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‘Wigstock’ Is A Fun Look At New York’s Annual Drag-Queen Festival

All of you who are made uncomfortable by obvious displays of homosexuality, transvestism and other variations on the Lifestyles of the Lewd and Lascivious, stop reading now.

No, I really mean it. Stop reading.

Because I’m about to start praising a short, little movie that celebrates men dressing up like women. It’s called “Wigstock: The Movie” and it is a documentary on the annual New Yorkbased drag queen festival that attracts gay performers of all shapes, sizes and levels of talent.

Directed by Barry Shils, “Wigstock: The Movie” recalls the 1990 documentary “Paris Is Burning,” which was less a celebration of drag queens than a study of the lifestyle. So while that movie was a lesson in cultural anthropology, “Wigstock: The Movie” is mere entertainment.

Playing like “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” it features such performers as RuPaul, Lypsinka, the “Lady” Bunny, Joey Arias and actors Jackie Beat and Alexis Arquette.

And for the first half, at least, the film hops on as some of these performers - lip-syncers and singers alike - strut their stuff on a makeshift stage in front of a sympathetic crowd. Whether we’re watching Candis Cayne lip-sync to “It’s Too Darn Hot,” Perfida warble the salsa tune “Welcome to Havana” or Arias do a dead-on impersonation of blues legend Billie Holiday, the music moves and the dancers do too.

The movie is less successful when it attempts to go behind the scenes. Sequences involving gay actors Alexis Arquette (brother of Rosanna and Patricia) and Jackie Beat feel staged, even if the reactions to them by baseball-capped tourists do not.

Phony-feeling, too, is the phone call made by Wigstock organizer the “Lady” Bunny to inquire whether it would be possible to fit the Statue of Liberty with a wig.

And we never get to really know any of these people the way we did in “Paris Is Burning,” although we do get to see Lypsinka in performance and rehearsal and without makeup. “Wigstock: The Movie” is not about context; it’s about fun.

Several references are made, of course, to Woodstock, from the “Lady” Bunny warning the crowd about the “bad acid” to a Joni Mitchell impersonator singing a revised version of the song honoring Max Yasgur’s farm. And director Shils and crew get some Big Apple residents on camera to talk and/or scream about tolerance and such stuff.

But the film is best when it stays on or near the stage, even when some special celeb such as RuPaul is self-indulgently challenging the audience to follow its dream, or a performer named Leigh Bowery actually does a birth-of-sorts on stage.

“It’s Wigstock’s first baby,” he-she says.

And as the nude faux baby with nipple rings is led off-stage, one thought is bound to linger for most of us:

My, God, can things get any stranger?

, DataTimes MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: “Wigstock: The Movie” *** Location: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Directed by Barry Shils, featuring RuPaul, Lypsinka, Alexis Arquette, Jackie Beat, Misstress Formika, Crystal Waters, the “Lady” Bunny, Deeelite, Joey Arias and John Kelly. Running time: 1:15 Rating: R

Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Wigstock”: Caryn James/New York Times: “Wigstock: The Movie” is not much as a film, but it works as a glitzy, lively, lovingly made show. William Arnold/Seattle Post-Intelligencer: If you love drag queens, you’re going to love this movie. … As a documentary, “Wigstock” is not especially wellorganized, it offers no illuminating commentary to go with the images and, after the original novelty wears off, the acts eventually seem amazingly repetitious and unimaginative. Jackie Potts/Miami Herald: What “Wigstock: The Movie” has to say, mostly, is “You GO, girls.”

These sidebars appeared with the story: “Wigstock: The Movie” *** Location: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Directed by Barry Shils, featuring RuPaul, Lypsinka, Alexis Arquette, Jackie Beat, Misstress Formika, Crystal Waters, the “Lady” Bunny, Deeelite, Joey Arias and John Kelly. Running time: 1:15 Rating: R

Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Wigstock”: Caryn James/New York Times: “Wigstock: The Movie” is not much as a film, but it works as a glitzy, lively, lovingly made show. William Arnold/Seattle Post-Intelligencer: If you love drag queens, you’re going to love this movie. … As a documentary, “Wigstock” is not especially wellorganized, it offers no illuminating commentary to go with the images and, after the original novelty wears off, the acts eventually seem amazingly repetitious and unimaginative. Jackie Potts/Miami Herald: What “Wigstock: The Movie” has to say, mostly, is “You GO, girls.”



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