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On Commercial Road there is a house, Where Cybil's known to dwell. This Halloween she invites you all, To follow her to HELL!
It’s been a busy year so far for our resident Drag Queen, Jeff Kristian, with his usual shows at Molly Moggs and weekly appearances on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side. Not happy with these he has also just published his first novel “Where D’Ya Put Yer Willy?”, and is working on a comedy horror musical “Spi-Darlings”. I caught up with him in central London and quizzed him on all his ventures.
So... Big Brother’s Bit On The Side. How did that come about?
Endemol, Big Brother’s production company, approached me and asked if I would be the Drag Queen for their eviction nights. They know me from when I appeared in “The Salon” a few years ago.
What’s it like being on TV every week?
Friday nights are when it all happens and it’s a buzz. Because it’s a live show it adds an edge where something could go wrong. I’m enjoying it immensely but it’s a long day. My call generally is between 5-6pm and I’m not usually on until after the first break at 11pm – but there is also the blocking through and rehearsals. Once they know who’s been nominated they select the songs for me and I edit them down in my studio to 30-40 seconds. When the evictee is announced on the night I have about 8-10 minutes until I sing. So it’s edgy but good fun.
How does being on BB differ from performing at Molly Moggs?
Molly Moggs is different because it’s been around a long time and is a regular thing. There isn’t anything that has happened there I haven’t already experienced. With Big Brother, I’m treated with dignity which doesn’t always happen to drag queens on the circuit.
Do you get nervous when the cameras go live?
Well because it’s live, there isn’t even a time delay, there’s a kind of intensity which brings it all together. I’m grateful I don’t get nervous just before going on anymore but I do get an adrenaline rush because there’s a lot to think about, silly stuff like being in high heels, keeping out of the way of cameras and not tripping over wires.
Your book “Where D’Ya Put Yer Willy?” has just been published. What’s it about?
The protagonist is Michael, an orphan and a fiercely closeted gay Essex man. He works in a straight bar in Southend-On-Sea, which is run by the Mafia. He’s suddenly thrust into the showbiz world when this quite well known drag queen, who works in a famous Soho club, dies and leaves him an extraordinary amount of money. The condition of getting this money, which he desperately needs, is for him to become a Drag Queen at the club for six weeks. It’s an extraordinary challenge for him but the only people that can help him are the club’s two drag queens. When the Mafia come looking for him, it comes down to them to hide and protect him, and as the story evolves, he realises he has more in common with them, the drag club and that section of society than he could have ever dreamed possible.
How did it come about?
In 1997, I wrote it as a TV script. I never intended it to be a book first of all, so the way I wrote it originally was a bit more autobiographical than it is now. It got picked up by a production company who said it should go on radio first because that’s what unknown writers do. We recorded a pilot for the show, which didn’t get picked up. When I did the book, I worked it from the original radio scripts and I could hear the actors in my head, which helped a lot. It made it relatively easy, you just have to get the storyline together.
There are so many songs. Are they already set to music?
Yes, they’ve all been recorded and are set to be released as an album on iTunes. I haven’t heard it been done before but then I haven’t read a book set in this world before. All the songs are relevant, they carry the story forward but they are independent songs in their own right. I was considering doing a karaoke version of each track on the same album so that drag queens could pick them up, but I don’t know if that is being too precious. I haven’t decided yet.
Is there more to come?
This is the first part of a two part story. There will be another book early next year, which concludes the story and I’ll probably write it as a TV series first and then adapt it as I found that a good way for me to do it. It’s a bit of a challenge to say I want the new book to be out by next spring and I will need 12 new songs but it’s one of the fun parts of it.
Have you enjoyed the challenge?
All these writers were saying it’s a lonely career and I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but when I set to write the book it was like being cocooned. What I found most difficult was remembering what I had already written. I enjoyed doing it, enjoyed finishing it and I feel proud that I’ve actually done it and it’s been published. It’s been nice to say “okay, there it is, I’m moving on and gearing up for the next book now.”
Tell me about Spi-Darlings.
Spi-Darlings is a tongue-in-cheek comedy horror musical based on the principal of B-movies. They cast my friend Tiffaney Wells (another popular drag queen) as a middle-aged woman called Gina, and from the very beginning they wanted to make it into a musical but weren’t sure how to go about doing it. Gina’s filming part was coming up and Tiffaney told the producers she knew someone who writes songs. They asked me and we did a song called “Sing a Happy Song”. We recorded it and Tiffaney did a fantastic vocal on it. They were really pleased and said “Actually need another 12 songs”. I’ve got my own recording studio at home so I worked through the songs. Thankfully they were really happy with them, and asked me to do the incidental music too.
What’s the premise to the film?
The two lead characters, punk lesbians, buy themselves a pet tarantula and that’s where everything goes horribly wrong. This spider grows to an enormous size and then has sex with one of the girls. The producers needed a piece of music for that scene. What kind of music do you have for a tarantula growing in size and having sex with a girl? So we did something and they liked it. It’s worked out very well.
Well Big Brother is plugging the book on Friday 27th July. It’s a good thing to be running alongside because the book is aimed at 25-35 year-olds so it works out nicely. I’m quite excited as Elstree, where Big Brother is set, has a rich history. Some of my favourite films have come out of there.
So what other pies do you have your fingers in?
I’ve got my 1400th show at Molly Moggs. Hopefully Spi-Darlings will be out at the end of this year. Big Brother is every Friday followed immediately by Celebrity Big Brother, which I’m also doing. The column on Pinkwire, “Adventures of a Drag Queen”, will hopefully be published as an anecdotal book in time for Christmas. I will hopefully be doing a reading of “Where D’Ya Put Yer Willy” for the Polari Book Salon in November. Hopefully my back catalogue of albums will go on iTunes by the end of the year. I have a new album that I’d like to get out for Christmas. And I’ve just been told that Après Vague, the production company for Spi-Darlings, want to create a soundtrack album for the film.
Wow! You’re going to be exhausted!
I know, but the last 5 years has been a lot of preparation, and it’s all coming together at the same point. There’s a film and a TV company looking at “WDPYW?”, but nothing definite yet.
What are you hoping to achieve?
I’d like people to see there’s more to me than just drag. Like Michael in the book, I didn’t really want to do it, that wasn’t where I came from, and so I’m keen to show I’ve done other stuff and Molly Moggs wasn’t where I started. I think the next six months will be fairly therapeutic. Either that or I will be in an institute somewhere.
Jeff Kristian appears on Big Brother's Bit On The Side every Friday night until 7th September, appears every Monday and Thursday at Molly Moggs, and his book can be bought on Amazon right now.
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