This is likely the first queen that comes to mind when you think “Fire Island Drag,” and that’s as it should be: The Girl with a Thousand Voices is a Cherry Grove institution. But Porsche is quite a well-traveled queen, and is certainly no stranger to venues right here in NYC. It took an international quarantine to clear up this entertainer’s schedule, so Thotyssey is gonna dive right in and get to know our grand dame of musical majesty.
Thotyssey: Hello Porsche! Thanks for talking to us today!
Porsche: Well hello! Not a problem at all. I love talking to people, especially right now with the quarantine going on.
How are you holding up?
I’m actually kind of enjoying the downtime; it’s rare for me to not be on a plane going somewhere to perform this time of year. I will say this, though: it’s nice to be able to spend quality time with my partner, and actually have time to connect with my friends all over the globe. Heck, I am hearing from people I have not talked to in years! It’s bringing a lot of fun memories back. It’s a nice reminder that my life hasn’t been boring so far.
That’s for sure! You’re probably best known as a Fire Island and Key West performer, but you’ve been all over the map! Aside from your usual haunts, do you have a favorite city to perform in?
Oh my! That’s a hard one. Every place I have performed (with the exception of one) has been so much fun. And I have done some pretty unique venues. I will say, I do love performing in Austin very much when I visit my hometown. My dear friend Sabel Scities has done an amazing job of shaking up drag at OCH and Rain, so that is always a blast. And I will say that two of the most surprising places I have performed have been Dayton, Ohio and Omaha, Nebraska. Those places know how to throw a party! Oh, and Atlantis Cruises are a trip and a half.
Amazing! Would you ever try to do one of these live webshows that all the sequestered queens are doing right now?
I might or might not be doing one tomorrow, hee hee! Usually my drag calls me all kinds of terrible names when I am working, but recently it has been begging for attention.
I’ve gathered from some past interviews I’ve read that you consider Porsche to be an established character, as opposed to just a heightened version of [your alter ego] Brant. Is that accurate?
I would say there is definitely a lot of me in her, along with just about every girl I grew up around thrown in for good measure. She definitely gets away with a lot more that I would, I’ll tell you that! We have grown together through the years, so naturally we have become closer… but yes, there is a definite line for me.
What was life like, growing up in Austin? I understand that’s a pretty chill city with lots of color.
Austin is such a great City–definitely lots of color. When I moved to New York for college, I really got to see just how unique Austin was. For the capitol of such a Red State, it has a distinctly Blue vibe–a thriving creative culture full of music, art, performance, and growing up during the tech boom and the birth of SXSW was incredible. Mix that with the open-mindedness of the city and BAM. I was out in high school–nobody cared, and neither did the people as a whole. Oh, and Austin is a beautiful city, to boot!
I am guessing that, as far as performing arts go, you were a singer first and foremost?
Yes. I actually trained and started singing very, very young in the Texas Boys’ Choir (insert joke here). I was classically trained and touring all over long before puberty. Acting came a bit later. So did wigs.
When do you realize you had a special talent for imitating the sounds and styles of so many iconic singers?
I just always had a knack for it, even as a child. I remember impersonating teachers, family, friends, etc., almost always for a laugh. I think it might run in the family. My grandmother Bebe had an incredible ear for mimicry, and Lord was she funny! She was like having Ann Richards and Lucille Ball as your grandmother. Never a dull moment of boring conversation.
I’ve heard you do Janis, Judy, Liza, Pink, Celine… is there any diva that you really connect to more than others when you channel her?
Oh, that is just the start of the list! I adore every person that I do. It’s like an homage, rather than a skewering. Finding what is unique about someone is both the challenge and the joy in impersonation. I consider them characters, really… not just a singer singing a song or a person doing a monologue. I find something of myself in all of them. For someone like Janis or Judy, it’s the pathos. For someone like Karen Walker or Bette Davis, it’s the bold humor. I love them all. Billie Eilish has been a challenge, though!
Oh lord, does she even talk?
Exactly! Watching interviews with her reminds me of researching Bjork! She is a fascinating artist. How to make her funny is the challenge.
Do you ever have to, like, stop and recall what your own voice sounds like when it’s time to sing as You, or is that a very easy transition for you to navigate?
It is very easy for me to just sing like me; I do it in shows and for myself all the time. It’s like a switch, really. I have a very odd but fun range. It’s always a giggle to sing something random. And that comes in handy if attending random karaoke nights with friends.
What actually made you want to don the wig yourself?
Well, I did a little drag in high school, but not until college in New York did “Porsche” come into being–on a dare. Bob Estey, the then-owner of Pieces in the West Village, asked me to do a Pride show when I was 21. I wasn’t sure, so my friends dared me. I don’t back down easily.
What was the scene like, back then?
Oh wow… well, NYC nightlife in the late Nineties and early 2000’s was definitely different. It was a time of drag being fierce, a good amount of talented performers, and a certain edge to everyone… but certainly not like it is today. It was by no means mainstream, not even in the gay communities. In the time of the Chelsea Boy with all the muscles and tank tops in full swing up and down 8th Avenue, drag was a bit of a stigma. Now? Drag is everywhere and embraced.
The talent that was around, though, was incredible. And everyone kind of had their own “thing.” There were dancers like Candis, Lina, and Edie, comediennes like Hedda Lettuce, Jackie Beat, and Flotilla DeBarge, the fantastic Jimmy James, and singers like Bianca Leigh, Sherry Vine and Cashetta, Varla Jean Merman, and the subversive chanteuses like Raven O, Sade Pendarvis, and the inimitable Joey Arias. And of course, the Legendary Lady Bunny. All of which this young little queen from Austin had the privilege of learning from and performing with.
The difference I see today is that now, there are so many queens out there. Back then, you really had to be unique and talented to get something going for yourself. Now, there are a lot of talented queens mixed in with a lot of queens that are not quite as polished… and the attitude is a bit different, for better or for worse. But don’t get me wrong, I have never considered myself “polished!” I’m just me. I sure do miss places like Bar d’O and Splash, though.
When did you start performing regularly on Fire Island?
Oh my, I have been at the Ice Palace for years! I am well into my second decade there. And every year is different. It keeps it fresh and fun. I sincerely love and am constantly awed and grateful to the crowds that come to see me perform, and to see what Chuck McTague or another one of our fantastic DJs have worked up at any given time. I love to have fun up there, and it seems to transfer well to the audiences. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling way to spend the time I am allotted on Earth. And I love all of the “repeat offenders” that come back time and time again. I think they call them “Porscheholics.”
You are everyone’s go-to queen out there! The Porsche Experience is necessary for a Fire Island stay. I know it must’ve been a struggle these last few summers, though… first with the fire that burned down the Grove Hotel, and then a late start this past summer because of a sprinkler system issue.
Every year is different, but every summer is a good one! The fire sent not just the Ice Palace and Grove Hotel, but the entire community for a loop that lasted several seasons. It was a behemoth of an undertaking to get everything back up and running, but we did it. One of the joys of the Palace family is that we are a family, in every sense of the word. Our family took a massive hit that kept on hitting for one reason or another, but we got through it.
And good grief, the rumor mill was working overtime. A word of advice for anyone: if you want to know, just go to the source and ask. It’s that simple! The things I heard that were not even remotely true were almost comical in their inaccuracy. But rest assured, we have survived worse and will have better! Much akin to a summer romance, if you will.
When do you think the season will start this year?
Usually we start things up right before Memorial Day Weekend. Let’s hope everything stays on schedule! But if it does not, then it is always paramount to do what is best for Cherry Grove and The Pines. This entire quarantine has thrown not only the country, but the world for a loop. We have to address those issues first, and remember that Fire Island is nothing without its people, its communities. Therein lies the magic.
Well said! You also perform a lot in local Long Island bars as well, most notably Station Pub in Sayville. That must be a nice change of pace from the gayly grind.
Station Pub is so much fun when we do it! That is all Chuck McTague and his partner Johnny’s doing. For years, we have all looked at that place and thought “wouldn’t it be crazy if we…” and here we are doing it! We’re into our second year doing once a month there. The new owner has been a doll to us, as well as the locals. And on the night we perform, it is mix of gay, straight, everything. And it is like a Fire Island reunion during the winter. And I have also done many other places on Long Island, as well. People seem to love the tomfoolery.
And it’s always fun to see you doing shows in Manhattan.
I adore performing in Manhattan! I really do feel that Manhattan is where Porsche’s completely and utterly natural blonde roots are. I swear.
Ha! You perform at at Stonewall frequently.
The Stonewall Inn has been my Manhattan touchstone for years, pun indented. It really is a family there, as well. We have all worked in several places together over the years, and it’s always nice to see a friendly face there. And not to mention that it literally is the gayest bar on the planet! For goodness sake, the Stonewall Inn is where Pride began. It’s not all fun and frivolity there, everyone takes it seriously. To be part of the legacy there is an honor. I am no Tree, by any means. But the history of the struggle is really there. When people say “the struggle is real’ in a flippant way, it does get under my skin a bit. Yes. It was and is a struggle… for basic human rights. For acceptance. For equality. It is palpable at Stonewall. Just stop in and ask Tree. He lived it. We are all still living it. That is community.
And what a shame that the Club Cumming Fire Island reunion show got postponed.
[That was supposed to be] a fundraiser for new and necessary fire equipment for Cherry Grove, so that another devastating fire will hopefully never happen again. Alan, Daniel, and Sam put together quite an event that was unfortunately postponed due to the current state of affairs… but it means something that it was even conceived! That is one of the fabulous things about our community as a whole. And isn’t it wonderful that we have a knack for doing good with a fun flair to it? I think so.
Yes! And now at least we can look forward to the revised date. Which would normally bring us to plugs for your future shows: but that’s kind of hard to do now, in this time of uncertainty. Do you know of anything specific down the road for you, regarding projects or gigs?
Oh my! Well, I do have a few irons in the fire, with some noteworthy and exciting projects that would take me in some fun directions involving more than just impersonation. I do love a fun challenge (but not in the Drag Race way. It’s a fun show, though!) And you are correct: there really is not a lot to promote right now. But I will say this: I am definitely doing some online / streaming things ASAP.
And some of the things I am cooking up for the Ice Palace this season are a lot of fun, and involve some things that really get the audience involved with the night! And when Fall arrives, I think we will all know more of what direction we are all going. One of the greatest gifts life can give us is the excitement of the road ahead and forward!
Absolutely! Well, this has been lovely, thank you! So in closing, I am asking all our Quarantinas: what are you binge watching now?
Anything that has a Tracey Ullman element to it. And… this one lady across the street, whom I swear thinks she is Carrie Bradshaw.
You couldn’t help but wonder! Thank you Porsche, and hang in there!