2017 has been a huge year for one of NYC’s most beloved drag entertainers: several successful cabaret concerts and out-of-town gigs, new weekly gigs in the city, A-List guests for her show Stage Fright, a stunningly successful foray into politics, a much-buzzed about TV show that she’s starring and producing in, a wedding, and a holiday album in the works. Now is as good a time as any to catch up with one of Thotyssey’s first interviewees, the incredible Marti Gould Cummings!
Marti Gould Cummings: I always enjoy the fundraisers we put on! We pick a different charity and organization each time, and the performers all donate their time, talent, and tips to the cause.
Benefits are a great way for drag performers to get political, but you took it one step further with the recent success of the organization you created, the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats. For this past election of local offices, the HK Dems got their chosen district leaders elected, which is a pretty huge deal considering the very old school McManus Midtown Democratic Club has been pushing the Democrats into power there since the 1890s! How hard did you and your team work for this?
We had an incredible team of people. Carl Wilson, Jeffrey LaFrancois, Aleta Lafarge, Nick Franklin, Sarah Fox, Wendi Pastor, Sean Coughlin, Mark Robinson and so many others. Plus, we had the support of our elected officials Assembly Members Dick Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Corey Johnson and congressman Jerry Nadler.
The success of HK Dems and the election win for district leader of Tom Shanahan and Marisa Redanty was a huge group effort that took a team of people, along with our community, to come together to make sure we are be represented in our neighborhood.
It’s kind of amazing that you, this 30 year-old drag queen with no political experience, was able to educate yourself and mobilize the community so quickly and effectively.
This is all a learning experience. I was not really involved in politics until Trump announced he was running for president. It was apparent that we as citizens needed to stand up.
I remember seeing you on Election Night. You were hosting karaoke at Pieces where the results were being broadcast, and you seemed to be the only one I ran into that night that was quite aware of what was about to happen. The rest of us were completely in denial. But now we’re all mobilized!
There is a mobilization across the country since his election. Real people have been shaking things up since November, starting clubs and organizations. We obviously need the help of elected officials to get things done, and we need to elect real progressives and get more progressives in office. But it is important for everyday people to get involved, join clubs, run for office. I am hoping that my voice as a drag artist, and the HK Dems, can mobilize people to help our community.
Are you gonna read Hillary’s book? Personally, I think it might be too painful for me right now.
I am gonna hold off on reading the book. I love Hillary and respect her so much, but for me I need to be working toward the future and working to make sure our community is protected from Trump. I will eventually read it, and I think it is so important for her to get her story out there and not to be silenced. She won the majority, and in any other democracy she would have become president.
Has becoming more active in politics affected your drag persona at all? Like, is it more difficult to be funny and irreverent on stage, when your political self has to be focused and serious?
I think we need comedy and humor now more than ever. I use my drag to make people laugh through these weird times our country is going through. I think being in politics shouldn’t make you not a funny person. I am naturally funny, so I try to blend the two together.
By the way, thanks for performing at Night of 1000 Thots in July! You were amazing! (I am retro-plugging this event every chance I get, it’s GLAM-voting season).
Ha! it was such a fun event! thank you for including me.
Let’s talk about your own gigs, cuz they’ve changed a little since last we spoke here. First of all, you now host Pieces bingo, Sunday at 5pm.
Bingo Is incredibly fun! we have such a great group of regulars who come each week, and we hang out and shoot the shit and play bingo. Plus, we have so many new people each week to join in on the fun! My bingo gig is like a party in my living room. I have the best time!
And then later on Sundays at Hardware, you host The Late Late Show, where you perform with weekly guest queens and other performers! You give a lot of newer talent a chance to shine in these guest spots.
I LOVE giving new queens a platform. The Hardware show is a fucking blast! We are late night, closing out the weekend.
You’ve done a lot of cabaret shows this year. Do you have any new favorite songs in your singing repertoire?
Oh, I love singing anything 90s rock.
Werk, Alanis! And you get to sing plenty for your long running hit panel show, Stage Fright, Monday nights at Therapy, where you’ve hosted Broadway’s hottest young talent as guests – plus genuine veteran superstars like Jonathan Groff, Bebe Neuwirth and Peter Gallagher! Have you had a favorite interview there yet?
I loved Bebe Neuwirth! She was so fun and game for a good time! She’s the real deal! Jonathan Groff and Peter Gallagher also were real gentlemen. Oh, and obviously LaChanze, and, Beth Leavel and Lillias White! I just love being able to bring Broadway to the audience!
You’ve also been co-hosting The Ultimate Drag Pageant at the West End for a few cycles now. That’s been a challenging weekly pageant with a great winning prize package that’s turned out some really talented young queens. Is it exciting to watch them grow and meet the challenges, or is it more stressful to see when they are struggling?
Struggling is part of growing. I think it is important to take those struggles as a new queen and learn from them. I really enjoy being able to give these queens a platform to perform.
I haven’t seen yet! But so exciting.
And of course you are part of the monthly rotation of singing Divas, Friday nights at Stonewall… when’s your next night there?
Always third Friday of the month.
Okay, I’m so excited to talk about SHADE, a new docu-series premiering on the Fusion Network that will profile a group of NYC’s best queens in their personal and professional lives, and feature their performances. The cast consists of Tina Burner, Brita Filter, Jada Valenciaga, Holly Box-Springs, Jasmine Rice LaBeija, Chelsea Piers, Paige Turner, and yourself. And om top of that, you are a producer! SO OMG, first of all, how did this all come about?
I met with my friend Mike Kelton a little over a year ago, and told him I wanted to develop something new and exciting. We brainstormed, and he helped me come up with this show. We taped a bunch of queens interview-style, and put together a tape and shopped it around.
The amazing team at Cowboy Bear Ninja saw our vision and developed a sizzle reel which we then pitched to Fusion, and here we are! The entire team – Liz, Mike, Rufus, Michael, Lisa, Corey… everyone at Cowboy Bear Ninja and Fusion, and our cast of queens – has dedicated so much time and heart into this project. I think people are going to be very surprised when they watch it. We really want to show people who drag queens are.
What might Joe Schmoe living in Armpit, Nowhere find really surprising about drag after watching the show, do you think?
That we have same everyday life issues as everyone else. Finances, health, dating…
How up close and personal does this get? Might there be some of what was filmed that could make you or other queens on the cast nervous about the public seeing? It is called SHADE, after all!
We are showing the real life ups and downs of NYC queens. Watch and see!
That would be interesting to see play out. As a producer and a subject of the show, what was the most challenging aspect of the production for you?
Did all you queens bond during the filming?
I think we all have grown a lot, and will continue to grow through filming.
It’s a crazy and super-exciting time for NYC drag, with this show about to air on October 5th and the next season of Drag Race (ALLEGEDLY) having nearly half the cast being NY queens. Are you prepared for this next level of drag fame and success that SHADE could bring not only you, but the entire NYC nightlife community?
Drag is mainstream, and here to stay! It’s wonderful.
And I heard that you’re also working on an album.
I am recording a holiday duets album. Tony winner Cady Huffman, Tony nominee Daphne Rubin Vega, Lion King star Jelani Remy and Olivier Award winner Leslie Margarita will all be on it – as well as Kristina Nicole Miller, Tim Young, Tina Burner and Jasmine Rice. Music arrangement by my husband Blake Allen, and direction by Eric Miranda. Proceeds will go to The Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth.
This just in: you performed at Bushwig! How was it?
Bushwig was one of the most incredible events I have ever been to. It was gorgeous seeing so many people coming together to celebrate life, love, art, and the queer community. Horrorchata and Merrie Cherry are incredible leaders and role models for our community, and I am super proud to have been a part of the event.
Anything else you wanna mention?
I just want to make sure people are activated and involved. Join Hell’s Kitchen Democrats on Facebook, and find out how you can volunteer and get locally motivated to make change.
Here that, thots! Okay, final question: as a newlywed, how are you enjoying married life so far?
It’s a wild ride!
Thanks again, Marti, and congratulations once again with everything!
Marti Gould Cummings hosts Sunday happy hour bingo at Pieces (5pm), The Late Late Show at Hardware (Sundays, 11pm), Stage Fright at Therapy (Mondays, 10pm), The Ultimate Drag Pageant at the West End (seasonal Thursdays, 11pm) and Diva at Stonewall (monthly third Fridays, 11pm). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for other upcoming appearances, and follow Marti on Facebook (twice), Instagram, Twitter, iTunes and YouTube.
Previously: Marti Gould Cummings (3.29.2016)