Mama Ru knocks it out of the ballpark wth two – count ’em TWO! – Out magazine covers in honor of their 25th anniversary — one shot by the late Herb Ritts in 1996, the other by Mathu Andersen from this year.
There’s a rollicking interview with Ru and WOW’s Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, of which I’ve included a few choice excerpts below (I lovelovelove the story about Ru cleaning the Concorde bathroom for Diana Ross – absolutely hysterical)
RuPaul: Fenton, I met you on a Sunday afternoon in 1984 at the Pyramid in New York. You had come to listen to, I think, [The Fabulous Pop Tarts song] “New York City Beat” on the sound system.
Randy Barbato: You’re kidding! Oh my God!
Ru: Then I met Randy in 1985 at the New Music Seminar at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
RB: And what were you wearing then?
Fenton Bailey: I remember.
Ru: I don’t. There were so many different looks… It was probably a jungle story line: a Mohawk and a jockstrap…
FB: But it was with shoulder pads with the shredded thin liners, like from the sides.
RB: And you had a Wee Wee Pole record.
Ru: Yes, the record from my band Wee Wee Pole, ’cause New Music Seminar was indie groups and indie labels converging to schmooze and network.
RB: And so there were a lot of like-minded people coming together around music, but you were doing genderfuck. You’ve always been punk drag.
Ru: Yeah, it’s a revolt to the status quo, not only the hierarchy of sexual concepts in the straight world, but really in the gay world, because boys like me didn’t fit into any of the categories available. So drag was definitely a way to say, “F you, I’m gonna do my own thing.”
FB: One of the first times we saw you was out in the street wheat-pasting posters in Atlanta with “RuPaul Is Everything,” which, to me, was the mission statement. It was a list of all these things that Ru had, but it was really important to do that list because it wasn’t about being a pop star with a record, or about sticking in your lane. It was very important for you to have the book, to have the cosmetics deal, to have the talk show—all those things.
Ru: After the success of “Supermodel,” VH1 asked me to present an award at their first fashion awards. The writers wrote something for me, but it was the old drag-queen shtick, very bitchy. I do sassy—I don’t do bitchy—so I rewrote the intro that they had, and it was a hit. In fact, I remember looking at all these people and they are laughing—all my idols: There’s David Bowie! And there’s Tina Turner! There’s Iman! And I could see Madonna right there, not reacting at all, by the way. She’s not even looking at me. And all of the people with her, her stylists and hairstylists, are seated all around her like a cocoon. They’re following her lead and just looking forward, not laughing. After that, VH1 contacted us and offered me a talk show. We did 100 episodes, and it was so much fun. At the time I was doing a morning-drive radio show, promoting a book, promoting an album, and promoting MAC cosmetics, and I asked my co-host on the radio to join us on the TV show: Michelle Visage. Talk about finding people! To find someone who you have chemistry with and who you can banter with in a way that you don’t even need guests? [Laughs] She’s one of these hidden treasures I’ve found along the way, like, Who are you? What are you doing?
RB: And the bookings were phenomenal. La Toya Jackson, Tammy Faye Bakker, Diana Ross, Cher—
FB: Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC—
Ru: Bea Arthur. The first guest was actually Diana Ross. I met her in Paris in the waiting area for the Concorde. I was working there for MAC [Viva Glam], and I had to come back to New York to be in the movie To Wong Foo, so the MAC people got me a ticket on the Concorde.
FB: It’s so Mahogany.
Ru: It’s so Mahogany. And I heard her distinctive voice before I saw her: “I need to be in seat A1 because blah blah blah blah blah.” I froze. I knew one day I’d meet her, so I thought to myself, Ru, stay calm, cool, collected, and come from your heart. So I walked over and said, “Hi, Ms. Ross, I’m RuPaul.” She said, “Oh, hey!” She was really lovely and we talked and I said, “OK, I’m not going to bother you. I’m going to let you do your thing.” And she said, “No, come sit down!” So as we sat down [former Clinton adviser and civil rights activist] Vernon Jordan came over and said, “Hey, Diana,” and she said, “Ru, do you know Vernon Jordan?” I said, “Hello, pleasure to meet you. I should let you guys— .” She said, “No, sit down.” And she finished with him, and then right after that Robert De Niro came by and said, “Hey, Diana, how are you?” And she goes, “I’m fine. Bobby, do you know RuPaul?” And he said, “Yes, I do know RuPaul,” because I had met him a few months earlier at a Luther Vandross concert. We sat there and talked and it was lovely and then it was time to board the plane. So then when I got on the plane, she was in seat A1. After we got up to 100,000 feet in the air, I got up to use the restroom in the front of the plane, so I had to pass her in seat A1. As I got to her, there was a line. She said, “Well, Ru, I’m after you.” I said, “OK, all right.” So I got in the bathroom. It was a mess—nasty, horrible. So I thought, I gotta clean this up, because I wasn’t gonna let her think that I was the one who did this. So after I used the restroom I wiped things down and cleaned it up because she was gonna come in after me. [Laughs] So anyway, yeah, she was actually the first guest on the VH1 show.
Read the whole interview here.