From meeting Bea Arthur to working with legends like Chad Michaels, author Christopher Logan has always gravitated toward strong women. With the re-release of his book “d.r.a.g.,” he’s giving us another chance to celebrate some of the world’s most amazing drag queens, all captured by some of the industry’s top photographers.
Entertainment Editor Cookie spoke with him about what gave him the idea for this project, who he loved working with most, and which of the queens made him the most nervous!
Christopher, your book “d.r.a.g” is one of the most eye popping and vividly color-filled books I’ve seen in quite some time.
Christopher Logan: I’m glad you enjoyed it! Drag queens definitely need bright vivid colors, they’re not known for being mousy.
You went from behind the camera to putting together an entire book on drag queens. Was that a hard transition?
CL: I actually had written a film on drag; I felt that all the drag films I had seen in the past were a kind of “look at the freak show” and they didn’t have an element of heart in them. I love some of the drag films, like “Priscilla Queen Of The Desert” and “To Wong Foo,” but I think we’ve reached a point where we can have a film that just happens to take place in that arena and we don’t have to constantly be explaining to the audience why we are actually there.
I wrote the film and wanted to have the money for the film come from a pure place, so I did the book on drag as well. The book is sort of a “kickstarter” for the film. It’s grown into a book company that is going to be producing large scale books, and all of the money will go towards kickstarting different film projects.
You used some amazing photographers for this project, like Austin Young and Mike Ruiz, who are very in touch with both New York City and the drag community. How did you choose the people behind the camera for this project?
CL: To be honest with you, the original version of the book was published by a publisher in Belgium that had gone bankrupt. When we were getting the deal the first time, I was going with people from New York and Los Angeles with name recognition. It was really on the strength of their names that we got published.
Everyone has their favorite girls who they love to see perform live. Who is on your list to always make sure you see in person when you are in their town?
CL: I’m huge fan of Chad Michaels. He’s amazing, but he’s very down to earth as well. To be as professional, as personable, and as amazing as he is, yet to still not even miss a step, it’s incredible.
I really owe a debt to Larry Edwards, the Tina Turner impersonator from Las Vegas, and I’m such a fan. He really put the word out for me, since he really believed in the project, and suddenly all of the Vegas entertainers agreed to be in the book and gave us their work, and gave us the credibility to approach Jackie Beat, Lady Bunny and other queens. Larry really helped me get the ball rolling, and I was able to connect with Frank Marino, Chad, and Elaine Lancaster, and some really great names. Larry was really our tipping point; he’s the vote of confidence that we needed.
Many may have their own perceptions about working with drag queens. Was working with them on such a large project what you had expected?
CL: I don’t know what my expectations were to be honest. I think in the beginning, I envisioned a much smaller project. In the beginning, I had put out feelers just to see what I could get. Once Larry (Edwards) came on board, we really got some great connections with photographers and subjects and it just grew from there. I was really happy with how generous everyone was. Every performer we approached just instantly wanted to be a part of the project and wanted to help us connect with others. There was a little back and forth in terms of timing, as these are people that work in the “club world” in terms of getting releases signed and things like that, but there was definitely a method to the madness.
What was the relationship like between a fierce drag queen and a big name photographer? Did the two of them have their own ideas on the shoot or was it much more collaborative?
CL: To be honest, most of the photos were already shot; the book was curated, so most of the photos were already out there. I found photos we liked and then went after them. If I found a photo of Chad Michaels as Cher that I completely adored, I went after it and approached Chad. Once Chad agreed to be in the book, I approached the photographer, and then it turned out, the photographer had a whole roll of shots that had never even been seen before. We kind of went in looking for a specific shot, and came out with some other suggestions for the photographer. I think the only shoot that was specific for the book was for Edie, from Zumanity in Las Vegas. She had some photos that were similar to some others, so she shot specifically for the book and sent us some things. I am in awe of her; she is so Michelle Lee in the 60’s! It’s definitely what I gravitate towards.
With people like Edie in Las Vegas, Shangela on “Glee” and of course “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” do you feel that a project like “d.r.a.g.” will help push it towards the mainstream even more?
CL: “Drag Race” has really pushed drag into the mainstream, and to be honest, reality television is really what has put someone gay in everyone’s living room and gotten us into everyone’s lives who normally would not see us. “Drag Race” did that for drag queens, for people who normally would not see them. I think the book changes the way we may look at drag a bit, since it’s the first time it’s coming out as an art book, as opposed to seeing someone as a boy and seeing how amazing the transformation is. This is more just beautiful pictures of people who are at the top of their game.
Was there anyone included who was on your bucket list who you felt the project would be incomplete without?
CL: Joey Arias. I’ve been a fan of Joey Arias for years, and I think he was one of the ones that I actually got nervous to approach. I’m an actor and I’ve met some celebrities over the years, but you’re always surprised how you’re going to react. For example, when I met Bea Arthur I went crazy. I didn’t expect it. I approached Joey via email first and my hands were actually shaking. You realize how much respect and admiration you have for a person and you suddenly flash back to everything you’ve seen them do. It’s scary!
Anyone you didn’t get to include that you wished you had?
To be honest, since the first publisher went bankrupt, this is a reissue with an additional 20 pages. A lot of the people who fell through the cracks the first time, we got them back for the reissue. Courtney Act, for example, we couldn’t get in time. She was on Magnus Hastings’ photography spread in the book, but she didn’t have a two-page spread of her own. We got that in this time. Same thing with Acid Betty; we simply lost touch. In the beginning, they may not know who we are. A friend’s mother had spoken with Acid Betty about the book, so I think that little conversation helped. It’s definitely a vouch of credibility or a connection that helps. We really want to raise the profile of the project and keep it as pure as possible.
For more visit www.bookthefilm.com.