New Times spoke with Mark Alan Smith, emcee and founder of the Glamour Boyz, who will be hosting a drag show at Downtown Brew from 7 to 9 p.m. on July 3, in honor of Central Coast Pride 2008.
NEW TIMES How did you get started in show biz?
SMITH I started back in 1979. I didn’t go professional until ‘84. It takes a while. And it was a dare from some of my high school buddies. Just to get on stage. So, I got on stage and I’ve been on it ever since. I was already a comedian and a singer. I was part of drama clubs all my life but about two months after graduation I was dared to do it so I got up on stage and performed in a contest, and I placed second my first time so I kept going.
- PHOTO BY ANDREW KYLE PRODUCTIONS
SMITH I started the Glamour Boyz back in 1991. I used to have a show here in Dallas, a weekly show with the Glamour Boyz, and I would only have one or two special guests. When I stopped working at that venue then I put Glamour Boyz away and I did not start bringing them back until a couple years ago. With my connections, after being in the business for so many years, I thought that I could bring America’s top entertainers to SLO for their pride event. I told them I have a show called Glamour Boyz and we’re a couple of female impersonators. It’s all totally different entertainers [this year], except for one. Mr. Larry Edwards, he was here last year.
NEW TIMES So, SLO is the performance home of the Glamour Boyz?
SMITH For now. I travel all over the world and I do my own one-man shows, and it’s kind of hard to put in other entertainers when they’re strictly booking a one-man show. When people do say that they’d like to have a show with other entertainers, then I introduce Glamour Boyz to them.
NEW TIMES So the Glamour Boyz is a rotating cast?
SMITH Right. I’m the main entertainer because it’s primarily my show. I’m the emcee, the singer, the comedian and I hire other people to do illusions. Like this year Mr. Larry Edwards from Las Vegas does Tina Turner. He’s a world renowned Tina Turner impersonator. He’s amazing. And I also have Kohl Faulkner, also known as Tasha Kohl, who is a former Miss Gay America. He is a comedian, as well, and he does rock and he’s beautiful and amazing on stage. And then the other is Freddy Cortez, known as the Sweet Savage. Freddy and I began our careers together down in South Texas way back in 1980.
NEW TIMES You don’t lip sync?
SMITH No I do not. Most female impersonators in America lip sync. There are very few of us live performers
- PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY EDWARDS
SMITH I know them all. I’ve worked with these gentlemen for a long time and they’re exceptional. Just because I don’t lip sync doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect for the individuals that do it. After last year’s performance the word got out about the Glamour Boyz show in SLO so I had several imitators call me and say “we wanna go, we wanna go, we wanna go.” Most of the guys that I hire have been in the business as long as I have, in fact longer. But we’ve all been friends for over 20 years and we’ve all been working together for over 20 years. This is the first time that all four of us would have been on a stage together at the exact same time in 10 years, so this is like a big family reunion. And we’re all very excited that we get to come back and be together after all these years.
NEW TIMES What can people expect from this show?
SMITH I’m pretty much basic. For the longest time I used to have these huge elaborate costumes and someone said to me, ‘you’ve got the talent to back it up, you don’t need to go all out.’ They said ‘take your wigs and take your voice’ and so that’s what I basically do. With me, you’ll get live singing, vocal impressions, and comedy. With Mr. Larry Edwards they will get Tina Turner. It’s as if you’re going to see her in concert. With Kohl Faulkner, they will get comedy and rock music or they might get a character, depending on what he wants to do, but it will be very, very entertaining. And with Sweet Savage, Freddy Cortez, they are going to get dancing, and when I say dancing, he is like a tornado on stage. Literally. He is unstoppable. They’re all incredible.
NEW TIMES What is the key to capturing the essence of whoever you’re dressing and performing as?
SMITH I don’t know what it is for others but for me it just happens. I’ve been very blessed; I was given a talent and once I had it the characters just came to me. I never rehearse them. If I’ve seen them on TV or if I’ve seen movies about them, it’s like playing piano by ear. I can hear the song once and go back and play it. It’s the same with my characters. It just happens. A lot of times in my show people will just start yelling out characters, trying to stump me, but I never get stumped. I’m very improvisational.
NEW TIMES Do you have a favorite star to imitate?
SMITH No. Actually, I love all of them. Now my audiences do. The audience really loves Cher. They love Bette Midler, Bette Davis, Tina Turner. I do about 65 people, but unfortunately there are some characters that have to be done in a certain venue. Like, audiences enjoy that I do Judy and Liza, but I do Judy and Liza singing cabaret together so it’s always upbeat. But if I was to strictly do Judy, it would have to be a venue where there was a piano player, where people were sitting down and paying attention to her because there is so much to Judy Garland. Barbara Streisand’s the other one that I would have to do in that type of venue, because when you’re doing justice to people like Judy and Barbara, it has to be pretty much dead on. It’s not that I disrespect any of my other characters, but, when you do Tina Turner you can have the loud music and perform like she does and all people want to do is hear and see it. I do love doing Bette though, I have a really good time doing Bette Midler because you can say and do anything you want and get away with it. I also do cartoon characters and muppets, as well, like Eric Cartman from South Park. He comes in and sings with Patsy Cline a lot.
NEW TIMES That’s an interesting combo.
SMITH It is and I was in the middle of the song “Crazy” by Patsy Cline and someone yelled out Eric Cartman. So he sang the next verse and people were just screaming and laughing, and I was laughing to the point that I almost couldn’t finish the song because I thought it was pretty hilarious. I will always do a nice tribute song to Patsy and then just screw it up the next song with Eric Cartman in it. So I’ve kept it as part of the show. Same with Kermit the Frog.
NEW TIMES I read that you were trained to do hair and make-up. Do you do your own for shows?
SMITH I always do my own hair and makeup. The only training I did was just by being in the business for so long and watching the professionals. At the other end of the female impersonation business, they go to a lot of contests, and when they go to these contests they hire a lot of make-up artists and hair designers, so just by being backstage all those years and watching I picked up a lot of the tricks of the trade. That is how I got trained, by watching the professionals.
NEW TIMES Different performers seem to have different attitudes about engaging in politics. Given that you are performing at a pride event, what’s your attitude?
SMITH We all have our own individual beliefs in the gay community. I have different beliefs on gay marriage than most of my friends, but we all stand for the idea that every gay man, woman, and child should have rights. Very seldom do I stand on the stage and speak openly about what I believe in as part of America’s gay community. However, if I was speaking at a rally or an event—which I have done on occasion—then I speak openly and honestly about what I believe. Just being part of an event such as this, it is us saying that we have rights. I’m a very spiritual human being. In my life God and Jesus are top priority but that’s just for me. It doesn’t work for everybody and my friends and co-workers respect that…Most of the ‘Christians,’ if they were real Christians, then no one and nobody would be told no. They would be allowed to live their life free and independent in this so-called free and independent society.
INFOBOX: Deadly sin or civil right? Who cares? It’s a party!
Central Coast Pride 2008 commences on June 25 with Don Schuette’s original play The Queen, Mr. King and Jack at the Santa Maria Civic Theatre, and concludes July 6 with Pride in the Plaza, featuring live entertainment and an adult beverage garden. One of the highlights will be the Glamour Boyz drag show on July 3 at Downtown Brew, 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets cost $20. For a complete listing of Pride events visit www.slopride.com/ or see page XX of this week’s New Times.
Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach drags her feet, but rarely in heels. Send feathered headgear to firstname.lastname@example.org.