Wigstock: The Movie

Any unsuspecting, superstraight, Reader's Digest-reading, Republican-voting members of the Moral Majority who somehow stumble into a screening of Wigstock: The Movie, perhaps mistaking it for an all-star concert featuring the likes of Dolly Parton, Patti LaBelle, and Elton John, are sure to be shocked as the film begins to roll. The opening, culled from a 1986 short film by the now-deceased Tom Rubnitz, features a wide variety of outrageous transvestites flouncing about downtown Manhattan, partying and parading with good-natured abandon. If the initial culture shock doesn't put these straight-laced people off and they decide to settle in for the remainder of the movie, they just may be forced to confront their phobias and re-examine their sensibilities, for Wigstock is so damn fun and so refreshingly free of chasm-widening agitprop that the filmgoer's only option is to surrender to its considerable charm. Wigstock may just be as revolutionary as the festival from which it stole its name, and if it's widely seen may spread a similar message of love and acceptance. It's hard to hate when being truly entertained. Certainly the crowd of 30,000 who gathered at the Christopher Street Pier for the festival's 10th Anniversary proves this thesis, for though the scene is obviously dominated by gays, it is fleshed out by straights of every type and stripe, young and old, not a small number of whom have taken the time to don outrageous outfits themselves (the whole thing began in 1984, explains longtime emcee the "Lady" Bunny, when a group of drag queens, unwilling to end an exceptionally enjoyable night, began camping it up on the bandstand at Tompkins Square Park). As enjoyable to watch as the many shots of the wild and woolly crowd may be, it is of course the performers who are the stars of this show. Yet while the bigger names on the bill -- RuPaul, Lypsinka, Deee-Lite, and Crystal Waters (in masculine drag) -- put on generally terrific sets (only Deee-Lite is a bit limp), it is the lesser known artists who provide the highlights of the night. Joey Arias does a jaw-dropping impression of Billie Holliday, Candis Cayne does a smashing lip-synch to a recording of Cole Porter's "It's Too Darn Hot," and, most notably, a duo called The Duelling Bankheads sing and dance their way through a hilariously shaggy version of "Born to Be Wild." This is not to say that Wigstock is a perfect film -- it's not. The interviews with performers and rehearsal footageþmuch of it shot on distractingly grainy Super-8 -- are less than enlightening and ultimately unnecessary. And a scene in which the "Lady" Bunny attempts and fails to put a wig on the Statue of Liberty is obviously faked. But these flaws are minor in an otherwise fine film. Many gays who have taken great pains to separate themselves from the swishy stereotype that these queens propagate might find the film both offensive and divisive, but even they might be wise to give in to the spirit of Wigstock. Relax, put political agendas aside for a while, and have a good time. Like that old R&B song goes, "It ain't nothin' but a party."

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