Jackie Beat has been around a long time — a loong time. Beat, the creation of artist/writer Kent Fuher who has been called “the greatest drag queen on earth” by Roseanne Barr and the bitchiest one of them all by just about everyone else, has been delighting audiences across the globe with her acerbic wit and outrageously filthy song parodies for 25 years. Now the golden girl drag icon will celebrate her silver anniversary in show biz by performing for the first time at the Los Angeles LGBT Center on July 19 (purchase tickets in advance here.). And The Beat Goes On, as the one-night-only event is titled, promises to be yet another uproarious evening of songs, videos and laughs you’ll feel terrible about the next morning. The entertainer chatted with Queerty about offending her audience, the “tranny” debate and the Joan Rivers controversy.
Your long-awaited debut at L.A.’s LGBT Center will celebrate a quarter century that you’ve been a drag performer. How has your performing style evolved over the years?
First of all, I can’t believe I’ve never done a solo show at the LGBT Center right here in my own hometown, but I guess that’s so often how it ends up working. When you live somewhere you can sometimes be taken for granted. “Oh, her? She lives right down the street…” Meanwhile I’m performing all over the world for very enthusiastic audiences who – how can I say this in a nice way? – who aren’t as jaded as the bitches in Los Angeles! As far as the “evolution” of my performance style, I would have to say I have learned to relax. I used to freak out about every little detail, but not anymore. I have learned that people really just want to have fun and, trust me, watching a big man-lady have a hissy fit on stage is not fun! I have also learned that not everyone can do what I do. This isn’t even me being egotistical. Not everyone can sing or be funny or think on their feet. And I take no credit for it, I really don’t. To me it’s like having blue eyes. It just “is.” But the most important thing I have learned is that I am a natural entertainer and to trust in that. I have often said that if the electricity were to go out right before one of my shows, I would light a candle and just talk for an hour. Because I ain’t giving that money back, honey! It’s already spent!
This particular show, celebrating my 25th year doing drag, will be different in that it will truly be a retrospective of sorts. I am reaching way back! I intend to do a few songs I haven’t done in over 20 years. I’m also putting together a fun slide show of all my different looks over the years and a montage of rather embarrassing video clips. Ultimately, I want it to be entertaining so I am going to try my best not to be too self-indulgent. I mean, what if this is the very first Jackie Beat experience for some poor idiot who’s been living under a rock or maybe snoozing away in a coma? It’s got to work for both the hardcore, lifelong fans and the first-time audience members. And I certainly don’t want it to come across like a memorial, because I am not dead!
I imagine that audiences in cities in other parts of the country respond differently to your shows, particularly your off-color song parodies. Do you find that some of your material goes over better in certain places?
Right after 9/11 I performed my parody of the song “God Bless the USA” as “Please Leave the USA.” It’s all about how a lot of people used the tragedy to be shamelessly racist and alienating to certain races and cultures. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, faux-patriotic and quite scathing. When I performed it at Trannyshack in San Francisco one audience member wrote Heklina an email saying he would never go to the club again because he was “sick of blatant racism disguised as comedy.” I was shocked. In San Francisco? At a club called Trannyshack? I mean, it’s called irony – look into it. And once, in New York, a man stood up and stormed out while I was singing my parody of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” called “Seven.” The title refers to the age of a guy I’m dating and, as I always point out before singing it, the butt of the joke is not the victim, but rather the pedophile – who think’s it’s a normal, valid relationship. But this pissed-off guy told the theater manager that it was illegal to sing about such things and that he was calling the police. I don’t know what happened, but I do know that I not only finished the song, but the entire show. I can’t remember ever having any problem in some little podunk town that you might just assume would be less-sophisticated or suffer from irony-poor blood. Once again, the lesson here is don’t judge a book by its cover
You’re one of the many writers who’re striking for better wages for writing for Fashion Police. Why hasn’t Joan Rivers, whose fan base is predominantly gay, come to the defense of her staff?
This is going to sound so lame, but “due to legal reasons” I cannot really discuss that. But I will say this: Working for a legendary performer such as Joan was an amazing learning experience. I know for a fact that I am a better writer because of it. Do I wish it had ended in a better way? Yes.
Although I love your one-lady shows, I really miss the days when you were regularly appearing in films like Grief and Flawless and starring in hilarious stage productions such as Valley of the Dolls and Double-Wide Female. Why don’t you do more acting?
I don’t really audition for parts. Needless to say, I am not very good at walking into a room and begging a casting director, “Please love me!” First of all, I have a rotten attitude and second, 99 percent of people in casting are failed actors and now is their big chance to be the one in charge. No thanks. I usually get offered a role or I make the opportunity myself. I was in a cult horror film called Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver and that role was written for me. I also wrote the play Whatever Happened To Busty Jane? and did that in both Los Angeles and New York. If there are any creative people out there reading this and you have a part for me, just ask.
Of course. There’s been a debate raging over the past few years about the word “tranny.” It came to a head this year when some transgender activists called RuPaul “transphobic” and forced some changes on Drag Race. How do you feel about policing of language?
Oh boy. Or girl? I’m confused. Just kidding. Listen, I get it. If I said something that hurt the feelings of some very young, very sensitive transgender child, I would just hate myself. But if you are an adult who is getting all bent out of shape over a word that is being used with affection and humor, get the fuck over yourself. Fight the real enemy. And trust me, it ain’t RuPaul or me, honey!
Um, thank you! I thought it was just me. I realize I didn’t invent overdrawn lips or Chola-wing eyeliner or Venus fly-trap lower lashes, but I have seen some bitches out there who are out-and-out doing MY makeup! I love that I’m an inspiration, but part of being an artist is making something your own. In other words, by all means, be inspired, but try to take it somewhere else. Which brings me to the subject of queens who lip sync my songs. And not just one or two, but a whole show! All I ask is give the bitch who wrote and recorded the material a shout-out. And one queen in particular, who shall remain nameless, always cries that she gives me credit. Well, I have watched countless videos of her doing my act and she has yet to utter my name in any of them. But I’m not bitter.
While on the subject of getting screwed, if you could shag any actor in Hollywood, who would it be?
Shia LaBeouf because he is damn cute and, let’s be honest, there ain’t no fuck better than a crazy fuck!
Besides yourself, who do you think is the greatest drag performer of all time and why?
I feel like Adele staring at the dessert menu… It’s impossible to choose just one. Lady Bunny has made me laugh so hard I thought I was going to die. Dina Martina has left me marveling at how the human brain works. Sherry Vine has left me speechless with her comedic acting skills. Jimmy James has brought me to tears with his beautiful voice. And there are literally dozens more: Coco Peru, Ryan Landry, Varla Jean, Bianca Del Rio, etc. They all have something special to offer. In Bunny’s case, that would be herpes, of course. But if I had to choose one favorite I would have to break the rules and say me! And frankly, I wouldn’t bother with any drag queen who doesn’t think she’s the best. And on that note, come see my fucking show on July 19.