Get ready for a whole new level of fierce food and drag! On Sunday, Nov. 8, Jeff Noble (Mona Desmond) is presenting a one-night only extravaganza “Cornbread n’ Crossdressin” at Woodies Bar and Grill in Soulard. The show will be featuring a fried chicken dinner served picnic style courtesy of Miss Leon, and some of the fiercest talent to ever hit the stage, including emcee Michelle McCausland, the divine Khrystal Leight, the sexy Jameson Peligro, Fort Lauderdale’s own Electra and the incomparable Tasha Kohl.


Kohl is a legend in the drag world, a former Miss Gay America (1984) and Entertainer of the Year (1991) with a larger-than-life
CornBreadCrossDressin persona while onstage, reflected by equally ambitious and over-the-top costumes and wigs which have become her trademark.


I spoke with Kohl about returning to St. Louis, her legacy as an entertainer, and some of her most memorable performances.


Matt Jamieson: Are you excited to get to be coming back to St. Louis to perform?

 

Tasha Kohl: Oh I can’t tell you! St. Louis was like my home away from home. When I was really on the circuit all the time, it was like Dallas, Houston (Texas was my home, of course) but my home away from home was St. Louis and North Carolina. I can’t remember when but the last time I was there was for an America revue show, but as far as coming and performing in a club scene, it’s been at least a decade, so I’m really excited.


MJ: Obviously I’m guessing St. Louis holds a special place in your heart. Can you tell me a bit about performing here ‘back in the day’?


TK: Well there’s lots of stories. I have a lot of friends there. Donna Crain helped me my whole year as Miss Gay America, she traveled with me a lot. So a lot of times I would come to St. Louis to travel somewhere else. So I have a lot of friends: Vicki [Vincent] and Dieta [Pepsi]. I love St. Louis and then one of my best friends that had lived with me even while I was Miss Gay America, moved to St. Louis - Monty Purdom and his partner were there for years.


MJ: You are a part of an elite group to not only win Miss Gay America, but also win Entertainer of the Year. What was that like winning EOY after winning Miss Gay America?


TK: Well it was amazing, because after I won Miss Gay America, I hadn’t planned entering anything else. I mean, I entered the Female Impersonator of the Year but I had to do that under contract because that’s when I was Miss Gay America and Norma Kristie (MGA ’73 and former MGA owner) said I had to go enter that thing. I didn’t want to and I hated the whole thing. But now that it’s become such a huge part of history, even though I don’t particularly like the way I look or anything I did in it, I’m so proud that I was forced to be a part of it. But other than that, I had no desire, 'cause I won Miss Gay America, and once I got that I was done. But when EOY came along, well for one thing, I was going through just a particularly bad time - just a lot of stuff was going on in my life. But I liked the idea of EOY so much, I thought it was such a cool concept. And to me, I really was way more geared for EOY than I ever was for Miss Gay America. Even though I’m thrilled and Miss Gay America will always be one of my loves, but if I’m really rigorously honest, I’m more geared to be at EOY than I am to be at Miss Gay America.


But there wasn’t such a thing back then. I was terrified to go enter it, because I hadn’t entered a pageant in eight or nine years - I hadn’t competed or anything. It’s one thing to go into a national pageant as a former national titleholder, there’s some confidence and experience that comes along with you. But also with that is something to prove, because what if you lose? Because how will that look, you’re gonna go out a loser. It was terrifying and such relief and [I was] absolutely thrilled. And I’m so glad to have been the first EOY, and it’s got such a huge, wonderful legacy and I’m so glad to be a part of that as well.

MJ: You are, without a doubt, one of the most creative and talented queens I’ve ever seen. Could you tell me about your creative process for what goes into, if there is, a ‘standard’ Tasha Kohl number?


TK: You know, girl, I’m just a sick bitch from hell. I don’t know where it comes from, I honestly don't know. I’ve always thought out of the box. I’ve never wanted to be regular. I just see things differently, and I always have. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s at least a different thing. I think it’s kept me interesting for a long time. And honestly I think I started coming up with all the creativity and the over-the-top stuff because from very early on - I mean from day one when I first started entertaining and had very little experience - I was thrown into show casts of amazing people. Like some of the biggest talents still in the business, and long-gone and long-dead. And how do you compete with that, or how do you feel you can hold your own with that and represent yourself on their level unless you push yourself to be even more over-the-top and more out there and more, more, more. So I think I was pushed by my peers without them even knowing it, because I had such a high standard of people I was blessed to work with and learn from, but it just made me want to try and be on their level. I never really felt like I was really good at anything, so I thought if I could do a little bit of everything, maybe there would be one thing that they’d like during the show.


Let me tell you what, when you’re working in a show with people like Hot Chocolate, Naomi Sims and Donna Day, Lady Shawn and Candy DeLight, you know it’s intimidating to say the least and especially I was a little young nobody from nowhere when that happened. And I was really lucky to just be in the right place at the right time for so many things. I don’t consider all the stuff that happened to me so quickly had anything to with my talent or anything like that. I think it honestly was just blind luck of being in the right place at the right time.


MJ: With that in mind, there’s two performances I’d like to talk about. Anyone who has YouTube has seen your amazing winning talent from Miss Gay America, with the wheelchair —


TK: Oh, girl, I’ll still do that damn number.


MJ: How did that number come about?


TK: It’s really funny, it was not planned. The first time I ever did that number was I believe in 1980 when I was in the cast at the Landing. And the show director asked me to come up with some kind of crazy closing number for our Halloween show. I had always wanted to do “Dreams” by Grace Slick, but the person that I had first seen do it was Dana Manchester. And she did such an amazing job at just doing the number straight that I didn’t think I could ever do it better than her. So if I was gonna do the number, I was gonna have to do it different than her. I’m not gonna do something I’ve seen somebody do unless I can bring my own thing to it. And then the Millie Jackson thing, a friend of mine had done before and I always really liked it and thought it could be taken to another level as well. And then it occurred to me put those two things together, and because I had the utilization of the cast, I came up with all the characters to incorporate the cast.

 

So that was how the number originated - it was just out of my ass, I don’t know, couldn’t tell you.


Now how I wound up doing it for Miss Gay America is actually really funny. A lot of people don’t realize but Naomi [Sims] and I were absolute best friends. We loved each other, hated each other, but we were. Of all the people that I’ve lost, I still can’t get past that one. It’s one of the reasons I kind of disappeared from drag - it wasn’t long after Naomi’s death - it was about four years after, nothing was any fun anymore. I kind of disappeared off the scene, of course I was always abusive with drugs and alcohol, but it really went to a dark place. Which thank god I’m out of and things are great. But anyway, so I was working at the Copa with Hot Chocolate, Naomi, Donna - the Fab Four - like two weeks before Miss Gay America. I was planning to a “Hello Dolly” number - I had this huge staircase that turned around, I had a Louis Armstrong puppet that sang underneath it, I was having guys in white tails and a big “Hello Dolly” dance number, all over-the-top (as usual). We were doing a show at the Copa, and we had a bathroom in the dressing room. I went to change my pants in the bathroom and of course Naomi came blaring ass into the bathroom to tell me something, 'cause “Mary, Mary” she had to tell me something. And when she did, the door peeled the nail off my big toe, just pulled it back. Well the next night I got back home to Dallas and I woke up in the middle of the night and my toe was throbbing and looked like a tomato and was purple. I wound up having a staph infection in my toe, and had to go the emergency room. Needless to say, this wasn’t going to be better in two weeks to do a dance number, and I had to come up with Plan B really quick.


The only thing I could think was that the crazy woman when I had done the Halloween thing and got a standing ovation and it had gone over really well, which just blew me away. I thought “Well I’m not gonna dance, I’m not really gonna do anything, but because it’s different I can get by with it.” And I said to my lover at the time, “I think they’ll either love it or hate it, and I don’t know which but I got no choice.” So that’s how I wound up doing it for Miss Gay America, it was not my plan until about ten days before. Just goes to show you everything happens for a reason. I don’t try to plan things much anymore, I try to be open to whatever happens. I do the right thing and go for my goals but know there’s a plan out there way better than mine.


MJ: And the other performance I want to talk about is from this past year’s Entertainer of the Year, where you did “Stairway to Heaven.”

 
Tasha Kohl at EOY 2015 FI Stairway to Heaven

Tasha Kohl at EOY 2015 FI, "Stairway to Heaven" (Heart)Tasha Kohl is EOY 1991 and MGA 1984.Video courtesy of www.clickclickexpose.com - check the EOY videos and other pageant videos Click Click Expose offers for sale.

Posted by Queens of the Stage on Tuesday, September 8, 2015


TK: You know I don’t know, it’s kind of a cross between The Fifth Element and Ursula and The Little Mermaid. I like to design my own costumes, I pretty much design everything. Unfortunately I can’t draw, I can’t sew a stitch, so god love the people that have worked with me and done my costumes. They are super troopers, because I’m also extremely particular. So while they’re sitting there sewing I’ll be sitting there going, “No, that’s not exactly…” so they hate me. But that, actually - I found that it’s faucet pipe insulation that I covered in fabric, it’s foam rubber tubing that goes around your faucets outside in the winter to keep them from freezing. And then I found this amazing cool glitter dot fabric and we covered the tubes in that, and then put the tubes together where it looked like that. And I always wanted a mohawk, but I told my wigmaker, “But you don’t understand, I want a Tasha mohawk. I want the biggest one in the history of the universe and I want it to stand up, so you figure it out.” And he did!


MJ: Any final thoughts?

 

TK: I’m just so excited and ready to bust and can’t wait to get back to St. Louis.


Cornbread n’ Crossdressin’ takes place on Nov 8th at Woodie’s Bar and Grill at 706 Lafayette Ave. Doors open at 5, with the show starting at 6. Tickets can be purchased from Jeff Noble (Mona Desmond) on the event’s Facebook page, or from Bouffant Daddy at 7276 Manchester or at 314-647-6800.

 

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