This lovely Stonewall staffer, Bar Babe’s fiancé and a very new addition to NYC drag is already a GLAM nominee this year. Let’s all heed the distress call of Gunner Strietzel, aka Damsel!
Thotyssey: Hello Damsel! How are you doing through these crazy times?
Damsel: I am doing well, all things considered! I am a constant worrier though, so I’m scared a few shows and events I have coming up are going to be canceled… and I will lose my will to live.
We hear that! For anyone reading this two years from now, we’re in the midst of a second wave of Covid scare, albeit a less lethal strain that’s challenged by vaccinations and better treatment compared to last year. Still, how much more of this can a bitch take?
I’m ready to fake an identity, cut off contact, leave everyone I love behind, and move to a country with Universal Basic Income so I can sit in my house for as long as it takes for this to all go away.
You’re part of the Stonewall bar staff family; it’s pretty admirable how strongly they’ve handled public safety from the virus there this past year.
We were requiring vax to enter before it was mandated. The owner really cares for the staff, and wants us all to be as safe as possible. Every day, people come in and tell me I’m the only one who has asked for Vax Proof, which tells me we’re doing something right… but also that no [other bar] is, and we are all totally fucked.
Let’s discuss the Damsel Du Jour! Where are you from originally, and what has your creative journey been like up to this point?
I grew up in Georgia, then spent a few years in Michigan before moving to NYC for school. I went to Parsons to study photography, and I have my BFA from there. I quickly realized that working in a creative field often saps the creativity from you. I no longer loved it as much, so when the pandemic rolled around I figured now would be a good time to reevaluate what I’m doing with my time.
I have so many friends who were doing drag, and I always envied them because I longed to be creative and put out art there again. I focused mainly on fashion and beauty commercial photography, so I definitely bring those silhouettes and periods of fashion I love to photograph into my own drag.
Tell us at what capacity you work at Stonewall, and how that begin.
I was hired as a host at first because that was a new role they needed when the pandemic hit, and we had to start including outdoor seating as well as following socially distanced guidelines. I got the job the old-fashioned way: by sleeping with an employee at Stonewall, Paolo, who is now my fiancé. I was just starting drag at the same time, and those two worlds came together. I am now the drag host on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as a bartender in boy mode on Tuesdays.
Congrats on your engagement! Is it going to be a voluptuous drag wedding to die for, or a more intimate affair?
The ceremony will be a more intimate affair, for both financial reasons and because I hate crowds and am constantly overwhelmed. But I think we’ll hold a reception open to the public at Stonewall afterwards. Just, like, rent out the upstairs so all of our friends can come party with us. It’s still TBD on if I’ll show up to the reception in drag or not. We shall see. I have always wanted an excuse to buy a wedding dress!
Dress or no, you must wear a bird on your head like Carrie Bradshaw!
Oh for sure. A live dove. I also want albino tigers at both sides of me at all times, but we’ll have to consult the budget again for that.
What have been your experiences like performing as Damsel?
Distressing… my name fits me well. I am an incredibly anxious person, so I have yet to succeed in performing without violently shaking throughout the night. But I soldier on regardless, because I just fucking love drag.
Work! What are your numbers like?
I like to take a comedic, femme fatale approach. Songs about killing cheating husbands are a specialty of mine. Growing up in Georgia, I obviously listened to a lot of country; I still do. So that 50s housewife, who just looks gorgeous while mascara is running down her face and she’s lit by the bonfire of her husband’s clothes in the front yard, is just me to a T.
Do you consider anyone your drag mother?
No, and not for lack of asking around. To be completely honest, I don’t think many people had high hopes for me before I started. But I do have tons of drag friends who have been nothing but helpful, answering my questions and giving me guest spots in their shows. Misty Mountains and Hibiscus are two that I’m always in conversation with and have been so helpful to me… but the list can honestly go on and on, and would encompass like 75% of New York’s drag performers.
Well everyone will get to see this Damsel shine on Sunday, when you’re hosting your very first Stonewall Invasion! Misty and Bianca Star will be joining you onstage. After seeing all those different weekly Invasions there, it must be so exciting to host your own now!
I am so excited! My parents will be in town and we actually had dinner plans that night, but they’re incredibly excited to see me perform instead for the first time. I’m very thankful for Stonewall and specifically [manager] Mike Salinari for giving me this chance to show what I can do.
It’s also great being able to give other people a chance to join me on stage, since it’s always been the other way around. I feel like I’m giving back. Not that these two need it–especially Misty, considering I basically stole her job as Stonewall’s resident queen! Maybe I asked her to join me as a means of apologizing. Sorry girl!
Congratulations on your very first Glam nomination for Best Door Goddess, by the way! How cool is that!?
Listen. I saw people campaigning for nominations and I thought, “Oh, I should really do that next year.” I knew I wasn’t ready for anything like that yet, being so fresh. But then one day [GLAMs producer] Cherry Jubilee sent me a code on Insta, and I was like “how did she even find me?” Paolo told me someone must have nominated me, and I thought that’s so sweet. And now here I am, on the ballot. I’m so honored, it’s almost stupid!
Good luck! What else is coming up for you?
I honestly haven’t thought very far ahead. The GLAM Awards were the only thing I was focusing on when all of the sudden this Invasion fell into my lap. So as of right now, besides those two things, you can just catch me at the door of Stonewall on Fridays and Saturdays! I give a different look each time and I’ve been posting those to Instagram. I thrift everything I wear–and like I said earlier, I just live for the fashion and beauty side of drag.
Next year, my goal is definitely to be on stage more, though. I was doing “Polish the Queen” but I work on Wednesdays now, and I’m not sure competitions are the right space for me. But I’m going to annoy my friends more into giving me guest spots at their shows until someone gives me my own. That’s the hope, anyway.
Sounds good! Okay, in closing: what do you want from Santa this year?
This specific pair of Louboutins I saw on ThredUp. There’s no way I could walk in them, and I’m not paying $400 for something that’ll roll my ankle. But that hasn’t stopped me from checking up on them daily. And maybe world peace, and for people to stop being so goddamn stupid about Covid.
Check that list, Santa! Happy Holidays, Damsel!