The Steel Dragnolias on the Women Who Shaped Them

by Jason LeRoy (@ExcessFaggage)

In the twenty-plus years that cult film goddess Peaches Christ has written, directed, and starred in drag movie parodies in San Francisco and around the world, she’s paid homage to many films about strong female characters. But in all that time, there’s one ferociously feisty and tear-stained female-driven dramedy that’s been requested by fans again and again: stage and screen classic Steel Magnoliasfeaturing what is arguably movie herstory’s strongest (and cattiest) ensemble of women.

So what’s taken so long? It’s not disinterest! Peaches loves Steel Magnolias as much as anyone, almost as much as she loves giving her fans what they want. There’s just one problem that’s stymied her every time the movie has come up: how would she create an insanely fun and irreverent drag play out of a movie that’s so incredibly emotional and earnest about death and mortality? It’s like the anti-Death Becomes Her!

Well, guess what? She finally figured it out. So if you want to find out how Peaches will put her hilarious trademark spin on one of the biggest tearjerkers ever made, then come to the historic Castro Theatre on May 5, 2018, for the world premiere of Christ’s all-new stage show, “Steel Dragnolias,” featuring six sass-mouthed southern belles throwing more shade than a magnolia tree. Tickets are on sale at peacheschrist.com.

Since Steel Magnolias is an affectionate celebration of women with big hearts and strong personalities, we asked each of the brilliant queens starring in “Steel Dragnolias” to choose a woman from their lives who helped shape them, and nominate them as their own personal Steel Magnolia. Below, learn about the women who helped make some of our favorite queens who they are today.

Alaska Thunderfuck (Anal Dupuy)

alaska_steelWho is your Steel Magnolia and how did she come into your life? My Steel Magnolia is my mother, Pamela.  She came into my life when she gave birth to me!

Why have you chosen her?  Shortly after I was born, my mother and my father got a divorce. At the time he was struggling with substance abuse and, with two young children, my mom bravely faced the unknown and said enough is enough. She met my stepdad, who raised us and my two half-brothers. He always ran a tight ship.

While we didn’t have a lot of money, we never felt like it — Mom and Dad always figured out a way to make our home a place of laughter and warmth. I’ve always admired her ability to be fiercely strong and simultaneously vulnerable and sensitive. And she also taught me how to swear like a sailor when I’m pissed off.

What’s a favorite memory you have of her?  I remember vividly when I was applying to various colleges. I wanted to leave Erie, PA and go to school in the big city of Pittsburgh. I finally got accepted to the University of Pittsburgh, and the time came for me to decide my major. It was between Communications — the safe choice that could parlay itself into a variety of careers — or the riskier choice, Theatre Arts.

I was going to go with Communications to diversify my options. But one day in the living room, my mom said, “Make sure you don’t just go with the safe choice. If you choose to follow your dream and study what you’re truly passionate about, I’ll support you 100%.” I chose Theatre Arts.

If she were to do a lip-sync, what song would she choose and how would she perform it?  I could definitely see her doing “I Will Survive.” It’s a drag cliché, true, but it exemplifies her ability to make it through everything life has thrown her way. She’s seen betrayal and loss and hardship and pain, but her sense of humor and love of life and of her children are always at the forefront. I would like to put her in the costume from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert where they’re dressed like glamorous dinosaurs.

Heklina (Clairee Felcher)

Heklina_steelWho is your Steel Magnolia and how did she come into your life?  I guess I’d have to say my aunt Cyndi, who obviously I’ve known my whole life. We lost touch for ages but reconnected a few years ago.

Why have you chosen her?  Her side (my father’s) of the family is riddled with addiction and closed-mindedness. She decided early on to buck the trend, and forged her own path, dedicating her life to helping differently abled people by becoming an occupational therapist. She’s also the ONLY member of my family to fully embrace me and my life. No one else ever talks about it. If they do, they say I’m in “entertainment.”

What’s a favorite memory you have of her?  Riding in a float with her for Pride in 2014. I had matching outfits made for us.

If she were to do a lip-sync, what song would she choose and how would she perform it?  “These Boots Are Made For Walking” by Nancy Sinatra, but she would sing it live. She loves karaoke!

Coco Peru (Ouisa Bidet)

coco steelWho is your Steel Magnolia and how did she come into your life?  My Steel Magnolia is my mother, Helen, and I think she might ask the question, “How did I come into her life?” I was the oops-baby! My siblings are 20 years older than me.

Why have you chosen her?  My mother hasn’t had an easy life. She’s had a lot of tragic losses, including my sister who died at the age of 15 when I was 3 months old. Yet my mother, now 91 years old, still keeps pushing herself forward. She allows herself to cry, but then makes herself stop and count her blessings. We never had a lot of money, but my mom always managed to look glamorous and still insists on wearing a small, sensible heel. Even at 91, she sees no reason why a person should look sloppy.

Like in Steel Magnolias, my mother had a group of girlfriends in our Bronx neighborhood, all of whom I called Aunt. I loved listening in on their conversations because they were characters to me; they were funniest when they weren’t trying to be funny. In a way, these women gave me my sense of humor.

What’s a favorite memory you have of her?  I remember the first time my mother saw me in drag, her mouth fell open and she looked kind of horrified. She said, “Holy shit! You look like your dead sister’s ghost!” I said, “It’s not the look I was going for…but thanks?”

One day not long after that, I was still feeling uneasy about how my parents really felt about my doing drag. I came home and overheard them talking about me (they hadn’t heard me come in). I heard my mother say to my father, “Well, think of it this way, honey: we lost a daughter, but now we have a son…and a daughter!” My mom has been my biggest fan from day one.

If she were to do a lip-sync, what song would she choose and how would she perform it?  Standing in the nook of a grand piano, a spotlight, a microphone, and, like me, not lip-synching but really singing the song “Smile”: “You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.”

Peaches Christ (M’Lynn Eatin’-Tons)

steelpeachesWho is your Steel Magnolia and how did she come into your life?  I’d have to say my Steel Magnolia is my mother Dianne, a.k.a. “Mrs. Christ,” and I’ve known her since the day I was born.

Why have you chosen her?  My mother grew up with a lot of tough challenges. She was the oldest of five children and was raised in a very dysfunctional family that included an extremely angry, alcoholic father. She ended up becoming a second mother to her siblings. She left home at a young age and made it work. She was sixteen. Eventually she met my father, married him, and left her successful career on Capitol Hill in D.C. to raise her three children.

She was always a strong presence in our lives who taught us to stand up for what we believed in, and gave us a great moral code and set of values. Much like M’Lynn in the movie, she pushed us to do what made us happy and emphasized that her children’s happiness was the most important thing. My mom ended up being a maternal figure to friends and extended family members who needed one. She’s always been feisty and theatrical and has appeared in multiple shows of ours, including Mommie Queerestand The Silence Of The Trans.

What’s a favorite memory you have of her?  We tease her about it all the time, but she gets anxious around the holidays because she wants everything to be PERFECT. My favorite memories of her have to do with those holidays, not because of how fantastic the were — although all the food and presents and decorations were great — but because she wanted to give her children something she never had.

If she were to do a lip-sync, what song would she choose and how would she perform it?   I think she could do a straight-up raw, emotional, powerful lip-sync to something dramatic and rock-and-roll like “Piece Of My Heart” by Janis Joplin. I don’t think she’d need any bells and whistles to emote a powerful translation of the song.

Mahlae Balenciaga (Shelby Eatin’-Tons)

Who is your Steel Magnolia and how did she come into your life?  My mom would be my Steel Magnolia. It was more about me coming into her life.

Why have you chosen her?  She’s taught me so much about life: how to treat people, how to manage a busy schedule, life and the changes that it brings. My mom had six brothers and was the only girl, so she had to find her own identity amongst them all. She was very close to her mom and I believe that’s the reason why we’re so close; we’re more like siblings. We talk about any and everything just like best friends. Shout-out to you, Mom!

What’s a favorite memory you have of her?   We took a trip back to New York to celebrate her birthday and visit some family. We were in Times Square and it was FREEZING. My mom wanted to look cute on her b-day, so she got up and got all pretty and did her hair and makeup. She wore a pair of false lashes and the wind was blowing so hard that it clapped her lash off! Her lash was hanging on by one drop of glue, flapping in the wind. Every time I think about that it makes me laugh.

If she were to do a lip-sync, what song would she choose and how would she perform it? My mom is a huge Janet Jackson fan, she’s been to every concert of hers dating back to the Velvet Rope tour. So I’d have to say “All For You” and “Escapade” would be her go-to songs.

Abbey Roads (Truvada Jones)

steel abbyWho is your Steel Magnolia and how did she come into your life?  My Steel Magnolia is my best friend Shermona Mitchell. We were both cast in a musical called Are You There God? It’s Me Karen Carpentermy first year of living in Seattle. It was my first play there, and also my first professional drag gig. We played 12-year-old girls who were best friends, and I’m so happy that our friendship moved from beyond the play and into our real lives. She’s my sister, my confidant, and my best friend.

Why have you chosen her?  We live very similar professional lives that are different enough for us to be good foils to each other. I’m a plus-size gender-fluid drag performer, and she’s a plus-size African-American actress. Both art forms are similar enough that we “get it”, but the worlds are different enough that we can be objective with each other. I’m her biggest fan and toughest critic, and vice versa.  We take up a similar space/energy in the world. Because we’re both extremely busy with shows and gigs, we sometimes go weeks without seeing each other, but we always seem to pick up right where we left off no problem. She’s so strong and determined, yet also very aware of her emotions. I hope to learn even a fraction of her self-awareness and determination one day. I don’t know what my world would be like without her.

What’s a favorite memory you have of her?  Shermona works on the north side of Capitol Hill in Seattle, and we have the perfect spot for ogling hot guys. We get coffees at this cute coffee shop by her work and sit out front in their Adirondack chairs for hours just watching the butts go by. Khaki shorts with Chihuahua, skinny jeans with grocery bag, etc. We could (and do) spend hours and hours there in the summers. We compare notes, plan fake weddings, all of it. When we’re parched, we go around the corner for margaritas…but eventually make our way back for more ogling. It’s just us.

If she were to do a lip-sync, what song would she choose and how would she perform it?  She’s done drag as a hyper queen performer, but usually sings live. I’d love to see her lip-sync the “MacArthur Park” suite by Donna Summer. We both love any retro diva action. She’s such an emotionally available actress, but also hysterical and so expressive. I think she’d have the audience in tears, then when the beat drops she’d do something zany to catch them by surprise. She would grab it by the balls and really ride it home. I would also LOVE to perform “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” with her someday. Love you, Mona!


Peaches Christ Productions Is Proud To Present…Steel Dragnolias
our unforgiving, Southern fried parody of the stage & screen classic “Steel Magnolias”
MAY 5th, 2018 @ The Castro Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Starring the inimitable hair, nails and talents of SIX(!) of the country’s greatest Queens…!

ALASKA THUNDERFUCK as Anal Dupuy
HEKLINA as Clairee Felcher
COCO PERU as Ouisa Bidet
PEACHES CHRIST as M’Lynn Eatin’-Tons
MAHLAE BALENCIAGA as Shelby Eatin’-Tons
ABBEY ROADS as Truvada Jones

This riotous stage show will be followed by a screening of the 1989 classic film “Steel Magnolias”, starring Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton & Darryl Hannah.

STEEL DRAGNOLIAS
Saturday, May 5th, 2018
The Castro Theatre
429 Castro Street, SF, CA 94114

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