By Karel
Charles Karel Bouley
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Being Charles Busch is anything but a drag. While there can be no doubt he is one of the true innovators of the art form, drag performance, he’s not your RuPaul Drag Race kinda-guy. 
 
“Oh all that is fine, but these days, I see drag a lot differently,” the hyphenate entertainer told me on my recent Karel Cast radio show. A playwright, an actor, a drag performer, a singer, an filmmaker, producer, director…Busch expresses his creativity, well, however the need arises.
 
“In the early days, I’d want to write a story, a play, a film and need a leading lady, so I would simply be her,” he told me. “And I always gravitated towards the ladies, you know, the great ladies; the Bette Davis’ or the Joan, the fierce cabaret singer or the diva in despair…” he laughed.
 
He’s getting a chance to try something relatively new for him in the form of cabaret. Now, he’s not new to cabaret, but this time he’s taking the music and lives of five great women and bringing them to stage. 
 
“I’m not impersonating them,” Busch began. “I’m simply telling my story, their story, our story…anecdotes from my time spent with them, stories about them, who they were and what their music or life was, not an impersonation, a conversation,” he added.
 
The women he will be discussing and bringing to life through their music and stories are Elaine Stritch, Polly Bergen, Mary Cleere Haran, Julie Wilson, and Joan Rivers. 
 
“The show was developed for Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series,” he started to explain. “It was such a surreal honor to do this kind of show there, at Lincoln Center. But then we decided, why not expand upon it and take it on the road. I got with my musical director, Tom Judson (a former porn star turned producer/performer/director) and we crafted this show that hopefully will conjure the true spirit of the Cabaret, of the night club performer through music and stories.”
 
If Busch’s past success are any indication this will be a hit as well. In his 40 year career he has won two MAC Awards, been a Tony nominee, and recipient of a Drama Desk Lifetime Achievement Award, the actor, playwright (Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife), novelist, screenwriter, director, and drag legend is now hitting the boards like a vaudeville performer, a true night club artist.
 
“I think the era of the night club artist is still in full bloom if you go search for them,” he added. “There are great people out there doing incredible music nightly for clubs across the globe, but certainly here in New York. I think it’s vital to go out and see performers working like this, the true nuts and bolts of the entertainment industry. These women, many of the ones I’m bringing to the stage, they didn’t fill auditoriums (except Joan of course), they never won Grammy awards most of them. Instead they gave dramatic or hysterical performances night after night for audiences young and old in New York and elsewhere, and so many still do,” he continued. 
 
And in the era as the drag queen as a viable, main stream entertainer, what does Busch think of it all? 
 
“Oh I don’t know any more. You see, I’ve done shows out of drag completely, just didn’t get in it, and it went fine. The audience seemed to love it, and was told why not just do that. But I do love to get all dressed up and put on the face, the personna if you will. I still enjoy it, and it’s so very natural to me now. It’s all just part of the show, dress, or not, wig, or not, it’s about going out and communicating in some way with the audience, whether it’s in a movie like ‘Die, Mommy, Die! or behind the scenes as a writer, it’s all in the work,” he stated.
 
“That’s the part I love most,” he continued. “When I’m writing and the characters just spring to life right in front of me. Writing is one of the most important things I do, it is part of the entire package and has brought me great joy. Especially when it all comes to life, whether I’m in the play or not, whether we are just experimenting or doing a full blown production, it never gets old, the creating,” he laughed.
 
Of course, he breaks in to a the drag diva when answering such typical questions as are you happy at this point of your life. How could he not, the question begs they over dramatic answer.
 
Charles-Busch“Kidding aside, yes, how could I not be?” he answered. “I mean, I get to live and work doing what I love, surrounded by great friends, family and coworkers, it’s too cliché but it’s important to recognize when you’re happy and when you’ve got the tools for happiness and success. Why be miserable? I mean, one always could buy why?” he laughed in a voice somewhere between Busch and Bankhead.
 
Speaking of vintage Hollywood, how excited is Busch about the “Feud” project coming to TV, the making of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”
 
“Who doesn’t want to see Lange and Sarandon camping it up in these roles,” he laughed. “Now, of course I would have LOVED to play one, but these two look like they are going to camp their way right through it so it should be great fun,” he concluded.
 
Great fun is what seeing Charles Busch is all about. No matter on TV, in a film, live on stage, or just watching something he’s penned, he’s been on of the most talented and prolific GLBT talents of the last four decades. Be sure and check him out at the Segestrom Center for the Arts and visit his Website for great fun!
 
 
Watch Karel: Life In Segments weekly on Free Speech TV .  To hear this or other interviews get the FREE Karel Cast App, subscribe in Spreaker to the Podcast or simply go to the most incredible website on all the planet, save this one, ReallyKarel

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