The Legacy of Peaches Christ’s Showgirls

by Jason LeRoy (@ExcessFaggage) | Photos of Peaches by Ashlynn Danger Danielsen

After first putting Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 opus Showgirls on the map as a cult classic in 1998 with a midnight screening at the Bridge Theatre, drag icon Peaches Christ has celebrated it every single year since. Her unforgettable pre-shows have transformed from scrappy no-budget midnight spectacles into lavish, star-studded primetime affairs at the Castro Theatre.

And while Peaches will continue celebrating Showgirls one way or another for the rest of her life — particularly as the acclaimed stage musical she directed last summer at the Victoria Theatre — this 20th annual celebration of the film will mark the end of an era: the final classic pre-show/screening presentation offering free lap-dances with every large popcorn. Peaches isn’t going anywhere, nor are her other movie tributes throughout the year. But her signature show is popping out of that Goddess volcano just one more time: May 20 at the Castro Theatre, at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale at peacheschrist.com.

To commemorate this landmark occasion, we gathered a select group of cast and crewmembers from the last 20 years of Peaches Christ Showgirls tributes to reflect on the crazy times, the crazier times, and yes, on occasion, even the craziest times.

Our panel:

Rena Riffel: actress, “Penny/Hope” in the film Showgirls;
star/writer/director, Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven;
interview guest; pre-show guest star, “Penny/Hope and Nomi”
Rory Davis: pre-show choreographer
Lady Bear: lap-dancer and pre-show costar, “Henrietta Bazoom”
L. Ron Hubby: Goddess ghoul and lap-dancer
Sam Sharkey: pre-show assistant director

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear Showgirls?

Rena Riffel: Dancer!
Rory Davis: Fajitas!
Ron Hubby: “Art.”
Sam Sharkey: Svelte. This describes the image that first comes to mind, of Elizabeth Berkley’s slinky leg on the poster. It catches the eye until it reaches the top, revealing the Medusa’s gaze of Peaches Christ’s superimposed head. It’s truly representative of the way the film is celebrated: a perversion of perversion.
Lady Bear: Seriously? Which is what I still say to myself after certain scenes. As in, seriously? A major studio though this was a good idea?

What do you remember about the first time you watched Showgirls the film?

Rory: A friend of mine ordered it on pay-per-view and sold illegal bootleg copies on VHS to all the boys in my school. Turns out I was the only guy who bought one for the choreography.

L. Ron Hubby: I saw it at Midnight Mass at the Bridge Theater in 2001. And I got a lap dance from Troll Girl! It was my first Midnight Mass show and my first time seeing Showgirls. I was hooked.

Sam: My first experience of Showgirls was filtered through adolescent gossip. The movie came out as I was entering high school and still watching Saved by the Bell reruns. It was a total shock that Elizabeth Berkley would play such a role, and hearing that she was fully nude blew my hormone-addled mind. For years, my experience of the movie was in still frames and short clips. I had not seen the entire movie until a screening at Midnight Mass, which was the perfect way to experience it. Witnessing so much revelry around it, the popular and critical rejection of the movie never took hold with me.

Lady Bear: I never saw it in theaters, but I remember it being on in the background at gay house parties. Try it, it’s a great conversation starter! It was passed from friend to friend on DVD like, “Oh girl, you have got to see this!” And then they would watch it and get back to you like, “OH GIIIIIRRRLLLL you were right!” and then talk about it and trade quotes. From an anthropological perspective, it’s kind of a shared gay tribal oral history: something you share and enjoy only with those close to you. It brings people together, or at least the cool ones. It’s part of the culture of smart, sardonic queers. It also helps you spot the squares. If they don’t “get” Showgirls, they aren’t cool.

Rena, you were one of the first original cast members from Showgirls to come to a Peaches Christ production. How did you get involved?

Rena: Around 1998 or 1999, a friend informed me that Peaches Christ was putting on a huge midnight movie screening of Showgirls in San Francisco where people dressed up as the characters and drag queens were performing. I was extremely interested and immediately wanted to see and be a part of it! That was when I first heard of Peaches Christ and realized that she’d given Showgirls a new lease on life. That’s also when I realized that people actually must like the movie. Before then, we cast members didn’t think anyone really did.

Peaches invited myself and Patrick Bristow (Marty) to do a Q&A on stage back when it took place at the Bridge. It was after Patrick, Lin Tucci (Henrietta Bazoom), and I got our handprints cemented out front of the Vista Theatre in Hollywood celebrating MGM’s Showgirls box set release. I was making it known that I wanted to be part of the Showgirls afterlife, since other cast members were shying away from the film at that time. But a few years later I returned to actually perform alongside Peaches in the pre-show, which is one of the highlights of my entire career. It was so exciting to be a part of the beautiful heightened energy and celebration that Peaches creates.

You’re the only actress in the world who can say she’s been directed by both Paul Verhoeven and Peaches Christ. How would you compare them?

Rena: The quality that comes to mind is that they’re each very nurturing. Both Paul Verhoeven and Peaches Christ are wonderfully collaborative and open to actors and performers bringing their own ideas or interpretations of a script. They enjoy the contributions of the talent in their productions, which gives you the artistic freedom to express your individuality. And both are very encouraging, giving the talent working under their direction a lot of self-confidence in their artistic expression and creative choices.

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What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen at a Showgirls show?

Rena: I was very impressed when L. Ron pulled those flags from somewhere under the lower part of her costume. That was commitment!

Sam: L. Ron at the Bridge. I was in the front pit as crew and she pulled those flags out right above me. Nobody knew it was coming, and now nobody can forget that it happened.

L. Ron Hubby: Well, it was pretty crazy when Martiny actually pushed Peaches down the stairs for real at the Castro Theatre. Then she stood at the top of the stairs and laughed and laughed, scream-laughing almost, like a wretched, flawed screamin’ demon, as the cops carried her off into the night. But I’m not supposed to talk about that. Actually, never mind. This part’s off the record, right?

Lady Bear: Well that would have to be Raya Light’s most recent lapdance performance as “Raquel Felch,” when she squatted onstage at the Castro and felched a martini glass full to the brim with an unknown substance while 1,500 screaming fans lost their minds. The level of showmanship was unsurpassed. The craziest thing about it was really that good ol’ “hot dog down a hallway” Raya still has that much control over her sphincter.

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Aside from L. Ron, who have been your favorite lap dancers over the years?

Rory: I might be biased, but Michael Phillis lap-dancing as Jodie Fosters’ “Nell” guaranteed him a spot in hell and I loved it.

Sam: There have been so many amazing lap-dancers, I could not pick a favorite. But one that sticks out for me as the most transgressive, unexpected, rude, and hilarious is Downey, a special needs girl. She stood there in her nylon windbreaker tracksuit holding a big bag of potato chips, then shuffled out to the audience to “slow” dance for people. Totally inappropriate.

L. Ron Hubby: It’s probably a tie between Downey with her bag of Sun Chips, and Troll Girl, who was just so hilarious. She was like a rabid party-animal caricature in a big flowery dress.

Lady Bear: The lap-dancing at Showgirls is really one of the most fun and creative drag moments of the year. It’s the Booger Ball: full contact and no holds barred! I’ll give you a top five.  1) L. Ron (because patriotism); 2) Michael Phillis for his sexy “Nell” impression (sexualizing Nell is the definition of wrong); 3) Sam Sharkey for “The King” (spank bank); 4) Angie Myma for dressing like an escaped slave, complete with leg chains, and Sandra O’Noshi Didn’t for dressing like her mom, an old Asian lady picking up bottles and cans to recycle (because…hilarity?); 5) Suppositori Spelling as “sexy Gollum.” Real art makes you ask questions, and the people who got a Gollum lapdance are probably still asking a lot of them.

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What’s your favorite backstage/behind-the-scenes Showgirls show memory?

Rory: For each Peaches show (and I’ve done a lot), the backstage world really starts to resemble the film we are spoofing. We live in that world so intensely for that week that during Grey Gardens, Jinkx Monsoon and Peaches do really start to feel like a mother-daughter pair. For Showgirls, the backstage energy gets slightly catty and competitive. I won’t name names, though. Unless you pay me.

Sam: When we took the show on tour in New York City, we were in a multiplex-style auditorium that had no stage, lights, or proscenium. So, Peaches had to hide behind the volcano for almost 45 minutes so the audience wouldn’t see her enter. She was basically stuck in a crouched position with no way of communicating with anybody, and was completely infuriated by the time she popped out. It was hilarious.

L. Ron Hubby: Posing with Patrick Bristow and Rena Riffel on the floor in the lobby of the Bridge. Doing all the ridiculous stretching/warm-up moves in the back of the Bridge with Syphilis Diller, then running down the aisles. Practicing the angry showgirl-vs.-angry showboy dance with Michael Phillis.

Rena: I love getting into costume, getting my hair and makeup done, and sitting in that little dressing room before the show. I also loved having Kegel Kater do my makeup before the show and transform me into Nomi Hope. The rehearsals are so much fun, too. The whole experience is my favorite. Standing backstage with Peaches right before we’re about to take the stage, hearing the packed house waiting with anticipation. I look up at Peaches, looking glorious as Cristal while she adjusts her costume to make sure everything is in place, then she turns to me and smiles. It’s showtime!

How have the show and audience changed over the years?

Rory: The show has obviously grown in ambition and size. I adored the Bridge show when I first saw it; loved the anarchic anything-goes spirit. I think we’ve done a great job of maintaining that chaos while including polished production numbers, guest stars like Alaska Thunderfuck, and pulling off an acclaimed full-scale musical.

Sam: The production value of the show seems to have increased exponentially. We’re able to do more sets, more scenes, and work with more performers as the shows have gotten bigger and longer. I get a feeling that there is also broader cultural acceptance of the movie. Even so, it seems the audiences now come more for the live performance spectacle than the film screening. While it’s still exciting to watch the screening, there was something special about being in the 400-seat Bridge where the wild energy and excitement for the film was felt by every single attendee.

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Rena
: Peaches continues to make each new show more and more spectacular than the previous years’, so there’s always a surprise as to what she has in store. The audience is still so enthusiastic every time they see the pre-show and watch the movie! But another thing that has changed for sure: we’re all 20 years older than when it all started.

L. Ron Hubby: Well, I think it’s more about how San Francisco’s changed than anything else. Everything’s gotten so much more expensive. I remember a lot more people yelling out funny things at the screen. I hope they didn’t all get priced out of the city and can still afford to go to the show.

What do you think will be the legacy of 20 consecutive years of Showgirls tributes?

Rory: It usually takes at least a decade for a film to attain the so-bad-it’s-good status. Peaches really was a visionary for knowing almost immediately that Showgirls would become the cult sensation that it is. And I think we all know that it wouldn’t have that status if Peaches didn’t create this world of worship for the film 20 years ago.

Sam: I don’t think we’ll ever be able to calculate the full impact that this has had. There have been thousands and thousands of people who have experienced the film as part of this radical celebration. It’s certainly put the movie on the map, and I think it will live in cult cinema textbooks alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Rena: Free lapdances with every large popcorn! Peaches’ Showgirls has brought so much joy to thousands of people and has created an event that celebrates both Showgirls and Showgirls fans. Peaches is the only one in the world to do 20 consecutive Showgirls shows, and she’ll forever be a part of the Showgirls legacy.


Peaches Christ Productions Proudly Presents
The Full Frontal Farewell: The Final Annual Screening of
SHOWGIRLS

Night of 1,000 Showgirls Returns
With All Your Favorite Lapdancers of the Last 20 Years!
As always, FREE Lap-dances with every large popcorn

The Castro Theatre, Saturday May 20th

This event marks Peaches Christ’s 20th Annual screening of the best movie ever made and in honor of such an important anniversary, Peaches promises an XXX-tra special Goddess Spectacular pre-show celebration!

Get tickets at PeachesChrist.com

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