2006_04_simpsonlg.jpgLinda Simpson knows how to have fun, and has parlayed her penchant for flamboyance into a career as a hostess and Mistress of Ceremonies. Whether presiding over naked glittering dancers, drag queen contests, or inebriated bingo players, she always livens up any room she's in. Inspired by The Rocky Horror Picture Show and clubs like Pyramid, she began doing drag in the late 1980s and hasn't let up since. Having performed all over town at events such as Wigstock and countless other queer soirees, she rightfully received the Legendary Award at New York's annual drag queen awards, The Glammys, in 2003.

Simpson also works as a Contributing Writer at Time Out New York, has written plays such as The Tranny Chase and The Final Episode, contributed to Out and HX, and co-hosted the cable TV show Party Talk. Now, she's revived her "revolutionary gay magazine" My Comrade, which published its first issue in 1997 and is having a prolonged relaunch. Simpson's bringing new meaning to the words "Easter egg hunt" with this Sunday's Easter party to end all Easter parties at Ukranian National Home called "Tonight We Dye," a fundraiser for the magazine. Here, she reminisces about the gay old days, the mid-90's drag explosion, the joy of bingo, and being a "gal on the scene."

You're about to relaunch your humor magazine called My Comrade. What can we expect from it, and why the long hiatus?
Actually, our new issue is a continuation of our relaunch. The magazine's first go-around was from 1987 to 1994. After a ten-year hiatus, My Comrade was born again in late 2004. The magazine's unconventional publishing schedule is due to the fact that we're such a small-time operation. Many talented people contribute, but I do most of the work and there's lots of it.

You bill My Comrade as a revolutionary magazine for queers, drag queens, homos, the gays, and dykes. How is it different from the current crop of queer magazines? Who do you see as the typical My Comrade reader?
My Comrade is a part of a long tradition of offbeat, artsy, underground publications that offer an alternative to the cookie-cutter mainstream press. Nowadays, a lot of the gay glossies promote a kind of bland guppie [gay yuppie] lifestyle, while My Comrade is about embracing eccentricity and the fringe queer community. But it's not a elitist magazine—everyone is invited to join in the fun-even guppies.

How important is the inclusiveness of your message? It seems like as gay people get more visibility, there's also that tendency to want to promote the most mainstream examples of gayness, with drag queens being simply an entertaining but not a political element of the culture so I was wondering if you could comment on the inclusiveness and the political message/motives behind My Comrade and your work generally.
Honestly, I really don't sit around much analyzing My Comrade much. It's a very organic magazine that specializes in a particular sensibility that celebrates drag and an offbeat, satirical, campy way of looking at the world whether it happens to be a fashionable way of thinking or not. The magazine is what it is.

In a roundup of onscreen transvestites, you told Radar that the message of flamboyance and outrageousness of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a major inspiration to you and other drag performers. Who else has inspired you, and where do you get that sense of flamboyance in 2006 New York City? Has gay life and culture overall become tamer since the 70s, or has it simply gone more underground?
I grew up in Minnesoata and from a very young age, I was fascinated by almost anything to do with New York City—Warhol and his superstars, Mad magazine, TV sitcoms that were set in Manhattan, punk rock, disco, the city's incredible ethnic mix-you name it. When I got to the city, joining the cult of Rocky Horror was just one of the many ways that I really threw myself into all that was fun and interesting about the city. I'm coy about my age, but I've been in New York for decades now and witnessed so many incredible things. The city is definitely more tamer than it has been at points, but there's still tons of interesting stuff going on, even if its not the same kind of bohemian madness that it used to be.

How do you see drag and the transgender movement intersecting and contrasting? Is there a natural solidarity between the two?
Well, technically, the transgender community includes drag queens, and I do feel there is an understanding and a sense of solidarity that exists among all sexual outlaws. But the transgender community is also extremely diverse, from va-va-voom trannies that are doing their best to look like J-Lo to straight suburban guys who dress up in their wives' clothing. A group that is that diverse is going to have people with wildly different concerns.

Switching gears—You run the weekly Jet Set Bingo in the Village with Murray Hill What's the funnest part about running a bingo night? How is Jet Set Bingo different from other bingo nights around town? What kinds of prizes do you give away?
Ooops, this question doesn't apply anymore. We just got canned from Piola. The owner decided that it's better for the restaurant to offer a consistent atmosphere rather than confuse his customers with Bingo. But it's too bad that we had to end because we were just beginning to gain momentum.

What kind of a crowd are you getting? I always thought the best thing about Drag Queen Bingo, which you used to host at Global 33, was that it had all kinds of people, from nerdy gay boys to rowdy lesbians to people's parents. It was campy but inclusive and it seems like a lot of events wind up being more segregated by default.
I loved that aspect of Bingo at Global 33. We were getting an incredibly diverse crowd at Piola, also. Hopefully, if we decide go somewhere else, we can continue to attract that diverse type of crowd.

Besides bingo, what other events have you been doing? What are your favorite types of events to host?
I'm not doing any other events on a regular basis, but I do pop up now and then to host. More than anything, I'm really a gal on the scene. I love being on stage, but I'm extremely social and I love just hanging out with everybody.

What do you do to get the crowd's attention when they're too busy talking and drinking?
Hmmm, I still haven't quite figured that out.

How and when did you start doing drag?
I started doing drag in the late 1980s. I was hanging out at the Pyramid, which was the epicenter of newfangled, nutty drag. I became pals with a lot of the performers and decided to take the plunge myself. Soon after that I started appearing onstage and hosting and promoting my own nights. Discovering that I was meant to be a drag queen was such a liberating experience. Every time I went out I felt like I was high because I was seeing the world from a totally new perspective.

How much time do you spend as Linda vs. Les, and what are the major differences between the two personalities? Do they feel like different people to you, or different parts of your personality?
There's not an incredible amount of difference between Les and Linda, but being in drag does give me a freedom to be more expressive and sensuous. I do try to find a balance in presenting my two selves because it is easy to get all caught up in the fabulousness of drag and let it run your life.

How has Linda evolved from your first outing in drag? There was a writeup of your last birthday party and someone speculated that Linda was turning 60.
Sixty Not yet. But when the time comes, I'm sure I will still be doing drag and damn proud of it. There's such a tendency to dismiss older people in the LGBT community and I for one plan on shaking people's attitudes up once I join the senior set.

What's the most challenging aspect of creating your drag attire? You've been doing it so long that I'm sure it's all old hat to you, but I'm curious what the most time-consuming or difficult part is. I just read Josh Kilmer-Purcell's memoir I Am Not Myself These Days, and he describes having to literally squeeze his body into a corset.
I go more for a glamorous-gal-on-the-town look that doesn't involve a lot of painful methods. And I'm lucky that wearing high-heels rarely bothers me. I guess the biggest challenge is constantly trying to figure out what looks good on me and what doesn't—the same dilemma as any woman .

Since you started doing drag, what are the biggest changes you've noticed in terms of drag culture in New York? As drag queens get popularized more in the media, what has that meant for entertainment of the sort you provide? Is there more of a demand, or does it wax and wane?
Drag exploded in popularity in the mid-1990s, with much of it due to RuPaul's pop-star success. That was a great times to be a queen. Every club and talk show and party was clamoring to hire a drag queen. After a while, things calmed down. But the club and bar scene is still very eager to hire drag queens and some queens are able to make a living just working the nightlife.

There's a totally freaky photo of your head on a platter of food at the 2005 launch party for My Comrade. What's that all about?
No, that's not me You think I'd appear at my own party like that? In fact, that was performance artist Robert Appleton as one of the side-attractions.

You wrote a play called The Tranny Chase. Can you tell me more about it, and are there any more plays in your future?
The Tranny Chase, which was big hit when it was produced at P.S. 122, explored the unique relationship between drag queens and trannychasers, which is the term for men who are sexually attracted to queens. For a lot of people who aren't familiar with the that particular fetish, it was a real eye-opener.

You're also a staffer at Time Out New York, formerly the Gay and Lesbian Editor and now a Contributing Writer. How does having a 9 to 5 job mix with your nighttime gigs? Do you prefer that setup, or would you rather be a full-time rabble rouser and entertainer?
You know how it is, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence in terms of employment. Some days, I think, Gee, it would be nice to have a full-time job with all its security and a steady paycheck. And when I've had a regular job, I'm like, Get me out of here, I need my freedom. So I kind of balance a lot of part-time jobs and gigs, which keeps things interesting, even though it's not making me rich. Not yet, anyway

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
On Sunday, April 16th, there is going to be a benefit party for My Comrade, celebrating the new issue. The date is Easter so we're going to be decorating like mad and featuring lots of great performances.


Visit www.mycomrade.com for more information. Tonight We Dye, billed as an "Easter Benefit Eggs-travaganza" and benefit for My Comrade takes place Sunday, April 16th, from 7 p.m. to midnight, with shows at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. at Ukranian National Home, 140 Second Avenue (between St. Mark's and 9th Street), admission $10. Performers include Dynasty Handbag, Dirty Martini, The Dazzle Dancers, Austin Scarlett, Marga Gomez, Da Lipstyxx, Barbara Patterson Lloyd, Brandon Olsen, Duch, Tommy Hottpants, Jennifer Snackwell, Shania Rendezvous, Sultana, along with Hostess Linda Simpson and DJ Gant Johnson.