Wednesday, September 11, 2013

THIS COULD GET HAIRY! Meet BearScots, the Bears of Scotland!

Meet BearScots, the Bears of Scotland!

Founded in 2000, BearScots is the most well-known and active group for Bears and their admirers in Scotland. When most Americans think of the land of the Scots, they think of the scenery, bagpipes, golf, and... men in kilts! Graham Malcolm, President of BearScots, agrees: "Scotland has plenty of men in kilts! I own two kilts myself and they are great for partying in! But it is rude to ask a man if he is a true Scotsman, until you maybe buy him a drink!" What would most Americans be surprised to know about Scotland...and Scottish men? Malcolm tells me, "You will find Scottish men full of banter and wit. They often have a touch of the ginger gene and are well known for enjoying a wee dram". (I learned that means "a shot of Scotch Whiskey"!.). As for scenery (other than the hairy guys), there’s plenty of that too: "There are plenty of historic houses, castles and rolling hills to see in Scotland. It has some very dramatic scenery. We have some fine distilleries to sample the national drink. That could be whisky or the popular soft drink of Irn Bru! It’s well known to help with the indulgence and the hangover from the night before!"

If you've never been to Scotland, this fall may be the time to go, as BearScots promise plenty of indulgence (and maybe hangovers!) with their annual BearScotFest 2013, in Edinburgh from October 18 through the 20th. The weekend will include many hot and hairy parties, tours, brunches, and the famous Mr. BearScots 2014 Contest. And (drumroll please...), there WILL be men in kilts! After speaking with the the BearScots President, I’m ready to buy my plane ticket. After reading this, you may want to join me!


JR: Hi Graham! Thanks for speaking with me. So, it looks like the Bear Scots have established themselves as a very visible presence in Scotland's Bear scene. How was the group founded?
GM: BearScots was founded by a few like minded souls just over 12 years ago, and started its life of as a wee social gathering in Edinburgh. The monthly gatherings attracted Bears from around Scotland and very soon regular meetings for the Bears happened. Within a year the group set up BearScotFest for a big party in October. This annual event has gone from strength to strength and is now one of the biggest social Bear gatherings in the UK.

JR: Sounds GRRR-eat! So, what are some of the fun events you have going on throughout the year?

GM: The group currently runs monthly events in Scotland’s two major cities with Bears in the West in Glasgow, and Bears in the East in Edinburgh. These are informal pub nights for guys to meet and chat. We are always on hand to join in the banter and hand out sweeties or candy to the punters. BearScots take an active role in Pride with Bears marching behind the banner and some fun pre-pride party activities. This year we were joined by the lovely Mr. BearScots, Jason Green for our march in Edinburgh. In October we have over 600 Bears, Cubs, Chubs, and their admirers descend on the beautiful historic city of Edinburgh for BearScotFest. It is a popular and friendly event which people love to come back to. It includes club nights, tours of the city, brunches and the highlight of the weekend is Bears at the Caves which happen in the depths of the city in an atmospheric old vaulted space.

Our weekend has the Mr. BearScots competition with many hopeful guys appear on stage in hope of winning the title. Jason, who won this year, has relished the role with marching for Pride, promoting the group and making a very popular Santa at our Christmas parties. It is hard to resist sitting on his knee!

JR: I agree. I've seen pictures of him! So, there are a lot of Bear Clubs out there. What makes The Bear Scots unique?

GM: BearScots is unique in that it that it is a Scottish group and not just based in one city or event. We are continually looking to expand what we can offer and try of offer events out with Edinburgh and Glasgow. We work closely with other events and organisations in Scotland and further a field. BearScots are proud to have a close association with Gay Men’s . GMH are a Scottish based charity who work with gay and bisexual promoting their health and well being and support men with HIV. Each year we fundraise for the group and are always amazed at the support people give.

JR: I haven't been to visit Scotland yet, but it's on my list! What is the gay scene like in Scotland? I imagine life would be different in big cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, versus the country. While we're on the subject: What are some of the essential places to go or things to see when someone visits... especially our Bear brothers?

GM: Scotland is a small country with its gay scene mainly based around the larger cities. The Bears and events are focused around Edinburgh and Glasgow. Glasgow is the biggest city in the country and has a lively gay scene with the Bears tending to hang out in the Underground Bar, Waterloo, and for late night drinks at Speakeasy. Edinburgh has a well established nightclub, CC Blooms which has a great chill out bar for day time drinking and late night opening for dancing. The Bears tend to hang out at the New Town Bar with its male-only downstairs bar which opens up at the weekend.

For chilled out drinks you can head to the Regent for real ale and chilling or head to Nom de Plume for food and afternoon coffee.

JR: Real ale, food, and afternoon coffee... I’m partial to all three! (Laughs) "CC Blooms"... Margaret Cho paid tribute to that bar in her show "Notorious C.H.O."! Lastly, without giving too much away: What are some of the surprises that you have in store for us at Scots Bear Fest 2013?

GM: This year will see the Bears splashing about as we have exclusive use of the beautiful Victorian baths of Glenogle. This event has already sold out, but we know that guys will have fun swimming and splashing about.

JR: I always had a fondness for Bear soup! Thanks, Graham!

You can find out more about BearScots and register for BearScotFest 2013 at and visit them on Facebook at

THE JINKX MYSTIQUE: America's Next Drag Superstar Takes New York City by Monsoon in "The Vaudevillians"!

America's Next Drag Superstar Takes New York City by Monsoon in "The Vaudevillians"!

Just where did Jinkx Monsoon come from? Put most simply, Jinkx is the unique creation of 25-year old performer Jerick Hoffer from Portland, Oregon. But the road to becoming America's newest drag darling was much more complex. Jinkx Monsoon, as his creator has stated, is "all about contrasts": sophisticated yet street-smart, classy yet sassy, and showing great reverence for the American celebrity icons of decades past while providing a new cutting-edge sensibility as we approach 2014. The Jinkx persona was inspired by a multitude of real-life and pop culture characters, starting off with the name. "Monsoon", as you may have guessed, is an homage to deliciously decadent gay icon Edina Monsoon from "Absolutely Fabulous". The star's other inspirations include such funny girls as Lucille Ball, Maria Bamford, Deven Green, and Sarah Silverman; the larger-than-life Disney villianesses; and... Hoffer's own mother.

The man behind Jinkx Monsoon has been an accomplished performer for 10 years, with his resume including such juicy roles as Moritz in "Spring Awakening", Angel in "RENT", and Hedwig in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch". On May 10, 2013, Monsoon's status was cemented in the public consciousness forever after being named the Season 5 Winner of "RuPaul's Drag Race", going home with the title of "America's Next Drag Superstar." Since then, Monsoon has been busier than ever. The last few months, Jinkx has been a LONG way from Portland, Oregon: 2897 miles, to be exact. Monsoon is currently performing at New York City's Laurie Beechman Theater in the musical comedy "The Vaudevillians". As performer "Kitty Witless", Monsoon is one half of a married cabaret duo from the 1920's who were frozen alive after being buried under an avalanche of snow while touring Antarctica. However, thanks to modern-day global warming, Kitty and her husband "Dan von Dandy" (played by Major Scales, AKA Richard Andriessen) thawed out and returned to pick up their career where they left off... with (needless to say) hilarious consequences. "The Vaudevillians" has garnered a lot of praise, including accolades from RuPaul himself, who stated, "Triumph!...Saw 'The Vaudevillians' last night and I'm still laughing!"

America's sweetheart took the time in between shows to talk about the making of Jinkx Monsoon, New York City,  "RuPaul's Drag Race", and ... why you should rush out and see "The Vaudevillians"!

JR: Hi Jinkx! So, first off, congratulations for all the praises for "The Vaudevillians". What's been the most rewarding moment of the run of the show so far?
JM: I think the most rewarding moments have been when we've had the chance to perform for some of our favorite artists and entertainers. It's intimidating, but exhilarating to perform for your idols, and meeting them and knowing they saw your work... That has been truly surreal, and very exciting.

JR: No doubt! How has New York City been treating you? Have you found a new favorite hangout spot?
JM: It's been great. A bit overwhelming at first, but awesome. We haven't had much time to find our favorite "hangouts", but we had dinner at Beauty and Essex, which was one of my favorite restaurants I've ever been to. We also spend a fair amount of time at the Chipotle around the corner from our place.

JR: Bumping into Jinkx Monsoon at Chipotle... Now THAT would make my day! In interviews, you've spoken about some of your own icons who have inspired your Jinkx persona: Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, the Disney villianesses, and... your own mother. Are there any famous (or infamous) personalities who you'd ever like to portray-- or pay homage to-- in a future performance piece?
JM: I would LOVE to portray Lucille Ball one day. Her life story is such a fascinating one, and her impact on American culture is immortal. I also would love to a portray a famous Monarch, like Queen Elizabeth I, or Mary Queen of Scotts, or Elizabeth Bathory, the alleged, "Countess of Blood."

JR: That would be fun! So, drag has really come a long way from when it was almost always about lip-synching and mimicking a larger-than-life female gay icon (Not that there's anything wrong with that!). "RuPaul's Drag Race" has played a huge role in raising the visibility of the "new" drag. What direction do you see the art of drag moving to as we head towards 2014?
JM: Well, I believe that the kind of drag RuPaul's Drag Race is exposing audiences to (live performance, comedy, character portrayal... etc) has always been around. It just kinda fell out of the mainstream of drag. What I do as a drag queen is not new. My drag idols, like Varla Jean Merman, Lady Bunny, Coco Peru, Joey Arias, RuPaul, Peaches Christ, Jackie Beat, Craig Russell... All of these ladies have been doing live singing, comedy, and characterizations for as long as I've been alive, and they inspired me to take that track with my drag. But RuPaul's drag race IS doing something special, by exposing the artist behind the queen. Letting us get to know the real people who create these drag personas... Making celebrities out of drag queens. Nowadays, there is no limit to what we, as queens, can do. Ru girls appear on TV shows, release top charting albums, have all kinds of merchandise franchises, they even have sold out Off-Broadway shows. Ru has blown the door wide open for us to accomplish our goals and live out our dreams in a way I don't think was possible before Drag Race. By exposing the many talents and multifaceted nature of these talented queens, our community is embracing drag with a whole new open mind and respect. I love it.

JR: That makes two of us! Lastly, why should everyone who's reading this interview drop their cocktail (or remote control, or whatever...) and buy tickets to see "The Vaudevillians"?
JM: The Vaudevillians has everything that a modern audience is looking for in a show. A new, fresh concept, a hilarious conceit, well rehearsed, professionally executed songs, pop culture references, and a little bit of heart and human emotion. It's a very easy show to watch; you order a cocktail, maybe some pasta or some French fries, and just let the show take you by surprise. But I think what makes it the most exciting for some audience members is that both Major Scales (the co-creator and the music director for this show) and myself really love doing this show. It's been our dream for years now to perform this show in New York, and here we are. So I think our passion rings clear throughout the show and audiences pick up on that.

JR: Sorry, I have to add one more! Inquiring minds want to know: Is there anyone, shall we say, "special" in your life right now?!
JM: There is some one I miss terribly... But life on the road only allows for so much one on one time. It's best just to keep things on a simmer. But they know who they are, and they know I can't wait to see them again.

JR: Thanks, Jinkx!

You can visit Jinkx Monsoon's official website at "The Vaudevillians" runs through October 29th at NYC's Laurie Beechman Theater407 W 42nd St. in Hell's Kitchen.  Buy your tickets to "The Vaudevillians" at