In the crowd every week was Honey La Bronx, vegan drag queen, LGBTQ rights activist, host of the Big Fat Vegan Radio podcast and Bob’s drag daughter.
We caught up to discuss the pull of Manhattan, why it’s not a good idea to take your tap shoes to the club, and how XES Lounge provided a sense of community and home.Transcript
Honey La Bronx 00:00
I’m not going out to dance I’m going out to fuck like, I’m the CD gay who’s like looking for the other person who’s like also looking like hey, just want to quickly like go in the bathroom and just like fucking mean just bang real quick and then whatever. Like that’s more me. I feel like you’re either like the drugs and alcohol gave or you’re the sex gay or you’re the or if not drugs and alcohol then naturally it’s just dancing. But
K Anderson 00:27
I see yeah cuz that’s the thing like I feel like you can fuck people anywhere but you can’t dance anywhere. Well I you know what I hear that as a challenge Hello I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know. For a while in the early 2010s XES lounge was the place to be on a Monday night where drag queens frosty flakes and Bob the drag queen, who at the time was going by the name kitten with a whip posted their show sisters winning crowds over with their ramshackle charm. In the crowd every week was honey love Bronx, vegan drag queen, LGBTQ rights activist, host of big fat vegan Radio Podcast and Bob’s drag daughter. We caught up to discuss the pole of Manhattan. Why it’s not really that great an idea to take your tap shoes to The Club. And how XES lounge provided a sense of community.
Honey La Bronx
And may I talk directly to listener right now? To Oh, yeah, Shaka. listener. There are going to be stories that I start, and then I just don’t.
Anyway. Moving on to when So when did you move to New York?
Honey La Bronx 02:33
I moved to New York. In 2000 2000. September, no, October 2012, September 2000. I did this thing where I came to New York with two incipient roommates. And then we all search for an apartment found the apartment essentially moved in. But before moving in, I decided I’m like, Okay, I got the apartment touched base. Now I’m going to go back to Wisconsin for one month, tie up loose ends and then move in. So officially, I moved to New York, October of 2000. But you came with friends like you came with a safety net? Do not call them friends. Actually, it’s funny. There, Matt and Lori. And Matt, his his aunt was and still is. Priscilla Lopez Tony Award winning actress from the original cast of Chorus Line. And she’s saying nothing. Every day for a week, we were trying to feel the emotion that was. And he I remember he was a playwright when we first met and I was reading one of his plays and blah, blah, blah. We met this is back in the days of AOL, America Online. And so he and I met somehow on there. And we were like, just pen pals. And then we decided we’re both moving to New York. Let’s team up and find an apartment. So we met in New York. During the couple of weeks that we were there to find the apartment, and oh my god, we thought we were going to be best friends in the world. And have you ever met someone in in person as soon as you lay eyes on each other? You both realise, Oh, we don’t like each other a crown. Just in the second we laid eyes on each other and today we can laugh about it because we’ve we’ve sort of like reunited and bumped into each other now that we’re old men. But he actually went on to become Matthew Lopez if you follow Broadway theatre v I’m so proud of him as I say this V Matthew Lopez fuckin Google Play, right. He just wrote a play called the inheritance. Which like, is like the gay play of our time. I haven’t seen it by which now I fucking wish I did. Why unnecessary squares. But um, yeah, so that was my first roommate, Matthew Lopez. But anyways, I moved to New York then in September of 2000. And I have to say, I moved here like right before September 11 of two 1001 to be
K Anderson 05:01
Honey La Bronx 05:02
And so I can just say the New York I moved to was a different in New York than in New York that we live in today.
K Anderson 05:11
And so what was the plan then? Was that like, I’m going to New York, I’m going to become a star or was it just I’m getting away from my town? I think. I don’t know that I did both, I guess.
Honey La Bronx 05:26
I don’t know that started out. Yes. But I don’t know that stardom was ever, like a part of like, I’ve kind of never had the idea of like, yes, one day I want to be famous, or I want to. I’m sure, to some extent, ego is always at work. But I don’t feel like ego ever played a part in it like that. I just, I loved doing musical theatre. And at that time, all I could envision for myself was well, I like doing musical theatre. I like singing and dancing, being on stage in a musical. So if that’s what you’d like, the thing you do is move to New York and you try to be a Broadway actor. And I’ve never actually tried, I’ve never I went to one audition in my life for one Broadway musical it was for the I moved to New York right when the musical 42nd Street was being revived. And that was my all time favourite Broadway musical. It was the first one I ever did in what we call Middle School, which is grades six through eight, your you you enter Middle School at 11 years of age, and then you exit at about 14 years of age and start High School. And so that’s where we first started doing musical theatre and very ambitious for 11 year olds to do 42nd Street. It’s like all all tap dance.
K Anderson 06:53
Like so when I watch American TV shows and the kids are doing musicals. I’m always just like, this is a bit far fetched. This is ridiculous. But it’s actually like that actually happens. Oh, you’re out. I mean, at least in wauwatosa, Wisconsin at Longfellow Middle School. It sure did. Thank you, Nancy, visit Tanner Armstrong, art director, choreographer. Anyway, I took you off, I took you off to 40 seconds.
Honey La Bronx 07:20
So I moved to I was when I was living in Wisconsin. In the lab, I dropped out of college, I dropped out. I decided I’m like colleges is a scam. And I still kind of stand by that. I’m like, Listen, if you’re going to do brain surgery on me, I really prefer that you went to college, although I did not. And I do know how to operate for a cerebral aneurysm and a subdural hematoma. I had my dad gave me a simulated brain surgery video game when I was in, like 12 years old. So anyway. But you know, I mean, I’m not saying I know how to do brain surgery, but I am saying if you are ever stuck on an elevator with me and someone else and you have an aneurysm, you’re better off with me, you’re still gonna die. But you’re probably better off me because at least I would have an objective and I’m like, Okay, I know what we’re going in here to look for. But, um, so I left college college, I became a banker of all things at a call centre for a bank. So I was the guy that you’d talk to if you wanted to, like open a new account or make a transfer or put stop payment on a check or apply for a credit card or blah, blah, blah, at age 18. Of course, my 40 year old co workers like did not like me. Like I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t like me. They’re like, because they’re 40. And they have the same job as you and you just got out of high school. But, and then after about two years, once I turned 18, and I figured out I’m like, Oh, I’m a legal adult, and I have a good job, and money and still live at home. So I don’t need any of this money. So I can just fly back and forth to New York whenever I want. And I had a friend there and I’d stay with him and explore the city. And so I kind of just had a feeling I’m like, that’s where I feel like if you’ve never been to New York City, or if you have the second you are standing in Manhattan, you immediately know whether you belong there or not. Like if you feel like you are set back on your wireless charging dock, when you’re standing in Manhattan, like that’s when you know, like, Oh, this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s funny, you know, the first time I went to LA was 27. Team. And was it 2017? Yes. And I remember for a brief moment when I got back to New York, it was cold and rainy in April and I remember thinking like, did I pick the wrong city? Like Was I supposed to move to LA I stand by my choice but I’m getting way ahead of myself with what I do nowadays. I realise oh, I could actually live anywhere. It doesn’t matter where I live because what I do is either on the road on tour or it’s you know from my apartment, but I’m But yes, I moved to New York thinking I was going to be a musical theatre actor. And and I just figured, oh, well, Broadway is just the way that you do that. I’d never really envisioned another pathway for myself. And I guess, to steer this towards what we’re meant to to talk about all I’ll offer a brilliant segue. I never really had another idea of like, Who am I supposed to be? What’s my life supposed to be about? How am I supposed to get there? I just kind of always assumed the point of my life. If I’m a success, if I’m successful at my life, I will one day end up a professional musical theatre actor on Broadway, making my living primarily from being cast in Broadway shows in singing and dancing and musicals and tap dancing on stage and the production of 42nd Street, which is still my dream kind of. It wasn’t until I met my roommate in 2009, October. It was the first day I ever gotten drag. It was just to like help volunteer for this drag pageant for charity. And I met backstage. Caldwell was his name, who was a drag queen who went by the name kitten with a whip at the time. And we met this we became best friends we moved in we became roommates. And then kitten with the web became my drag mother kitten with web several years later, once she he reached the like the pinnacle of Manhattan drag nightlife. She decided I’m changing my name, and I was like, What are you changing it to? And she’s like, Bob, and I’m like, what Bob? She’s like, yes, Bob, the drag queen. And people in New York were like you’re committing career suicide. This is this is you’re never going to work again. And then fast forward to 2016 and RuPaul says the winner of season eight of RuPaul stride Queen America’s next drag superstar is Bob the drag queen. I was like God dammit, you did. You did the thing. But when I met Bob, Bob also moved here with a similar concept like okay, went to college for theatre, the thing that you do is you audition for Broadway shows. And then Bob got typed out at an audition for Ragtime, which of course, if you’re not in theatre type doubt means they just kind of look at you and size you up. And they’re like, yeah, you’re not what we’re looking for. And Bob’s like, I’m a six foot one tall black man, how am I not the type for writing time? To be fair, they didn’t know that he’s not a singer. Anyway. And, and he said, You know, that’s when I realised, like, why show up and ask for opportunities to perform, when I could just create my own opportunities to perform. And having already started doing drag, Bob started just throwing parties around town like he did a Halloween in July. And just he was a waiter. And no, he was he was a bartender and a character actor at this theme restaurant called Jekyll and Hyde where there was two of them here. And it seems like this spooky kind of haunted house, whatever museum kind of restaurant and then there’s waiters who are he would just act like the butler. And it’s funny because people are like, oh, haha, you’re really funny. Can I get another Diet Coke and he’s like, I’m not the waiter. I am the butler. And he would say that jokingly but also seriously, like, I’m literally not your waiter. And I don’t get food for people. But he like rented out the top of Jacqueline Hyde the bar and and through this big party and you know, the next day it’s an all the gay rags and the society pages and he back when we would call them a full Queen nowadays, you would just call them a drag queen, meaning a woman someone who is or someone who is assigned female at birth does drag just like I would do drag and I don’t mean a drag King I mean a woman doing drag as a drag queen. So he did a folk Queen pageant. And I love that Bob was always creating opportunities for himself but like they were also opportunities for other people. He would speaking of language my god we would not call it this. I guess just for historical accuracy. I will say what we called it. I will also preface it by saying trigger warning it is a now considered a transphobic slur, but we started doing Dragon 2009 and it wasn’t really until 2011 maybe 2012 that I feel here in the United States. Anyway, we really had that conversation about the slur trainee. We used it. Until then drag queens used Word interchangeably with drag queen was sort of a word we used among ourselves, too. It’s sort of an umbrella term for like, drag queens, trans women who also do drag and you know, just cross dressers, which are just generally transvestites, you know, people who don’t identify as female, but they just like dressing up as one, but they’re not a dragon queen or a performer. So is there any way he started the theatre company we called then trainee Repertory Theatre or trainee rep for short. And we did a Little Shop of Horrors, in which I played Sherman. And Bob played not the plant, but rather the vagina that ate come and then got bigger and bigger throughout the play. But what I loved was that Bob created this show as an opportunity for other people, I’m like, Here he is, putting a audition notice online, and actors are showing up to audition for Bob. And he’s casting this production. And then, you know, he just got some bar and said, hey, let’s do this at your bar, we’ll do it upstairs during the afternoon, when normally you have nothing going on. And he I remember, he created the ticket structure. So tickets cost a certain amount. If you sell X number of tickets, then you get half of each ticket. If you sell more than that, you get 75% of each ticket. If you sell beyond that, you get 100% of every ticket. So he structured it in a way the guy who played the dental will not the dentist in our production, it was the gynaecologist. He, like everyone was there for him at the show. Cuz he’s like, you don’t have to tell me twice. He packed the audience because for him, he’s like, Oh my god, I’m making $500 doing this, this show whereas no one else is actually getting paid. So I love that he was always creating opportunities for himself. He was creating opportunities for other artists as opportunities for himself. And so here’s the segue to the bar question which is one day, Bob and our friend frosty flakes and other now retired drag queen. Above and frosty. They went to XES lounge it’s spelled capital X e S. Capital capital capital X. Yes. And I guess it’s sex spelled backwards.
K Anderson 17:21
Oh, yeah. I just got
Honey La Bronx 17:23
Yes. XES lounge was on 24th Street just off was it’s just off Seventh Avenue. So you know, Chelsea, the sort of gay neighbourhood. Well, back in the day, it was the gay neighbourhood back when I moved here that was still the DA neighbourhood. And it was becoming that Hell’s Kitchen is the new neighbour, gay neighbourhood. And so they went to XES lounge. And they noticed that XES lounge had an event, either karaoke or drag or some official entertainment, slotted for every single night of the week, except for Monday. So they went to XES lounge and they asked Joseph the the owner, hi, Joseph, shout out. They said, Do you guys have a drag show on Monday night? And they said no. And they said, you do now. We’ll be back next Monday. Please have the stage set up for us at 10pm. We’re going to give you a 10 o’clock show. We’re bringing the audience will do the promotion, don’t you worry. And if you like us, then we can talk and we can figure out terms going forward. If you don’t like us, oh, well, you had a free show. And we packed the place for one night. And so XES lounge and they’re not they were not necessarily one of the bigger bars, which sort of made them one of the bars you like more because it’s not some big Pac club where you put on pretense, you know, and you have to act so cool or whatever. It was more like, like the cheers. You know, if you sit on chairs, like it was more like your neighbourhood, home bar where you would go and hang out and people knew you and the bartender knew your drink. And so every Monday night from I forget what year they started, but I would say roughly about 2010 11 for the next maybe three four years, every Monday night we would be at excess lounge seeing Bob and seeing kitten with a whip and Frosted Flakes in their show sisters with a question mark at the end.
K Anderson 19:28
So you’ve talked a lot about Bob, but I want to hear about you so you you first got into drag just as kind of like a shits and giggles because you were volunteering for something? What like what did it feel like that first time?
Honey La Bronx 19:41
You know how I described the first time you get in drag the first time you are standing in Manhattan? Yeah, well, the first time you get up in drags, if it just clicks and you just feel like oh my god, I don’t know what it is. But this is just right. You then you know Funny enough, a lot of lot of trans women end up discovering sort of that I’m not I can’t speak for trans women, but they discover this way. I had a lot of friends who started doing drag, and later realise like, Oh, no, you know what they don’t like taking the drag off I this I this is actually who I am. And so the first time I did drag, I’ll say I was, you know, I never audition for a Broadway show or anything other than that one that I didn’t get. But I did have the cleanest sounding taps in the room, I just realised I was looking down at the floor the whole time. But I was doing a production of the musical, the cradle will rock. And when seen production, oh my god, this music director was Anyway, um, I was in the show with a friend, or not a friend, but an actor who I met doing that show. Alex Alex, Michael’s native New Yorker. And I remember we would, you know, we kind of were flirting kind of into each other. But it was during my first year of sobriety. And so I was doing the whole like no sex for for my first year. So we would just hang out and go out together. And he mentioned that he was a drag queen and showed me pictures and stuff. And so I have that in the back of my head, and I had volunteered to help at this dragon pageant. So I’m like, Yeah, what do you need? Like, we need another drag queen? And I’m like, oh, and a friend. I just, I just, it was one of those things where you’re like, do I speak at this? Like, I know that I have a calling. I want it like when I was a kid. I always wanted to do drag. Like if my mom came home and saw that her makeup had been ransacked, despite having two other sisters. It was like Ben, were you going through my makeup again? Ben is my name out of drag for those who don’t know? Like Ben, were you going through my makeup again? It was never she’s selected my sisters. And by the way, I do not want people to picture that here I am 10 years old, applying makeup and I was like a young James Charles with a beat mug. No, I mean, like I would take like a pencil like an eyeliner pencil and draw like a grin on my face like Hellraiser. In No, not in a Leigh Bowery way like I’m turning looks more in a way. Like, I don’t know how to put makeups on my head. But I guess this goes here and that go. Like I had no concept of how to do makeup. I still kind of don’t I’m not a makeup queen. Which Bob the drag queen is my drag mom. So go figure. But at any rate, so but like, they would frequently come home and like I’d be in my parents room. And they’d walk in and catch me wearing one of my mom’s skirts or wearing our heels. Like I just always loved to dress up and all things frilly and feminine. Not because that was part of my identity. It was just I was just like, how does it not everyone realise how much fun this is. And so I had agreed to do drag and I told Alex Michaels I’m like, Alex, I need you to put me in drag. Now Alex’s drag name is Alexis. Michelle. And if people aren’t familiar with that name, it’s because Alexis Michelle went on to do season nine of drag race the year after Bob was on. So Alexis Michelle put me in drag for the first time she showed it was criminal. Sheesh, I don’t know. It was a different time. It was kind of like during the second season of drag race, like RuPaul drag race changed the game. And it also changed the face of drag makeup and sort of standardised something that never had standards. Exactly. standards. It just was not standardised. But Alexis Michel puts me in drag. I walk from her place to this high school where we’re putting on this drag show for charity. And I remember like walking outside in drag and not wanting anyone to clock me so like with the full wig on and with heels on and with a dress on. I’m like wearing like a man’s like Inspector Gadget style tan trench coat over it to like hide. And I remember like I had this feeling like someone or society itself is going to stop me when I go outside like I’m going to encounter the the physical or verbal. No, you can’t. And I remember kind of realising in retrospect, people were just probably like, yeah, that’s just a woman walking down the street. Not that I looked like a woman but like, no one cared. I mean, it’s, it’s beautiful. In New York City, no one cares, walk outside naked, wearing a diaper and whatever, no one cares. So I remember like I taking selfies of myself backstage and just like I did not want to take the drive off. And at the end of that night, or the very next day. Instead, I emailed the organisers of the pageant, a selfie, I went and created a honey firstname.lastname@example.org I was So I’m excited to set up this persona for myself. And I emailed them from that and I was just like, I am giving you 364 days notice that I would love to compete in next year’s pageant. And I guess people are probably gonna ask where I got the drag name from 11 years prior when I was 19 years old. I had, I had already started visiting New York, and I remember I love when I was in New York. I loved hearing the Bronx. It just Have you been to New York?
K Anderson 25:31
Honey La Bronx 25:32
Okay. Does when you hear the Bronx does that not just sound tough?
K Anderson 25:40
When you’re in a New York accent for me, please.
Honey La Bronx 25:45
I don’t have a New York accent. I have a Midwestern accent
K Anderson 25:49
for me. Oh, the Bronx? Yeah, that was tough. Yeah, she’s tough.
Honey La Bronx 25:56
It just does. Sounds tough. Like if I said like, Hey, I’m heading to Queens. Oh, I’m going to stat and I will stand out and maybe mayhaps a bit rougher than the Bronx, but it just sounded so new yorky and so tough. And I also remember the first time I heard the Bronx was watching beaches, which of course like you do when you’re in third grade, third grade, you’re about like maybe like eight or nine years old? Eight, no seven or eight eight, final answer. And so I’m eight years old watching beaches and and the CC Blum bet miserable when she’s young, so she’s played by my MBL. Like, she is saying like, Oh, well, technically, I don’t live in New York. I live in the Bronx. Hearing that I was like VA Bronx. I can’t say I live in them a walkie you don’t say I’m from the Australia. Like, the fact that there’s a definite article in the name of that city like that. That’s a borough was what it is. But that borough starts with a VA. I just struck my ear is odd. And I remember when I started visiting New York and I speak Spanish, I would started thinking, I wonder if in Spanish do they say love Bronx, Bronx, honey in the Bronx, that will be my drag name. Boom. That’s just how it popped into my head God or comma, just put it there.
K Anderson 27:14
But say like, did it happen? Did it happen? Like when you first saw yourself in drag? Or had you just been storing it up? Like, oh, yeah,
Honey La Bronx 27:21
19 years old, I had never done drugs before. So for for 11 years, I didn’t do drag for the first time until I was 30. A very, very old man. And so for 11 years, I’m walking around knowing my drag name, but I have no concept no visual even of who Honey La Bronx is
K Anderson 27:41
when you meet people at clubs, and they say, oh, if you were a drag queen, what would your dragging be you’d like have straight away or is it like, oh,
Honey La Bronx 27:48
many people knew my drag name for years. Because I loved I loved I love my drag name. I also am very critical of drag names. Like just not just anybody gets to tell me their drag name. And I’m like, good for you. I love that. You know, even frosty flakes I was just like, I do not like your drug name. And when Bob the drag queen was kitten with a whip, I was like I do not like your drag name. Do I love Bob the drag queen. In fact, I thought Bob had the best drag name. Until the day Bob came home and said I found a drag queen with a better name than me. And I said Who? And or a better name than I. And there was a drag queen from Australia. I’m sure by now you’ve heard of her. And her name is Karen. association with the word Karen. This is back when Karen was just a name. But yes, Karen from finance. It’s just the best. It’s just the best thing. It’s just the best name. So yeah, so that was my drag name. And it was just the day that I’m like looking into the mirror and I’m applying the lip gloss and I’m looking in the mirror and for a second I jumped back I was oh my god, like that looks like my sister is looking at me or it looks like my mom is like I’m seeing hints of the women in my family looking at me. And it was just it was just such an incredible discovery for me.
K Anderson 29:11
So we’ve we’re back in XES lounge. And there’s a Monday night and there are performances are you performing?
Honey La Bronx 29:20
I don’t think I had performed until when was my first time performing. My first time performing an XES lounge. I probably could Google that info and find it somewhere. I’m going to guess it was sometime in 2010 or 2011. I think my first time performing performing was actually in the pageant. It was called the Miss sobriety pageant it was for people who are in recovery. And would you guys I’m also outing Bob as someone who’s sober But Bob also talks about that openly. So I I remember, I just always had to didn’t mean to write parody songs even when I was like a kid, like, I thought in parody songs. And so the first parody song I wrote, I just got it in my head that I wanted to write a parody song to whiteness is from a visa, only because, is it not one of the best songs there is, I realised later on, like, I chose a 1000 piece puzzle to try to put together like that song. The lyrics are like custom cuts by by Freemasons. And and, oh, it’s a tricky song, to write a parody for. So I wrote this parody of that song, you know, with lyrics talking about my journey in sobriety. And that was, I think that was my first performance in drag. No, that was not my first performance and drag on. But at any rate, I had very limited performance performance experience as a drag queen, the first year of doing drag, I think I had only done drag maybe like six or seven times. But um, so I remember the nightmare of Bob having me be a guest in his show. Because in your when you’re doing drag in your mind, you imagine like, Oh, yeah, then I’ll be on stage. And then like, the song will start. And then I’ll just be like, on stage and I’ll be like, fierce and then this part of the music happens. And then I’ll just be like, fierce and I’ll be turning at, and then I’ll do this thing and it’ll be cute. Then you get on stage and you realise, I have no idea what to do. And like, I don’t know what to do with my arms. And like, I just had no idea what to do and drag. As a musical theatre performer, I am much more comfortable. I’m not a I’m not someone who just goes to a club and dances. I don’t enjoy just like, Oh, my favourite song came on. Let’s get on the dance floor. Absolutely not. I Boogie. My body does just not freely respond to music. You know, when I was 11, I
K Anderson 32:03
started that tap dancing.
Honey La Bronx 32:05
We honestly I once this I once went back to Wisconsin on a visit and I went to Lake Havasu the local gay bar. And I wore tap shoes on the dance floor thinking like this will be the thing if I weren’t had shoes.
K Anderson 32:21
No, I was just sucking up their fluids.
Honey La Bronx 32:25
Probably I also just fucked up I think just my whole look at me. But I was used to you choreograph a number, you block a number, you plan out a number, like here is how the number is going to happen on stage. So I’m not someone who just like hey, put on Beyonce or a song comes out or someone’s like, do call me maybe and then I just whatever. I’m not like if it was choreographed and like, Oh, yeah, I’ll give you a double pirouette. I’ll do opening number A Chorus Line. I’m not just someone who like just just is spontaneous. Even if I am I’m very spontaneous as a as a queen. You’re on the microphone and talking with the audience and bantering. But I have to have a plan before I get on stage, even if only so I can completely abandon that plan. I think I still need that skeleton. Even if I’m never going to come back and touch base. I need to start from there. If I go on stage with nothing, you know, it’s like if you gave me a blank canvas, and you’re like paint anything, go and I’m like, I have no idea what to paint. If you said paint some kind of a person,
K Anderson 33:37
man you’d turn dinosaur
Honey La Bronx 33:42
I’m driving a dinosaur who thinks he’s a little like named Ralph. Whatever. But um, I remember doing a there’s an awful awful it’s just you’re welcome YouTube the song lady bump by Penny McLean. From the original I think silver connection was I think the band that she was in and I’m talking you want the music video of Lady bump? The the which camera? Do I look at version, you’ll know what I’m talking about. So I basically did that song because I saw another drag queen do it. And I was like, I guess I’ll do that. And I just remember being on stage like I have no idea what to do. And then my wig comes off, which is not intentional. And I did I just embarrassed myself is what I did. But I will say when we did Little Shop of Horrors, we Bob wrote a bunch of parody songs for that. And then said, Okay, so I need you to record your vocals. I’m like, What do you mean record my vocals? He’s like, well, we’re going to lip sync to and I’m like, oh, why wouldn’t I just sing live? He’s like, because the rest of us are lip synching. And I’m like, Well, I actually sing why don’t I just say oh, by the way this I could really get into my I’m going to get in trouble by can really get into my grip of my gripe about about, about drag in the UK, but necessary. Sorry, but it’s just the whole looking down on lip synching as if it’s a lesser art form. Or as I tour with my drag show I did a show in London, in Brighton and in Manchester and in Brighton. If you do drag you are a cabaret performer if you do drag you are standing there on stage and singing live. And anything that is not that is considered lazy or fake or fraud or phony. And I remember showing someone if you’ve never seen Bob the drag queen do it’s all coming back to me by Celine Dion. It is just the best interpretation of the song. It’s not a drag number where it’s like spliced with other audio. It’s just a straight through number. And every nuance every thought every hesitation in that song. Bob accentuates and punctuates and brings to life and makes it visual, in a way that is so hilarious and so compelling. And I remember showing this to someone in Brighton I’m like, No, no, no, no, you don’t get lip synching is not let me show you this. And I showed it to him. He’s like, Yeah, but he’s not even singing it though. I’m like, do you not go? How are you missing the point here?
K Anderson 36:20
So basically, fuck Brian. Yeah,
Honey La Bronx 36:23
I mean, I didn’t say no, I mean, not not even fucked, right? Because you know what, I was in Brighton for a night, well, for two nights. And I saw some old man, I’m sorry, I saw some old man on stage and an ill fitting dress singing standards. But it was more like not even camp because camp suggests that like there’s you can be in on that joke. It was just like, now it’s my turn to get up on stage and put lipstick on and get in a shiny dress, and sing the same Karaoke Songs everyone else who everyone else who is in their 50s in the 90s or 2000s songs that they would appreciate because they are the songs that are familiar with, you know what I mean? So this was not
K Anderson 37:11
the highlight of the tour.
Honey La Bronx 37:13
It just was not it was not like doing my number. And people are just like staring at me with their jaws dropped. Like they don’t understand what they’re watching. And, and people were like, biasing at lazy lips thinking I’m like, I am dripping in sweat after my force number, what looks lazy about this to you? And like I was just like, literally, they would if I just stood on stage and half assed saying memory from cats, they would be more amused. And I’d like you’re taking the art of drag, and putting it in such a narrow, tiny box saying that you can only do drag if you’re a singer, like Do you realise how ridiculous that is? That At any rate, I was going back to why don’t I just sing my own songs in Little Shop of Horrors. There we are. And Bob said, you know, and I’m so happy that he taught me this lesson. Bob said, you know, there’s this thing that when you’re onstage singing in drag, you get to get away with all look at me, I’m actually singing. And truthfully, I knew that. And that was kind of why I wanted to sing because I’m like I want the safety and comfort of all I have to do is stand on stage and sing. And Bob said when you lip sync, it forces you to be bigger than life. And so here I am on stage in rehearsal lip synching to a recording of my own song. And I remember the discomfort of Oh my god, like, there’s, it becomes obvious when you are lip synching that I can’t just mimic that I’m actually singing. Everything has to be bigger. Everything has to be amplified and everything must be assigned a gesture or a nuance source or some kind of reference. And I remember feeling exhausted. I’d never been that kind of exhausted as an actor ever. Until lip synching for the first time and I was like, this is a completely different art form. And it pushed me so far out of my comfort zone. You know, the reason that I did not do well at that audition for 42nd Street. I am six feet tall, maybe six feet one. Alexa, how many meters is six foot one? inches, 1.854 meters? 1.854 meters? I thought so. And so I’m very tall. When I was in a chorus line back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was one of the best dancers out of the guys. And I remember thinking like why am I in the back? Why am I always in the back? Why am I not in front? Like, no one would see anyone, if you were in front, this is why you’re always in the back. So I remember always kind of minimising myself and making myself small, the hardest thing for me to do on stage is to just stand up straight, and put my arms out completely stretched out at my sides with my fingers spread in my palms flat, that to me feels so vulnerable, like, my belly is exposed. I’ve never let myself be that big, or take up that much space on stage until I had to do drag and lip-sync. And so that’s that was what was inherently uncomfortable to me about drag. And then I started putting numbers together where I kind of had an idea, okay, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do this and this and this. And I’m happy to say nowadays, I’ve kind of found what it is that I do. No, I would not ever describe myself as like a lip sync assassin I, I don’t observe I objectively do not think I’m a really good lip singer. If I know the numbers super well, and I know exactly what to do with every point along the way, then you know that I do well, but I’m not just someone who boogies to music wealth.
K Anderson 41:15
And it’s so interesting what you say like so I’m a fellow tall person who is used to minimising himself for people around him. But so interesting that you’re saying that like in drag, you felt more exposed than you did as yourself?
Honey La Bronx 41:34
Yeah, Isn’t that crazy? I mean, all that. I’m so hidden behind the drag. And yet the drag kind of reveals me in a way. By the way, you said you’re a tall person. It sounded to me like I’m a tool person and I got so excited. A I was like when I mentioned oboes and B, what kind of tools? Do you have a Dremel? Do you do woodwork to do metal work to do welding?
K Anderson 41:57
Oh, no, that was my smart talk.
Honey La Bronx 41:59
Okay, okay. I am very much a tool person like out like, you will often find me at home with a shield over my face, like cutting through metal and making I’m very I’m very DIY handyman, etc.
K Anderson 42:19
I can’t help you. I don’t help, frankly, I can’t riff off they said, Oh, I feel really out of my depth. You keep talking about songs or musicals. And I’m like what? Huh?
Honey La Bronx 42:33
So um, so yeah, so XES lounge, you know, Bob and frosty. They would just, it’s funny, Bob for being a queen, who had just kind of started doing drag and just kind of made his own first show. Over time, you know, then he got another show, I think on Tuesdays somewhere, you know, and over the years, eventually He’s like, yeah, I work five nights a week, six nights a week, like my schedule is filled with shows and now it becomes there’s a drag queen named Kasia car. She now goes as a bearded bitch but aka Keyshia car, she was also a Broadway actress. She was in the Book of Mormon on Broadway. She moved to New York from Oklahoma, and was a guest frequently in in in sisters with Bob and frosty. And my friend, Delilah Brooks, who is one of those people who started doing drag and then realized, Oh, I’m actually a woman and is now a trans woman. So just so many people would like arrive in New York for the first time, or would come to visit New York, and would become a guest in in their show. And it was just a great place for people to discover themselves. And as an artist, you know, this is back when drag race was on Monday nights on logo network. And so after their show, you know, people would start arriving at about 10 the show would start at 11. It was very much a thing in New York City drag where if the show is advertised at being as 10 o’clock, it’s implied that it starts at 11. In fact, Bob used to do a show at boots and saddles which is very peculiar, I think. I think he may add that to the list because boots and saddles I believe is now also closed. And it’s a very specific very particular very important place. It’s like it’s it was on Christopher street it then moved and then closed. But it was very much the Christopher street of drag. But everyone’s show is two hours long. And if your slot is eight to 10, your show starts at eight o’clock not no one not 759 at 759 the other queen is finishing her last number saying thank you Good night stick around for this next queen. is a marathon email@example.com the our hands off the microphone. To the next Queen, and the next Queen starts her two hour slot, and then hands it off to the next queen. So to let her audiences know that when I say eight o’clock, I mean eight o’clock, she would say like eight, whatever time it was eight or 10 o’clock white people time, just like show up at 801, you will have missed the first 60 seconds of my show. So that was what was special about XES lounge was just, I would go there every Monday for hanging out beforehand for sitting through the drag show. And then as soon as the drag show ended, the very next minute drag race came on, we watch that for an hour and change. And then we watch untucked, for the next 30 minutes. So it’s like a four hour time slot every Monday night of being there. And for their very last show, this is very special for me to talk about. And I don’t know that there’s whether there’s footage of this, but for their very last show, they decided that of course, they’re going to do an encore, but they decided in advance, their encore was going to be the Animaniacs version of the song that never ends. And they looped the song, I think Bob made like a two hour long version of it. And so they start singing the song and the audience is kind of laughing like, Oh, we got the job, we get the joke. Five minutes goes by 10 minutes goes by plenty minutes go by people are living their life. And then one by one people kind of start Alright, well, I should get going putting their coats on starting to leave. And I guess talking about XES lounge in terms of when that place closed and was no more. It’s also I guess, important to talk about when sisters with kitten and frosty also closed in was no more because in a way. For me, and I’m sure for many people, it was kind of the end of XES lounge, or at least it was the end of that of an era for us. And, and, and I can talk quickly about what happened with excess knowledge after that. But you know, there was a line formed to the stage in the picture that just like the tiniest, dinky little little bar there ever was when I say stage, I mean like you know four little pieces of stage that are shoved and locked together. But there was like a line formed for people to go up to the stage like it was almost like like a meet and greet or like seeing someone after their show. And I’ll never forget Tyler, my friend Tyler Easter who had just moved to New York a few years prior and like when he was new in town, he came to XES lounge and found the sisters with kitten and frosty. And that became his Monday night. His touchstone that became where he and his boyfriend Andrew came every Monday night it became how they met their friends, like your circle of friends at a certain point originated from being in that audience and seeing each other every Monday night. And I remember at the end of the show, Bob told me about this later. It’s funny, they had a bag of confetti. And so there’s a certain point in the song where frosty would throw confetti up in the air. And we also kind of realised like, eventually she’s gonna run on confetti, but people didn’t want it to ever end. So some people are like running and grabbing magazines and newspapers and ripping them up and refilling her bag with confetti so she wouldn’t run out. And they are just 1,000% committed just lip synching the song that never ends. It ended up going on for a little over an hour I forget exactly how long it was. But like I just remember that they formed a line to the end. This is their encore after an hour and a half long show. They formed a line to the stage and remember like Bob later told me that like while he’s sitting up there just lip synching looking straight forward lip synching people are having conversations with him. And Tyler was like telling him like I want you all got me choked up thinking about this. He’s like, I want you to know what your show meant to me like your show was home. When I moved away from home and came to New York, your show was home when I came out to my family and when I met my first boyfriend and when I was going through my first breakup, like your show was the constant in my life for all of these formative milestones in my life as a gay man. And just like being on stage in character lip synching to the song that never ends, the Animaniacs version, the most ridic doing the most ridiculous shit, while someone else is like pouring their heart out and acknowledging you for the difference you’ve made in their life and it’s just like a line of people just doing the same thing. And then think eventually it’s like me and like a couple of like core group Friends, and I think like the three of us, four of us, five of us, maybe at most standing around in the bar, and we’re the last ones left. And we’re kind of like laughing like, Oh my god, you guys, Dana, you guys pull it off. That’s awesome. And they’re still lip synching. And then we finally realised like, Oh, they don’t, they are not going to stop until we leave to. Just, like, we go outside, we closed the door we peek in, they’re still going, we peek in, they’re still going in, then they finally hear the music stop. And it was just, it was like the most. And it’s I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie dancer in the dark with Bjork. But she talks about loving the musicals. And her least favourite thing was that that last song where it gets so big in the camera spirals up through the roof, and it’s just this big white and you just know it’s over. And she says, I hated that. So I would leave the cinema, right after the next to last song. And then it just went on forever. I’ve seen dancer that arc so many times that like what I just said that it was almost verbatim the line, but it’s not the kind of movie you see more than once if you if you if you’ve seen it, you know why. But I love that that what they created for their final final final show. It basically never ended in the audience’s mind. Like no one saw the end of it, it just continued on forever. And yeah, you know, and after that XES continued for a while, um, you know, when I have my own podcast as well, big, fat vegan radio, and I remember my, my then co host, Laura, she and I wanted to do a live show, to follow the New York vegetarian food festival, which was on a weekend in the afternoon. So when it’s done, we threw like the after party. And I remember like feeling like I’m kind of walking in imbaba and prossies footsteps, like assuming their stage and their venue. Like having them in my audience and having our listeners in my audience it was it’s very special, because I knew that XES lounge was the place I could go to because I had to rip. Oh, and I should say, when New York State’s past marriage equality, Bob and I and frosty were members of a group called queer rising, if you watched season eight of drag race, you saw probably a clip of Bob and I getting arrested for blocking traffic for marriage equality. That was with queer rising, and when, and we were, you know, putting a lot of pressure on the state to bring marriage equality to a vote and when it they whenever they were doing so we were all up in Albany, you know, five to a hotel room sleeping on the floor every morning, first in line to get in the senate galley. And I had my laptop there. And I remember I’m on my Facebook status. I’m constantly updating on my life. I guess this is before you would do that on your phone, but I’m constantly updating on my laptop like Okay, all right, we’re taking a break and they’re going to come back and reconvene and blah, blah, blah, still no vote yet, but blah, blah, blah. I remember standing outside of XES lounge. And Joseph, the owner is talking to me. And this is before I know that he knows who I am. This is when we’re very very new to sisters being a regular show. And he turns to me and he says I want you to know that when marriage equality happened. We were all here. XES lounge glued to the television cnn was on we are all watching the news. But it is not from the it is not from the news that we learned that we now had the right to our right to marry. The bar was glued to your Facebook page. I don’t know if it was like on the screen or they were just constantly refreshing. He’s like the moment you posted. We won. That was the moment we as a bar knew and celebrated that we had marriage equality. It was a few minutes later that the news announced it as well. Like there’s just so many memories that connect me to that place.
K Anderson 53:58
Oh wow. And so after after the sisters share ended did your attendance there kind of petered off? really did. I didn’t
Honey La Bronx 54:10
you know, it wasn’t just XES lounge. It was really a seeing I you know, Bob and I were roommates for four years and during that time, I’ve certainly seen him perform at other venues but it became a Monday night thing for me. Um, you know, I would say I don’t know if I would still say that this holds true. I mean, who knows what we’re going to return to post COVID but, you know, for a long time anyway in New York City, if you just got off the bus and you wanted to know, you know, take me to your leader who is the top in town. The top drag queen in town is whichever drag queen does the Monday night show at Barracuda Lounge at midnight. That is that is officially whoever the queen is back in the day that used to be jack Key beat then it became Candace Kane. Then it became peppermint. And right after peppermint, it became Bob the drag queen, and then after ba that became Monique’s James, who of course then she went on drag race and became famous. And then I think it became Brenda darling. But so after Bob left XES lounge, Bob basically left XES lounge to move to Barracuda, which was just like two blocks away and was sort of like their competition and you can’t compete with Barracuda lounge because they’re just like, they’re, I mean, they’re they’re brought, I hate to say it this way. But they were the in terms of gay bars as drag venues. Barracuda was a Broadway venue, whereas, whereas XES lounge was was an off Broadway venue.
K Anderson 55:50
Here you can see these musical references again, expecting I’m going to know what you’re talking about.
Honey La Bronx 55:54
Which is not to say it was lesser than, you know, I used to, I used to be in a relationship with a guy who was an off Broadway, theatrical manager. And he said to me at the time, he’s like, you know, Broadway has become the place where what is successful on Broadway is essentially a polished turd. It’s the place where they’re sinking so much money into the show that it had better be a crowd pleaser. that pleases the folks from Ohio who come here for, you know, for vacation, which is why you get big, glossy Broadway musicals that are family friendly. He’s like, nowadays, you go off Broadway, if you want art, you know, it was it was off Broadway. We’re a Little Shop of Horrors started it was off Broadway where Hedwig and the Angry Inch started. And that’s it was very, I feel like that was very true of XES lounge. Like that’s what it was. It was only a hair Oh, fast forward off the beaten path. And I’ll talk about where they moved. But it was only Chelsea is wider than just this. But in gay terms, Chelsea is Eighth Avenue from 14th Street to 23rd. Street End of story. Yes, it expands beyond that. But that is sort of the spine of Chelsea. And if you are on the east side of Eighth Avenue. That is the that is it. That is the strip that is Chelsea. And so Barracuda was on 22nd. Just off Eighth Avenue. I mean, it could not be more central. Like it’s really in the it’s right in the centre of the butthole of Chelsea, and we’re gays. So I’m talking about that’s the sweet spot, not the bad spot. But whereas XES lounge was on 24th Street, just off of Seventh Avenue, which if you are in the heart of Chelsea Seventh Avenue and 24th Street feels like it’s off the beaten path. But it’s really what made it special. It’s really what made it like the cheers of so I kind of stopped going there after Bob’s money Night Show. Instead, I started going to Barracuda for Bob’s Monday Night Show. And then when Bob you know got on drag race and moved on from there. I hate to say I kind of stopped regularly going to drag shows. I lived in 44th and 10th after Bob and I, I won what’s called the affordable housing lottery. And so I moved out from living with Bob, people always say what’s the affordable housing lottery? I say, Oh, good question. It’s a lottery for affordable housing. I don’t know how else to explain it. You basically you get a luxury apartment but you pay like 20% of what the rent would be. So don’t hate me because I’m young don’t hate me. or hate me because I now live on 57th and 11th and I live in a large giant one bedroom apartment in a luxury building for only like $675 a month anyway, but I used to 44th and 10th and Ms cracker who’s my drug sister Ms. cracker and Monet exchange who’s my and they had a show together at hardware on I think 46 or 47th and 10th and that was on Sunday nights they had a show together so I would go to see their show on Sundays but I feel like when excess clothes I kind of stopped eventually some some company bought out that building and wanted and I think it’s still there intact it’s like if you’re going to tear down this building then fucking tear it down and build whatever condo or you want to build Yeah, but like there was even like graffiti on the wall like people like road things like this used to be the most special day of sorry, pounded my table the most special place in the world. And you killed it like people were writing things like that on the wall like fuck you for making this place and it was such a special spot that can never be replaced. And and so then
K Anderson 59:59
I’m gonna ask you a Question and this is a bit of a naff question, but I think you’re gonna go down this naff? Yeah. Oh, wait, do I only know the word now? Does it map off? To me like, okay, so naff is like stupid. Okay.
Honey La Bronx 1:00:18
Oh, I’m seeing it now as an adjective, as a verb. It means go away as an adjective that means lacking taste or style.
K Anderson 1:00:27
So this is a question, okay, lacking taste to a style? And what what did XES lounge teach you about yourself? Wow.
Honey La Bronx 1:00:43
Well, as a drag performer XES lounge, it’s never just any one thing. It’s not just XES lounge. It’s also Bob. And it’s also Bob’s show. And it’s also that night into that performance. But it is where I learned, oh, I need to show up and come to the stage. With something ready with something prepared, like the audience. I think that’s one of the beautiful things about drag is that the audience immediately whether they’ve ever seen drag before in their life or not, they can spot inauthenticity immediately. And it was obvious to me and obvious to the audience in that first performance that this is inauthentic. This is not the real thing. And it was obvious to the audience that it was obvious to me that it wasn’t going on. And and God bless you, they were still so gracious about it, but and as someone who doesn’t drink also, a lot of people who were also gay and soberg also came to this bar. So it was also such a safe space for me, as someone in early recovery, like with only two years sober. So it felt like such a safe place to go. Because if I if I met someone else in recovery, who was like, I’m nervous to go to a bar, I’m like, Oh girl, there’s 10 of us there who don’t drink. I don’t know how the bartenders make any money. We also tip generously and get Red Bull but so a taught me I think that as a performer, like anything other than like nothing, nothing will do other than authenticity. It’s the place that I think taught me what I am and I am not comfortable with as a gay man and as a drag queen. I think what XES lounges taught me was I don’t know how to say this other than to kind of tie it to the old adage of like, like, treat people how you want to be treated like XES lounge showed me like, I dated someone a couple of years back and I was his first relationship. And I remembered thinking however this goes whether this is long term, whether this ends whether it whatever happens, I want to model for him. What a relationship can be, what open honest communication can look like what it feels like to be able to be 100% you and your authentic self so that he can always have this as a frame of reference, right? That’s kind of what XES lounge was for me. Like, it’s got to be at least this welcoming. I think I guess that’s what it taught what XES lounge taught me is what it felt like. XES lounge taught me what being welcome feels like I can’t even I can’t even say it better than that.
K Anderson 1:03:43
Did you ever go to XES lounge? Well, if you did, I would love to hear from you. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook with the user name K Anderson music. Get in touch and tell me what you got up to share any photos or funny stories. I want to hear about it. And whilst you’re at it, go and give honey a follow on Instagram. Her user name is honey love Bronx. And you can also check out her website which is vegan drag queen.com. Last basis is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the coming year. You can hear the first single which is called well groomed boys and is also conveniently playing underneath my talking right now on all good streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told people who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to I am I’m K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.