DRAG RACING: Classic car aficionado Lypsinka pokes fun at her ambivalence for automobiles
“You’ll forgive me for saying this. But only a gay periodical in Dallas would publish an automobile guide. However, I loathe cars and have plenty of evil things to say,” Lypsinka cackles about the topic at hand.
When it comes to cars, John Epperson — the architect behind the enchanting, supernatural seductress, Lypsinka — knows what he’s talking about.
Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, at 14 Epperson had his learner’s permit, could change his own oil and got busted by his parents for sneaking into a drive-in movie to catch "The Killing of Sister George," which, at that time, was an X-rated feature. But the drive-in was where he got to see many of his favorite films ("Myra Breckenridge," "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," "Rosemary’s Baby," "A Clockwork Orange").
Cinema is the essence of Lypsinka.
Epperson is a undeniable film historian who scholarly discourses about early RKO movies to glam-a-thon campy delights like "Showgirls."
He avoids nearly every television program (“I don’t watch anything with commercials, except for 'Saturday Night Live.'”), but his immersion in all-things-Hollywood is impressive.
And in Lypsinka’s imaginary world, her car’s vanity mirror is bathed with klieg lights.
Epperson admits that he has mixed emotions about cars. When he lived with his family in Mississippi, he had to depend a car in order to get around.
“But I’m totally self-absorbed. And taking care of a car is like taking care of a child,” he complains. “I even resent having to put gas in the tank.”
When he decided to move from away home to pursue a career in entertainment, he knew it meant relocating to either L.A. or New York.
“So I chose New York because you don’t need car. And it’s an enormous relief not to have one,” he huffs.
But traveling is a big part of Lypsinka’s life. Currently, she’s touring her latest show, "Lypsinka: The Boxed Set," around the country. For this interview, Lypsinka is on the phone in Los Angeles.
“And when I’m in L.A., I rent a car,” she says. “If I ever lived here, I don’t think I’d buy one — I’d rent one because then, if the thing breaks down, you’re not responsible for it. You can call the rental company and say, ‘The thing fell apart. Get me another one!’”
The drag performer (“I find the use of the term ‘drag queen’ derogatory — like ‘nigger’ or ‘faggot.’ So ‘drag performer’ sounds more politically correct, if you don’t mind”) is currently tooling around in a rented, silver Buick Regal.
“My friends from Houston came to visit me and laughed at my car. I didn’t pick it myself. I’m just happy that it has power windows, air conditioning, a CD player and a tape player,” he says. “However, I will not drive a little Geo Metro — that little tin can on wheels — it just feels too dangerous.”
When she’s motoring in her rental, she relishes exploring country roads with the stereo on full-blast cranking out early Barbra Streisand hits.
“So you see, like everything else in life, I’m a contradiction. And I have contradictory feelings about cars,” she admits.
She knows that a guy can look like a supreme dream machine if he’s in the right car.
“I’ve made friends with Morrissey, the singer. And he drove up here the other day in a black BMW convertible. And I must say he looked very dashing. He has black hair, and I’m into color coordination. The black hair matched the car and probably matched his mood. He looked great in that car,” Lypsinka swoons.
And when it comes to vintage cars, Lypsinka reaches into her Obscure Film Knowledge file and whips out her grease-monkey smarts.
When choosing a mechanic, she looks for a man who resembles Catherine Deneuve’s dreamboat mechanic in "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964).
Of course, when hiring a chauffeur she prefers the Max von Mayerling-type (played by Erich von Stroheim in "Sunset Boulevard").
“Norma Desmond’s leopard skin-lined car was an Isotta Fraschini. ‘Cost me $28,000. All handmade,’” she mimics with vampy Gloria Swanson-like precision. “Max gets that old bus off its blocks, and they go to Paramount Studios who want to rent it for a Bing Crosby road movie. She drives up to the gate, and she goes ‘Jonesy! You there, Jonesy.’ I also think Isotta Fraschini would make for a great drag name.”
All this talk of vintage cars leads Lypsinka on a dissertation about a classic Bugatti connected to the first lady of modern dance, Isadora Duncan.
“Vanessa Redgrave starred in the film version of Isadora's life. Her performance is unbelievable — the best thing she ever did. Anyway, in the movie she keeps seeing this sexy guy driving a Bugatti — she doesn’t know his name Every time she sees him drive by, she screams, ‘Bugatti!’ Finally she meets him at a party, and she gets in his Bugatti and they drive away. And her scarf, which she’s famous for, her long scarf gets caught in spokes of the wheels and chokes her to death.”
As for Lypsinka’s driving skills, she claims she’s an expert driver and especially talented parallel parker.
“I’m also a musician. I worked at American Ballet Theaters and was a rehearsal pianist for 13 years before my career took off. Musicians are very mathematical, and parking is basically geometry. Once you’ve figured it out, it’s just done like a mathematical equation,” she boasts.
What’s inside Lypsinka’s glovebox?
“A tube of Chanel lipstick, insurance papers, a Valium and a gun!” she shrills.
And if she was in a drag race, she imagines she’d be decked out in some "Fast and Furious" ensemble, à la Thierry Mugler.
“Thierry’s usually dressed in clothes that look like racing-car clothes. And since he’s designed stuff for me before, I think I would go to him and have something custom-made,” she says.
Before she finishes the interview, Lypsinka wants to make sure she hasn’t offended any readers with her jabs at the automobile industry.
“I certainly don’t want to stop any car lovers from coming to my show if I ever make it to Dallas. And I know that if I ever get there, I’m going to want to rent a really nice car.”
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