One of the highlights of this year’s 16th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival has to be the midnight screening and West Coast premiere of the new film, “Varla Jean and The Mushroomheads” starring the one and only Varla Jean Merman in her first headlining feature film role. It’s tough to describe the plot of “VJATM” so I’m going to cheat and cut n’ paste the synopsis from the Festival website:
After years of performing in New Orleans’s best dive bars to sagging audiences, semicelebrity and cabaret chanteuse Varla Jean Merman (Jeffrey Roberson) decides to go after a younger crowd—kids. This mockumentary captures her comically ill-conceived, campy, and hilariously inappropriate effort to create a local children’s television show. VARLA JEAN AND THE MUSHROOMHEADS offers helpful education (“Don’t eat raw chicken!”), entertainment (Mr. Pickle), and most importantly, her own opportunity to become a big TV star. Returning after her unforgettable role in the camp classic GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS (SLGFF 2003), Varla Jean is definitely, and rather desperately, ready for her close-up.
The film will screen at The Egyptian on Saturday, October 15th as the Midnight screening of the Festival, (tickets still available!) but sadly Varla Jean will not be in attendance so we tracked her down to get this rather naughty interview with her. Enjoy!
Michael Strangeways: Hi Varla Jean/Jeffery! We’re thrilled you’re going to chat with us and we’re excited to see your first headlining film, “Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads” at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in its West Coast premiere, but we’re also a bit bummed you’re not going to be here for the screening. We’re taking a guess that you’re busy rehearsing for your debut in Charles Busch’s “The Divine Sister”. You’ve been here before…any fond, or not so fond memories of Seattle?
Varla Jean Merman: Fondue memories! I have performed at Rebar and at Julia’s! Both visits were filled with love, laughter and song. And that was before I even left my hotel room…
MS: This is your first feature film as the headliner…you’re both starring in and producing the film and you co-wrote it. Was it nerve wracking taking on so many roles?
VJM: If Barbra Streisand could conjure up Yentl, Varla Jean Merman could conjure up a lengthy Mushroom Head! That’s what I say! And I adore control! Total control! So my nerves were fine! Thanks, Xanax!
MS: How long did it take to make the film? Is the “Mushroomhead” story one that you’ve been developing for a long time?
VJM: We made it in 11 days! The whole “documentary” was based on my children’s show of the same name, so we had a head start…
MS: This film seems ideal for a line of promotional products…is the world ready for “Mushroomhead” and “Varla Jean” action figures?
VJM: The Varla Jean Merman doll? The only doll that plays with herself!
MORE Interview AND MORE Varla Jean after the Jump!
MS: This screening is only the third one for this film…do you have a distribution deal yet or are you still riding the festival circuit?
VJM: We are riding the circuit! We finished the film late for the official season, but I never like to do anything easy or even according to the “Status Quo.” As for a distribution deal, it’s hard to find the right fit for a “Mushroom Head.” We’re hoping one comes along!
MS: You have a great cast with many theater veterans including Donna Drake, Seth Rudetsky and our hoped for future husband, Tom Judson…you’ve spent a couple summers with Tom in Provincetown doing your summer show. Mr. Judson is sexy, smart, talented and knows how to use a hammer and play the piano…is there anything he can’t do?
VJM: Style wigs! I’ve tried to send him to wig school, but he won’t budge…
MS: Our hometown gal Dina Martina is also a Provincetown superstar…do the competing divas of P-Town get a chance to check out each other’s shows? Or, is it all work, work, work? Any good Dina anecdotes?
VJM: Dina Martina and I are both in the “Lady Union” so we support each other and go to the meetings where we fight for our rights as “professional white women.” We are like teamsters, except hairier.
MS: Coincidentally, “Mushroomhead” screens the same weekend as your lovely co-star Miss Coco Peru’s one woman show at Re-bar here in Seattle…can she be your designated representative at the screening?
VJM: That’s a great idea! I don’t know if I can afford her, though! She’s a pricey, sophisticated lady! ANd the sweetest gal in the business!
MS: We hear “Girls Will Be Girls 2” is in the can…will it be ready for Film Festival season next year?
VJM: Yes! I know it will! I love this Girls Sequel! An asteroid really hits earth! It’s a disaster film!!!
MS: The poop is, Logo turned down a “Girls Will Be Girls” tv series because they thought drag shows were too camp and not the right image for modern gay audiences, then subsequently they rode to glory and profitability on the back of RuPaul and her drag empire…any bitterness there from the “GWBG” crew? (And, someone SHOULD do a GWBG tv show!)
VJM: Alas, we are three old women compared to those whippersnappers on that show! Having us on Drag Race would be like having Cloris Leachman on Dancing With the Stars. Oh. And I don’t think Evie, Coco, or I have the ability to make outfits out of duct tape, or lip sync for our lives. BUT I know for a fact that we could judge those girls, if they ever asked! I love that there is finally drag on TV! I just wish I were 27 and thin and black. Well, two out of three ain’t bad…
MS: You confuse many people…Jeffery is built like a jock and looks very masculine, yet Varla is very pretty and feminine. On paper, this shouldn’t work, yet it does. What is Jeffery/Varla’s beauty secret and does the existence of Varla give hope to all beefy masculine men who secretly yearn to be drag divas?
VJM: I wear more foundation garments and makeup as a man. So when I’m dressed as a lady, I look more natural. I also coat my face with a good aluminum rich anti-perspirant like Mitchum and clog my pores before applying any makeup. I haven’t sweat on my face in 12 years. AND, any big, beefy masculine men who want a one-on-one consultation, weel, I AM AVAILABLEQQQQ
Much thanks and love to Varla Jean and Jeffery for taking the time to chat with us…AND, check out the film, this coming Saturday at The Egyptian at Midnight!