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Thursday, June 16, 2016

I AM YOUR QUEEN: Sue Veneer

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 1:00 PM

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Welcome to
I AM YOUR QUEEN, a thoroughly disturbing feature on The Exhibitionist that holds a scanning electron microscope  up to San Francisco's baddest drag performers to see if they exist in other dimensions or warp space-time and other weird shit like that.

Full disclosure: I know Sue Veneer very well. She once had me administer fake LSD-soaked sugar cubes to an audience at Oasis for one of her performances, disemboweled me on stage for another, and we were roommates and bus seat-mates on the Mothership to Reno in March, where I helped her bury all the bodies. 

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What name(s) do you perform under?
Sue Veneer

Where do you perform?
I perform once or twice a month at Grace Towers' Dick@Nite at Moby Dick in the Castro and a few times a year at Heklina’s Mother at Oasis.

How long have you done drag?
I went to undergrad in Syracuse, N.Y. I was dating-slash-supporting a Ph.D. candidate in bioengineering there after I graduated, and all my friends had moved to other places. Charades was the friendliest little drag bar ever, and they hosted a night where the queens would paint you and you could compete against two other baby queens for a bar tab. In 2001, I did that a couple of times and then Ms. Frita Lay invited me to become a regular performer. I made a lot of friends there and miss them, if not Syracuse itself. By the time I left for New York in 2006 I was performing two or three nights a week all over Central New York. Back then, I performed as Camilla Tow and occasionally her good twin, Prudence Tow, who was super into Jesus.

What's your day job?
I help manage admissions and the stores at the Exploratorium.

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Does Sue have a back story?

Sue doesn't have a backstory so much as a set of spirit animals. Camilla was a spitfire trailer-trash girl. Sue is smoother, tougher, and more sure of herself. She's bits of Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tura Satana from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and a bit of Kembra-Pfahler-inspired art-damage demon. Sue is a rock 'n' roll girl who's not afraid to writhe around on the floor if it's cute. She's a little manic, but that's because she's maybe possessed and maybe about to kick off the revolution. Sue's no. 1 homegirl is Yoko Ono. I've performed at least five or six different Yoko Ono songs.

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Do you have a theater/performance background?
I was a ballet kid from 5 to 10. I quit when they started wanting me to come five days a week. I was a high school theater nerd and that continued into college where I also started doing performance art things.

Is realness important to you? Genderfuck? Something else?
Sue is not real at all in the sense of trying to look like a pop star or model or whatever. I think of Sue as a hairy lady demon with the knobs on all the genders turned up to 11. Sometimes Sue has a kind of manly swagger that is super sexy. She is never demure.

When you were starting out, what was the biggest hurdle?
I have a hard time connecting with the kind of pop music people expect at a drag show. It took me awhile to find ways to tell a story and get people excited in other ways than Britney Spears (yes, I'm old) song recognition.

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What do you love most about drag?
I love making myself unrecognizable. Sue is very different from Dylan. Not just the look but in bearing. It's my favorite thing to meet people I know when I'm in drag and watching their face as they realize who I am under my drag carapace. I also really like when I can make people feel something strong besides diva adoration. I love scary drag and sad drag.

Have you had any trouble with Facebook's "real" names policy?
I don't have a separate profile for Sue but I would if Facebook would get their act together.

Does your mother know?

She knows but is kind of weirded out about it. I enjoy teasing her that sometime I'm going to show up to a family thing in Connecticut as Sue. She finds that terrifying. Even with my beard, she's asked me more than once if I'm trans. Little does she know that Sue is more trans-infernal than anything else.


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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Bio:
Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.

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