By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
Contrary to popular belief, Portland’s nightlife is always in flux — change is mostly inevitable. There are old standbys, of course, but along with those are the shots-in-the-arm, the new approaches that keep things feeling fresh. Exhibit A and B: Carla Rossi and Little Tommy Bang Bang.
If you’ve seen Peep Show, or surveyed any number of our city’s late-night parties, you’ve probably already caught glimpses of Portland’s preeminent drag clown, Carla Rossi (aka Anthony Hudson).
You’ve beheld the glory with your own eyes, you’ve heard with your own ears the sort of maniacal laugh that’s now trademark Rossi. And with a slew of projects and party-hosting duties in the works — along with rumors of a “one-woman” show — Rossi’s exposure shows no signs of slowing.
In addition to pursuing citywide notoriety, this savant does what every queer artist eventually must: hose off the makeup, shed the garb, and slip into his or her day job. Pressed about his innermost secrets, Hudson — slipping in and out of Rossi mode — shared: “I’m my own pimp and prostitute for the performing arts. I don’t star in any regular show at any single venue but I certainly can work a variety of events each month.”
“Since I’ve become a household name,” Hudson added, “I also have a solid asking rate for every show I do — I’m up from two drink tickets to three! But when I’m not Carla, I work less vulgar jobs as a proofreader and tutor at PNCA [Pacific Northwest College of Art] — where I’m a full time student — and work as a video editor.”
Hudson, who often works alone, reflected a bit on his Carla Rossi process. “I was originally projectile-vomited onto the scene as one half of the Tampon Troupe. Carla is fun — I usually start with a topic I think is funny, like quantum teleportation or books on tape read by Ethel Merman. Then I just have to find a way to work in a show tune and a dash of social commentary.”
But in what has become vintage Portland, Hudson doesn’t shy away from group work. “It’s [collaboration] usually with Little Tommy Bang Bang and the Drag Mansion, Melody Awesomeazing, or Kaj-anne Pepper. Kaj-anne and I are working on a gloriously ambitious project called WRQ* with our friends. We’ve been working on it since April. The project utilizes our talents differently and in many new ways from what audiences are used to, so we’re tackling it under a new group moniker The DECEPTiCONS.”
Busy, busy. Hudson names Peep Show his favorite show to perform in — and pledges upcoming hosting duties. “Carla has an on-again, off-again romance with Little Tommy Bang Bang [Peep Show organizer], so here’s hoping nepotism wins out over talent in my case.”
Pride, as is the case for so many, means a gaggle of performances — and some serious Sharon Needles anticipation.
“I’m kicking off Pride by starring in Carla Rossi’s Doomsday Cabaret for the latest Queerlandia Party at Embers. Half of that will be dance-centric, and the other half an apocalyptic musical vaudeville emceed by Carla,” he said. “Of course I’m most excited to perform my number at Red Cap’s Block Party with Drag Mansion. That show is hosted by the gorgeous Sharon Needles — so hopefully Carla remembers to show up. I’m really hoping she slaps me at some point. When I’m not covered in white face and whiskey, I plan on spending the rest of my time sleeping — in the nearest dumpster.”
Frequent Carla Rossi collaborator, current Peep Show architect, member of Drag Mansion, and Miss Thing (remember that?) disco ball showstopper — drag king Little Tommy Bang Bang, aka Korin Schneider, has donned a variety of hats (and facial hair, and skin-tight pants) of late.
Hailing from Milwaukie, Wisconsin — helping balance out some of that Scott Walker stuff —Schneider performed regularly with a troupe there called the Miltown Kings and, at the very beginning of her time here, struggled to find a place as a performer in Portland.
“Peep Show became my most regular venue,” Schneider recalled. “I performed there monthly for a while; a group of us ended up performing together a lot. Eventually we made it official and gave ourselves a name: Drag Mansion.” When Peep Show’s mastermind, Artemis Chase, moved on — reigns were eventually passed to Little Tommy Bang Bang.
Nighttime duties alone obviously don’t make ends meet. Outside that realm, Schneider works as a property manager and ceramics class teacher. “Wearing my drag performer hat doesn’t pay the bills. I do it because I love it. I host Peep Show because I want all the other wonderful, talented queer performers in this town to have a stage to express themselves and show off their talents. I also sell my artwork, whore my drag persona, and shop exclusively at thrift stores.”
And, as is the case for many a transplant, there’s plenty of love for the Rose City. “What I love about queer Portland is the sheer volume,” she said. “There’s something for everyone, and I love going to events and not knowing half the people there even after living here for four years.”
For Pride festivities, Drag Mansion kicks things off at Queerlandia, then plans to march.
“We’re decorating a float and hoping to bring masses to represent the fierceness of Peep Show, Genderfucking Takeover, Homomentum — and any other queer performance-based shows,” Schneider said.
Then her troupe saunters up Stark to share Red Cap’s stage with a slew of local greats — and, of course, the one we’re all waiting for: Sharon Needles.
The DECEPTiCONS premiere at Hand2Mouth’s Risk/Reward festival on June 23 and 24. Peep Show and Genderfucking Takeover’s monthly rotating party — the latter Rossi hosts — will both be back in July. Stay with PQ online for all the latest event updates.