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EDITORIAL The Mixer

Gaystrychef Celebrates 1 Year Anniversary Of Living In NYC

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL


Adam Ross AKA Gaystrychef Celebrates

1 Year In NYC, 2019

Whenever I used to think about living in New York, it was Manhattan that I imagined. I would picture myself working some job in one of the many buildings that line the claustrophobic streets of the city, going home to my partner of many years in our midtown apartment, raising a family of our own; it was the very heteronormative fantasy that I had been told was the life I should plan for. Funny how quickly things can change.

It was after my husband and I had separated (yes, I was married) that I found myself living in Provincetown, aimless but happy. That little town by the sea is a beautiful escapist dream from real life. It’s easy to live there and work like crazy during the summer, and relax all winter with the other year-rounders. It is much harder, though, to find a stable living situation, and a job with growth potential; the best thing about living in Provincetown though, wasn’t the busy summer or the downtime of winter, but the strong sense of queerness that is ever-present there, and the way that the people who live there support one another and form a small, tight-knit community. When I made the decision to leave town and move to New York, it was this sense of community that I feared losing most. 

Adam with Gizmo

I had been to Bushwick once before moving here; I only knew one person who lived there (we had become close friends over the summer in Ptown) and they had invited me to come visit Brooklyn for my birthday. Over that weekend, I met the people who would become my family here, and they introduced me to queer spaces that opened my eyes to what a queer community looks like that wasn’t insulated, as Ptown is, from the real world but rather flaunts its queerness and loudly dares the world to question it. I danced all night at Spectrum, I sat on the Rosemont patio quietly observing the interactions, I walked the streets in a look and felt safe stomping down Wyckoff in heels – and I was welcomed warmly by everyone I met. I felt a need to live and immerse myself in Bushwick, and more importantly to me, to document the queer scene and culture that is so wonderfully present. I moved here two months later with my dog, my camera, and my desire to dive headfirst into the community comprised of performers, artists, queers, faeries, sex workers, and nightlife organizers that called out to me so strongly.

Since moving here I have become (what I see as affectionately) known as “You with the camera.” I bring my camera with me everywhere, and it feels like there is always some aspect of queer life that justifies documentation; nightlife, specifically, has been my focus. The drag scene in Bushwick is unique and weird and alive in a way that drag never has been to my eyes… it’s more than a solid lip-sync, but the way the performers here fully embody the art of drag. 

I was lucky enough to be at the last party hosted by Casa Diva (yes, I know it wasn’t technically in Bushwick) at which performers owned the floor passionately with reverence for the space that was apparent to me even without knowing them, the crowd emotionally responsive. Boy Radio gave me life as Jack Skellington in his shadowcast of Nightmare Before Christmas (earlier in the year, his Rocky Horror Picture Show party Frank II was one of the first shows I attended, and it was revelatory… I even joined the cast as Eddie for Frank III recently). I was introduced to Oops! (my favorite Wednesday night party, hands down), where Juku, Magenta, and West Dakota shine a light on what drag can be in its most giddily stripped-down (in Juku’s case, usually in a literal sense) form. Sad Songs, hosted by Patti Spliff and her iconic braids, is an outlet for drag performers who embrace the emotion and ennui that is often lacking in nightlife. Untitled Queen is another performer who emotes completely in their art, whether on stage or on paper, and uses their platform to highlight others who might not have a stage (they use ASL in many of their performances, for one example). At Unforgivable Emotional Carnivore, Menthol, Pinwheel, God Complex, and a rotating cast of guest performers do what seems to be stream-of-consciousness drag… it’s disjointed, weird, and utterly captivating.

Mary Con at Dragnet

Tiny Tiger at The Violators Exhibition

Dynasty at Bushwig

Gemma and Lauren at Riis Beach

Serena Tea at Dragnet

Willie Norris

Events such as Dragnet and, on a much larger scale, Bushwig, give performers a chance to showcase their own style of drag. One of my favorite pictures of Serena Tea, who would go on to snatch both the Dragnet and Bushwig crowns, is of her quietly smoking a cigarette before performing at Dragnet, surrounded by the bustling crowd oblivious to the fact that she would burst out shortly in a skintight body suit with the head of a velociraptor. The community goes beyond nightlife and performing though. One of the first exhibits I attended was The Violators, which showcased queer art that had been banned from Instagram (a platform on which queer censorship has been an increasingly noticeable and disheartening reality). During summer, Riis Beach is a safe haven for scantily clad queers of all shapes, sizes, bodies, genders, and colors; the sense of community there is intense and palpable. I found that same community strongly present at the debut runway for designer Willie Norris, who cast his show entirely with queer bodies; the show was uproariously celebratory, and left Norris (snapped here looking tense minutes before opening the doors to the public) emotional and overjoyed.

Patti Spliff

There is so much magic in Bushwick that it’s hard to pin down one aspect that has been the most meaningful to me. It makes me so proud – and so happy – to be a member of the community here and to get to observe, document, and preserve it from behind the lens of my camera; I am continuously overwhelmed by the artistry on display, and by the way the community constantly comes together to support and uplift each other.

I cannot wait to see what the next year living here will bring.

gaystrychef
Adam Ross

Photographer

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Events Festivals The Mixer Timeline

My First Time At Bushwig

THE MIXER | EVENTS


09-07-19

My First Time At Bushwig Festival

You are definitely in for a treat if this is your first time attending Buswhig. Read about Mark Minton’s experience.

The first time I even heard of Bushwig was just before it started last year. I had just moved to New York less than a month prior and was paying rent to sleep on a couch in a one-bedroom in the South Bronx. Trekking to Brooklyn usually took me longer than an hour, and at the time I was so rattled by the impulsive decision to quit my job in Kansas and move to NYC with minimal savings and no income that I decided to stay home and cry instead of going to what is arguably the best drag fest in New York City.

I now live a 30-minute walk and a seven-minute Uber ride from Knockdown Center, the event space that hosts Bushwig. So this year staying home really wasn’t an option. I had already secured a press pass after accosting Horrorchata at the Bushwig On Top takeover a few days prior at Le Bain, and I was ready to attend a festival dedicated entirely to the art of drag for the first time in my life. 

Molestia Child

The weird thing about Bushwig is that it starts early in the afternoon at around 1 p.m. So when I got out of my Uber five hours later at the corner of Flushing and 55th St., wearing Puma sneakers, a short golden dress I got at a thrift store down the street for eight bucks, no makeup, and the signature patent leather tufted beret I rescued from a stock room at Bloomingdale’s in Soho, I felt strange. There was a draft between my legs. The evening light had not yet waned. Shadowy drivers catcalled as they passed me in their cars. Pedestrians whistled at me from across Flushing Ave. I didn’t want to wear pants to a drag fest, so I wore a dress, but to me that was the bare minimum. I thought I would get out of my Uber, disappear into a swarm of drag queens and kings and in-betweens, and reemerge into the comfort of a moonlit darkness where social norms seem to disappear, or at least sleep. 

It took a moment before I even saw Knockdown Center. I started walking the wrong way, and then I turned around. As people waved and whistled I smiled bashfully and wrapped my arms around my waist to hug myself in reassurance as I crossed the street. The smile said, “I’m in on the joke,” but the body language said, “Holy fuck why does this shit start at 1 p.m.?” But just as soon as I was lost, I found myself in that magical crowd of people in full face and look in the day’s last, gloaming light — wigs down to the ankles, lips overdrawn to the cheek, pads and bodysuits and choruses of “Hey sis!” I had found safety, but now the embarrassment was less that I stood out too much and more that I didn’t measure up to the legions of drag artists who had all shown up with something to show.

Charity Kase

Bimini

Georgia Tasda

After I feverishly gulped down a pair of diminutive $15 tequila sunrises, I lingered by the stage and watched from the back of the crowd as the “London Takeover” segment of the festival got underway. The first artist I watched was Georgia Tasda, who walked the stage with a giant white flag graffiti’d “Fuck Brexit.” My favorite picture of the performance only got the “Fuck” part of the message. The silhouette of the crowd obscured the rest. But “Fuck” to me said it all perfectly enough. “Fuck.” It felt right. Other queens in the act such as Bimini and Charity Kase gave some of my favorite performances of the night and got me thinking about a trip to the UK (feel free to book me for any big upcoming events, London ladies). It was a reminder that drag is like a universal language, bringing people together from all over the planet.

Most of what I do is photograph parties and, more specifically, the attendees of parties. The performances at Bushwig were nonstop, back to back, and after standing stageside for what must have been at least two hours, I felt sated by some of the amazing numbers by artists such as Blake Deadly, God Complex, Violencia Exclamation Point, and Tammie Brown.

Violencia Exclamation Point

I decided it was time to get some food, so I followed some friends to the food trucks in the outdoor commons. The lines were long, the turnaround times were long, and I’d been drinking for about 30 hours straight and had neglected to feed myself. So I left Knockdown with Willie Page and found a cluster of bodegas a few blocks away. On the way we passed a big white clown face built into a white wooden wall. Bushwig felt like it extended beyond Knockdown Center. It somehow seemed like all of Brooklyn, maybe even all of New York City, was eclipsed by the happening of Bushwig. Cashiers asked if there was a party going on. Somehow it was a hard question to answer.

When we got back, I milled through the crowd and found a few friends. Luka Ghost wore his quintessential white Deer Goddess regalia and crouched in a creepy nook I couldn’t divine the purpose of. Basit Shittu and Kylie Smith from the first fully queer season eight cast of Are You The One? just so happened to be wearing neon-green spaghetti-strapped garments that perfectly matched a neon-green spaghetti strap dress that West Dakota wore. They posed for a photo together and talked like old friends, but I think it was truly a coincidence that they were all wearing neon-green outfits with green spaghetti straps. It might have been planned though. I might have been drunk(er) by then. 

Candy Sterling looked hot. Her dancers looked hot. They all posed against a wall with their asses out. It was hot. Serena Tea was dressed like cocktail fish and I snapped a photo of her on the metal stairs of a storage (barn?) unit. She didn’t know and I didn’t know and nobody else knew (I don’t think) that the next night she would be crowned Miss Bushwig 2019. I didn’t know anyone was going to be crowned Miss Bushwig, though. I’m learning more every day.

Luka Ghost

Kylie Smith, Basit Shittu & West Dakota

Candy Sterling and dancers

J Rosa

When we got back, I milled through the crowd and found a few friends. Luka Ghost wore his quintessential white Deer Goddess regalia and crouched in a creepy nook I couldn’t divine the purpose of. Basit Shittu and Kylie Smith from the first fully queer season eight cast of Are You The One? just so happened to be wearing neon-green spaghetti-strapped garments that perfectly matched a neon-green spaghetti strap dress that West Dakota wore. They posed for a photo together and talked like old friends, but I think it was truly a coincidence that they were all wearing neon-green outfits with green spaghetti straps. It might have been planned though. I might have been drunk(er) by then. 

Candy Sterling looked hot. Her dancers looked hot. They all posed against a wall with their asses out. It was hot. Serena Tea was dressed like cocktail fish and I snapped a photo of her on the metal stairs of a storage (barn?) unit. She didn’t know and I didn’t know and nobody else knew (I don’t think) that the next night she would be crowned Miss Bushwig 2019. I didn’t know anyone was going to be crowned Miss Bushwig, though. I’m learning more every day.

MTHR TRSA

Overall, the first night of Bushwig was a night I’ll never forget. As I left, MTHR TRSA (pronounced “Mother Theresa”) was lying in the parking lot eating pretzels with her mouth full, the sharp signature contour of her cheeks dancing to the motions of her insatiable masticating maw. We left Knockdown and J Rosa posed next to corrugated sheet metal and a graffiti’d rape van in a long-sleeved black Calvin Klein shirt and a clown beat. All the way home, Bushwig kept going and going. 

I didn’t make it to the final night of Bushwig because I foolishly decided to stay in Manhattan, and I also didn’t know a Miss Bushwig 2019 crowning was a thing, but throughout the weekend I was amazed by the talent and bravery I witnessed both online and in person at that festival. It was such an amazing space for so many drag artists to come together and show how wide-ranging, diverse, and intrepid the art of drag really is. Let’s just say it’s the actual NYC DragCon.

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