Hold on to your hats, sisters… this hurricane is headed for our fair shores! Gusty Winds (aka Daniel Alita), an OG drag queen best known for serving irreverent comedy and ferocious lip syncs in venues like Lips and Cherry’s, is returning to NYC for a very special showcase! [Cover photo: Alan Kaplan]
Thotyssey: Hello Gusty, thanks for talking to us today! You are representing Pittsburgh these days… how has that city been treating you?
Gusty Winds: I miss bagels, pizza and 24 hour diners. I don’t miss $2K a month rent. There’s no place like New York, and it will always be my home. Pittsburgh is good, but can you believe the gays have more attitude here than NYC?
I cannot! How is that even possible?
NYC boys don’t need the attitude, ’cause they’re in NYC! Small city boys feel they have to be. I have met some good peeps.
Are they cute, at least?
Hmmm… a Pittsburgh 10 is an NYC 7.5, lol! There are some cuties here–God, how would I survive if there weren’t?
Heard! So I know you have a day job in Pittsburgh… would you say that you are at least semi-retired from drag at this point?
Semi-retired, but I still have a full arsenal of fresh makeup and wrinkled outfits. So, not much has changed!
Are you a native New Yorker, by the way?
Born on Long Island… so, New York State native. I moved to NYC at 23.
Before drag, were you a part of or interested in the arts or the stage at all?
I’ve always been a drama queen, but I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. Any dreams of that were not approved of.
It must’ve been a life-changing moment, when you broke away from that strict and intolerant upbringing to live your truth.
I was disowned by all my family and friends, with the exception of two people. But the positive side was, I then got to pick my chosen family.
Our chosen families are so important! How did you discover drag, and ultimately become Gusty?
How else? That evil holiday known as Halloween. After that, I had two very encouraging friends who coaxed me out once a month in drag for dinner. One night I had the guts to perform at the old gay bar known as Rome. Rome was owned by Yvonne Lame, who asked if I would like to work at her new restaurant, Lips! That was in 1996, the rest is herstory!
You were one of the original Lips divas! What queens were there with you in the beginning, or early on?
Destiny, Paulina, D’va Robert, Delilah, Daisy Shaver, Betzy with a Z, Evangeline, Frankie Cocktail, Gigi, Veronica Blaze, Madison Adams and my pookie poo Melinda Thomas. These are my legends and sisters. Then [later on] my sister and one of my hearts, Ginger Snap [joined up].
Ginger, of course, is still holding court! Lips has always been a part of NYC culture, even before the most recent drag boom. But you must’ve seen a lot of change over the years as far as the clientele of Lips goes.
First came the gays; I once got tipped with *ahem* some of that evil white powder, lol. Then came the in-the-know city dwellers. Then the bachelorettes and Sweet 16s. I treated everyone like they were in my home… though I did treat some of the boys like they were in my bedroom.
And outside of Lips, the art and business of drag also changed considerably over the years. Things were a bit rougher and edgier back in the day… less polished and more DIY / improvised.
When you made it back then, you didn’t have social media and competition shows… so all you had to go on was your nerve and talent. I have always been very proud that I carved a little bit of a name for myself in this town, without stepping on too many toes.
What was, and is, your particular style of drag and performing like?
I am self-deprecating, I attempt to be funny, and I try to chide with kindness. I will say this, as a 14 time lip synch nominee at the Glam Awards (when they had the category), and to paraphrase my sister Sweetie: “that bitch can lay a lip to a record.” May she rest in peace.
Sweetie is so missed! There’s a movement now with the younger generations to really police offensive humor, even in nightlife.
We need to stop being so fucking sensitive. Look at how successful Bianca del Rio has become, being true to her rancid self! We all need to look Inside and see who the real enemy is.
Another local queen who always speaks her mind and often pokes fun at you: event producer and underwear party mogul, Daniel Nardicio! How do you know that troublemaker, lol?
Daniel is one of my oldest friends; we met through sweetie. When Daniel insults you, it’s because he loves you and knows you can take it. I truly adore that piece of human filth and smut purveyor.
You also had a long career on Fire Island, performing at Cherry’s on the Bay! Might you ever return as a show host there?
I am always open… literally and figuratively.
Lol! Well, we’re pleased to report that you’ll be back in New York City proper this coming Sunday… just in time for Lips’ reopening weekend! Are you gonna stop by there?
Yes! I am bringing two of my favorite girls (real girls, lol) from Pittsburgh, Daisy and Dakota, in for brunch! It’s Daisy’s first drag show!!
Wonderful! Annnnd… Gusty returns to the NYC stages herself on Sunday night, care of your very own Stonewall Invasion!
Last time I hosted, I think Jesus was in diapers! I am bringing a team of sisters to the show; we are kicking it old school! Destiny, Paulina and Melinda. Expect some fierceness and geri-antics! These are my ladies, so a good time is always assured. Maybe a cameo by Ari Kiki, if she is up for it.
Anything else to alert the children about?
I’m single and verse, lol.
The word is out! Thanks Gusty… we anxiously await your return!