Phil: Hey, this is Phil aka Corinne.
Alex: And I’m Alex Berg. And you’re listening to…
Phil: The I’m From Driftwood Podcast. Back in July, 2014. I’m From Driftwood sat down with Sherry Vine and listened as she shared stories about the life of a true drag legend.
Sherry: I’m originally from Columbia, Maryland. I also am known as Sherry Vine, which is a character I perform as. And my entire life and vision was on this path of being a movie star.
Then it just kind of was like, Oh, there’s this song… Black Coffee. This torch song that I always wanted to sing. And I was like, well, I can’t really do that as a guy. No one wants to see Keith up there singing this song. I was like, maybe we want to do it as this tattered ex-showgirl, and people really responded to it and it was like, “Oh, you have to come and perform here.” And it was like, okay. But I really was trying to keep that at a distance. I was still like auditioning and doing stuff.
And I was like, “No, I’m going to do this. And I’m not going to be a professional drag queen. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.” Why are you fighting this? Why are you not embracing this? I mean, do you really want to get up at six in the morning to stand in line all day to audition to be in the road show of some musical? Or do you want to be, like, the star of these shows? I was like, I want to be the star of these shows.
My whole life was geared towards, like I said, getting to LA to become a movie star. And now I have to tell my parents I’m moving to New York to be a drag queen. And they were like, “All you’ve talked about for 20 years is going to Los Angeles and you’re there and now you’re leaving?”
It can be very actually kind of cathartic and inspiring. That chapter’s done. And now I’m excited because what’s this next chapter going to be? And it’s been 22 years of doing Sherry Vine and I still love it and it’s fun and inspiring and have so many things that I want to do that I haven’t done yet. I’ve been really lucky and fortunate with this career to travel all over the world. I mean, I’ve sang with Debbie Harry and Nina Hagen and Mark Allman and Boy George. And I performed on the MTV awards. They had a bunch of drag queens come out and do different eras of Madonna and it was this whole Madonna retrospective. And the crowds go crazy and they, all the Queens come out and then Madonna comes out and she’s walking up and down and talking to us and shaking her hand and everything. And that was like, really, really like, cool. That was fun.
I want to make people laugh and I do comedy, so I rarely do something that’s political, but just the fact that you’re a man who puts on women’s clothes and when you walk out that door and you’re bombarded sometimes with hate and anger, then it does become political.
I mean, I’ve been chased down the street by a gang with bats. That was scary. I’ve had bottles thrown at me. Literally, I could walk out and stand on that street and a [unintelligible] slow down and then take off.
People who perform in drag have an important voice to share, especially within the gay community, if you will. I mean, we all have to come out twice ‘cause we come out once it’s gay. And then we come out again as drag and people who are like, “Oh yeah, my parents had no problem with me being gay, but they hate it. They freaked out when they found out that I did drag.”
There were a lot of gays that don’t like drag and hate drag queens. I’ve had people say things to me, not knowing like, “Ugh, fucking hate drag.” Even like, you know where the point, they don’t want the drag queens or the leather queens representing them or that we’re slowing down the process of assimilation. It’s like, I don’t want to assimilate.
Phil: Six years later and she’s back with us now.
Alex: Welcome back to I’m From Driftwood, Sherry Vine, what would you prefer ee call you? Keith or Sherry?
Sherry: You can call me Sherry. That’s fine. I don’t care, honestly.
Alex: We’ll go with Sherry. So before we get into all of it, I want to know how are you doing right now? How have you been coping with all of this coronavirus, pandemic, social distancing stuff?
Sherry: Oh, honey, working off this COVID calorie shit. Girl. I have never been… I have never been hairier. I’m like changing my name to Yeti Vine.
Alex: Like your pandemic alter ego.
Phil: Bring that into your performances It’s amazing. You know, I loved your I’m From Driftwood original interview, which happened about six years ago. I thought it was incredible. What’s happened in your life? What’s changed in your life since then? That was six years ago.
Sherry: I don’t remember. No. I moved to Los Angeles last year and it was mainly, I mean, I love New York so much. I love New York. So I didn’t leave because, “Oh, I hate it. “Or “I’m sick of it” or whatever. I left just because I was ready to do something different still in drag.
And they just happened to be here. A lot of it’s with Jackie Beat ‘cause we started a production company. We’ve been doing a lot of stage stuff like we do the Golden Girls Live. And now we’ve expanded it into doing like Three’s Company, Who’s the Boss?, different shows.
We’re writing some original shows. We’d been writing shows for other Queens. Like a lot of these drag queens that come off Drag Race who go on tour, they don’t really have an hour show. So we wrote a show for Brooklyn Heights. We wrote one for Eureka O’Hara. We’re working on some other ones. We’re trying to get development deals. We’ve written pilots. I mean, there’s so much, we kind of have a lot of things on the stove. And then our solo stuff. And one of the goals I had when I moved here was I knew I would be able to get an agent as Sherry, which I did, but I was like, you know, I really miss acting out of drag. And so I would like to have that opportunity and they were very, very like, “Okay, great.”
I had to get headshots, which I hadn’t done in 30 years as Keith. And I started taking an acting class just to kind of get my feet back in the water. And so that’s been really fun. Until this happened, I was literally on the road and on tour and the most I was ever at home in LA was like a week.
Alex: Wow. I kind of love that we’re talking to you right now because it feels like almost a very. Full circle moment from what you talked about in your I’m From Driftwood interview. You talked about leaving Los Angeles behind and switching gears from trying to break into Hollywood. So it’s really cool to get to talk to you now about how you decided to kind of revisit that path.
Sherry: I mean, yes, it’s fun and full circle. I just did a, I have a new show called “Hollywood and Vine’ that I was touring and now it’s on hold and hopefully coming back, but that is all about that full circle.
Alex: Well, let me jog your memory for a moment, because you said in the original interview that actually at first you fought being a drag queen. So do you remember the reasons you didn’t want to pursue it as a career initially?
Sherry: I was fighting against drag because from the time I was like four years old, I wanted to be a TV movie star. I mean, that was my plan. I actually lived in LA before, ‘cause I went to graduate school here for theater and came out of there and had agents and was auditioning and doing commercials and dah, dah, dah.
And I was like, I’m on my path to being a movie star. And then I literally just stage dived off of that track onto the drag track, but it wasn’t so easy. It was – I was very kind of, “I don’t want to be a drag queen. I’m going to be a movie star. I wanted to do this. I’m an actor, I’m an actor. I’m not a drag queen.” And once I let go of that, then it’s when I was really, like, happy.
Phil: Obviously it worked out. I mean, Sherry Vine is known far and wide. Drag being what it is right now, you know, you have RuPaul’s Drag Race, with that all happening, what do you make of the current state of drag?
Sherry: Well, I mean, I have so many opinions and ultimately I would rather watch someone who’s entertaining, whether it’s a bio, cisgender drag queen, a straight man, a gay man, whatever, I want it to be entertaining. So that is kind of the current state of drag. Like I don’t want to, like, I’m not putting anyone down. I’m not saying one is right or one is wrong, but I’m just saying there are a lot of people who now are famous drag queens because they know how to do their makeup or one trick pony.
And that’s great for what’s going on now. Great, good luck to you. Also like drag queens doing storybooks for kids. Gorgeous. Great. I’m glad that’s there. Do I want to do it? No.
Phil: Well, what about RuPaul’s drag race? Has it enhanced drag or has it hurt it? What do you think?
Sherry: Well, both in one way, it’s definitely enhanced it because I think that RuPaul’s drag race has absolutely gets credit for legitimising the art of drag, taking it out of, like, you know, a bar and making it mainstream and giving it legitimacy of like, “Oh, there is the money here. And there is an audience and HBO wants it and every movie now wants a drag queen” And some of the girls have millions of followers on Instagram and stuff.
So it’s definitely given it legitimacy. And then the flip side of that is it’s also homogenized it a little, which again is great. I mean, the core audience of Drag Race is 15 year old girls, so that’s great. But I like my drag like Divine. I like a little subversion.
Phil: Yeah, I hear that,
Sherry: But that’s just me. And that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be a variety and something for everybody. Great.
Alex: Well, tell us a little bit more about the drag that resonates with you. Who are some of your favorite Queens working today and even like, who are some of the icons that you look back on?
Sherry: Well, I mean, luckily I get to call most of my drag idols friends, which I love and I’m very, very lucky. You know, Jackie Beat, I would say Jackie Beat is the funniest in a smart way. And Lady Bunny is the funniest and a dumb way, and that’s a compliment. She’s so dumb that no one can make me laugh like Lady Bunny. And Jackie Beat’s smart in a really funny in a very, very smart way.
And I love Alaska. I can just – there’s something about Alaska that I can just watch her for hours and be like, it’s like, she’s not even human. Joey Airas, of course, the legend. Bianca Del Rio is hilarious. Jinx Monsoon. There’s just so many that are super talented.
And so I’ve kind of said things about Drag Race. I have to say there’s a lot of super talented, worthy queens that have come off that show, for sure.
Alex: What happens with your own career highlights and looking back since 2014, especially when you did your original I’m From Driftwood interview, are there moments that you look back on and you’re like, Oh, that was… that was pretty bad ass. I did that.
Sherry: Gosh, there’s so many. I think even just recently, I mean like the Golden – doing the Golden Girls Live on stage. It’s one of the most joyful experiences I’ve ever had. It’s just nothing but fun. We laugh and it makes people happy and we’re happy and something that we all really look forward to doing.
And then this new show, Hollywood and Vine, I was so focused on bar and club gigs. And especially because of the success that I had on YouTube, it really opened that door. And certainly before Drag Race, I was constantly in a bar or a club, traveling, traveling. And now I’ve kind of segwayed into more like theater, cabaret spaces. I’m so blessed. I love traveling. I love being in a hotel. I love being on a plane. I love meeting new people and going new places. So I’ve been very lucky.
Alex: How do you see online content as fitting in with the future of performing for queens?
Sherry: Well, I think this has changed people’s perception of what’s possible a lot, but I think then it’s the possibility of now being able to do like, “Oh, I can do a show online and people around the world can watch.” I’m surprised when I did my last show, that there are people in Tel Aviv and Europe and it’s like, Four o’clock in the morning there I’m like big stayed up just to see the show. Great.
Alex: I always think as a performer, you almost feed off of the audience’s energy. And so it would seem like that is something that you have to adjust to i f you’re performing to people over –
Sherry: Oh my god, it is so challenging. Jackie, we both do shows for a PEG’s digital drag fest, which has a lot of the Drag Race girls where they do their shows. And Jackie was like, “I’ve never had to work so hard.” When you go out on stage, someone’s doing your music, someone’s doing the lights. You pretty much can focus on performing. One hat.
And when we’re doing these shows, I’m like, I’m looking, I’m setting the lights. I have to watch myself to make sure I’m standing in the right place and I look good. I have to cue the music on the iPad. I have to make sure that the levels are okay. I’m looking at the feet, I’m singing and reading the feed and looking at the levels. Everything. It’s a lot of multi-tasking. You just kind of have to let go of it being perfect and have fun with the trainwreck aspect of it because the audience loves that too, because they’re like, “Oh my god, what the fuck is happening?” And everyone will be like “That was my favorite part of the show.” I’m like, okay.
Phil: What about – you’ve got a bunch of baby Queens out here who are watching you and are looking for direction. Any advice to those baby queens?
Sherry: I’m surprised at how great some of them are doing in the work that they’re doing. There’s a group of queens from Three Dollar Bill, which is the queer space in Brooklyn. They’re doing Instagram shows and contests, and I’ve been a guest judge a couple times and they’re always like, “Oh, thank you so much. I can’t believe you’re doing…”
I’m like, I love drag. I love new queens. I love talented new queens. So I’m so happy to like, support that. Like I said, I do, I really do sincerely love drag. And so if someone’s entertaining and working hard, then I’m on board.
Alex: One of the things that you mentioned in your original I’m From Driftwood interview was about how to you being in drag kind of feels inherently political, but you also said you didn’t want to be straight up political, but it’s interesting because that interview was in 2014. It was, there was a different presidential administration. How has your feeling about being political… has that changed at all since the climate became much more polarized?
Sherry: Well, no. And I’ll tell you why, because my job is to make people forget about all of that shit for one hour. So it’s not to create a sense of like fake reality or that it doesn’t really exist and that’s not really going on. No. It’s like, that’s all we see from the minute we wake up until we go to bed. You’re just bombarded with all of this.
The best compliment I can get is for somebody to come up afterwards and just be like, “Oh my God. I haven’t laughed in so long.” Or whatever. And it’s like, okay, my job is done. So of course I’m political, I’m very political. And I might say something like, “Don’t forget to vote!” or make jokes about Trump, but I don’t want people to pay to come and then have more of like CNN. And I’m grateful that there’s those queens out there, but that’s just not who I am or what I… or what I do.
Alex: Yeah. And you know what? There are times when we all need a respite. People want to be able to have a time when they can forget about just the horrors of the things in the world. So I… I hear you on that one. It’s just making me think about what you said, how as drag becomes very mainstream, how it takes on a whole other life of its own. It can be both subversive. It can be mainstream. It can be all of these different things. It’s just kind of interesting to think about depending what the political climate is like.
Phil: What have you learned in this journey? I mean, you’ve been doing this for a long time. You’re so experienced. You’re so talented. What have you learned?
Sherry: Well, it sounds so kind of cliche. I have to learn to let, and it’s kind of also goes just along with getting older, because I’m at an age now where it’s like, there’s an onion and you peel away these layers of bullshit. Where you’re just like, that’s not important. Why did I think that was so important? You just have to kind of do the things that make you happy and find the joy and say no to the things, to the people who are not bringing you joy.
Sherry Vine will always be the top priority and everything I do. That’s what I do. And so even now that I am auditioning and pursuing stuff out of drag as an actor, it definitely takes a back seat to Sherry. I would never stop performing a Sherry. If it stopped being fun, I would stop. I wouldn’t do it, but after 30 years, It’s still fun.
Phil: You know, you fought doing it at first and now it’s just brought you so much success. And it’s so good to hear you saying that. Where can we find you? Where can people find you? I mean, you, you have to plug…
Sherry: Go to SherryVine.com. You can see all the cities I’m not performing. And no, everything that’s kind of going on. All the videos are on YouTube. MissSherryVine. Instagram, MissSherryVine. But SherryVine.com has the links to all of that.
Alex: Wonderful. Thank you so much. It was so delightful getting to talk to you.
Sherry: My pleasure. You guys take care, wash your hands, wash your holes. Keep it clean.
Phil: The I’m From Driftwood podcast is hosted by Phil AKA Corinne.
Alex: And Alex Berg, and is produced by Anddy Egan-Thorpe.
Phil: The podcast is recorded as part of. I’m From Driftwood, a worldwide nonprofit LGBTQ+ story archive, and is funded in part from TD bank and Heritage of Pride New York.
Alex: I’m From Driftwood was created by Nathan Manske to help queer and trans people learn more about their community, help straight people learn more about their neighbors and help everyone learn more about themselves all through the power of storytelling. The IFD program director is Damien Mittlefehldt. The stories you heard today are available in their entirety, plus thousands more …
Phil: At ImFromDriftwood.org. Please follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. And our score is provided by ElevateAudio. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast wherever you get your podcasts.
Alex: Thank y’all for listening.