Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 14, No. 30, Ed. 1 Friday, November 21, 1997 Page: 22 of 80
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'The Doll only wears red' —
Whether on- or off-camera, The Lady Chablis fills well
the high heels of a quintessential Southern drag diva
By Tim Nasson
NEW YORK — The last time I con-
versed with The Lady Chablis (yes,
that's her legal name) was on the tele-
phone, while she was taking a bubble
bath in her apartment in South
Carolina. At the time, nearly a year ago,
she was proud to be a fledgling author.
Hiding My Candy, a spin-off, if you will,
of Midnight in the Garden of Good and
Evil which has been a best-seller for
three years and counting.
In Midnight, gay author John Berendt
chronicled Chablis' (even her 87-year-
old grandmother calls her by the name)
life as a drag queen, or 'female imper-
sonator' as she likes to be labeled, in
Savannah during the early '80s.
Like a small fish in a big sea, Chablis
quickly found herself in a body of water
that was very intimidating, with a lot of
bigger fish trying to get close to her.
One of the biggest fish happened to
be Clint Eastwood who took Chablis'
comment of wanting to work on the
film version of Midnight very seriously.
"People think that I lobbied for the
part in the movie. I couldn't have cared
less if I was in tire movie, to be honest
with you. I am happy the way things
turned out and that Clint decided on
using me to play myself, but the whole
story of how I became involved in the
film was misinterpreted from the very
beginning," she says, sipping from her
tea with honey.
"What I had said to Clint, when I
knew he was ready to begin casting the
film was, 'If you want the film to win an
Academy Award, you'd best cast me as
myself," she added, with the bravado
that has made her one of the most
sought-after performers in the south.
That comment would obviously lead
to the question of how much she
enjoyed playing herself in the film and
what she thought of her performance.
"I have not even seen the film yet,"
she said, "I am waiting for the right
opportunity to see it. I missed the first
screening of it that you saw the other
night. I may go to the premiere in
Hollywood, but honestly, I think I may
stay home and wait for it to open so I
can see it with my friends. That is more
important to me, seeing it with
Not the answer that many would
expect the "Doll" to utter.
"Working on the film was a unique
experience," she said, "It was scary at
first, but Clint made me feel very com-
fortable and made the task so much eas-
ier for me."
Chablis' own book is on the way to
being adapted for the big screen, but
she (who went off on Liz Smith for
referring to her as he/she in a recent
column: "I am a she," Chablis reiter-
ates, "What if I called Liz Smith a
she/he?") has no big desire to step into
her own shoes again in front of the cam-
era. "I don't know if I have what it takes
to do this again. I never set out to be an
actress. All I know for sure is that I am
getting paid nicely for t^.e film."
Chablis (who states her age is 40, and
has been comfortably adorning herself
with woman's attire since 14) spends a
lot of her time in the southern United
States doing her show, which lately has
drawn a large heterosexual audience. "I
think that I am proof that straight peo-
ple now respect gays more. I don't
mind that they laugh at me on stage.
That is what I am there to make them
do. I think that is where the laughter
stops, thankfully. I don't find or hear
that many straight people laugh behind
my back about me. For the ones that do,
I just have this to say, 'Two tears in a
bucket. Mother-fuck it.' Or, for the
comedically challenged, 'Get over it.'"
"I decided to move to South
Carolina, because I felt that living in
Savannah all year long, I had no priva-
cy. It made it hard to do a show there if
people saw me everywhere I went. I
couldn't even go to Piggly Wiggly
'inconnegro.' That is out of costume, for
the white people who wouldn't under-
stand that," she says. "I love perform-
ing in Savannah though. In fact the city
takes in over $100 million a year in
tourist revenue. The number one reason
people go there is to see Mercer House.
The second reason is to see me, child."
Chablis is not used to the sudden
movie fame, which really hasn't even
begun yet. "Usually when I am the talk
of the town, I am the one doing all the
Talking about an Academy Award
nomination is something many in
Hollywood and the press are doing
after having seen her performance. And
hers is not the only gay portrayal des-
tined to snag a nomination this year.
Rupert Everett is a shoe-in for My Best
Friend's Wedding, but there is also Greg
Kinnear for his role as an AIDS patient
in As Good As It Gets opposite Jack
Nicholson this Christmas — and Robert
Downey Jr. for the same type of role, in
NOVEMBER 21, 1997 DALLAS VOICE
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 14, No. 30, Ed. 1 Friday, November 21, 1997, newspaper, November 21, 1997; Dallas, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth616180/m1/22/?q=RIO%20VISTA: accessed October 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.