It’s not easy to create a new showcase for drag in today’s Brooklyn–let alone in a non-queer venue–but this queen has done it. Lady Crystal Hart of Long Island rules The Bedford, and gives us life!
Thotyssey: Crystal, hello! Thanks for chatting! So are you sad or relieved to be missing out on the NYC Britney takeover?
Crystal Hart: Hah! Thank you babe! I’m neutral, I guess. I love a Britney tune as much as the next gay, but… I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to see her live. Who has money for that anyway!?
Every basic gay on my Friends List… they’ll just skip rent this month! So, how’s your summer been so far?
Fantastic! It’s my favorite time of year. I haven’t made it out to the beach as much as I’d like, but I’ve been having a blast adding more shows to my plate and visiting my folks out on Long Island when I can. I have an adorable two year-old nephew named Jett who loves swimming in my parent’s pool. My friends also threw a little surprise for my birthday back in June, which was so incredibly sweet and something I’ll never forget.
Awwwww cute! So you are a native Long Islander?
Yes! Born and raised.
What’s your performing arts background prior to drag?
I’ve always been into one artsy endeavor or another. As a kid, I loved to draw–and I still do, even though I’m no good at it. In high school, I was in 500 clubs and did the school plays and dance classes and all that. In college, I studied stage directing and took a lot of classes in acting and design. After college, I was in a puppet troupe and did a bunch of art shows back in Pittsburgh. And I’ve been working behind the scenes in theater ever since I moved to NY. I’ve always been a bit all over the place creatively–which for me has been an advantage in drag. It’s a little bit of everything, you know?
A true Renaissance queen! How did you become Crystal?
I’m a Pride Queen! Pride is another reason I love the summer so much. My boyfriend and I love to dress to the nines and hit the parade together, making a ruckus and partying all day. I first got into full drag with him for the parade one year, and for a few years it was just dressing up for Pride and hosting house parties and going out and stuff. So it wasn’t until about a year ago that Crystal was really “born,” when I did my first performance in the third set at Mondays on Mondays at Macri Park. After that first show I really caught the bug and dove right into the deep end.
[photo credit: Mike Sullivan]
Your boyfriend is Le Petit Dumdum, a rising star in the burlesque world who also happens to be a not-so-creepy clown. How did you two meet?
We met online! I’m talking a pre-Grindr, old school dating site. Back then, there was this uncomfortable stigma around meeting people online and I would never tell people that. These days it feels like the default way people meet or hook up. Anyway, at this point everyone already knows we’re a pair of big ole’ sluts, so I don’t give a fuck! Ha!
How were you introduced to the Brooklyn scene?
I just kind of jumped in and started going to shows! Like I said earlier, at first drag was just this fun distraction I did for myself from time to time. I was in the dark about the scene in general. When Dumdum and I moved to BK and looked up the gay bars, I realized how much was going on and got really excited and interested. I started going out more and more to see what all these fascinating artists had to offer, and the rest is herstory. Also, it was Shiny Penny who introduced me to Macri Park and Mondays on Mondays, and I’ll never forget that. I gotta give her credit where it’s due, I love that bitch.
And do you have a favorite number to do these days?
I do this really stupid rendition of “Stay” by Lisa Loeb that will probably always be my favorite thing to perform… more recently though, I performed Carole King’s “I Feel The Earth Move” which was so much fun and made me want to do more 60’s and 70’s shit. I’ve also done some duos recently with Kalandra Bankhead and of course Dumdum, and I’d really like to work on more of those as well. Two queers are better than one!
When this year’s RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 3 was airing, you were hosting a viewing party at a cute Brooklyn venue called The Bedford. How did that originally come about?
[My co-host] Verduch! It’s all her fault! The Bedford show is her brainchild. She’s a Renaissance Woman herself, and bartending is one of her many skills. She used to work behind the bar at The Bedford, and always knew the space had great potential for some kind of drag show. During All-Stars, with all the viewing parties popping up, she bumped into the owner one night and decided it was time to make it happen.
The viewing party was a hit! Then All-Stars went right into Season 10…. That sure was a lot of Drag Race, wasn’t it?
It really was some marathon-style shit! But I loved it! It was my first time hosting, so the weekly gig was such a great opportunity to hone that skill and to come up with new looks and numbers. We also got to work with a lot of cool people, and we made some really great friends as we built up the crowd at The Bedford. Honestly, it was great!
[photo: Patrick Donovan]
Drag Race may be over, but we’re now left with The Thursday Night Show at The Bedford starring yourself, Verduch, Dumdum, and special guests—often from the burlesque world. How have you been enjoying this new show so far?
I am so grateful to be continuing with The Thursday Night Show! I won’t lie… building a show from the ground up is a huge challenge. But we’re loving it! The back-bar at The Bedford has this comfortable, cool, loungey vibe which is really inspiring. The thing that makes it really fantastic is that we are the first show in there, and it’s not even a gay bar–so we can really do whatever the fuck we want with that show! There is no precedent, no expectation. It’s part of the reason we gave the show that generic sounding title–we didn’t want to tie ourselves down to anything. We’re looking forward to working with all kinds of artists, from drag and burlesque and beyond, and experimenting with the format to create an ever-evolving, always surprising show.
Also, this week right after The Thursday Night Show, you will also be popping up at Metropolitan Bar for the popular monthly Alotta Stuff Auction to turn some numbers and sell stuff! Will this be stuff that you’ve made, or cool things you bought? Yes! We have so much fun at these Auctions. And Alotta McGriddles and her guests always come up with these wonderful items that people get really excited about. I, however, would NOT expect anyone to give me money for anything I’ve sewn… haha! I’m not good enough yet. So it’ll be stuff that I have bought or collected from my various theater gigs throughout the years.
What else is materializing in the world of Crystal Hart?
Well… it may be too early to say but… fuck it. Verduch and our DJ, CJCJ, are something of a musical duo. They’ve got some great music videos up on YouTube, and we’ve premiered some of their stuff at The Bedford. We have a little project on the horizon that’s going to be FIRE! Also, everyone should just prepare for my complete world takeover!
We can’t even! Amazing! Okay, last question… what’s the best thing about drag for you right now… and what’s the worst?
Ooooh… good one! The best thing, easily, is the freedom of expression. There is so much support and love for such a wide breadth of artists right now. It’s so exciting!
The worst thing has got to be the drama. I think there is drama and politics in every field, and I’ve been lucky and perhaps smart enough to avoid a lot of it myself. But it kind of surrounds the scene, which is no fun! Its supposed to be FUN! Chill out, people!
Shine on, Crystal!