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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995)

I've spent a lot of minutes tonight trying to remember when I first saw this movie. Surely it must have been on cable. It's (red &) WILD to me that this came out before The Birdcage, a movie I distinctly remember my parents seeing in theaters and telling me I'd love it when I was older. I must have watched this on TV and I do not remember clocking specifically that it was about drag (what on earth did I know about drag before I got to college!?). I don't think that meant anything to me. Good or bad. It wasn't even a "tee hee those men are dressed like women" thing. I just really enjoyed the story. Now, of course, I'm blown away by the cheery complexity the movie deals with so much. SO MUCH. Things my little Waukesha dwelling heart couldn't conceive of. (Systemic racism! Why we cannot trust the police!) But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Watching this movie tonight, I'm not feeling well. I pushed myself too hard during the day to accomplish things and was a bit mushy brained as a result. But this is kind of the perfect movie for that. It's like a hug from an old friend and a gentle reminder to drink some water and read a good book for a bit. (How have a never read DV in all my years of loving this movie? Gotta remedy that.)

(The young man in the general store has my whole heart. Love him.)

I'm certain, that there are things in this movie that no longer pass muster. I'm not a huge RuPaul fan anymore but I still get a wicked thrill out of simply everything about her character, Rachel Tensions. But at it's heart, and oh what heart, it's a beautiful little story about not just loving yourself as you are but allowing yourself to be loved as you are. And that's the more radically difficult thing, isn't it?

I always feel like my life works like a sitcom, thematically, the B plot always reinforces the A plot and this movie highlighted my recommitment this week to friendship and acknowledging my own flaws (and loving me anyway). I've always loved the Vida/Carol Ann friendship but oh, this week that landed. So grateful for my angels. I was really moved by the Clara and Noxeema throughline. Noxeema is my favorite of the queens, hands down (why is there no gif of her giggling and kicking her feet in the opening sequence!? I live for that moment!!) and mostly because of her strength. But her friendship with Clara is built on vulnerability and openness and it's so beautiful and simple I find I don't have the words to adequately describe it. May we all find ourselves willing to take a chance on opening up like that.

My brain cannot wrap itself around the logistics of travelling cross country in drag. Can't do it. Where are all their garment bags? How is Noxeema only travelling with one wig? How are they wearing wigs in a convertible with the top down??? Magic.

One thing I am certain of, looking back, any good will I had early in the movie was won forever the moment they invoked my forever idol, Anne Baxter, specifically in The Ten Commandments, which I obsessed over as a child. I didn't know what "it" was but I knew she and Yul Brenner had "it" in spades and I wanted "it" too.

Briefest shoutout to Stockard Channing. She's incredible in everything she does and this movie is no exception. That Shakespearean Spartacus moment at the end with the red veil she just happened to have lying around? Come. On.

Watercolor and ink on paper. 11x14"

"You Wanna Try Lena Horne?"


-It took a long time for this one to take shape. I missed my acrylic paints badly but I really wanted the softness of watercolors, especially on the background. If I did it again, I'd mix mediums and do the background in watercolor and the figures in acrylic to really make them pop.

-As frustrated as I was with the paint, I am beyond thrilled with what I was able to do with it compared to what I could do when I started this project. I set out to do as much detail as I could with the paint (usually I add detail with colored pencils when I do watercolor) but I really wanted to push myself and ultimately I'm happy with that.

-I really thought I would have done something more over the top with this movie but this was the scene that wouldn't leave my brain after watching it.

-That dress was a trip to paint but honestly the most fun I had on the piece.

-I spent a few hours drawing it out in pencil, using rulers, doing math, but GOLLY you wouldn't know it to look at the end result. I'm not sure what the answer is but I'm going to keep searching for it.

I have TWO Movie Random Number Generators in my life now (and I'm thrilled!)! But that means I don't know for sure what the next movie will be. A fun surprise for all of us! Have a great week, indulge in a little fabulousness for yourself and remember: Larger than life is just the right size!

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