Drag queen Satine Harlow is facing backlash for performing the satirical number “Springtime for Hitler” while dressed as a Nazi SS officer at the scandal-plagued Philadephia gay bar ICandy.
For those familiar with the number from the original Mel Brooks movie The Producers, the Broadway musical based on the Brooks film, or the Nathan Lane/Matthew Broderick film based on the Broadway musical, it is indeed a send-up meant to be in particularly poor taste. But patrons of ICandy who saw Harlow’s Instagram story — in which he posted a pic of the swastika on his back with the caption “Heil Hitler” with no context — were not convinced the performer was being satirical during Monday's performance, especially considering ICandy’s history of racism.
Patrons protested ICandy in October 2016 after a tape surfaced of the owner Darryl DePiano repeatedly using the n word to refer to people of color. Once the tape was released, DePiano said, “I am so sorry for my stupid and offensive actions." The revelation sparked a citywide discussion on racism in the gay community; bar owners and staff were forced by city officials to take part in diversity training.
Regarding Ziker's performance, one audience member who preferred to remain anonymous so as not to be associated with the bar, told Philadelphia magazine, “When I saw the musical number I realized Satine was inspired by the Broadway musical The Producers. But when I checked Satine’s Instagram page, how they promoted themselves was a different story.”
Ann Artist, another local drag queen, commented on Ziker’s choice to perform at the bar whose owner has a history of tossing around racial slurs.
“I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. Choosing to perform at ICandy is a political statement,” Artist wrote on social media, according to the magazine. “Given the fact that this is the stance these performers choose I’m never surprised when they do anything that’s tacky and in poor taste like this. This level of bad taste is reflected in the name of the establishment and mirrored through the irreverence the performers have for their fellow community members.”
But Harlow — whose real name is Eric Ziker and who identifies as Jewish — doubled down on his performance.
“Are people really freaking the fuck out about a Jewish gay man doing an iconic number from a musical? Jesus Christ. Lighten the fuck up. It’s drag,” Ziker wrote in an Instagram story. “We’re professional, some of us, pigs in wigs. Breathe. I stand by what I did…and if you disagree, unfollow me because you have no sense of humor.”