Martha Graham Cracker Live
We’d recognize her anywhere. Big hair. Big voice. And hairy chest. It’s Martha Graham Cracker, the drag persona created by actor Dito Van Reigersberg, who infuses no shortage of irony to showcase some seriously impressive pipes.
As Miss Martha gets ready to celebrate her sixth anniversary performing at L’Etage this week (Aug. 18 at 8 p.m.) we sat in on a snippet of conversation between Martha and the new queen on Philly’s gender-bending scene – Tammy Famous (Alexander Kacala) – about what we can expect from the veteran performer and new girl in town as they share the stage tomorrow night.
Martha: Let’s make sure we don’t end up wearing the same wigs. What’s your drag inspiration for the show?
Tammy: My inspiration is Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge meets Diana Ross from The Supremes. I wanted glitz and glamour, so a beaded halter dress was the only answer. I have really been into redheads lately. No, not men who are gingers, but fiery and sultry red-haired women. So I am doing an up-do that is sexy. Think Barbra Streisand as Dolly Levi. Not Carol Channing.
Martha: Martha always makes it a point to sing her favorite songs live. What about Tammy? Do you always sing live?
Tammy: I always sing live. I perform in shows that are almost exclusively lip-syncing queens and I think that the audience appreciates someone like me bringing my live voice to the stage. I don’t want to insult those others queens who lip-sync, ’cause I still appreciate what they do and am in awe of their performances. While I know my voice isn’t perfect, at least I have the guts to get up there and just do it all live. Sing out, Louise! Mama wants to hear you.
Tammy: You’ve been performing at L’Etage for six years now. Any tips for me?
Martha: Every drag queen forges her own path, machete style, through the jungle of the city. I know where to buy lashes and wigs. The rest is improvisation. But it’s important to ride the crowd like a big Hawaiian wave. You can’t deny them, but you can’t let them wash over you. Imagine you are Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver.
Tammy: Can we tell any readers about any of the songs we are singing – for the first time together?
Martha: No, we mustn’t reveal a thing. Hints are okay. A song you’re singing penned by the “incredible woman who wrote the book Just Kids.” Or one of the songs is by a man who sang “Thank You for Being a Friend,” a.k.a. the Golden Girls theme.
Tammy: So what is the status of the very public and tumultuous relationship with Johnny Showcase?
Martha: I, myself, am confused by it. We have been married and divorced so many times. He makes me feel like Liz Taylor, and that’s not good. He knows how to charm a girl with his sensitive side, but sometimes I see the shark’s teeth in that devilish smile. He sure knows how to write a song. I can’t wait for his album to be released. I will throw my bra directly at him onstage, with a love poem hidden inside.
Tammy: What about Ned? Is he single?
Martha: Only Ned can answer that. But my suspicion is yes. Aren’t all drummers single?
Tammy: I would love for those pure drumming muscles to wrap around me during a passionate orangutan lovemaking. I’m going to post a “Missed Connection” on Craigslist for him now: You were the mysterious voice behind the drums. I was the screaming voice behind the microphone. A match made in heaven? I think so.
There’s more where this comes from. Here’s a clip of Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret (with Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo) performing at Silk City (did Martha borrow Suze Orman’s wig for the show? Quite possibly.):