A Conversation with Burlesque Queen World Famous *BOB*

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When you talk about the World Famous *BOB*, there’s a lot to say. She is one of the great persons and personas of the world I dwell in. A mainstay on the hip club/burlesque circuit, she has wowed New York audiences with her gender-confusing shtick since the mid-nineties. With her feminine charms, she raises the question, What about *BOB*? In the attached photo by Ed Barnas, she is all woman, but on stage, surrounded by drag queens and kings, the question of gender becomes an issue, and then of course it isn’t. In that little twist, she raises the consciousness of those still trying to figure it all out. On February 3-5, *BOB* will take her One Man Show, about a girl who had to become a drag queen to learn how to become a woman, to The Wild Project at 195 East 3rd Street. I caught up with World Famous *BOB* and asked her all about it.

I’ve known you for a bit. When you first broke through in our scene, what year was that? Your persona was ambiguous. Tell me how you capitalized on the confusion to make your career work. I moved here in 1995, and yes, I was extremely ambiguous when it came to my gender, because I had just come from San Francisco, where I strongly identified as a New Wave fag during the day, and a Drag Queen at night. When I moved to NYC, it was an attempt to live out my biggest dream — to be a fancy freak in New York. I still wasn’t sure of my gender, but was very inspired by the trans community. Any capitalization on the confusion was just a way to not be put on the spot. It’s hard to answer the question, Are you a boy or a girl, when you’re not sure yourself.

So blurring the lines of sexuality helps us understand ourselves and others. Is the World Famous *BOB* educating us as she goes? It’s funny you ask, because I have the huge honor of teaching workshops and performing at a lot of major universities. Everyone has a story, and as long as you have the courage to share it authentically, someone will learn something new, or identify with something they have already known. It is very powerful, and it’s the type of work that gets me up in the morning. I co-created a queer performance art troupe called Gender Fabulous! and that’s what we are all about: Creating a sense of community and spreading a message of hope and survival to the younger queer and queer-friendly community.

The name World Famous *BOB*, where did it come from? I changed my name to *BOB* when I was 15, because of Robert Smith from The Cure. When I was 25, I performed in my first Wigstock, and Jackie Beat, my Drag Mother, crowned me World Famous *BOB* as a way to “spice up” my name. I legally changed it 5 years ago.

Tell me about the show It’s a little bit of comedy mixed in with storytelling, video, and a butch-inspired striptease. It’s a coming of age and gender tale about a girl who actually has to become a Drag Queen to become a woman, and all of the hilarity and sadness that comes with. Kate Valentine is my director, and she really helped me create a 70 minute show that has a solid beginning, a crazy middle, and a beautiful end.

Below, the official summary of One Man Show.

From a farm in California to the nightclubs of NYC and the stages of the world- delight in the storytelling tour of one of NYC’s most well loved downtown darlings! An evening of heartache, amazement, and laughter unfolds the tale of a 15 year old new wave farm girl that decides her destiny is to become a professional drag queen.Raised by a pack of homosexuals she soon sees the whole world through their eyes-from living in a camaro, her identification as a Draq Queen, to her transformation into a burlesque star !The World Famous *BOB* promises to capture your heart and sprinkle it with glitter! A life directed by John Hughes, John Waters, & Fellini all at the same time. Running Length: 70 minutes Directed by: Kate Valentine Gowns By: David Quinn Face & Show Image By: Karl Giant