It’s 9am on a hot and smoggy Monday morning and I’m crammed in the back of a cab with Barbie-Q, Hard Kora and Ivana of The B-Girlz. They’ve just finished hosting the star-studded opening of Toronto Bike Week and we’re heading back to the B-Hive, aka the flat they share next to a rather swank car dealership.
I want to talk about the new show Vegas Bound… And Gagged opening at Buddies In Bad Times Thu, Jun 15, but the girls would rather talk about breakfast. “Pull over at this grocery store,” Ivana orders the driver, in her thick Russian accent. “I want cream cheese.”
We tumble out of the cab, leaving behind the characteristic trail of lost sequins, stray wig hairs and a couple of pan-stick smears on the back of the front seat, and descend on Whole Foods. The girls get no shortage of attention from other shoppers. They have a knack with the three-year-olds they find perched in the backs of shopping carts. After giving up on a fruitless search for a new Swiffer, we head off to the cash with our breakfast buffet. Being the generous type, Barbie-Q tells the cashier to keep the change but Ivana snaps it back. “This could pay your rent in Russia for a month,” she says.
Finally settled in at the Hive amidst partially finished costumes and a very strange array of props that look like leftovers from the Paris Hilton remake of House Of Wax, the girls kick off their heels, toast up some bagels and we sit back to chat.
The new show is partially inspired by 1980s pop princess Tiffany who first made her mark on the shopping mall circuit. “I’d love to play the West Edmonton Mall,” says Kora. “I hear it’s quite a place… now that they have a Winners.”
“And Ralph Klein is such a big fan of ours,” adds Barbie-Q. “He’s always been a supporter of glamour.”
The Girlz have made it big, in part, by making drag that’s palatable for audiences outside the gay community. “Our audience is very mixed,” Barbie-Q says. “You have straight couples in their 60s, next to leather daddies, next to parents with eight-year-olds. Some of our biggest fans are children.”
Another distinctive feature of the Girlz is that they buck the current lip-synch trend and sing all numbers live; a throwback to the days before queens could download their songs for the night while they’re gluing on their lashes.
Lest they be taken for snobs, the girls are quick to point out that it wasn’t so much the queens who wanted to get away from live singing, as it was the bars hosting them. “Lip-synching is easier for the bars,” Kora says. “They don’t have to have the kind of sound systems you need for live singing. They don’t need sound technicians. A lot don’t have real stages.”
As a result, the Girlz aimed their act at theatre venues rather than bars. While they love to go live, there’s one major drawback. “The lip-synchers get tipped,” Barbie-Q says. “People don’t tip us because they’re afraid to interrupt.” I suggest a tip jar at the front of the stage as a subtle hint. “I already have one,” Ivana says. “But I’d have to move it from beside my bed. And it’s big jar!”
Vegas Bound… and Gagged are part of Buddies’ Pride celebrations and promises a rollicking good time for fans of all ages, with celebrity impersonations, enough costume changes for Diana Ross and more props than you can shake a rubber hand at. After their Toronto run, the girls have a few months on other projects, and then they hit the road in the fall for the first leg of their US tour.
While they have a pretty busy schedule, they’ve yet to book a coveted slot in Vegas. I suggest contacting Celine Dion, to see if she needs an opener. Perhaps she’d feel like giving her fellow Canucks some support?
“Forget Celine. I want to open for Wayne Newton,” Ivana says. “I met him once but I thought he was kd lang and he got very upset.”