This Long Island-based YouTube star and cosplayer specializes in female characters from across the genres, but we know them best for their spot on Bea Arthur. And soon Thotyssey will get to know Tom Catt REALLY well, when we appear on their digital show “Catt Chat” this week! [Cover photo: @jfsheehanphotography]
Thotyssey: Hello Tom! Thanks so much for chatting today! So, how are the last weeks of 2020 treating you?
Tom Catt: That’s a loaded question to ask, Jim. The world’s on fire and congress is on fire, and Trump’s ass is soon to be fired. Seems Heat Miser is winning the war this year. For me personally, I am doing my absolute best to remain stable… despite all that 2020 has done to so many. How about you?
I’m just counting the seconds till we leap this end-of-the-year hurtle! And now, one last bit of 2020 fuckery has been stirred into the pot: Instagram is changing its user policies and cracking down on both privacy and thottery! Seems like super bad timing for people who can only conduct business via social media these days.
Ya know, it’s the damndest thing. Have we learned nothing from the Tumblr bungle? People fail to realize sex does sell. Tik Tok has a lot of thottery going on in it… that I’ve seen. I did research in a lab coat, so it’s all legitimate. I fear these social media platforms are really missing the mark lately, and they may pay the ultimate price. I’m trying to see how this is going to be good for those who are [sex workers], or those who use social media outlets to sell their products. Maybe we can move to Parler, and give those conservative trump supporters a thrill!
Speaking of the internet, how have you been enjoying the virtual appearances you’ve been making in various social media forums these past several months?
It’s. Been. A. BLAST. It’s like the drag queen once said, however: “it’s not the work, it’s the shaving.” I have been so fortunate that I’ve been able to tap into drag–even with everything, for better or worse, shut down. Its given me an opportunity to work with people I have a great esteem for. I live way out east on the Long Islands. Actually, Miss Toni Homperm lives right up the block from me. Despite living so close, I’ve seen her more online than I have in person! That’s the beauty of online drag: you can work with people who live anywhere. I hope it’s here to stay.
It just might be!
So to clarify for those unfamiliar with your work: you do drag, but you’re really more of a cosplayer than a full-on drag queen. How might you describe that difference, if there is one?
Another very loaded question. To the uninitiated: cosplay is just that, costume play. Drag, in the cosplay world, is referred to as “cross play” or crosstume play. I kid! Crossplay is drag for cosplayers. Genderbending, naturally, is where you take the gender of one established character and change it (i.e. a male-presenting person cosplaying as Catwoman).
Having said that, the two (or three) tend to bleed together so much for me. At the end of the day, I’m a female impersonator with a strong focus on cosplay. From Bea Arthur to Ursula, I try and impersonate–as best I can–these actresses and characters that people have known and loved for years.
I “started” Halloween 2009 when my mother reluctantly made me an Ursula costume. I performed at a karaoke bar in Ozone Park and won. From there it just snowballed…slowly. the difference between drag and cosplay is the same difference as what mediums you use to create something. They’re both forms or art. They both involve an immense level of creativity. They’re both, in most forms, valid. They’re even viewed similarly by the general public. Years ago, if you came out as a drag queen or cosplayer you were shunned by society, laughed at, made fun of… but were supported when you went out into the nightlife or the convention, respectively. Now that both are becoming more mainstream, everyone and their mother wants to get in on the fun.
I will say, however, there is a slight difference. Drag queens and cosplayers build their brands a little differently, if that makes sense. Take Boudoir LeFleur, for instance: her looks are edgy, punk, glamorous, raw. That’s Boudoir. That’s her character. In cosplay, the characters you dress up as become your “brand.” It’s only slightly different. For instance, we’ll use me as an example: most of my looks are impersonations, witches, villainesses, mashups, genderbent cosplays. My brand is sexy, elegant, obscure, matronly, sophisticated; while my outfits would be considered costumes, Boudoir’s outfits are just that–her outfits. We both would easily go shopping in our drag wear, but would both be met with incredulous looks.
So there really isn’t much of a difference outside of the obvious night drag and day cosplay. Phew! That was a mental workout. I hope that makes sense.
Yes, I think it does!
HA! That’s very kind of you to say. I really get a high when people say “I was watching ‘X’ and thought of you.” It makes me feel really special, honestly.
Have you ever tried Bea’s specific look from that role?
I adore the character of Ackmena (whom, by the way, became canon I think a year or two ago. Her and her partner–yes, they wrote her as a lesbian–live together and travel around where Ackmena sings for tips). [This character is] the only thing tethering me to the Star Wars mythos.
When the pandemic started and I ended up losing my job, I had to try and figure out a way to make money for myself (I didn’t know whether I’d be eligible for unemployment or not). So I created “Tom Catt…Live?” Where each week I would get into drag and sing, talk, read and ask for tips. I wore Ackmena for one episode, and one prior convention two years ago. I created the Bob Mackie look a while ago, thinking I was going to wear her a lot more than I have. With the success of The Mandalorian I’m hoping, at most, that Ackmena somehow gets resurrected from the ashes of that…charming Holiday Special… as more than just a blurb in a book.
How did Bea become your muse, by the way?
To Bea or Not To Bea! It really didn’t take shape until 2015. Backstory: I had an awful time coming out, truly. I wasn’t kicked out, but the tension and emotional damage really fucked me up. The Golden Girls, whom I was introduced to by my cousin, were really my saving grace. I loved the show, I loved the writing, I loved Bea Arthur.
One day, I was just hanging out with a very close friend of mine when we got to talking about [Bea’s original TV show] Maude. I’d only seen a few episodes by that time, and the episodes I saw were incredibly heavy and it turned me off to the show. [My friend] says to me, “Tom, I swear, there are times I’m watching her and I see you.” It didn’t hit me until I actually started watching more of Maude that I noticed a lot of similarities. Jim, it’s eerie! There are days I watch Maude and I see my face. And because I watched so much Golden Girls from my teens to my 20s, I had picked up most of Bea’s mannerisms (unintentionally, mind you).
In 2015, I did something that really changed a lot. The Marvel antihero Deadpool loves Bea Arthur. New York ComicCon was hosting a Deadpool contest. After some research and a quick trip to Rubies, I had created my first mashup: Beapool. It was a simple spandex Deadpool suit, but I was Bea Arthur in it. It was a hit! I won the contest, and still have the trophy to prove it. From there, it just sort of became my “thing.”
The allure of Bea Arthur is pretty simple: she was a very sensitive, tall, handsome woman with a beautifully rich and deep voice. And so am I. Her, Ursula, Mae West, and Catwoman really shaped who I am today.
I know cosplayers often perform on stage at cons in various ways. Would some of these types of performances that you do translate to drag shows on bar stages?
I’m glad you asked me this question. I would love to perform in bars, but I’m always terrified I won’t be good. Bars are intimate, loud, and sometimes constrictive. Convention stages are open; there’s room to move. If I have a 9 foot cape, I can twirl and not worry about knocking anyone over. I’m a trained singer and actor… and while I have a great set of legs, I was unable to achieve the last leg of my triple threat training. Don’t misunderstand–I have rhythm and I can dance, but I can’t do the moves Petti Cash or Kimmi Moore can. I always feel the bars want the dancers, and I’m rather intimidated by the notion that I wouldn’t be well received.
At conventions though, my confidence is overwhelming. I get to do whatever the hell I want. I’ve been professionally competing as a seamstress / showman for the last two years. Most of my acts are comprised of me singing a song over karaoke music, and then lip synching to it on stage. I guess my fear is, I worry about my longevity as an outright drag queen. At cons, I can perform almost anything… so long as it made sense to my character. In drag, I mean…on one hand, how hilarious would it be to hear Ursula sing “WAP?” Truthfully, it’s one of the things that’s sort of kept me away from the bars.
We’d love to see you do your thing on a drag stage, someday! Do you ever encounter homophobia or dragphobia at the conventions?
Not a drop. Everyone there is a weirdo, or a geek, or a nerd, or a closet fan. At a con, the playing field is even; we’re all there because we’re a fan of something. I will say, however… there are some photographers that take too much liberty with whom they’re shooting. I’ve been met with “move to the side, we want just the *insert sexy female character*,” or “I don’t want you in the shot.”
And now… digital shows! You’re currently hosting “Catt Chatt,” a live talk show on social media. Tell us a bit about what made you want to give this forum a go.
I am actually very proud of “Catt Chatt.” So last year I had a successful two person live talk show called “Catt and Kristen.” On it myself and my co-host, Award winning YouTube blogger, Shut Up Kristen, would sit down and just talk about the world of cosplay. We covered all sorts of topics from religion and cosplay, cosplay photographers, gender and cosplay, and so on. We ran from fall of 2017 to fall of 2019, recording 80 episodes. In 2019, Kristen was offered a fabulous position with her job and moved to California, where she then had a beautiful baby. Unfortunately, “Catt and Kristen” has been taking what looks like an indefinite break.
After I started getting unemployment I treated myself to a new mic, a new laptop, and a bit of a studio setup to dive into voice acting. It’s been a wonderful time and I’m very excited about what’s to come, but I still missed being able to have a talk show. I love talking to people, I love gassing people up, I love interaction. So with the help of StreamYard I was able to create “Catt Chatt,” which is me and a guest just having a one hour rap session about anything they want to talk about. I’ve only had about 14 episodes (6 of which I’m talking with a guest or guests). But I’m very excited for this endeavor, as I want to interact with everyone in some capacity… present company included!
I’m also working on bringing more “Maude Live!” to people’s devices, which is a series of live staged readings of specific episodes of Maude. You can find them, along with episodes of “Catt Chatt” on my YouTube channel.
I’m excited to be your “Catt Chatt” guest this Tuesday (8:30pm, on Facebook)! What should I wear!?
Whatever the hell you want. I’ve been rocking this sort of massively depressed grunge aesthetic.
Works for me!
So anything else in the world of Tom Catt that the kittens should be looking out for?
Right now, just episodes of “Catt Chatt.” I’m literally all over the internet as @ThatTomCatt. I’ve been uploading images of costumes I’ve been making, and on Tik Tok I upload clips of Maude and myself singing just anything to really keep the creative juices flowing. It’s been a struggle, but as they say: “tomorrow is another day.”
Indeed it is! And here’s the closer I’m asking everyone these last few weeks of December: what’s your favorite holiday song?
Oh MAN. It’s a tie between Jim Carrey’s “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” I also have a live for Annie Lennox’s “Winter Wonderland.”
Thank you, Tom! Happy Holidays!