Sharon Needles Banned From Performing at Life Ball After Making Nazi Joke

sharon-needles-rupauls-drag-raceFormer reigning Next Drag Superstar Sharon Needles sure had a blast on the plane ride from New York to Vienna for Life Ball, the world’s most opulent AIDS Fundraiser, but once she landed things went horribly awry and her invitation to perform at the event was rescinded.

Needles was on the plane with dozens of performers, press, DJs, and other celebrities (Carmen Electra! Adam Lambert! Greg Louganis! Barbara Eden!) for the enormous annual party in Austria’s capital. The flight there is boozy and fun with everyone living it up in the aisles and Needles indulged in plenty of free drinks (and plenty of pulls off her electronic cigarette). At one point she was spotted chugging beers and then spitting the beer onto the door of one of the plane’s restrooms. When the flight landed there was a red carpet right on the runway. Needles was one of the first off the plane and made a comment in front of the journalists and cameras that she was happy to be in Vienna, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler.

Apparently Life Ball founder Gary Keszler was in earshot and did not appreciate the joke. Needles was asked not to perform at the giant Arabian Nights-themed party on Saturday, May 25 and was missing from all the official events for the rest of the weekend. New York club legend Susanne Bartsch said that Needles was scheduled to perform in her room at the Ball (which also featured Joey Arias and other RuPaul‘s Drag Race alums DWV singing “That Boy Is a Bottom”) but that her performance was cancelled after the joke.

We learned that Needles was immediately sent back to the States, and while on the flight back to New York on Sunday morning she was wearing a suit and on her best behavior. When nearing New York Needles said, “They can appropriate Middle Eastern costumes for their party, but I get banned for giving them a history lesson? This is my country where I can say whatever I want.”

Well, Sharon you can say whatever you want in Austria too, but that doesn’t mean they should still invite you to the party.

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  • Will

    a German Nazi denier?? that’s against the law there you know…. no surprise. Denial always wins out…

  • molitor

    She is an idiot. Of course you have freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean that people have to find your tired, “I’m going to shock you” schtick amusing just because you do. Oh, and by the way, Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, not Vienna. How’s that for a history lesson?

  • Kangol


    Exactly. ADOLF Hitler was born in a small town, Braunau am Inn. On the other hand, “Sharon Needles” does have a point about the tackiness of the orientalist “Arabian Nights” theme, but one wonders, would she have said anything about it had she not been shipped right home for her stupid, offensive comment?

  • Kieran

    She chugged a beer and spit it out on the door of the plane’s restrooms, but the reason she got sent home was because she made a flippant joke about Adolf Hitler being an Austrian? Chalk up another victory for freedom of speech.

  • petensfo

    Austrians still fall all over themselves to distinguish themselves as NOT-German, as though they are apart from all that happened & that no one in Austria could have been complicit. The Swiss have done the same for years and we finally saw the proof, or rather disproof of that in banking records.

    It was an awful event and one that I’m sure people would love to forget, but as Sharon Needles has learned, it is still all too real. Frankly, although I do enjoy her, I’m glad the organizers drew a line in the sand. She crossed a cultural line that is also a third rail.

  • tdx3fan

    Dear “Needless,”

    Just because you can say anything you want does not mean your cold hearted stupidity does not get checked. You can say anything, but do not be to incredibly surprised when people walk away from you because you are to stupid to understand basic human dignity.

    Sharon is a totally clueless bitch who spends half her life drunk and the other half of her life dumb. Hopefully, she will be forgotten in about 2-3 years and join the rank of other total has been “performers.”

  • Polaro

    If that is all she/he said, I think they went overboard. After all, Hitler was Austrian. But, seriously, a drag queen saying something outrageous? I thought that was what they got paid to do. Like the rest of you, I’m more offended with the wasted beer and the mess!

  • PTBoat

    @Kangol: One could argue that the Arabian Nights theme was literary and not literal.

  • arietanna

    Yes in our country we have freedom of speech but she was in another country. We need to remember that when we are in another country we must abide by their rules. Shame on her for making such a remark. It doesn’t matter if she was saying it in jest, to get a rise or if she actually felt it. Hitler was a cruel man and killed so many innocent lives. It should not be used as a joke. Loss of human life should never be a joke.

  • Shadeaux

    Seth Macfarlane hosting the Oscars = Sending Sharon Needles ANYWHERE. You know their words are going to sting so if you’re scared of the sting, leave their asses home.

  • Charlie in Charge

    @Shadeaux: I guess my take on it would be more in the vein of: if you invite someone whose humor is based on being shocking, don’t act shocked at what they say. TED Talks went through the same thing with Sara Silverman.

  • viveutvivas

    I think her remark was genius, in the best tradition of the jester forcing people to face the mountain of skulls on which the glitzy facade that is Austria today is built. That’s the kind of thing drag queens are for, isn’t it? The remark and its aftermath brilliantly exposed those vapid pompous Austrian circuit boys for what they are.

  • Revan46

    People can be so ridiculously stingy and closed-minded.

  • Snapper59

    What’s the difference between Sharon Needles having said that and a white supremacist having said it?
    Contrary to what all the free-wheeling minds here think, in certain countries in Europe it is a crime to publicly glamorize the Nazi regime. And people made a stink about Justin Bieber at the Anne Frank House.

  • ronavila

    “a comment in front of the journalists and cameras that she was happy to be in Vienna, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler” was not factual. Braunau am Inn Austria is where Adolph was born, not Vienna Austria. Would Sharon have been able to perform if she’d gotten it right or is it verboten to mention that Hitler was Austrian?
    Sharon’s not stupid she’s a comedienne and pushing the envelope is what comediennes do. Wish she’d waited to do it at the main venue. Rock on Ms. Needles. Stick it to ’em!


    She is supposed to be an GLBT ambassador…not the AVON “lady” of personal opinion!

  • Merv

    As others said above, it’s the prerogative of the court jester to say outrageous things that might make some people uncomfortable. If they didn’t want that, they shouldn’t have invited her in the first place. They can’t really claim ignorance since her drag name is pun on an unsanitary practice that caused the deaths of thousands during the plague years.

  • TommyG

    so she only has a problem with the event appropriating Middle Eastern culture only after shes been kicked out. How convenient. No doubt Sharon would have laughed at the idea of cultural appropriation if she had NOT been kicked out. What a phony.

  • Ellipse Kirk

    A bit insensitive, but…… last summer I was in western Austria, in a cute little mountain village. Daytrips to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. At the cute little church in the village, a big old shrine to fallen Nazi soldiers. Well, they were their husbands, sons and fathers, and awful war aside they were loved and missed..

    Given that the Austrians aren’t too sensitive to cash in on history, (Germany & Berlin wallow in it) this was an overreaction to a tacky comment. Say something we don’t like & you’re on the first plane home? Sounds a tad totalitarian to me.

    Know that I do love Austria & Germany, and in no way believe that they are now Nazis. But the war is 70 years past, we all need to start looking forward. By all means, keep the neo-Nazis in check, but let’s keep going in the 21st Century.

  • davegun2

    I always did like an inappropriate Nazi joke.

  • mintedroyal

    First off I am Jewish and the grandson of a camp survivor, Dachau to be exact, who is of Austrian decent and I was not offended by her remark. Most of Europe was either silent or co-conspirators with the Nazi’s…with that being said, half the “touchiness” we see from Europeans comes from a place of collective guilt, understandable and while I am sure they are well meaning…its miss placed..Rock On Sharon

  • queertypie

    If Mel Brooks had said that; would they have sent him home?

  • Snapper59

    It’s GERY KESZLER (not “Gary”) and he’s the founder of the AIDS fundraiser “Life Ball” and according to the story he’s also the one who got pissed and personally sent her home.

  • MartinNYID

    PRECISELY why I have always loathed these elitist, translucent circuit events – all set up for a self-perpetuating hierarchy, on the backs of AIDS victims.

  • MartinNYID

    @mintedroyal: yep. Silence = Death. Funny that.

  • QJ201

    Clearly Life Ball didn’t know who they were booking…Sharon jokes about the Devil and Satanism, but mentioning a fact, Hilter was born in Austria, is too much?

  • philipj999

    Freedom of speech is probably the most misunderstood concept ever. The clause prohibits the United States government from banning speech it does not agree with. However the clause only applies in the US and only to the government. People are always free to say whatever they want. Private businesses and citizens can impose whatever rules on speech they choose, and take whatever legal action they want. It certainly does not apply in foreign countries. If you are an American (and I am)traveling abroad, leave the arrogance at home. Always remember you are a guest in a foreign country. Their house, their rules.


  • Shadeaux

    @viveutvivas PERFECT!!! LOL

  • ScaryRussianHeather

    Oh she’s so ~transgressive and edgy. Get some new material Sharon – you’re no Lenny Bruce. Maybe you need to sober up. “Giving them a history lesson”? LOL ok.

    According to Willam on NNN’s site with this story:

    “The joke that she told “you hear the one about the baby with AIDS? It never gets old” wasn’t mentioned in this and appalled a lot of people we were traveling with. Love her but ****. Know your crowd.”

    She had the opportunity to do something REALLY relevant during her season when Ru asked about her Tammy Faye tattoo and she punked out with some dumb crap about only knowing she had great mascara instead of addressing Tammy’s support of the LGBT community disregarding her Christian side…which Ru, as her good friend has done since, like forever. Sharon has nothing to offer let alone be significant to culture or history like she thinks she is.

  • Rickey

    How ridiculous! That was funny!! I guess they don’t show anything by Seth MacFarlane in Vienna either!

  • fabulous wonder twins

    “Needles was one of the first off the plane and made a comment in front of the journalists and cameras that she was happy to be in Vienna, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler.”

  • fabulous wonder twins

    “Needles was one of the first off the plane and made a comment in front of the journalists and cameras that she was happy to be in Vienna, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler.”

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