Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holiday Specials Week: Day Three: Rupaul's Christmas Ball (1993)

Good morning!

Well, it's the big day! This post was delayed by presents-opening over at my folks' house with my sister and her husband, and me and MY's so weird all parties at Christmas morning being married! My coworker asked me before we left for the two-day holiday if I was excited about our first husband-and-wife holiday experience, and it's funny-- while I am happy to be a missus, it's not much different than our usual Christmas. Lots of hugs, lots of sweet, thoughtful gifts-- this is year five with us together, and I am excited about another fifty five on down the road! :)

Today's extra special Christmas content involves the third of our holiday specials on She Was a Bird, and possibly my favorite: 1993's Rupaul's Christmas Ball, produced for UK Channel 4. Watch along on Youtube via this link!

While I remember RuPaul's VH-1 television chat show from my youth, I have to admit that it wasn't until fairly recently, through the magic of Logo's RuPaul's Drag Race, that I came to understand the greatness that is RuPaul Charles. Introduced in the title cards of her Christmas special as "Supermodel of the World", in the past thirty years, Rupaul has built a branding empire as the fiercest 6'4'' drag performer standing. In a time when gay rights were still a back burner issue for a heteronormative America, Rupaul was bringing gay culture served straight up into our living rooms. While a lot of this looks completely normal to a 2013 audience, imagine how "other" seeing full fledged drag queens doing an act you wouldn't see outside of a gay bar on national television must have seemed in 1993 to a large majority of viewers. As a kid in the late nineties', I remember not quite understanding what was going on, seeing a glamorous, gorgeous, be-wigged Ru chatting with Olivia Newton John and Cher on her talk show...what's the big deal? Seeing it through the distance of twenty years, this kooky Christmas special seems not only entertaining, but brave! Chainsmoking, glue sniffing, drag queen elves on television? Why not!

This Christmas special is set up in a variety show type format with Laugh-In type sketches in between musical performances. Guests from the show include Boy George, La Toya Jackson, Elton John, Fred Schneider, Belinda Carlisle, Little Richard, En Vogue, and, if you'd believe it, Nirvana! It was so long ago that Kurt Cobain was still with us-- let that sink in for a second.

Ru shows up, all practically seven feet of her in heels and wig, in this thigh-high slit silver sequin gown and pink feather boa, hair done up like Neptune's triton, ready to get some Christmas on. Her opening monologue is sprinkled with RuPaul catchphrases like "You bettah WORK" and "Love yourself, because if you can't love yourself, howinthehellyougonnalovesomebodyelse, can I get an AMEN?" The Rosie Perez-like accent Ru takes on in between that lilting trademark laugh of hers is the only thing that dates the show to the early nineties'-- a lot of this persona is still intact (and still AWESOMELY statuesque and immaculately made up) as presented on Drag Race!

Here's Ru in full Suzanne Somers mode hawking her workout and weight loss programs, which, again, Drag Race fans will recognize as the "tic tac diet". "One tic tac for breakfast, one tic tac for lunch, and for dinner, a glass of water. No tic tac." I know anorexia isn't funny, but this sketch is, and spot on, too! I remember reading a celebrity fitness book by Victoria Principal in the midst of my Dallas mania which essentially suggested that you live off iceberg lettuce and grapefruit for four weeks if you wanted to reduce your waistline. Serious! Pammy, that is no way to take off the pounds.

Latoya Jackson makes an appearance as "RuPauline", RuPaul's "sister" from whom the successful drag queen apparently stole her entire act...this prompted me to look up a before and after photo of Latoya pre-cosmetic surgery...look at this before. Isn't that insane? Her face was perfectly fine before! Below, Ru gets to quote the famous "Why do you deliberately defy me?" line from Mommy Dearest amongst this nineties'-to-the-max trompe l'oeil stage set. Do you love it or do you LOVE it. Look how tiny Latoya looks compared to the Amazonian figure Ru cuts!

Ru as "Tiffany Alexander", cohost of a Home Shopping Network sketch where "Queen" Elizabeth is selling her crown jewels. One thing that I thought about while watching these little comedy pieces is that she would have been the ultimate contestant on Drag Race even from the beginning. Glamour, acting chops, poise, comedic timing, knowledge of the gay cultural canon...this girl has got it all! Total package. I love the idea of her on the show being like "Look, I'm not asking you to succeed at anything I myself wouldn't do. I just happen to be fiercely multi-talented."

Boy George drops by to do a reggae-fusion version of the Bread FM classic "Everything I Own"...why were these kinds of UB40-ish covers so popular in the early nineties'? I couldn't tell you. 

Nirvana's video message to RuPaul, complete with RuPaul cutout:

Drag Race watchers, remember the perfume challenge from last season? Here's Ru's entry, Whore. Something about how bald face that is makes me laugh every time I see it. I would usually be like "Oh, Ru, you're wrong for that," but something about this is so hilariously right:

Singing a club dance remix sounding nineties' song with VERY nineties', Nehru-jacket/John Lennon glasses Elton John:

The most glamorous American Gothic of them all:

And on, and on. The whole special is really a hoot-- I wanted to tell you more about it but I have GOT to get off the computer and back to the merrymaking! Watch it for yourself here!

Are you having a good Christmas? I'll have to tell you about all the presents and festivities this year next week, it deserves a post of its own! Are you a RuPaul fan? What did you think about the awesome nineties-ness of this special? Seen any blast-from-the-past Christmas  shows lately? Let's discuss!

A very happy holiday to you and yours! I'll talk to you tomorrow! Til then.


  1. how did i not know about this??????????? i've got to watch it IMMEDIATELY>

    1. Tell me what you think when you see it! It's really pretty good.



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