Wigstock: New York's other Labor Day tradition (while it lasted)
March 9, 2012 12:57 PM   Subscribe

"I know you are out there, just wanting to put your wig on, just like me. And I know you're just waiting to have a good time. Just put a little ball earring on, a little bad sunglasses, and a big, bad wig on, 'cause it's good. It feels good, works, it does." It is, or was, Wigstock, an annual outdoor drag festival held in NYC, starting in 1985 by "Lady" Bunny and friends. Each year the party grew, moving to Union Square in 1991, then to Christopher Street waterfront in 1994 to deal with the expanding crowd. 2001 was supposed to be the last year, but the party came back in 2003, in conjunction with the annual HOWL festival. That carried the tradition on for another two years, and Wigstock's official website is stuck in 2005, a reminder of the festivities that were. You can reminisce with Gawker, or take a short journey back to 1987 with Wigstock: The Movie (part 1 of 4), not to be confused with the longer film of the same name, capturing Wigstock 1995 (part 1 of 8).
posted by filthy light thief (18 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
There's also a Wigstock in Tel Aviv (mentioned under the header The Revolution Begins). That event raises money for AIDS services in Israel, and has happened since the late 1990s, and continues on, but I couldn't find more than random pictures and video clips.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:01 PM on March 9, 2012

ALSO: Some of the video may have moments that are NSFW, due to flashes of fake boobies (and maybe a few that are real), with nips and such covered up.

Also also: Wigstock: The Movie (1995) is streaming on Netflix.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:03 PM on March 9, 2012

Okay, now I'm gonna have that B-52s song in my head all afternoon.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, this is an awesome post. I'm down by the Christopher St. pier almost every weekend, and have never heard of this.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:19 PM on March 9, 2012

Okay, now I'm gonna have that B-52s song in my head all afternoon.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 PM on March 9

It's this one for me.
posted by Decani at 1:34 PM on March 9, 2012

Wood, Wig, Woot, I'm good with all kinds of Stocks not sold by Wall Street.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:22 PM on March 9, 2012

I have a Wigstock T-shirt from when it was in Tompkins Square Park.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:02 PM on March 9, 2012

Yeah, I went once when it was in Tompkins Square Park, must've been 1990 or so? It was a lot of fun. The only performance I remember vividly, though, was by the singer (Lady Miss Kier) from Deee-Lite, who, of course, isn't a drag queen, just a queen! The drag queens looked fabulous, though.

I'm down by the Christopher St. pier almost every weekend, and have never heard of this.

We are almost always wandering through places of historic interest, but we rarely know the history.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:01 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Great fun Friday night post, thanks.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:14 PM on March 9, 2012

I am so happy for this post because it is an excuse to gush over Dina Martina who gave an amazing performance at Wigstock.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:18 PM on March 9, 2012

Leigh Bowrey's birthing scene from the Wigstock documentary is a moment of performance art not to be missed, or forgotten, and probably NSFAnyone.
posted by hippybear at 5:33 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I guess that would be from the longer 1995 movie.
posted by hippybear at 5:34 PM on March 9, 2012

I lived near Tompkins Sq. when they were still doing it there - those were some great days. Thanks for the nostalgia trip.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:24 PM on March 9, 2012

the midget playing the redbook reporter in Lipsynka's performance is about 15 levels of offensive, and about 28 levels of genius.

two things about lee bowery:

a) that he appeared to birth a biological woman--think about that, performative femminity in high camp theatorical make up (and panto white face at that) gives birth to woman kind and not vice versa
b) that it was done at night, after hours of performance, in a park with an audience of hundreds--that it was constucted as entertainment, or played as enterainment , and not at a night club (as cabaret, as politics or as theater) or at a gallery (as religious attempts at secularizing the abject)

great great doc, btw !
posted by PinkMoose at 9:29 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

You left out that it was done to a pastiche of a Beatles song which was only altered enough to get around copyright infringement.

It's a truly amazing performance art piece, one which I've respected since I first saw it. The biting-through of the umbilical cord truly pushed it over into genius.
posted by hippybear at 10:01 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I always loved Taboo's performance.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:58 PM on March 9, 2012

And Bowery was easily 110-130 years ahead of his time. Poor fellow, to be stuck in the era he was in.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:03 AM on March 10, 2012

I have so many Wigstocks under my belt - I can hardly remember which memorable performances were when!

- YES, I remember that Lady Miss Kier performance from Tompkins Square Park!

- I'm pretty sure that same year Varla Jean Merman did a superlative rendition of "Que Sera Sera," but I could have the year wrong.

- My first Wigstock must have been at Union Square. Was that the year the party continued at The Palladium? Memory fails at this point...

- Lady Bunny is one of the most wonderful of people I have ever known. Both Bunny and RuPaul started off in the same scene in Atlanta (cue the B-52's.) They are both super special, although it annoys me that Bunny is not the more well-known of the two. Regardless, I imagine they are both happy in their lives...

As I type this, I can HEAR Bunny exclaiming, "Oh, Honey!" After Bunny came to prominence and started heading the scene (by default of talent and personality, not by trying too hard) Michael Alig came to popularity and The Club Kids kinda took over the scene - except Bunny remained above the fray. A true diplomat, she stayed above it all and relevant throughout those turbulent drug-fueled times. A shout out here to DJ Michael T, who I also think transcended those Dark Times admirably.


Bunny, should you read this, you've always been one of my Heros. I worked with you at Limelight.

I never held more respect for anyone else in our scene. You're a cut above. Always were, always will be.

Thank you for everything.
posted by jbenben at 12:54 AM on March 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

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