Friday, July 13, 2007

MIDNIGHT MASS 10TH ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND—The Evening Class Interview With Joshua Grannell (aka Peaches Christ), Pt. 2

Part One of this interview can be found here.

Guillén: I'm not sure if it's your makeup that accents your reactions to make them so funny; but—when I was watching the YouTube clip of your interview with Mink Stole—when she mentioned how she would like to steal your designer, there's this moment of genuine panic on your face that is priceless!! [Laughter.]

Grannell: That's been a running joke now. Not only is Tria a brilliant costume designer who has graciously devoted herself to this character and is responsible for so much of the branding and the look and the aesthetic of Peaches; but, she's also Peaches' personal assistant. She's traveled with me when we go on the road. She's the one who makes sure I have my straw. She knows I can't drink out of a Coke can. She has just been amazing and I couldn't do it without her. Elvira and Tura and Mink have all said to me, "We're going to steal Tria. I'm stealing Tria." Because, y'know, if you're in show business, I got a costume designer and an amazing personal assistant and practical body guard all wrapped up in one person.

Guillén: This 10th season seems the perfect retrospective. You're bringing John Waters for the first time but you're returning with Mink Stole, you're returning with Tura, and you're returning with Elvira. It's a stunning celebrity line-up this year.

Grannell: It is. When I brought Elvira for the ninth year as Cassandra, I made that decision because to bring Elvira is much more expensive and there's a lot more involved obviously and rightfully so. But also, I wanted to do the behind-the-scenes interview with her. If you were at the Tura show, not only do you get to see the woman that played Varla but her [real life] story is so amazing. To hear the story behind Varla, that's the movie, the story of her life. With Cassandra being the 9th year guest, I was worried that I was shooting myself in the foot because—as a horror hostess, as a midnight movie queen, as a cult film person—you bring Elvira; who's left really? I always knew there was only one person who could fill those shoes for the 10-year anniversary and it was John and I was so worried because you don't know. He could have been busy. He could turn you down. He could be not interested. So it's always a little scary. Once I knew we had John, then I actually talked to Cassandra and she agreed to come back as Elvira. Then I decided to bring Mink for the Friday night show and then Tura called me and said, "I want to be there." It's just so weird. My life is so weird right now because, y'know, I would never have dreamed [a line-up like this].

Guillén: That's how I'm feeling lately. Everybody I've wanted to meet, I'm meeting. Or befriending. How the hell did that happen? One year ago this wasn't happening. What happened between then and now? I think it was seeing your Tura Satana show! I think I got a major Peaches fix!

Grannell: Oh really? Good!

Guillén: Let's talk about your film Grindhouse. The title got stolen from you by that dang Quentin. Have you come up with a new title?

Grannell: Yes. As soon as I heard in the trades that he was [making Grindhouse] and—just from reading what he was doing—I knew 1) that the title was perfect for his project and 2) that his project was in no way similar to mine. I had to make a decision right away, like, "I'm not going to be upset about this. I just have to accept it and move on." Now other people on my behalf were really upset. But I had been working on the feature script for a while when I heard about his title and just decided there would be enough room for all of us to make a movie. But I'm not stupid. I'm not going to keep the title. I'm changing the title. There is not a firm title yet. I did have to register it with the Writers Guild of America because I do have a finished screenplay and I do have a producer attached. Right now it's called Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Violence, which is the first line of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and I thought it summed up what my movie is about. It's very showbiz, tongue in cheek, it's about a woman who makes snuff films and passes them off as art films, so it's violent but it's also really silly and over the top.

Guillén: Have you started filming?

Grannell: No. It will be a long process. There's a lot of irony with the other Grindhouse. One is that the guy who's attached to produce my feature, Darren Stein, he wrote and directed a film called Jawbreaker, which was out a few years ago. Carol Kane is in it. Pam Grier is in it. Marilyn Manson's in it. All these great people are in it. And Rose McGowan stars in this movie Jawbreaker. When Darren read my script, he had seen my short film and had been a fan of Peaches, he said to me, "I really want to produce your movie. I want to get into producing. I have the connections you need and let's take your screenplay and show it to Rose McGowan. She's trying real hard to get off this … or not off this TV show but she needs something dark. She needs something edgy. She really needs to be the vixen that she can be." A few months later he called and he said, "I've got news." I said, "I already know. Quentin Tarantino's making a movie called Grindhouse." He was like, "But do you know who's starring in it?" [Laughs.] I said, "Who?" He said, "Rose. Rose just told me she's playing the lead and she's appearing in both movies."

Guillén: That damn Quentin. He must be reading your mail.

Grannell: If I swallow these things and I accept them, I've found that things end up working out for the best. She could still be in my movie and it wouldn't [be an issue]. It's not the same. No one would really put the two together except if you know my story and know that I made a short called [Grindhouse].

Guillén: So when do you think you might start shooting?

Grannell: The thing that happened was I was on this great momentum to get a great screenplay. You're always writing and rewriting and I haven't been ready to say, "This is the finished screenplay." I'm 80% there. Even though I have a finished screenplay, I still want to work on it.

Guillén: It still needs to be doctored a bit?

Grannell: I think so. But when the Mark Cuban HD TV show started to get tossed around, it was like, "Oh, we want you to write a treatment." The more that became a reality, there was more work involved with getting and designing a TV show than I would have imagined as well as a 10th anniversary season. So really my first feature is on a shelf. It hasn't been touched. I'm going to revisit it in September or October when I'm done with this 10th season and the TV show.

Guillén: Let's talk about the TV show, it's HDTV?

Grannell: It's called HDNet. It's a channel that Mark Cuban owns. I don't know enough about it. I should probably be briefed. It's high definition television. It's national [though] you can't get it here; Comcast doesn't carry it locally, which really blows. It's like I'm going to have this TV show and I'm not even going to be able to see it locally. You can get it via satellite here, but most markets you can get it through your regular cable service. My parents have it. Other people have it. It's for people who have high definition televisions so their market skews a little older, wealthier [customer base] … actually, not really though. They were telling me that a lot of kids are tech savvy now. Kids in college have HD TVs. The real story about it is that IFC had shot a pilot with a production company….

[At this juncture of the interview, our conversation was interrupted by a large splat as bird shit hit the table less than an inch from Joshua's Pellegrino. His eyebrow arched infamously. I shouted up at the bird, "You missed the bottle!"]

Grannell: [After regaining his composure and his train of thought.] This guy Jack Lechner, a really sweet producer, has a production company out of New York and he was producing this pilot for a TV show called "Cult Movies" for the Independent Film Channel. IFC's first movie that they were going to run for this Cult Movie Friday was going to be Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! [1965] so they came to the Tura Satana show—that's why there were camera crews there—and they produced this really great pilot and Midnight Mass ended up being the focus of this whole show. They didn't know when they came in but once they saw the benefit of having the fans, the audience Q&A, and a lot of stuff with Tura and I and then my interview, that ended up being basically this whole 30-minute show that was supposed to lead in to this televised screening of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Somehow, IFC lost the rights to screening Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! to Turner Classic. Turner Classic then decided to do a cult movie Fridays and Jack Lechner took them the TV show, "Cult Movies" that he had shot, the pilot that we were all on, and tried to sell it to Turner. Turner said they were interested and we didn't hear back from them. Then Tura called me and Tura said, "Have you been contacted by Rob Zombie's people yet?" and I said, "No!" and she said, "Oh, Rob Zombie's been hired to make a TV show for Turner Classic Movies called 'Cult Movies.' " So what Turner did was they loved the TV show, but for whatever reason, we can only sort of guess. We don't know what their real reasons were; but, I'm guessing that I'm not famous, I'm not nationally recognized and I may be edgy in a way that they're not comfortable with and I'm a drag queen and my last name is Christ, all of those things might have played into them going to Rob Zombie.

Guillén: You think? [Laughter.]

Grannell: Especially when they're called Turner Classic Movies; but, who knows? One of the things that I've tossed around is doing a modern cult classic and doing a show tribute to Rob Zombie. I told Cassandra this because she's friends with him and I said, "If you can ever put in a good word for me with Rob Zombie, please do, because I love The Devil's Rejects [2005], I thought it was just so wonderful, and I would love to do a show where maybe we do a tribute to Rob around Halloween or something; but, that's like one of those dreams come true. He's one of my favorite people right now. He's sort of the male heavy metal version of Peaches in many ways. He's doing on a much larger scale what I would love to do.

Guillén: Why don't you invite him?

Grannell: Well, I mean, we might! Someday I'd love to get in touch with him. That would be amazing. I have a wish list now. I would love to invite all sorts of people.

Guillén: Which leads me to ask how you could top your celebrity line-up for this year?!

Grannell: That's the thing. For 10 years of Midnight Mass, I think we have the perfect season. A lot of the feedback we got from last year where we had Mink Stole for Polyester [1981], we had Robyn Lively for Teen Witch [1989], we had the cast for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls [1970], we had Cassandra Peterson, we had Mary Woronov for Death Race 2000 [1975], and the feedback I was getting was, "We love the celebrities but we miss you guys. We miss the shows with just you." We loved Tranny Dearest, the silly pre-show with just me and Heklina and Martiny doing a theatrical version of one of our movies spoofing Mommie Dearest. So this season we were really clear: we said, y'know, we're going to bookend the series with these big special guest weekends and the rest is going to be more vintage Midnight Mass.

Guillén: I'm glad to hear that because I know when I came to the Tura Satana show, I was reminded of the joy in imagination that used to be rampant in the Bay Area underground theater scene. As someone who moved here during the mid-70s, I used to take music lessons with one of The Cockettes….

Grannell: Scrumbly?

Guillén: Yeah, Scrumbly Koldewyn. He was my music coach and sometimes my seamstress. I remember the Angels of Light and I remember the spirit of creativity that was strong at that time, inspiring the populace, which proved that with cardboard and a little glitter and lots of ego and the imaginative participation on behalf of the audience, a performer could really do something! Could create fantastic magic. And then it seemed that sense of outrageous play vanished for many years and didn't really come back until the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, though they were undercut by more of a social conscience. In some ways that's why the drag scene didn't really appeal to me because it seemed somehow derivative. You, however, are truly creative and in control of your form.

Grannell: Thank you.

Guillén: As I mentioned before, your humor is perfectly pitched. It can be biting but it's not vicious like I note in a lot of drag queens.

Grannell: That's one of the things that I think is misunderstood about Peaches. She's not mean. Not at all. She's never mean. She's really just a dorky fan of these people and wants to put them up on a pedestal; but, then she can be a little wicked here and there, a little bit snarky once in a while; but, she's not mean.

[At this juncture in the interview Joshua's boyfriend Andrew stopped by our table to say hello on his way to work. Joshua introduced us and complimented his attire. Andrew went on his way.]

Guillén: I didn't think you had a boyfriend!

Grannell: I know, everyone says that.

Guillén: You've stated in print that you think love is ridiculous and sex abhorrent. I'm shocked!

Grannell: Heklina recently went after Peaches on stage about Andrew and I just act like I don't know what she's talking about. I think I even remember which interview you're talking about, but, yeah, it's true. I have a boyfriend.

Guillén: Well there was one interview where you said love was silly and another where you said anyone who would want to have sex with you should seek therapy.

Grannell: And all of those things I still stand by. [Laughter.] I really do. I went to that Queen Party and there was this straight guy who was really hitting on Peaches saying, "Have you ever gone home with a straight guy before?" and I just looked at him and said, "Look, I'm afraid to go home with any guy who's attracted to me because you're probably like Charles Manson or something. Look at me! I'm a clown!" And I don't totally necessarily agree with that—I can sort of see why people are attracted to Peaches—but, I just don't think of it as a sexual thing at all. When I'm in drag, everything is ludicrous and absurd so any sort of sexuality I exude is satire, it's over the top and spoofing sex, y'know? If I am in drag or if I refer to Andrew while I'm Peaches, I usually say my "male traveling companion" or I kind of turn old lady about it, "my gentleman friend" but I never acknowledge that he's my domestic partner, that I have a long-time boyfriend or anything like that. I lie about it.

Guillén: Not to be too maudlin, but, I just lost my partner. He accepted a job in Reno and moved there. But I was reading that you take your act to Reno now and then. What's that about?

Grannell: I produce a bus trip that we do with Trannyshack. Every year there's Trannyshack Reno where Trannyshack goes to Reno to do a show. It's fun. But the real trip is that Heklina goes up a few days before I do. She puts the show together. But I actually bring a bus of about 70 drag queens in full drag, charter a bus and take them up to Reno for an overnight.

Guillén: Please let me know when you do that. I would love to show my boyfriend your show. Or hitch a ride on the bus!

Grannell: Get on my newsletter and you'll get all sorts of obnoxious reminders.

Guillén: Well, Peaches, Joshua, I'll let you go. I think I have enough here to work with. What a pleasure. I respect so much the culture that you create for the city of San Francisco, that you remind us to have fun, and to edge forward.

Grannell: Thank you. I'm glad to be included amongst your esteemed collection of interviews.

Guillén: I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to get to you.

Grannell: It's perfect timing.

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