This suave King of Spoop is a founder of New York’s drag king / quing conglomerate The Cake Boys… and October is his month for digital domination!
Thotyssey: Hello Muscles! Happy Almost Quarantine Halloween! How is the spooky season treating you so far?
Muscles Monty: Happy Almost Quarantine Halloween to you also! So far there seems to be a lot more tricks than treats this season… but it wouldn’t be Halloween without a little October fright, am I right? (I promise I won’t rhyme anymore after this.)
Have you spent enough time these past weeks watching horror movies?
Never enough time! I love watching scary movies, and at the beginning of quarantine my roommates and I hooked up our projector screen… so we watch movies pretty regularly (enough so that we started our own digital movie night). We’ve been keeping to the “Halloween classics” lately like Scream, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the Halloween movies.
How do you like the new Halloweens that negate all the sequels? They’re received pretty divisively among the fandom.
Opinions of the movie aside, I love the idea and the gutsiness (is that a word?) of someone reinterpreting a plot that is locked into the canon of pop culture. So when a movie comes out that negates what we already know, it keeps things exciting! But, truthfully… the new movies were okay. I know I love someone taking on a classic, but I still love the classic better! I just don’t get mad about it like so many others do!
So where are you from originally, and how did you begin as a creative person?
I’m from New York (Queens, originally). Cliche as it sounds, I’ve been interested in performing and making art as long as I remember. I come from a very loud and boisterous family, and I think the years of being around them singing and dancing and performing rubbed off on me. My mom threw me and my siblings into having hobbies, and I picked up on the creative ones: I played the bass, I took drawing classes, I did theater. Eventually I went to school for sculpture, so it’s just always been there!
How did you discover drag… and realize it was something that you could do?
I think it began in high school… you know, that prime period where you begin to question every part of your being. I was questioning my gender and my sexuality and at the same time, was being cast into some “masculine” roles in the school plays and learning about all these absurdist, dadaist and feminist artists who were using drag in their works. When I went to college, I joined the campus burlesque troupe (shout out to Alpha Psi Ecdysia), and we were always saying there (and I still stand by it!) that burlesque is drag. Anything that is an extension of yourself is drag. Anything that makes you vulnerable is drag. Anything that puts yourself out there to say “this is who I am” is drag.
I kept doing burlesque for awhile after that, but it took a turn when I changed my stage name. Prior to Muscles, my name was Sweet Samantha Jane–you know, a totally classic high femme name–but I never really knew who she was. When I became Muscles, it was as though this bubbling little journey that never made sense all of a sudden did, and I said you know what – I’m already doing all these things that are drag. So just do it.
Describe who Muscles is, for the uninitiated!
I like to say that Muscles is a professional gremlin: a drag king in knock-off Halloween costumes. He finds himself in usually uncanny and unlucky situations, and is a walking, talking fart joke.
Lol! Do you have a favorite number to do?
I think there’s a tie. One is the number I do to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” which I call my showghoul number because it’s basically me as an actual troll learning about self-acceptance through jazz hands.
And the other is my Buddy Holly number. It’s the first number I did as a drag king. It’s so classically drag king, but still very much Muscles… and I love that dichotomy. It’s like a nightmare Buddy Holly impersonation set to Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” where when they sing “Ooh wee ooh I look just like Buddy Holly, oh oh and you’re Mary Tyler Moore…” I pull out a head from my body and use it as a puppet to duet the rest of the number. I’m laughing while writing this because that makes me sound like a huge creep, but in reality I’m sitting here in a nice floral shirt writing business emails.
I love the idea of us being a guild… like we’re knights who discuss serious things at the round table. In reality, on our first meeting we watched The Bachelorette while finishing off a 12-pack of La Croix. But yes!
For a long time, I was performing as a drag king in burlesque shows because I didn’t feel like I had a space in the drag community. I wasn’t getting booked–and when I did, I wasn’t making the money that the drag queens were making. I knew I wasn’t the only one who was experiencing this. And one day in December (a whole lifetime ago), out of the complete blue I get this DM from Richard who says, “Hey I’ve got this idea – there’s a bunch of us kings and non-binary performers who feel left out of the nightlife community. We’re not being represented – let’s do something about it.”
So I said okay, and we just got to work. We started collecting performer information and bios, and figuring out “alright, now that we know who’s here – let’s put on shows that really amplify all these amazing performers that the city is missing out on.” And thus, The Cake Boys were born.
The Boys were able to do a few live shows: some groundbreaking drag king brunches, as well as revues at places like The Vault (RIP!), before life shut down.
Oh, seeing everyone being so packed into the Vault and watching Sweaty stretch his giant arms over the crowd is a vision I miss!
Are your live audiences for your king / quing shows any different than those at traditional drag queen bar shows, in your opinion?
In my opinion, they’re very different. Being at a drag king / quing show is like being at Olive Garden– when you’re here, you’re family… and the breadsticks are endless. But in all seriousness, there is something a lot more personal; there’s this huge feeling of camaraderie at a king / quing show. It’s our friends, our families, and mostly other kings and drag performers cheering us on. We all collectively know what it’s like to feel like we don’t belong, so in that room it feels like there’s a sense of community. We want to see each other succeed.
That debut Cake Boys virtual show from this past spring was a real treat: very wacky and surreal, and complete with Sweaty’s oddball hosting and animations it really reminded me of all I loved about 80’s MTV!
I love that comparison – especially ’cause I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV as a kid. It feels rebellious that we’re making something like that now.
Was the show a lot of work to put that together… and did it turn out the way you thought it would?
I’m not gonna lie… it was definitely a lot of work! We were working with Twitch, which none of us had used before, and this was our first digital show… so I don’t think we really knew what to expect. One thing I love about live drag is that it can be so spontaneous, and it’s hard to do that in this digital realm. It’s hard to be quick on your feet and just make something, when you have to wait for machines to export and render and stabilize and ugh. (But you should see our Google drive this time around; it’s all Excel sheets and shot lists and plans).
That being said, all that work was so worthwhile! Like our live shows, our main goal was to just bring something different and showcase so many fantastic performers in a different light… so I’ll say it turned out way better than we thought it would!
Up next is The Cake Night Halloween Show, on your Twitch channel Wednesday, October 28th (10pm)! In addition to the founding Cake Boys, there’s an exciting array of kings and queerdos in the cast. What can we expect?
In this show–which we’ve given the ultimate sequel title: “Curse of The Cake Boys”–we follow Sweaty Eddie as he tries to find out who a mysterious intruder is on set while hosting the Cake Night Show. The sketches take on a lot of Halloween tropes like vampires, pumpkins, demons, and ghosts, and completely spin them on their head (no Exorcist pun intended) in silly and disgusting ways. We’re also excited to have J’royce Jata as our musical guest, who will be releasing a new song for the show!
An amazing must-see! And earlier, you mentioned a digital viewing party of movies you were doing from home.
Oh yeah! If you want creepy all year round, check out “YKES!,” a weekly queer horror / sci-fi movie night run by me and Nirvana Santos. We watch all of our favorite movies that have influenced our queer identities, both the good and the bad. Wednesdays at 8pm on Twitch (and check out our Instagram).
Excellent! Okay, in closing… what’s your favorite Halloween candy?
This is the hardest question of them all. I gotta say it. I’m a big candy corn defender… but my favorite has gotta be Butterfinger. If I got that in my trick or treat bag, Jackpot.
Agreed! Thanks, Muscles!