In New York City, the era of Pyramid and Boy Bar was essentially lightning in a bottle. Raucous, daring and always entertaining, the queens of Boy Bar always came to play. When she was not crafting wigs (and her future career) at Patricia Field’s stores, Perfidia was one of the performers you could always count on to bring the party in one of her sometimes elaborate performances. In a post Boy Bar, somewhat sanitized New York City, Perfidia has taken her talents in wig crafting to build not just her own business (launched at the legendary Patricia Field), but has gone on to become one of the go-to wig designers for leading Broadway shows (such as crafting the hair for Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch). I caught up with Perfidia recently, and we were able to reminisce about the days of Boy Bar, she gave me the best piece of advice that she ever received from Pat Field herself, and she let me know what she feels are some of her proudest accomplishments!
Michael Cook: Perfidia, tell me what is your background in the world of drag. You are, without a doubt, a true legend and a trailblazer.
Perfidia: As a teen, we followed Boy George and David Bowie and other androgynous artists. When I moved to New York City in 1985, it was the height of the Pyramid/East Village drag scene with all kinds of avant-garde drag and creativity going on. I started working at Boy Bar in 1986 and I was crowned Miss Boy Bar which lead to all kinds of fun club privileges!
MC: In those earlier days, what was your own aesthetic and drag style like?
P: Drag style of the East Village was heavily influenced by the 60s with a slightly rough edge. At Boy Bar, we polished our looks a little bit more with beautiful looks from Valley of the Dolls other and such movies like that.
MC: You sold wigs at the legendary Patricia Field’s store and she became a close friend and mentor. How did that relationship develop? What do you think you learned the most from her? Best piece of advice she ever gave you?
P: Yes I did! In 1986 I was I was hired at Patricia Field. At that time, the store was the center of all things nightlife. Patricia showed me how to use your nightclub persona to help sell your merchandise such as the wigs that I’m so famous for now. The best advice Pat ever gave me was to live my gay life to the fullest and take every opportunity given me!
MC: Boy Bar was one of the hottest spots then and you held court over it. Tell me about that scene…
P: Boy Bar was home to so many people back then! We created a family at Boy Bar that extended into Patricia Field, and eventually the House of Field. Every Thursday night, you could be sure that we would have the most exciting drag show in the city. Then from there, we would go to other clubs like Roxy and The Limelight.
MC: Who were some of the biggest performers during that time and some of your closest friends? Tell me one story that really stands out from that time…
P: When I moved to New York City, International Chrysis was the biggest trans star in the city. I had the good luck of moving in with her and actually being trained by her. She also gave me the name Perfidia. Other huge influences on me and my work were Lypsinka, Taboo, Lady Bunny and Hapi Phace, all Pyramid legends. Boy Bar and Pyramid had a very close relationship and we all worked to make Wigstock an amazing event year after year. This culminated with the very exciting Wigstock the movie which was shot inside Patricia Field and around the East Village. In that movie, I got my fifteen minutes of fame that Andy Warhol had promised!
MC: You are now one of the go-to ladies for wigs of all shapes and sizes, and your work is stunning. Tell me about how you found your niche in that world…
P: Well, when I started working at Patricia Field she gave me the opportunity of working in the make-up department which occasionally had a wig or two. With my friends buying, in addition to my selling skills, I was able to sell those wigs plus many more. This eventually developed into my own department which we called Perfidia’s Wig World . Wigstock of course had a huge influence on my sales, as well as Susanne Bartsch parties and giant Roxy Halloween events. At one point my department was the most successful in the store!
MC: What is the key to a great wig and what are some of the mistakes some of the queens today make?
P: The number one mistake people make today in wig styling is not referencing the past. Studying 60’s hairstyles gave me a huge advantage. Then when I moved to Broadway, I went on to learn about the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and every other era. So I would say studying the past is a great way to learn styling. I have stacks of vintage beauty salon magazine that I reference still to this day.
MC: How do you think RuPaul’s Drag Race has influenced the world of drag and performance?
P: This show has given those girls an incredible opportunity. That show can take you over the top in just one or two episodes. I do love it and it’s such fun to see my work featured on the show.
MC: Looking back at your own career as a wig stylist/creator/master and Broadway wig crafter (Hedwig!), what are some of your biggest career accomplishments?
P: Well after working thirteen years at Patricia Field, I eventually moved to TV and theater. Some of my biggest accomplishments were working on Taboo and La Cage on Broadway. I also did two seasons of Strangers With Candy of which I’m very proud of! We filmed Pee-Wee Herman on Broadway for HBO for which I received an Emmy nomination! That was a real surprise and a true thrill.
Follow Perfidia on Instagram here.