Sharon Needles- the midnight downtown clown
Over the weekend I had a chance to talk to the one, the only, the incredible Sharon Needles. If you don’t know who that is, we can’t be friends. She won this season’s Rupaul’s Drag Race and should win every season because she’s that amazing.
Curt: First let me say that I am such a huge fan!
Sharon- If you were on a ceiling you would be a ceiling fan (laughter)
Curt- (laughing)You are my girlfriends favorite since the beginning and she’s loved you since meet the queens, she is going to the fashion institute and would love to make costumes for you one day!
Sharon- well I love free clothes!
Curt- Done! So tell me about the show, was it harder or easier than you thought?
Sharon- ummm, I don’t know if it was easier or harder but I walked in thinking it would only take like 2 hours to film the show and was shocked and awed at the mundaneness and the ridiculous amount of time it takes to create a 42 minute reality show.
Curt: yeah there’s a whole lot of hurry up and wait in the industry.
Sharon- the phrase on set was “rushing to wait”.
Curt- Exactly! I used to do extra work for the old Beverly Hills 90210 and we would wait 12 hours to dance at the Peach Pit for a 10 minute scene.
Sharon- oh wow, we just did a 90210 themed drag show here in Pittsburgh and I played Brenda Walsh. I recreated the rape hotline episode. It is online but i was a little drunk so it’s not my best but when I’m back home in Pittsburgh and they are only kicking down $50 its not my best work.
Curt- OK, why are you still in Pittsburgh? How come you’re not out here in Los Angeles?
Sharon- well whats LA got that Pittsburgh doesn’t have except for a whole bunch of shriveled, skinny, pretty bitches that make me feel fat and ugly!(laughter) Pittsburgh is America’s best kept secret and I’d like to keep it that way because this is my kingdom and umm Pittsburgh is rough around the edges, poor and really working class and if that’s not Sharon Needles I don’t know what is! You know, right now the industry is kinda working on my terms and the balls in my court and I’m staying right here in the beautiful, rusty city of Pittsburgh. We created such greatness as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Andy Warhol and another famous drag queen Christina Aguilera. I really don’t see anything wrong with staying!
Curt- wow don’t blame ya then, do you still live in the morgue?
Sharon-(laughing) Actually I live in the house of haunt, which is my drag art collector house and yeah I have a $100,000 and I’m still living in one of the shittiest houses in one of the shittiest neighborhoods and I love it!
Curt- So what are you going to do with your winnings? Do you have any plans?
Sharon- I’m going to get so much plastic surgery that Chad Michaels looks normal( we both start laughing) No I don’t know, I’ve never had, not even $1000 in my life that having $100,000 is so unreal to me that I don’t even think about it. I was just online shopping and I saw a jacket that was like $70 and I couldn’t even bring myself to buy it. I don’t know I think I will just let it sit there, although I am buying myself a new used car today. I found a 1972 Bonneville black hearse with a coffin inside it!
Curt- oh that’s awesome! That’s the perfect car for you!
Sharon- it really goes with my current branding but I’m afraid that car is going to pigeon hole me into the new Elvira, which I’m not so I’m kinda feeling bad that I’m not getting this 1980’s cream colored El Camino on Craiglist, I’m really kicking myself. You know the good thing about El Camino’s are that you don’t have to give people rides, there’s no space.
Curt- Yeah but you gotta help everybody move because of the pick up truck back end.
Sharon- Oh no no no, I’ll make up some bullshit lie about weight and danger and time conflicts.
Curt- And what’s wrong with being the new Elvira? I think you’d be a perfect Elvira.
Sharon- because Elvira is Elvira and if I was the new Elvira I couldn’t relish in what America needs and what I need. I need my Elvira! So we’re just going to let her do that job and that bitch hasn’t aged a day, so witty, so beautiful and so relevant I wouldn’t dare put myself in that position. You know it’s like when people say Sharon you are the new Divine, I get so pissy about that statement! I’m like don’t you dare say anything that tragic about Divine!
Curt- You know speaking of Divine, how shocked do you think Divine would be about how mainstream and accepted Drag queens are now?
Sharon- umm I never like to think about what Divine would be like if she was alive, I’m glad she died when she did so that Hollywood machine didn’t throw her into the wood chipper of success and dulled her down and took such a great iconic character, white washing it and turning it into a PG-13, cartoon version of her former self. you know all my idols died at the right time and that’s why their work stands up to this day. So I don’t like to think about that because if Divine was alive today it might not be something pretty.
Curt- Wow, that’s true. Divine was perfect from beginning to end for what she was, who are some of your other idols though?
Sharon- I have idols that have so many different avenues you know because I think to be successful in drag you have to be knowledgeable in so many venues but most definitely as a child was Elvira, and Peggy Bundy and Rhonda Shear from Up All Night and of course in my teens I had idols like GG Allen, Marilyn Manson and characters like that so really who my idols are is such a hard thing to answer. I get my comedic strength from people like Roseanne and Rip Taylor and Joan Rivers, I get my fashion sense from people like Amanda Lepore and Ray Brower and the New York club scene. I get my intelligence from NPR and the local paper that I read everyday. I am absolutely obsessed with talk radio and Sharon Needles is a big collage of pop culture and sub pop culture spanning from all directions.
Curt- See and I think that’s why you were such the fan favorite, because you are so well rounded yet eclectic, were you surprised at the outpouring of support from your fans?
Sharon- Oh yeah, I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with people( laughs) I am flawed…inside and out and I guess the only thing they might identify with is the flaws and the honesty. The one thing in society we all have in common is that we are all flawed and they can see that in me.
Curt- Oh definitely! like you said, its that perfect flaw that allows us to see something in you that we see in ourselves and we can relate to you.
Sharon- I find so much beauty in flaws, the second I see something wrong I instantly love it. Like the name Ruth, I’ll hate it then 30 seconds later it’s my favorite name or I’ll see someone with lipstick on their teeth and I immediately want to replicate it.With Flaw comes change and with change comes good!
Curt- now speaking of change, are you going to change your style? you said you don’t want to be pigeon holed. You’re not planning on changing on us are you?
Sharon- Yes I do plan on changing, any female in this industry and you know Sharon is a female to stay relevant and keep peoples attention you have to re-invent and you do have to change. I am definitely putting an expiration date on this pale monster. To pique interest and excitement and to show variety in my work I do feel like changing. you know I do appreciate artists that don’t change. I call those people cartoons, they found a message and they don’t change it, like Rupaul, Elvira Pee Wee Herman, they are perfect and always look the same but I will get bored if I do that and when i get bored there’s a disconnect in my work and fans notice that disconnect. So in order for me to stay interested I have to change in this industry. Who knows in two years you might see a very tanned, very blonde 80’s bimbo or a punk rock goddess.
Curt- So basically you’re going to give Angelyne a run for her money?
Sharon- Oh she better run! You better run girl!! I’m going to be driving around in my pink hearse and have billboards all over LA.
Curt-(laughing) I see her everyday driving her corvette on my drive home and it never gets old!She’s such a freak show I love it!
Sharon- I am so jealous! I never met her in person and you know I have met huge stars, the other day I ran into Kris Kardassian and Lance Bass right on the street and I was like “hey” No big deal then one day I ran into CarrotTop and I thought I was going to die!
Curt- Do you get out to LA often?
Sharon- Oh yeah, I am in LA quite a bit because of the ball and chain of LOGO on me which is a ball and chain that I love and I’m proud to be a prisoner of and yeah I get back to do filming and when I’m there I try to get as much work and have a night life. I love going to FUBAR and seeing the girls at Rage.
Curt- Well I can’t wait to meet you and like I say my girlfriend is a huge fan and I know she would love to meet you too.
Sharon-(laughing) Well get in line darling!Get in line.
Curt- do you like all the fans coming up to you or has it started getting old yet?
Sharon- NO! Well it goes back and forth… I guess the real answer is no It’s an absolute pleasure to meet every fan who’s ever supported me and I do love it although it is grinding at some times on the psyche to have 400 teenagers pour their souls and their back stories of being bullied and suffering a lot of pain to me. It doesn’t bounce off of me, it really absorbs into me so it sadly can be quite taxing at times.
Curt- so you do get a ton of those emails and messages then, do you try to reach out to them or is it just too many to handle?
Sharon- With my schedule right now and the extreme amount of outpouring, you know my PO Box has to be cleared every other day or there’s just no more room in it and my Facebook and email get 100 or more messages a week just reminding me I’m a pillar for their own personal strength and growth and identity and there’s just no way to answer them all personally so my gift to them is my art and I hope my art speaks for itself and doesn’t need too much explaining. Heavy is the head that wears the crown!
Curt- Were you prepared for any of that when you signed up for the show?
Sharon- No I walked on the show to show everyone how ridiculous and messy and sloppy and fun being a midnight downtown clown was! I never thought it would turn into this GAGA-esque experience.
Curt- (laughing) A midnight downtown clown! I love that expression!!! OK, one final question, your rivalry and cattiness with Phi Phi was scarily entertaining but how real was it?
Sharon- It’s as real as anyone could imagine 2 men dressed up as cartoon women screaming at each other at one in the afternoon could be. Definitely at the time it felt real but then there would be times at night when i went back to my hotel room when I thought “why were two clowns just screaming at each other?” I never attacked Phi Phi, I never did anything but defend myself towards her accusations and you know mainly why I did it was because her portrayal on the show was the standard preppy drag queen and in my eyes she reminded me of the cheerleader in high school picking on the goth girls. When I was in high school I never defended myself, so on the show I knew I didn’t want it to come off on screen that I wasn’t prepared to defend myself because I wanted any kid that saw it to identify with my character and wanted them to know that they need to defend themselves and speak up and finally take control of their own bullying. So any time I screamed at her was supposed to be a social satire on teenage bullying and that kids do need to speak up and stand up for themselves.
Curt- and that’s exactly how it was portrayed that you were standing up to the bullies that so many of us had to fight against.
Sharon-and you know what, on set, the more you scream, the more you get cigarette breaks!
Curt- that’s the perfect tidbit for anyone going into the business to learn and end off on. Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me.
Sharon- Thank you and thank you for being so investigative and interesting in your questioning. I usually get asked the same fucking annoying 20 questions that make me want to throw myself into the wood chipper. Say hi to your girlfriend for me and Happy Halloween and Hail Satan!!!
April 28, 2017
April 13, 2017