With high-arching brows, a sharp tongue, and cakes of glittery makeup, legendary San Francisco drag queen Peaches Christ and her Midnight Mass summer movie series briefly return this weekend with two screenings of the classic (and classically bad) Prince vehicle Purple Rain.
Beginning in 1998, Midnight Mass resurrected such memorable films as Teen Witch, Female Troubles, and Showgirls with outrageous pre-show performances and sing-along movie screenings. While the series technically ended last year, Christ and Co. couldn't resist revisiting audience favorite Purple Rain during the summer of 2010.
Christ (aka Joshua Grannell) has beenabsent lately, out of her adopted city, to promote her first feature film,All About Evil, starring Natasha Lyonne. So this homecoming is particularly momentous. I caught up with her before the big Independence Day schlockfest.
Think back to the first time you chose to screen Purple Rain, what made it a good movie for Midnight Mass?
We did it because we knew the movie was all about the music and we wanted the audience to sing along. We knew our movie had to be dirty and transgressive - and our preshow had to be about celebrating fabulous music. The movie itself doesn't hold up, which is what makes it so funny, but the music is legendary and incredible. [During the preshow] we do a whole montage of "When Doves Cry," Apollonia's "Sex Shooter," and "Purple Rain" -- it's a collage performance drag number.
When we were deciding to start the show with "When Doves Cry," we wanted the curtain to drop and then -- this was my idea, well let's just say it was my idea -- Peaches to be on a big giant purple motorcycle. It's actually a glittery particleboard, but it does move usually, with some help.
Who helps you move it across the stage?
An intern or something. Poor things, with their head in between my legs!
Of all the films you've screened, why revisit Purple Rain?
A big part of the decision was that last summer we ended Midnight Mass because I was going on tour, but I felt like it was too weird to not do some form of it [this year]. We sat down and threw out different titles. Purple Rain was something we loved performing, the audience loves, so instead of the whole series, we're bookending the summer with Purple Rain and our big signature show, Showgirls, at the Castro Theater on Aug. 7.
Anything else people should know about this event?
Anyone coming to Purple Rain should know that Midnight Mass is an interactive experience, and we're having an '80s Slut Pageant, so they should come in their '80s sluttiest finery - lingerie and pumps.
How did you start working with Martiny [Christs' often befuddled sidekick]?
Martiny, whose name is actually Michael Brenchley, and I met our first week of college when we were 18, so we've known each other for 19 years. We're tender spirits. Martiny is known as the most tragic of all of San Francisco drag queens, the audience actually feels bad for her, but Michael is one of the smartest people I've ever met. It's part of the show. We're kind of like the Penn and Teller of drag.
I grew up in Maryland; Martiny and I went to school at Penn State. We met John Waters our senior year and he'd told us about how amazing the underground San Francisco film scene was. John really sowed the seeds for us.
Can you tell me a little about your own film?
All About Evil is my first feature film. It's a black comedy set in the world of old horror films of the '60s and '70s. It's not scary but maybe a little bit gross. It's about a woman going to any length to save her neighborhood movie theater -- it was born out of my doing Midnight Mass, living in S.F. and watching our great movie theaters disappear
I wrote, directed, and, not so wisely, I cast Peaches Christ in it -- so I'm actually in the movie. One character says, "oh my God, that's Peaches Christ!"
What's the audience reaction been like so far?
Luckily, so far so good. We had a world premiere at the SF International Film Fest at the Castro Theater. But that was S.F., so I wasn't sure how the outside world would view it. Then we screened it in Austin, TX, and Provincetown, Mass., and last night in Los Angeles. They all have gone very well, [the audience] laughs when they're supposed to laugh. We've had a few walkouts exactly when they should be. There was one very verbal walkout where someone yelled, "this is disgusting." So that was great.
So the film is about the importance of neighborhood theaters -- what are your personal favorite local theaters still in business?
The Bridge, I love the Castro, I love the Roxie, the Red Vic, Vogue. I really love the old single-screen movie theaters like the Clay -- all those little, neighborhood movie houses. They are gems of their neighborhoods. They attract culture. One run of a movie can change the whole cultural landscape of a neighborhood.
DETAILS: Purple Rain screens Friday, July 2 and Saturday, July 3 at the Bridge Theater. 12 a.m. $13. www.peacheschrist.com.