Book Chat with Lady Bunny
Author: William Johnson
May 30, 2012
“A more recent book that blew my mind was Larry Kramer’s The Tragedy Of Today’s Gays. The truth hurts, but Larry isn’t afraid to tell it. I actually attended the speech at Cooper Union where he read this work in its entirety. I trembled and sobbed in the presence of this man—frail, yet so impassioned. He’s one of my heroes and I look forward to The American People, which he’s been penning for years. That one I’ll definitely read and it’s going to be a long, heavy one so I hope to be over my reading slump for that.”
The Lambda Literary Awards are this upcoming Monday, June 4th, and the incomparable drag-superstar Lady Bunny is DJing the afterparty. (The awards are sold out but there are still tickets available for the afterparty, which you can purchase here.)
We are really looking forward to seeing Lady Bunny work her magic to get a room full of bibliophiles out on the dance floor. That being said, we thought this would be a good opportunity to have a little book chat with the drag star.
Just what novels line her shelves?
Our brief conversation follows:
What is your favorite book and why?
I’m ashamed to admit that I’m part of the 1/2 of American duds who don’t read one book per year. Internet-induced ADD, our soundbite-oriented culture and my hectic schedule don’t help the situation. I do salivate whenever I see lefty heroes like Naomi Klein or Robert Reich on the news with a new book out, but I’m always afraid they’ll be over my head. Do I still have the DJ gig, though?
As a child I was obsessed with all of the Oz series and anything about witchcraft, probably searching for an escape hatch from the dull suburbia of Chattanooga, Tennessee where I grew up. In my twenties, I discovered Patrick Dennis’s Little Me and First Lady. Of course, his Auntie Mame is much better known, but these two were much loonier. Little Me is the story of an insanely gorgeous wannabe star with zero talent, who always misinterprets her lot in life yet somehow wins in every predicament. First Lady is a completely giddy romp with the photos of the nut Peggy Cass (from 60s game show “To Tell The Truth.”) When I find a book I love, I re-read it many times. Or at least I used to!
A more recent book that blew my mind was Larry Kramer’s The Tragedy Of Today’s Gays. The truth hurts, but Larry isn’t afraid to tell it. I actually attended the speech at Cooper Union where he read this work in its entirety. I trembled and sobbed in the presence of this man—frail, yet so impassioned. He’s one of my heroes and I look forward to The American People, which he’s been penning for years. That one I’ll definitely read and it’s going to be a long, heavy one so I hope to be over my reading slump for that.
Do remember the first book you read with queer content?
Probably Death In Venice, which was given to me in my early teens by a tenor from New York City who came through Chattanooga to appear in a college (where my dad taught) opera production in which I had a bit part. Clearly a chicken-hawk, I think the gift was his way of telling me that he had a crush on me. He also gave me cologne and other gifts—all very dramatic and flattering because he was imported as the star of the show. But even then I knew my type and he wasn’t it.
How did this book affect your overview of queer life?
I’m not sure that I enjoyed the book or even finished it. But through the central character’s longing for a boy he could never have, I did learn the folly of older men chasing younger ones and the heartbreak it can lead to. It did not, however, prevent me from having a couple of unrequited love situations.
Director John Waters famously said, “We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.” Is this a motto you can get behind? When you go over a date’s house, do you peruse their bookshelves?
I can’t get behind John’s motto since I’d never get fucked with my own paltry collection of books! I’ve never sought out brainy guys for sex—to me, sex and intellect are two separate parts of the brain. And I thought John Waters liked trashy guys who surely wouldn’t read at all. Anyway, I rarely go to other guys’ houses. I prefer to play hoe-stess.