win the judge’s vote.
I encourage future contestants to use multiple skills like he did, if you have more than one (drag/singing, comedy/dance). It really elevates the performance.
Good advice! And it sounds like the EDEN party that follows is fun and colorful and old school, and if you say it’s interactive, that’s cool too. And you’re right about needing to engage people in the age of Grindr. Do you think the days of just charging people at the door for the right to squeeze into a loud, crowded room are numbered?
Oh, completely! I actually think they’re already over for people who don’t enjoy circuit parties. There isn’t a single gay club in NY that plays pop music, from my understanding. And circuit parties attract a specific demographic given their obvious success, but most people I know, at least, don’t want to be rolling their face off every weekend.
It’s been so refreshing to hear my friends asking for more vocals in dance music recently. I personally am not a fan of music without vocals, and I thought my preference would never come back after circuit parties gained success, but I think the tide is shifting.
Yay! Totally. And as for Yuhua, I’m so happy that she’s doing a fashion show. She’s so talented, and so many queens wear her designs. Was it her idea to do the show, or did you or someone else have to convince her?
That was a discussion between her and Monica Blewinsky, but from my understanding there was mutual excitement on both sides. She is showcasing 25 looks! Monica loves her work, and so many drag queens use her to create their looks; it was about time she was showcased in this way!
Awesome! So, anything else coming up, events or maybe acting roles of your own that you wanna discuss?
We will be continuing the Lady Liberty competition at Boots and Saddle, so if any queen wants to enter, Facebook message me or Brita! Or email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will also be helping to relaunch the Penthaus party at Copacabana this fall!
As far as acting is concerned, stay tuned! I am almost done with the events I helped coordinate out on Fire Island this summer, so I will be able to audition a lot more!
Wow, you’re busy! And I’m happy that Penthaus is returning. Okay, last question… what’s the very best thing you’ve seen happen at a nightlife event you’ve hosted so far!
Oh boy, what a question! The first thing that came to mind was the Aja vs. Kimmi Moore, Top 2 lip synch to “Vogue” at the Lady Liberty competition. If you were there, you know how electrifying this performance was. I will not forget it! These two girls can dance their faces off, and it was so exciting to watch. And what better song to break it down to than “Vogue!”
I suspect we’re gonna be seeing a lot more of Aja pretty soon! In the meantime, keep up the great work, Vincent!
Vincent Cooper produces the Miss Lady Liberty pageant at Boots & Saddle on Monday nights (the grand finale is August 29th at 9pm, but it is expected to reboot very shortly afterwards). He also produces (with Monica Blewinsky) the monthly New York Variety Show and EDEN party, which occur back-to-back monthly at the Hudson Terrace (next editions are scheduled for Friday, September 23rd, beginning with the Variety Show at 9pm). On September 15th, he’s presiding over the Fashion Week Closing party and Yuhua Hamasaki Runway Show at Stage 48 (10pm). Vincent can be followed on Facebook and Instagram, and you can also follow the EDEN family of events on Facebook.
See Also: Vincent Cooper (4.7.2017)