Follow the red stiletto on a stick! That’s queen Glace Chase’s signature prop, which she wields to lead her Dream Queen Tour every Sunday. Dream Queen, you must know, is a gonzo mashup of comedy, improv, performance art and a genuinely educational guided tour of the history of the West Village’s gaydom. She’ll be telling you a heartbreaking story about a Jewish lesbian’s forced deportation to Nazi Germany one second, and rolling around on the sidewalk with a totally random hot guy’s dog the next. The Aussie comedienne arrived on our fair shores a few short years ago with many questions about her own identity, and has created a truly unique urban experience on her journey. Let’s get down with Thotyssey and chase the Glace!
Thotyssey: Hi Glace! So you’re gonna be my first post-Bushwig performer interview! How did the festival, and your number, go?
Glace Chase: Hi Jim! Oh god. It already feels like a lifetime away. I had a ball, though. I used backing “singers” for the first time–they lip synced to the background vocals of my new track, “I Am Bottom.” It was a hoot, feeling them behind me (!). And the stage was so hot, the floor was melting! My shoes stuck every time I stepped! I had to make sure I didn’t fall over. But a privilege to fall for non-alcohol related reasons!
Ha! So, this was an original song you recorded?
Kinda. It’s based on The feminist anthem “I Am Woman.”
I can’t wait for the single/video treatment! So Glace, you have two popular and highly unique vehicles for your drag in NYC: a karaoke night in TriBeCa, and your Dream Queen tours through the West Village. How long have you been a working girl in NYC?
I’m flattered you think a karaoke night can be unique! So, I’ve been in NYC coming on four years now, and probably started regularly performing three years ago with some breaks to allow for breakdowns.
Girl needs to allot a good chunk of time for breakdown! And you’re a native Australian, right? From whereabouts exactly?
Indeedy, that I am–not that I talk about it much. I grew up outside Melbourne, in a country town known as Complete & Utter Hell, so Melbourne was my first big city. I remember actually thinking, “I’m not Australian. I’m Melbournian.” What a wanker. Anyone from Oz will roll their eyes/laugh at that. Thankfully, I grew out of that phase. Now Melbourne seems like a big country town. But if I were to have a home in Oz, it would be Sydney.
And you started drag back there?
Kinda. I called it boy drag. As in, I wasn’t concerned with wigs/padding etc. I wanted to explore being a highly-feminized boy. But yeah, I did a ton of stuff there–a lot of one “man” shows across the country.
What’s the scene like there? Are there gayborhoods, or is it all so spread out that you have to cross deserts in a bus with your gal pals?
Oh god, my friends did do the desert trip once. Not that that’s a thing. I thought they were insane. A bunch of hula hoopers and a drag queen!
So, in Sydney there used to be a gay neighborhood, but it was dwindling when I left. Then there have been archaic alcohol laws introduced in Sydney, and all the nightlife has been eradicated–as in, every popular bar has pretty much shut. It’s bleak. Melbourne has fared better, I think–but I’m not really sure.
Really? That surprises me, I always thought of Australia as being a Mad Gay country.
Oh, it is. Sydney is the cruisest place I’ve been to outside San Francisco. You walk down the street and suddenly you’re on your knees in a back alley [laughs]. I think of Australia as a great festival country, though – you’ve got Adelaide and Melbourne Fringe, Melbourne Comedy Fest and then Mardi Gras, and the GLBT fests in all the cities. I was never that involved in Nightlife in Oz.
Is that a reason why you ultimately left?
I left because I needed to figure out my gender, and I couldn’t do that in Australia. Plus I won a green card. As if I’m gonna pass that up!
Did you come straight to NYC?
Oh yes. Why pussy foot around? I wanted to be in the center of it all.
Good choice! So, where were you hanging out when you got here, and were you actively trying to get into nightlife?
I really have no idea. I can’t remember. I wanted to perform. I wasn’t trying to get into nightlife per se–I still don’t really think of myself as nightlife–but I wanted to perform. And I had no idea how the cabaret world worked here (I still don’t). The person that actively booked me was Chris of Hur. She gave me a mini home in BK. I love Hur to death.
What kind of numbers did you do at Chris’ shows, do you remember?
Yeah I do. Some really fun, demented stuff. I especially liked doing Beth’s death scene from Little Woman. I must revive that. So good. “But I’m not afraid anymore, Jo. I’ve learnt that nothing can keep us apart. Though it may seem to. Oh Jo, I think I’ll miss you even from heaven.” Coughs chunks of blood and dies.
That’s amazing. Where did your accent go, by the way?
Customs take everything!
They sure do.
So, when did the gears start to turn about creating Dream Queen Tours?
After working at Linda Simpson’s bingo gig one night, I went with Reina Del Taco and my sister to the Empire State Building. We were besieged by adoring tourists, and I’m a whore for adoration. NYC needs to adore all of us more. But that was the seed–a drag queen tour guide! I really didn’t know what that meant: how much drag, how much tour guide, what to include? But it was a potent idea. It all started in that moment.
By the way, how do you know Linda?
She was working a corner near the cardboard box I was living in at the time, and after we’d bailed each other out of jail a bit we became friends.
Beautiful story! Okay, so did you quickly figure out that a gay tour of the West Village was the way to go?
No, not at all [laughs]! The West Village is great because lots of stuff happened in a really small area. But I researched a ton, and included the stories that stuck. I really loathe poetry–and find the whole Beatnik thing a bore–so the potent gay stuff stuck.
I’d develop a tour very differently now. The history matters not a jot. It’s the storytelling! That’s the fun bit for us all. How to weave a story on the NYC streets! Fuck history!
I went on the tour a few weekends ago (it’s on Sundays starting at 3:30pm) and enjoyed the hell out of it. I was in a pretty good group, mostly middle-aged female tourists who were having fun. Can you read a group now and right away tell what kinda day it’s going to be?
You bet. Honestly, it’s such a diverse group of people that come. I remember your group: it was large, too large, and quite touristy that day. Sometimes I get just locals. It really changes each time with the energy of the group, and whoever we find to accost on the street. But you can normally sense how game people are. Most of the time they’re pretty up for it.
It kind of feels like you’re in some sort of experimental performance art piece when you’re on the tour, because you stop strangers on the street and play with them, question them, tease them, etc. Do most of these strangers play along, or is there like a 50% chance of that backfiring?
It’s live. It’s on the street. It’s completely improvised. It’s risky as hell–yeah, definitely it can backfire. But most people have a sense of fun or curiosity. So most people play along at least a bit. “How much do you earn?” normally stops them in their tracks [laughs]. No-one has ever answered it!
On our day, I was grimly reminded about how bougie the people are who live in those gorgeous back streets. It was fun to see you shake them up a little!
The tour was fun, but a lot of the pre-Stonewall history you share is fascinatingly grim. Persecution of gay and trans people in this country was no joke in those early years. Was it all shocking to you, while you were researching that?
Shocking, not really. I already knew a lot of it; it was about reminding myself. It’s kinda enjoyable to look at a time where “gay” was so persecuted. Today is all about marriage and “we’re just like you.” Freaks & weirdos have, always and will, always be persecuted. What is labelled as freakish changes.
Very good point! And not all of the grim stories you tell on the tour are gay-related–the early years of urban NYC were just perilous as hell. I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises you mention on the tour, but I must say I might never be able to walk through Washington Square Park ever again!
I was curious, do you ever bump into other tour groups while you’re out leading Dream Queen, or do you interact in general with other tour guides? I wonder what they make of you!
Were you on the group where we passed the other group – that was hilarious!
That wasn’t us.
Whoever it was, I demanded the group laugh hysterically like they were having the best time–and being good minions, everyone did–and as we walked past the other group I looked ‘em in the eye and said, “betcha wish you were on my tour…” Everyone wet themselves. The other tour guide wanted to stab me. Good times!
I love Tour Shade! So, you mentioned before that you weren’t really sure if you counted yourself as part of nightlife… does this weird day drag job kind of make it hard for you to click into that world, where all these other queens have their bar gigs, or are fighting to get them?
I’m primarily a comedienne (said very seriously). And I love interactive comedy/turning things upside down. I think that’s what makes me good at those hoary ole staples: karaoke, bingo, tours. I can turn em’ upside down. I’m not great in that late night, do-a-three-minute-number way. So yeah, I think they’re a bit different.
Let’s talk about karaoke! I think it’s a unique gig because of the neighborhood… drag queens are a rarity in Tribeca. You’re at a bar called Belle Reve on Church Street hosting it. What’s that scene like?
So mixed! So much fun. Advertising people/new media/models/and those that love them. Belle Reve is fabulous – the down-and-dirty bar in an area full of do-gooders. And God, when you get a vibe going, people let down the guards- and live. I call it comedy karaoke: no talent allowed! I’ll never forget everyone in the bar becoming dancing furniture while some hot straight/gay dude nailed “Be Our Guest” – I was crawling across the bar throwing napkins. It’s the only time I’ve ever been happy. Getting those people- to do that– woohoo- that’s fun.
Getting laughs or creating those moments must be the ultimate high for you.
Yes it is. Having fun. Turning things upside down. It’s my crack.
So, what does the future hold for you? Anything new in the works?
So, I’m putting together a new show called “Tour of Love,” about the highs and much-more-ever-frequent-crippling-paralyzing-hideous lows of Modern Love. I can’t wait to get back into a theater/cabaret again. It’s going to have a knitted nude body stocking. With a knitted penis! Which you can actually buy on eBay!
Sounds amazing! A musical?
An extravaganza! Musical numbers. I’m gonna make out with the audience. Some acting. If it’s going well, there’ll be laughter. And/or tears. I don’t mind which. It’s a lot of fun to develop.
Yay! Any ideas of where’s and when’s, or are you just gonna do it on the street for the bougie West Villagers?
I want to get it up in December; i’m just about to confirm the venue. Failing that, it’ll be in a private booth of a Chelsea sex shop.
Glorious! If Dream Queen had free reign to tour any neighborhood, venue or building or whatever in NYC, where would you take it?
Awww shite. A late night tour of the dirt tracks of the Rambles, perhaps? Or a tour of the most expensive building in NYC on Park Avenue. From the sublime to the ridiculous. Or vice versa.
That would be amazing. And your tour is only $44 as it is!
Can I say: I think $44 for a ticket is way too much for us living in NYC–I can barely pay rent as it is. So, you can get $25 tickets with the code “sogay”. Because I’m nice.
Don’t say Thotyssesy never did anything for you, readers! Thanks so much Glace!
Glace Chase leads the Dream Queen Tour through the West Village on Sundays beginning at 3:30pm. Details and tickets can be gotten here, and use discount code “sogay” for a $19 discount. Glace also hosts Sing-A-Long karaoke at Belle Reve on Wednesday nights (11pm). Glace can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.