Cuckoo for Coco
riots were started by drag queens, so it’s fitting
that the gay TV revolution should be led by one. Drag
diva Miss Coco Peru (a.k.a. Clinton Leupp), star of
the indie hits Trick and Girls Will Be
Girls, taped a performance June 7 as a comedy
special for Logo. I taped a special the same night,
but I thought it’d be tacky to write an entire column
about myself. During a break from rehearsals Miss Coco
and I found ourselves talking about hopes, dreams, and
of course drag.
What was the genesis of your performing as Coco?
In my early 20s, I thought, Who am I? A big
fag with a Bronx accent. I’m never going to
be cast in anything. The only way I’m ever going
to make it is if I write my own shows. I
attended my first ACT UP meeting and there was so much
rage. I left thinking, I respect these people, I
love that ACT UP exists, but as a person just coming
out I couldn’t take their rage on. This made me
feel very guilty. I had to do something. I thought
I’d do what I’d always done—change
people’s minds about who I was by telling
stories about my life and my family. I wanted to
challenge the audience by coming out in drag and by the end
have them forget that I’m wearing a dress.
What is it about drag that attracts people?
Human beings are hard-wired to respect courage.
I think when people see someone in drag they recognize
the sense of self and the personal freedom in it. I
sometimes like going to Borders Books or the supermarket in
drag. It’s wonderful. Drag cuts through the bullshit
about who’s on your side and who’s not.
And I’m always pleasantly surprised by the response.
Usually it’s a smile because they recognize me, a
request for a makeup tip, or some guy thinks
I’m a tranny hooker and asks for my phone number.
On the other hand, why are people so repelled by an
overtly effeminate man?
There really is no role for the effeminate man
in society. We’re not valued. I wanted to do
drag to reclaim that. I’d ride the New York City
subway in drag and never get harassed. But one time I rode
dressed as a boy with just my face on and I was called
a fag. It’s like you have to go to the edge to
have people respect you. There’s a lot of shame about
this in our community. I’ve called guys whose
voices on their machine sound nothing like they do in
person because they’re butching it up. I always
thought it’d be great to have one week of the year
where gay people didn’t go to work. Just the
women alone who couldn’t get their hair done
would set the nation screaming. And you know straight guys
with the flu who were sick as dogs would show up to
work just to prove they weren’t gay.
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