A legendary lady of drag, Lady Clover Honey has also been a singer, journalist, screenwriter, orchestra conductor, actress, video vixen, and basically the goddess of everything. Let’s get to know this “lady with an abundance of sweetness.” better, as she prepares to Zoom us our whole lives once again!
Thotyssey: Hello, Lady Clover! Thanks for chatting with us today!
Lady Clover Honey: Hi Jim! It’s a pleasure to chat with you and Thotyssey!
So our post-election drama continues (of course), but overall… how wonderful is it that Biden won? And, what was that whole crazy week, when the votes were being counted, like for you?
Election Day resulted in a week of emotions, but this was to be expected since there was so much at stake. On the first night of counting votes, I was very sad and disappointed that there were so many votes for Trump. What were they thinking? Like many, I’m relieved at the results and proud that New York, New Jersey and the popular vote went with Biden.
Quarantine and lockdown have done a number on the nightlife and hospitality businesses here in New York and New Jersey. But things are coming back, little by little! I see you partook in a Halloween kiki, how did that go?
I was leery of going out for Halloween. But since it’s my favorite holiday and was also a full moon and blue moon, I easily let my friends talk me into it. We went to Zeppelin Hall & Beer Garden in Jersey City–and since it’s a large place with high ceilings and a big outdoor garden, social distancing was easy. Halloween is the night to wear a mask, anyway! And my dear friend Erhel made me a beautiful mask with crystals to wear.
You’re a native of Totowa, New Jersey. What was it like growing up there?
Totowa is a suburban town about a half hour west of Manhattan. It is mostly private homes with large front and back yards. No apartment buildings are or were allowed, so almost all families lived in their own home. As teens we would go to the shopping mall to hang out, and being around fashion is fine with me! I always wanted to move to an urban area with more things going on, and more of a diverse population.
When did the showbiz bug bite?
When I was young, I was always watching television. I especially loved the variety shows that always had beautiful designer Bob Mackie gowns for the female guests. And I loved the sitcoms where the females dressed fabulously, like the feather-trimmed robes Eva Gabor wore on Green Acres, the gowns on Ginger of Gilligan’s Island, the caftans on Endora of Bewitched… and I especially loved the pink harem girl outfit from I Dream of Jeannie.
Tell us about how you began as Lady Clover Honey.
I used “Clover” as a pen name when I became editor of a newsletter called Our Pagan Times, a journal for Pagan, Wiccan and alternative spirituality events in New York. Clover symbolizes abundance, prosperity, good luck and Ireland–and it has “love” in the middle. My column was called “Field of Clover.” When I started going en femme, I just added “Honey,” and then “Lady Clover Honey” was perfect: meaning “lady with an abundance of sweetness.”
My first non-Halloween appearance as a female was in the 90s at a special and unique event. Then Manhattan Borough President, Ruth Messeger, who was also the Democratic nominee running for Mayor of New York City, was meeting with drag queens and transgender people. Too bad she lost, and Giuliani won his second term. I loved that fact that a politician was interested in trans people, and that I could go somewhere as a female that wasn’t Halloween-related or in an LGBT dance club.
What were your performances like when you first started, and how did Clover the performer evolve over time?
Back in the day, “gurls” only were expected to only perform on drag nights, and were expected to lip-synch. People looked at me funny when I told them I needed a live microphone to tell jokes and sing live. Sometimes they still do! Through the years, I’ve become more comfortable on stage and more of a natural performer.
You are part of an amazing legacy of dynamic NYC drag queens who paved the way for gurls the world over. Who are some of your favorite fellow queens here?
One drag performer who I especially love and admire is Appolonia Cruz. She has a heart of gold, and is an excellent performer and event producer. We’ve performed together at many festivals and events. She does so much for the community.
Sugga Pie Koko was so much fun, and a joy to be around. I remember I met her at the very first Glam Awards, many, many years ago at Barracuda. I instantly liked her. I miss Mona too… and I also miss Sweetie, Regine and Cashetta. Cashetta and I went to the same High School in New Jersey.
What’s your favorite song to sing now?
That’s easy: “Hey, Big Spender,” from the musical Sweet Charity. I remember when I first heard the song and saw it performed in the movie on television when I was a kid. I loved all the “Dance Hall Hostesses,” all made up with big hair. They were posing and giving seductive glances, and working those Bob Fosse dance moves. I absolutely loved it. I still do.
And what are some of your favorite memories of performing over the years?
I fondly remember my first time at Caroline’s Comedy Club in Times Square. But my favorite memory is performing at Carnegie Hall where I was a guest maestro conductor for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. I was the office manager for the production company that runs the Chorus, and in December of 2005 I was a special guest conductor for the Chorus and the audience sing-along. The huge house was sold out, and the energy was amazing. I wore a white sequin gown since one song the Chorus sang was the camp classic “Suzy Snowflake,” whose lyrics say was dressed in white. The Radio City Rockettes were also performing with us that night, and it truly was a magical evening
This [moment of a drag queen conducting a chorus] is a “first and only” at Carnegie. I know that other drag queens have conducted since, but not at Carnegie. The NYC Gay Men’s Chorus has since stopped performing at Carnegie, and moved to other venues like Town Hall and Skirball Center.
You’ve also appeared in some films, notably two super cute ones from director Casper Andreas that all the gaybies love: The Big Gay Musical (2009) and Violet Tendencies (2010). Do you have any inside tea on what it’s like to be on a film set?
Being in a film production is usually not as exciting as it seems. There is a lot of standing around waiting. One Casper Andreas production that everyone jokes about is when I wore a fabulous red spangled gown. The spangles would rustle and interfere with the sound quality. But the gown was so fabulous that they insisted I wear it anyway. I had to try to be still.
And were those studio film experiences very different from your non-sex cameo in Michael Lucas’ controversial adult film La Dolce Vita?
La Dolce Vita was not much different, except I knew not to wear spangles. But during a men’s fashion show scene, I was delightfully surprised to see a naked man stroll down the runway at the end. Birthday suites should be a fashion choice for men!
Tell us a bit about Under the Pink Carpet,” which aired in Philly and NYC starting in 2004. You were a correspondent!
Under the Pink Carpet was a magazine-style entertainment news series that focused on the thriving LGBT Arts, nightlife and performance scene in New York City. It started on Philadelphia PBS, and the production moved to New York City in 2004 where it was broadcast on WNYE, the official television station of New York City. The show had a Gay, Lesbian, Fag Hag and a Drag reporter. There was so much for me to cover, since the drag scene took off in the 90s and 2000s with so many new Diva Personalities and shows.
Do you follow RuPaul’s Drag Race at all?
I do watch the show occasionally. I really love fellow New Yorkers Honey Davenport and Bianca Del Rio. Honey has great style, and we were recently in a music video together: “No Day Like Today,” with Adam Barta, Lovari and the Real Housewives of New Jersey. I also love Bianca Del Rio, a true comic talent. I was thrilled the first time she jokingly insulted me. At least, I hope she was joking!
Many drag queens who transition struggle with whether or not to continue drag, given how some people view queens as parodies of women. Was this ever an issue for you?
Not at all. The women I admired and inspired to be like were / are flashy. My maternal grandmother was large, outgoing, fun and wore wigs, showy clothes and big jewelry. She had a lot of exuberance, and I always thought it must be great to be like that. My mother was more reserved and dressed more conservative. I guess the diva gene skips every other generation!
As a child, I also wanted to be like Ginger from the series Gilligan’s Island, not realizing at the time that she was copying Marilyn Monroe’s persona. I also loved Mae West, and wanted to be like her, too. She has been called the first female female-impersonator, and was inspired by drag performers. So I don’t feel like I’m doing drag… I’m just celebrating the female style and allure.
I love that! One event I always enjoyed seeing you at annually was Boots & Saddle’s Christmas Toys 4 Tots show! Boots is long closed now, but I bet you still miss doing that, right?
Yes, very much. Seeing the young, straight marines enjoying our drag and having so much fun was unforgettable. They said it was their favorite night in New York. You could tell they loved every moment. And we were providing toys for children!
During quarantine, you’ve appeared in a number of Zoom shows where you’ve sung live and joked it up, with hosts like your pals Chauncey Dandridge and Evan Laurence. Is it super weird performing virtually?
Yes, it is weird. I’m always worried about tech problems, and not being able to connect. I brought a ring light to brighten my video images. I joke that it’s more comfortable not having to wear high heels, or even “tuck.” But of course, there is nothing like a live audience.
True! But for now, the virtual stage is still the way to go. On Thursday, November 19th (7pm), you’ll be doing another Zoom showcase hosted by Evan: “The ‘Don’t Come As You Are’ Show!” Also on the bill are Chauncey, Tym Moss, Wendy Stuart Kaplan, Zola Powell, Ike Avelli, Frankie Allday, Riqi Velez and Sitanya Face. What can we expect from that?
“Expect the unexpected!” But really, I’ll be [appearing as] one of the celebrities I mentioned before, and had done many times. She always goes over well!
What else is coming up for you?
I’m trying to get a horror film script I wrote produced. I’ve always wanted to do this, and wrote the script at the beginning of the quarantine. A famous “Scream Queen” horror actress has a copy of the script to consider. I guess if I keep at it, it will happen.
Excellent! Finally: What would the title of your autobiography be?
I have a few in mind:
- How Sweet She Is
- A Taste of Clover Honey
- Field of Clover
- La Dolce Femme
- Jersey Gurl
Thanks, Lady Clover!