Is every onstage move she makes just a random flailing of hot messery, or an act of calculated comedic genius? Who can really say for sure–but she’s been entertaining the fuck out of us in NYC, Fire Island and beyond for nearly a dozen years now! Hard at work with an upcoming stage show lampooning one of her favorite musicals, she and her longtime stage partners are ringing in 2017 with a bang and crash. Get Busted!
Thotyssey: Hey Busted! It must be a busy January for you, with all the rehearsals for the upcoming Beechman show, right?
Busted: Hi Jim! Thanks for having me. What rehearsals? I knew I was forgetting something!
Ha! I wanna hear all about the new show. But first of all, how’s 2017 been treating you otherwise?
2017 is what it is. I’m still standing. That’s a good thing. I have my health, family and friends, for which I’m grateful. Performance opportunities are popping up–that’s always exciting–but there’s still anxiety, stress and fear, and a feeling of impending doom. So far, so good!
A hopeful silver lining on a doomy cloud! So Busted, how long have you been performing as Busted now?
It’s going on 12 years!
Amazing! What’s the secret to career longevity in drag, do you think? Most queens kinda disappear in half that time.
I have no fucking idea! I really don’t. I guess it depends on the queen and what they want, and how far they want it to go. Some do it for fun, or “on the side,” some have made it a career, some get their fill and move on.
Ultimately, it’s the audiences’ response, and the connection you make with them. If they like what you’re doing, they’ll keep coming back for more.
Again, I have no clue, And, I’m not saying I have a career. Ha!
You have more than a career, you have a brand! I’ll get to that in a sec, but first of all… Where’s your hometown?
Waynesboro, Virginia. God’s country.
I can imagine! What was it like growing up there for you?
I’d say it was a typical small town life. Nothing out of the ordinary. I had good friends and family, so, I was fortunate in that sense. There were challenges with boredom and the occasional bully, but I made it. I appreciate it much more now as an adult.
Were you always performing and creating in some sense?
Yes. I was always in an art or music program, show choir, something at school.
Was it ultimately singing and theatre you imagined as being a career in the early days?
Yes. In my head, I was going to Broadway!
So how/when/where did you start drag?
I was working at Barracuda. I met and became friends with [future co-stars] Al, and then his sister Patty. They did a bit as correspondents for Shequida in her “The Gayly Show.” That lead to their own show, which was a sketch comedy type thing, with a weekly soap opera. This was 2004/2005.
“Don’t Cha”, by the Pussy Cat Dolls came out, and I suggested someone do the song, but do it as a busted, ugly queen. So I did. Then I entered Shequida’s Star Search and people seemed to like it, so it grew from there.
It’s hard to describe “Busted” to people who never saw her before. It’s quite a unique experience. Yes she’s a hot mess, but for one thing your look is very specific. She has a wild greyish bob, little striped wrappy dresses (usually the same single one) and crazy punkish makeup. Was this how she looked on day one?
No. At first I grabbed one of the ratty wigs we used in the show. I think it was a sandy colored Afro wig. Threw on a tube top and shorts. The makeup was always rotten, but I used blue for the eyes. The hot pink came later. Always had the broken, duct taped heels.
She used to sport all kinds of sparkly dresses, but I realized that the striped wrap dress was much easier, and it kept my costs down! I see her like a cartoon character. Always in the same outfit.
I was gonna say superhero, but cartoon is much more accurate!
I’ll take super hero! By the way, everyone thinks the hair is gray. It was platinum blond. I sprayed some dark roots and it looked great, until I jumped into the pool at Ice Palace. So that, and years of being stuffed into the bottom of my “Le Bag,” has made it what it is.
Your wig tells a story! One thing that’s always so hilariously weird about your performances onstage is that it always seems like you are just wandering onto the stage and things just happen to you. Or, you’ll knock something over and really respond as if it was accidental. Is this all very carefully crafted on your part, or do you really just allow a lot of room for “stuff to happen?”
Well, when you add several shots of Jager, shit’s bound to happen! I try to roll with whatever goes on. Depending on the number, I sometimes have little tricks planned. Destruction of property is never one of them. I like to see what happens. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.
So, your busiest season is usually the summer, where you host shows a few nights a week at Cherrys on the Bay. How did your Fire Island career start?
I had visited the island several times and fell in love. Who doesn’t? It was Shequida that took me out as a guest for her Monday night show. It went well. The following summer I started working at Jumping Jacks as a server, and performing whenever, wherever I could. That led to The Shit Show, with Al and Patty, then eventually my own show at Cherrys.
Were you ever Homecoming Queen at the beginning of the season?
No, I’ve never run for Homecoming. That would be a cool honor, though. I think They might be looking for a more polished queen.
Nah, Logan won it this past year (haha just kidding!).
Ha! Logan was a queen for the people!
So, you became an international celebrity in 2014 when you appeared on an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, when two of the sisters visited Cherry Grove. What was that whole experience like?
Those 3.2 seconds of airtime changed my life! They were fine. In and out. Mostly friendly. Khloe and I still have lunch whenever I’m in LA.
Some folks have observed that this past summer was a rough season on the Island, because without the Grove Hotel (which burned down in 2015), there was just not a lot of room for vacationers.
It was a weird season, but we all made it through. Such a great group of Cherry Grovers.
Do you have hopes that the hotel will be back this summer as planned?
I do have hopes. From the pics I’ve seen, it looks like the hotel is on the way. It can only be good for the community, and the employees and everyone involved. So yes, I hope it’s ready! I’m sure it will be.
I was wondering how you enjoyed starring in The Off Couple, a drag parody of The Odd Couple produced by Danny Logan at the Duplex, last year. You co-starred with your partner-in-crime Tina Burner and some other talented queens. That was a scripted show, which is a little different from what you normally do.
It was a lot of fun! I hadn’t been a part of a scripted show in a loooooong time.
Danny said nobody actually stuck to the script!
Danny lied. Everyone was great with the script. Except Burner. She couldn’t remember a line to save her life. Just kidding. That was all me. They taped my copy into the newspaper to get me through it. It was fun and scary, and everyone was great. I’d love to do it again, just give me extra time to memorize!
Which brings us to your upcoming show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre: A Coarse Line, which parodies A Chorus Line. First of all, tell me what the original show A Chorus Line means to you. Is it a musical you actually enjoy, or do you find it ridiculous?
Omg, as kids, my sisters and I watched A Chorus Line: the Movie a million times on HBO. Loved it! We got in trouble for singing the song about tits and ass. It led to my love of Broadway. I saw a touring production, but never the original run, or revival on Broadway. Such a great show.
You, Al and Patty are bringing on the parody on January 27th & February 10th! When did you all start working on this?
Yes! Mark your calendars! Al and Patty have taken the lead on this project. They have been writing and working off and on since September/October. I’ve added my two cents here and there, but it’s their script. I think it’s funny and people will love it. It’s different from our past shows at the Beechman. We have a cast! I want to shout out Susan Campanaro (aka Lavinia Draper), Paul Martin Kovic, and Edward Lewis (aka Blackie O’Nasty).
Those are all incredibly fun people. Sounds like it’s gonna be a hell of a night (well, two nights!)
I saw that interview! Very sweet of Sherry. Speaking of legends–I mean, old people–Sherry has been good to me. I’ve been in and out of the city, so it’s been a bit difficult to get things done, but yes, we will be working on more material for the channel in the coming months.
Where are you when you’re not in the city? Do you live elsewhere?
Usually the city or the island. This fall/winter, I’ve been in Virginia.
Oh nice! That explains why we don’t always see a lot of you this time of year! I do see that on Saturday the 21st, you’ll be performing at the party “Gay Perversion Therapy” at Easternbloc. Will that be your first time there?
Actually, no! We had a show there the first year they opened. It’s a return for me. And I was there as Miss Stephanie Stone’s guest not toooo long ago.
I think if this goes well, they’ll wants a monthly party. Should be fun!
Glad we’ll be seeing a lot of you these next few weeks. So okay, in closing: How will you be spending Inauguration Day, and the day after?
We will be rehearsing most of the day. Then I’m sure we will be somewhere commiserating with the rest of the world. And joining a march or two. God help us!
That’s the spirit! Thanks, Busted!