Miss Linda Simpson

Interview by
Adam Baran


Ask any gay man in New York who their favorite drag queen is. If they say 'Linda Simpson', consider them someone you should get to know. Linda, for the uninitiated, is the ultimate hostess: a drag queen with no specific gimmick to speak of except for charm, wit, and a fondness for corny jokes. 'There are a few other queens like me,' says Linda, 'but most are more talented.' In the late '80s, Linda (the alter-ego of Les Simpson) began publishing the queer zine My Comrade, a campy chronicle of the East Village drag scene where she found a home. Linda has created many hit parties over the years like 'Slurp' at the Cock and now 'Bingo-Ski', at the Ukranian National Home, a monthly bingo salute to Soviet Russia. Linda also has some fun experiences getting frisky with tranny chasers, which she was compelled (by us) to share.

Adam: Tell me a little bit of background on yourself for the readers around the globe who aren’t familiar with you.
Linda: Ok. Well, I moved to New York quite a while ago. For showbiz purposes I keep numbers a little bit vague. But let’s just say that I’ve seen a lot of history in New York. A lot of the ’80s and ’90s and millenium. I’m originally from Minnesota. I went to college for a while in New York and then dropped out. Then I got into the East Village scene in the late ’80s — or my drag persona started in the late ’80s and that was a big transformation. Then at the same time I started publishing My Comrade magazine, so that was my entrée into the scene.
How did you come up with your drag persona Linda?
Well, I had done the Halloween thing here or there for a night, but then the Pyramid scene became really attractive to me — I was just really tickled by the stable of drag queen stars they had at that time. It was a real drag hot spot. I became friendly with some of them and just decided to take the plunge myself. But my drag persona was really just an extension of myself — of what I already was: I just threw on a wig and acted the same way I did out of drag.
My friend and I describe your look as sort of slutty housewife from New Jersey.
Oh great I was going for sophisticated! No but you’re right, I mean some people really turn it out in drag. I’m not as creative as some over the top queens, but my character, if there is a character, is a little more womanly, for better or worse.
I remember in your play The Bad Hostess, there’s a great line about your character being a drag queen who doesn’t sing, doesn’t dance, doesn’t do comedy, doesn’t lip-sync, doesn’t have an act…it got a lot of knowing laughs from the audience, but for me that’s kind of the brilliance of Linda.
Yes, well it puts me at a disadvantage in that I don’t have an act, per se. But it also distinguishes me too. That way I’m not able to get stuck in an act. Monetarily it’s been a burden but also I don’t really know if I have a burning desire to be a singer or a lipsyncher.
Did you ever try lipsynching?
Yeah back at the Pyramid, a couple of times. But it’s not really for me. I love music but I was never that musically inclined, and I’m not that good about memorizing lyrics. (laughs) So that puts me at another disadvantage. Although I can act and emote so that’s a good thing for me. I can plug in. My biggest hit was a play I wrote called The Tranny Chase about the phenomenon of men who are sexually attracted to drag queens and the commotion that can cause.
Based on your personal experience right?
Yes, well, when I first got into drag I had no idea that there was a sexual component that came with it. Not the thrill of getting dressed up but the fact that there are quite a few men that find it arousing, and there’s different degrees of Tranny chasing — some are hardcore, some are situational, some are a drunk fling, but it can be a sort of emotionally confusing situation for drag queens because the men that are attracted to drag queens are pretty secretive or on the down low or in denial about what’s going on. A lot of time they’ve got gay or same sex desires that they need masked.
Psychologically it makes you feel like you’re a fetish and less of a human being.
Sure. It’s fun to be put on a sexual pedestal but you’ve got to realize that you’re also kind of object to be secretive about.
And it’s not your real persona they’re attracted to.
Right. But you know there can be a lot of one night stands where you can really connect with somebody emotionally, but you have got to be really careful because you have to realize that there is no way that that relationship can go any further. They can’t meet you the next day in your male clothes because that would freak them out too much.  I’m talking a little generally, I realize there’s a broad spectrum of people’s attractions and orientations, and things are more open-minded now.
And sometimes the guys are really hot right?
Oh yeah, the benefit of getting with a tranny chaser, is a lot of them are hot.  Sometimes they don’t even care what you look like as long as you’re doing that feminine persona. One of my most memorable tranny-chaser experiences took place several years ago in the dead of winter.  I was walking to a friend’s apartment a few blocks away in the East Village, very inappropriately dressed in a mini-skirt, when this hot truck driver beckoned me to his vehicle. He seemed safe so I hopped in.  It was a bread-delivery truck and the aroma was wonderful as we fooled around for a fast, but very satisfying sex session. He then kindly drove me my friend’s place.
Going back to My Comrade, how many issues did you publish?
14. It started out as a zine and grew to be something more. It was at the forefront along with a couple of other zines of the whole queer zine explosion in the late ’80s with Bruce LaBruce’s J.D.’s, Vaginal Crème Davis’ magazines, George Wayne’s Rome, Pansy Beat in the East Village, Thing from Chicago. I kind of started My Comrade not being familiar with a lot of them, except for Rome which was really a very big influence me. And My Comrade led and went hand in hand with that East Village drag/AIDS activist/Bohemian artist scene in the late ’80s early ’90s.
It was very funny and angry at bullshit hypocrisy-
Definitely, it was very campy. But the smartest thing I did, it was again, not thought out, was to take a really upbeat manner. It would have been very easy at that time when there were a lot of people dying of AIDS and the government inaction, and tons of homophobia to come off really angry and punk rock and “fuck you”. But instead it took a real kind of camaraderie among gay people, very celebratory. Kind of like a UFO show approach, and it really worked. It really treated drag queens and young sexy guys as heroes, so it elevated people above the morass.
So are you ever going to publish a new issue?
Um, hellooo! Print is dead! Oh, I’m sorry BUTT Magazine. (Laughs) It was always very stop/start – it might publish again, but it’s just hard to say. It’s an art project as opposed to a regular money-making magazine.
I think my favorite thing about you is when you drop little off-hand jokes like that. Do you actually practice your jokes?
They’re sometimes spontaneous, and sometimes I rehearse, but often my wit just bubbles forth.

Linda’s latest project is the campy photo-novella Bitches in the Sky.

Published on 29 September 2009