by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
You simply cannot go anywhere on Capitol Hill without hearing the name Jinkx Monsoon. The drag entertainer sang and danced her way into the mainstream of local Gay celebrity and is a breath of fresh air. Jinkx Monsoon is raising the bar for would-be queens, and we love her for it. Less drama, more talent: Jinkx is kicking show business ass and taking names. Seattle Gay News caught up with the (very) busy entertainer to talk about where the Jinkx movement is taking her next.
Some people spend their whole lives trying to create a persona. Jerick Hoffer, the man behind the drag queen, knew, at a very young age, exactly who he could be: enter Jinkx Monsoon. 'I started performing as Jinkx Monsoon at age 15, so for almost nine years now I have been working as a drag personality,' Jerick told SGN. 'I started at an all-ages Queer dance club in Portland, Oregon, called The Escape. From there I started working in the many drag bars that Portland has to offer, such as The Red Cap Garage, C.C. Slaughters, and occasionally Darcelle's.'
In the beginning, the character was little more than just Jerick dressed as the opposite sex. But over the years, as he worked in a variety of shows and experimented with different projects, Jerick evolved the character into what she is today: Jinkx Monsoon, a mid-40s single mother who has always had dreams of being a successful actress. But through the stress of raising her three children, and her own disposition for self-destruction, she has never made it farther than performing as a novelty act in Gay clubs and at cabaret shows. In order to be on stage, she appeals to her Gay audience, sort of like a 'Connie and Carla' kind of setup.
'It errs on the side of Victor Victoria,' said Jerick. 'I am a boy, who plays a woman, who plays a drag queen.'
Jerick graduated from Cornish College of the Arts last year, with a degree in theater and an emphasis in musical performance and has managed a drag/cabaret career simultaneously with an acting career since he was a senior in college. He appeared in shows with Seattle Shakespeare Company and Book-It Repertory, and will act in the upcoming 'Exit Pursued by a Bear' at ArtsWest this fall.
'As Jinkx, I perform monthly at Sylvia O'Stayformore's Bacon Strip at Re-bar and am the current reigning 'Miss Bacon Strip,' he said. 'I perform weekly at The Rosebud Restaurant and Bar on Thursdays at 9 p.m. with my music partner Richard Andriessen. I also can be seen hosting and performing at various parties thrown by Kevin Kauer [DJ Nark] and I perform or host about once a month at The Pink Door in the market at their Saturday late night burlesque review.'
The rise of Jinkx Monsoon has taken many by surprise. A little over one year ago, the character was virtually unknown to the drag and cabaret masses. 'Before I graduated, I took a somewhat obligatory hiatus from drag work as it was too much to take on while working a job, being a full-time student, and having an internship,' explained Jerick. 'So when I graduated, one of the first things I did was contact Kevin Kauer about participating in his monthly Fringe party. From there I met Sylvia O'Stayformore and performed at my first Bacon Strip in August 2010. Those two - Kevin Kauer and Sylvia O'Stayformore - are hugely responsible for the exposure I got early in my Seattle career. They have provided a platform for me to launch from and continually involve me in their shows and projects. I owe a lot to the two of them.'
Other friends made along the way include Sydney Devereaux at The Pink Door and the incomparable Ben DelaCreme. 'Through working with them, I have met a wonderful network of Seattle performers. I am excited to work on future projects with Ben DelaCreme as we share an aesthetic and similar since of humor and excitement in our drag work.'
'I can say that I have taken the training I received at Cornish and matched it with the tenacity and drive that I have possessed since I was 5 years old. I have always wanted to be on stage,' said Jerick. 'From a very early age, singing and performing have been some of my greatest joys. I have worked hard my whole life to hone my interests and turn them into a passion that I love to share with audiences. At the beginning of my Seattle drag career, I was happy just to be seen, so I pushed myself to do any show offered. Nowadays, I have found my niche in Seattle, and more so, I am clear on what I want to continue doing. I am very excited to continue to work hard.'
With wonderful friends and lots of adoring fans, Jerick says he's finding out what the LGBT community is all about. 'What I have found to be beautiful about Seattle is that there is literally something for everyone. We have something to pique everyone's interest. I think we have a strong respect for one another, even if there are groups that rarely cross paths,' he said. 'As I have done more traveling recently, I have felt in other cities that the Gay neighborhood or the Gay district has felt more like a quarantine than a part of the city. While in Chicago recently for the Chicago Improv Festival with my improv troupe IMPROVOLUTION!, I recall walking down a street at night and hearing someone say 'Go back to Boystown!' Whereas in Seattle, though I know there are definitely distinct 'Queer' and 'straight' areas of town, the LGBT community is such a strong presence that we are a part of the city as a whole. Seattle has one of the largest Queer communities per capita, and I think that is because we are such a strong and supportive community that we demand to be treated as a part of our city.'
Like any successful performer will tell you, it isn't all about applause and fame. You've got to stand for something in order to really be a part of the community you entertain. 'Jinkx has always been very much involved in HIV testing and safe-sex awareness amongst Queer youth. Being 23 and growing up in two cities with strong Queer communities, I have seen a lot since I came out at age 14. I did a lot of volunteer work at the Sexual Minority Youth Research Center (SMYRC), and I was made aware of the importance of communication and responsibility that comes hand in hand with being sexually active early on in life,' said Jerick. 'However, not everyone has the benefit of living 10 blocks away from a Queer youth rec center. I have found that many young people in the Queer community, early bloomers, are more or less convinced that HIV and AIDS are things of the past - tall tales from the '80s. As a drag personality who thinks of herself as mother to all Gay boys, Jinkx has spoken many times on the importance of safe, responsible sex.'
In the voice of Jinkx, Jerick said, 'Communicate! I don't care what filthy things you boys like to do, just do them safely and responsibly. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't be afraid to speak up!'
The entertainer has a thing for show tunes. 'Some of my favorite shows are Into The Woods, Sweeney Todd, Grey Gardens, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Gypsy,' he said. 'But out of the realm of Broadway, I listen to a lot of Amanda Palmer, both in her solo work and with her two-person band The Dresden Dolls. They have been musical inspiration for me since I was a kid. I have even gotten to perform in pre-show cabarets for their concerts in Seattle and Portland - a real dream come true.'
Other music favorites include Regina Spektor, Nina Hagen, Billie Holiday, The Sex Pistols, stuff from the '20s, '30s, and '40s, and Jerick's very favorite French opera singer, Patricia Petibon.
Jerick has a lot of goals for Jinkx. 'Recently I have gotten to travel and perform some of my acts in other cities and I would love to do more of that. I hope within a year I will have gotten to go to Provincetown and New York with my music partner Richard Andriessen, and perform our vaudeville show The Vaudevillians at some cabaret venues around the country,' he said. 'I would like to make more video projects and music videos with my friend and collaborator Alex Berry. Our music video to my pop spoof 'Jinkxalicious' was just the beginning.'
In addition, Jerick says he would like to continue working on his web show 'Monsoon Season' with comedy partner Nick Sahoyah. 'We have been working on a zero-budget drag sitcom about Jinkx Monsoon's home life for two years now, and it can be found at www.funnyordie.com/monsoonseason.'
'I want to build a monthly show that showcases some of the wonderful talents I have met throughout my year working here, in and out of the drag network,' he said. 'I've met so many wonderful burlesque performers, modern dancers, musicians, comedians, and DJs, and would love to create a variety show.'
'Maybe someday Jinkx will join the drag Mount Rushmore with so many of my idols: Jackie Beat, Varla Jean Merman, Lady Bunny [who Jinkx will open for in Portland on July 29], Justin Bond, and of course, the smartest queen in the money-making business, RuPaul,' said Jerick.
You can catch Jinkx and Richard Andrissen's The Vaudevillians Thursdays at 9 p.m. at The Rosebud. 'The Vaudevillians are the hottest act ever frozen alive,' said Jerick. 'It consists of Dr. Dan Von Dandy, Ph.D. in Music and Mixology, and his lovely wife, Kitty Witless, retired courtesan and famed chanteuse. The duo were one of the most beloved and renowned traveling vaudeville acts in the 1920s, well known for their revolutionary original ragtime rhythms. However, in the fated year of '19-bigotry-2' they were subject to a horrible accident. While scaling the side of an icy mountain in Antarctica, they were frozen alive in a freak avalanche. Today, thanks to global warming, they have thawed out and returned to the states to play their original music once more. Although, due to lack of funds for copyrights in the '20s their music has since been covered and ripped off by popular artists for almost a century.'
Songs like 'Piece Of My Heart,' 'Toxic,' 'I Will Survive,' 'Bad Romance,' and many more have been completely bastardized by today's artists. The Vaudevillians play such songs as they were originally written, in the ragtime style of the 1920s. It is a comedic, raunchy, and altogether insane musical show that has entertained audiences every week for the last five months.
Perhaps the most exciting piece of news for Jerick is when Jinkx Monsoon was selected as house drag queen of The Social, a new nightlife business on Capitol Hill. 'I am terribly excited! The Social has so much potential to be an amazing new spot. It seems like it is going to have so many different types of events and I am thrilled to get to throw my two cents in where entertainment is concerned,' he said. 'My audiences can expect two different shows from me. I plan on doing a monthly variety show. The working title is Superstitious! It's a show where we take well-known fairy tales, urban legends, and childhood stories and retell them through the eyes of Queer performers. It will include all different types of performance, from striptease to skits and singing, dance numbers, and maybe fire spinners. I want to showcase talent at my show, and that's what I'm hoping to get to do.'
'I also have planned a much more low-key evening in the Social's video lounge which would be a screening party for my web show Monsoon Season as well as independent film work of local artists and filmmakers,' said Jerick. 'The exciting part is that there will be drink specials themed after Monsoon Season, including the 'Monsoon,' which I'm thinking will just be a long island with fruit punch and specials on KamiKazi shots, named after Jinkx's only son.'
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