Drag icon to perform at N.J. resort
Given the time of year, we’re lucky to have the opportunity to see Miss Coco Peru.
“The week before and the week after, I tend not to do drag because people think I’m dressed up for Halloween,” Peru said. “But this year I’m hosting a big festival in West Hollywood.”
The world-famous drag personality and entertainer is also coming to our area for a performance during Trick or Treat Weekend, Oct. 26 at the Golden Inn in Avalon, N.J., where she will sing songs and telling stories about her life.
“It’s a like a group therapy session except it’s my turn to talk,” Peru said. “They can expect to laugh and to think and to walk away feeling better about themselves and the world that they live in.”
Peru has been performing internationally as usual for her steady touring schedule, but this year has also found her performing in certain cities and areas like Chicago and Vancouver. Peru said the gigs in new cities usually come from fans who have seen her other places and want her to perform in their hometowns.
“I’ve been really lucky with word of mouth,” she said. “I think people have seen me in different places and they go back to their states or cities where they live and say, ‘Let’s get Coco Peru here.’ I have literally been to cities because a fan has written to me on Facebook saying, ‘When are you coming to my city?’ And I say, ‘I haven’t been invited, find me a venue,’ and they actually go out and rally the troops to get me invited there. So that’s the good side of all the social networking.”
Word of mouth works wonders for Peru but she said that nothing is more powerful than appearing on television.
“My 30 seconds on ‘Will & Grace’ years ago, it made me laugh because I feel like I am doing a show that I worked so hard to write,” she said. “I sing songs and I’ve been doing this for years. You do 30 seconds on ‘Will & Grace’ and suddenly I have all this interest. That’s how powerful TV is. But once that subsides, you need to have a talent to back it up. I’ve been doing this for 22 years now. I was excited to do the show because one of my friends from New York was a writer and producer on the show. I walked on to the set a bit intimidated because it was all new to me but I also felt like I had been invited by friends to be there. It was a nice way to do the show.”
Peru attributes her multi-faceted show and talents as a performer to her growing up idolizing entertainers who were versatile and had developed a number of talents.
“When I was very young,I wanted to be a performer,” Peru said. “I was drawn to funny people and people who worked hard on their craft. People that I admire like Bea Arthur and Lily Tomlin, these people had a craft that they really trained for. And I did that. I went to school for acting and I started writing shows and worked hard to create a character. The problem with reality television is that they’ve made celebrities out of ordinary people who really don’t have any kind of talent but are famous for being on television. That’s a weird place right now. I feel like, for myself, I’m glad I’ve had all the training that I had and the role models I had growing up.”
We can take the hint.
So, what does longtime internationally known drag superstar Coco Peru think of the drag-queen fame machine that is “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?
“I have very mixed emotions about that show because I absolutely love RuPaul,” she said. “I think he’s talented and funny. I love his laugh. I love that the show has brought drag back into the limelight. The flipside is, it’s a reality show that I don’t think reflects the reality.”
Peru added that the show gives people who aren’t familiar with the history and traditions of drag distorted expectations of what to expect when they take the stage. “I’ve had that experience where someone was disappointed that I didn’t lip-sync, that I actually talked and sang live,” Peru said. “That is not what they expected from a drag queen. For so many years, I was celebrated because I broke the mold of what was expected in drag. I wrote autobiographical monologues and sang live. So for the young person in the audience, it was a shock. Fortunately it was just the one. The rest of the audience adored me and I got a standing ovation.”
Aside from her many performance talents, Peru is also widely regarded for her elegantly retro sense of style, which has caught on with a lot of her fans and admirers.
“I noticed early on in my career I would have a lot of women that would like me, and this wasn’t even on the Internet: They would send letters, or they would come up to me after a show and say they want to be more like Coco,” she said. “What they were looking for was a sense of power to embrace their femininity and be sexy, and at the same time be strong. Some women felt like in order to be strong they have to sacrifice their femininity. And I’ve never believed that.”
We were surprised to find out that Peru gets a lot of her clothes from the same places we do.
“I have my costumes for my shows made but for my daywear I go to TJ Maxx or Ross or Marshall’s or Macy’s,” she said. “You just have to learn to look for the right ones.”
We also found out that Peru’s appreciation for all things classic and retro carries over into her taste in Halloween candy.
“I used to love Charleston Chews,” she said. “You can find them again now. I don’t know if they disappeared but I forgot they existed. I mentioned them and all of a sudden people started sending me Charleston Chews. You can put them in the freezer and they crack and break up into pieces. I also really loved candy corn and I kind of still do. I used to stick them on my teeth like I had fangs. So they were like a costume piece and then you got to eat them.”
Miss Coco Peru performs 9 p.m. Oct. 26 at The Golden Inn, 7849 Dune Drive, Avalon, N.J. For more information or tickets, call 609-368-5155 or visitwww.goldeninn.com.