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American Idols: Mink Stole and Peaches Christ on Tour

The iconic actor and drag impresario tell us about their new cabaret show, ‘Idol Worship’
Peaches Christ and Mink Stole in 'Idol Worship.' (Credit: Mettie Ostrowski)

After two decades of friendship, the cult cinema star Mink Stole and the drag impresario, producer, and filmmaker Peaches Christ (the alter-ego of Joshua Grannell) have created Idol Worship, a cabaret show which, according to Peaches’ website, promises an “uncensored expose that is as hilarious as it is revealing.”

We’ve set a video call date to chat, and I leisurely sit sipping tea as I wait for them—not realizing I am the Zoom gatekeeper to let my own party begin. 

“Maybe you get in, maybe you don’t,” says Mink puckishly as she finally appears on the screen. “Oh, so very Brady Bunch,” laughs Joshua when I lift the virtual velvet rope and let him in. We’re all in little blocks on our various screens (just like the opening of The Brady Bunch TV show), whizzing in from L.A., San Francisco, and New York.

So what’s it like to be idol worshiped like this, Mink? “No, no, no, please, no, no adoration, please,” she laughs, and her fabulous black-rimmed feline-looking glasses lift up on her conversable face.

Mink Stole (Credit: Mettie Ostrowski)

At the time of this interview, they’d just finished their first Idol Worship tour across ‘merica, and since have added a more shows throughout the summer. Even though Mink Stole is semi-retired from looking for work, this is a show she won’t resist doing again and again. And as she says, “the show has maybe some secrets, maybe some lies.” And who doesn’t want to witness all of that? 

It’s an evening of storytelling, film clips, and live song in the wildly entertaining and uncensored exposé. Also they have shiny sequined outfits on. These two icons have been working together for decades now, and you feel that with every interaction—a real friendship of two intellectuals. In fact, Mink has appeared in several Peaches productions, including an unforgettable role opposite Natasha Lyonne in Peaches’ writing/directing feature film debut, All About Evil.

Mink is part John Waters’ original motley crew of players, appearing in all the underground, bare-bones 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm cult perversions that he kicked off in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. And Mink would remain a totally offbeat, outrageous presence in counterculture films for the next five decades. She was born with the all-American name of Nancy Stoll on August 25, 1947 in Baltimore, Maryland. Waters took her under his wing in 1966, wherein she started “acting out” (that’s probably how John Waters would say it) a number of his deviant creations for gross-out effect. Mink appeared alongside other outré members that included break-out star drag actor Divine, plus Mary Vivian Pearce, David Lochary, Cookie Mueller, and the must-be-seen-to-be-believed Edith Massey.

Since then, Mink has made numerous tongue-in-cheek cameos for other off-the-cuff directing talents as well, continuing her reign as a prime film outlaw. She appeared in Todd Stephens’ 2006 feature Another Gay Movie, playing a character named Sloppi Seconds. (Need I say more?) Other films with tacky, tawdry titles that begged for straight-to-video release include: Liquid Dreams (1991), The Crazysitter (1994), A Dirty Shame (2004), Sunny & Share Love You (2007), and Becoming Blond (2012). She also made appearances in the raunchy, queer-themed Eating Out series of comedy films. And of course I have seen them all. More than once. 

Joshua Grannell as Peaches Christ (Credit: Mettie Ostrowski)

Speaking of which, Joshua grew up memorizing all of Mink’s movie dialogue, so it was a dream come true for him to be doing shows together. Over the last two decades, as Peaches Christ, Joshua has created films and been a “cult leader” in San Francisco and created these genius self-produced movie events at the Castro Theatre—with guest stars like Cloris Leachman, Linda Blair, Pam Grier, and, of course, Mink. Peaches also has been a drag mother to two iconic RuPaul’s Drag Race winners, Bob the Drag Queen and (twice winner) Jinkx Monsoon. 

So I have my video call with the two friends as we discuss drag, the arts, a certain presidential candidate we don’t want to talk about, subversion, and all the things we love about cult films. 

How did the two of you actually meet? 

Mink Stole: It’s Joshua’s fault completely. I was an innocent person living in L.A., all perfectly happy, and then he invited me up to San Francisco to be part of his Midnight Mass series

Joshua Grannell: Yeah, that’s it. I was doing drag in San Francisco and had been doing this midnight movie event where I would host screenings with crazy, wild show antics, and the audience would dress up and participate. And then around 2001, I sent a letter to Mink’s manager/publicist at the time and said, “I’m obsessed with you, and I grew up in Maryland, and John Waters movies changed my life.” And then [asked] whether she would be willing to come up to San Francisco and be honored. And so she accepted 

Mink: They had a banner at the back of the stage, and [it] said, “Hail Mink.” I walked in, and they gave me this huge bouquet of flowers. They were showing Desperate Living [a 1977 American black comedy film directed, produced, and written by John Waters where Mink Stole plays Peggy Gravel, a delusional suburban housewife] and they had an animatronic Peggy Gravel on the stage stirring out rabies potion. I was absolutely floored. I mean, there were actual tears. 

(Credit: Mettie Ostrowski)

So then what happened? How did this all go? 

Joshua: It was all so punk rock. It was queer but also, as John Waters called my audience, “heteroflexible”—for anyone who felt like they were an outsider or niche and that these movies spoke to them.

I hope they wrote you a check. 

Mink: I think there was one.

So let’s talk about punk rock. What is that today? Is Madonna punk rock for showing up late to her concerts? 

Mink: I would not have been happy if I waited two hours to see her. I would have been in bed. Well, one thing is, we live in a culture of influencers. And that’s all they do. They just influence; they’re not creating products. They’re not producing anything. They’re just telling other people what to think and buy. So I think to resist them—that is definitely punk rock. 

Joshua: Look at the history of punk culture and then look at Pink Flamingos [John Waters’ 1972 American black comedy film with Mink Stole and Divine]— so ahead of the punk rock movement. Mink was wearing these punk outfits and had cherry red hair and David Lochary [who plays a criminal, Raymond Marble, in the movie] dying his hair blue, and you realize Pink Flamingos was pretty punk. But if you think of what is punk today, these young people who are basically calling out the fact that everything is bullshit and that our political system is rigged by corporations, and you see young people going off and living off-grid, basically giving a middle finger to society. Or people in San Francisco who squat—they break into apartment buildings that are perfectly fine and they’re just not being rented because of greedy landlords. 

So how did the two of you come up with the show idea? 

Joshua: I would say that it was a natural extension of what Mink and I were already doing, and she was already putting out an album of music with her band. So that showed me…“hey, maybe we could do this show” without a movie screening and we could expand it to be a fuller cabaret show that involves storytelling as well as musical performances and make it more of a cabaret show.

Mink: I happened just to be in Provincetown at the time, and we kind of threw the thing together.

Joshua: Of course the show is about Mink spilling tea and telling all the stories of making these movies and working with these incredible people, in addition to us singing songs, but guess who was right there in the middle of the audience staring us down: Mr. John Waters. 

Mink: I would be telling a story, and then I would look into the audience and go, “Yeah, that’s right, John. That’s how it happened.” The nicest thing about doing a show like this is there is no fourth wall. It’s not just a performance. It’s communication with the audience.

What would happen at your shows? Tell me stories! 

Joshua: The first clip we ran was Connie Marble [a villain played by Mink Stole in Pink Flamingos] saying, “There are two kinds of people in this world: my kind of people and assholes.” So, we’re facing the audience, and these people all in unison just screamed out “assholes” at the top of their lungs. Screaming these lines of dialogue back at us. It’s fabulous.

Mink Stole (Credit: Mettie Ostrowski)

How do you think this is different from other shows? 

Mink: It’s different in that it’s not really scripted. We know what we’re going to talk about. We’re prepared, but it’s not a memorized show. We don’t have lines. We have songs, and we know those in advance and sometimes something will happen during a show that triggers a memory or something will come up and something completely new comes out. So there is always room for an absolutely spontaneous moment. And that’s different for most cabaret shows. 

How do you feel about always being attached to John Waters? 

Mink: It’s a double-edged sword. It’s a two-sided coin. I love him to pieces, and there would have always been a John Waters without me, but there wouldn’t have been a Mink Stole without John Waters because he named me. Divine and John each cast a large shadow. Most of the sunshine fell on them, and then there was a little bit over here for me. I tell you I do get a little bit resentful sometimes when I’m doing something like a Tennessee Williams production and John’s name will appear in the review before mine. And he had nothing to do with it. So that becomes annoying. But I don’t blame John—that’s not his fault. That’s just kind of the fault of lazy writers and lazy reviewers. 

John Waters is having a big moment right now. 

Mink: There are people who kind of look at me and assume that because we’re so close that I feel exactly the same way about everything. My humor is the same, and I’m kind of a ‘John Waters Lite Delight,’ and we agree on many things, but not everything. But the core principles we agree on. 

How do you feel about drag right now? 

Mink: I have a couple of opinions about RuPaul’s Drag Race. I love RuPaul. He is great, and a wonderful person. He brought drag to America, and he made it seem safe. It was on television, and it seemed safe. My only problem with it is that he made it incredibly expensive. It’s almost no longer about the innovative quality of it. It’s all about the costumes. And it’s about the wardrobes and the wigs, and there they cost a lot of money. So I think there are a lot of people, and it sort of makes other drag queens look a little shabby, and I think that makes me a little sad, that it became so much about the glitz. Not that they’re not talented, because you don’t get on that show if you don’t have real talent.

Joshua: I find the audience now for drag to be annoying in a way that I didn’t used to when I started. The audience was as clever and interesting and as wild and queer and weird as the people on stage, and now the audience still queer, but just not like it used to be. It’s also a bunch of soccer moms and their daughters telling me that I don’t blend enough. 

https://youtube.com/shorts/TJLnbcwQ3jc?si=JYIOb5zLWtlhn_vo

Why do we need camp cabaret now, more than ever? 

Mink: I think we need a lot of laughter. I really do. I think that laughter—and I don’t think Trump is funny—but I think laughter is healing and laughter of any kind is really good. And I think if we can get through our shows without talking about Trump, actually that’s subversive. That is a statement, so it’s the fact that life goes on regardless of all these people trying to stop us from having interesting lives.

Joshua: Comedy is healing, and when you can come to a show like ours, it is in a safe space centered around like-minded people who are able to laugh together at the world and at what’s happening. It’s a release, and once in a while, I’ll get an email that just thanks me, and you can tell that gratitude is profound. Some people really just need a night out. 

Besides John Waters, what holds you all together?

Mink: I suppose in a sense of the absurdity of the fact that we became mainstream. I mean, that shocks me. I know I’m thrilled by it. But it is a shock. I mean the years that my mother would say, “Please don’t tell people you’re related to me” and then later when she wanted to go to every opening and all the parties. So I mean, there’s just been this transition from art subversives to your cultural warriors. Yesterday I was an outlandish pervert. Today I’m a cultural warrior now. I’m just mainstream. 

Which of John Waters’ films is more subversive, do you think? 

Mink: I actually think Serial Mom [a 1994 American satirical black comedy crime film directed and written by John Waters and starring Kathleen Turner] is John’s most subversive movie. The fact that Kathleen Turner gives the most subtle performance of an absolute monster. I just think it’s so easy to watch. It’s so light, it’s so fluffy. And it’s so dark.

So what have you seen recently that feels subversive to you? 

Mink: Chloë Sevigny directed a short film titled Lypsinka: Toxic Femininity. It’s really good. It’s all about toxic femininity. I have been Lypsinka on stage a lot; she’s my piano teacher, in fact. 

Tell me something that makes you smile. 

Joshua: It’s not really subversive, but it’s a viral video of Mink Stole that I love. It’s Mink officiating our wedding. But the funny thing is we went viral not because of Mink Stole or Peaches. But because my four-and-a-half-year-old nephew at the time was the ring bearer and he chose to do his ring bearer duties dressed as a little teeny tiny Michael Myers. And so the video of him dressed as Michael Myers walking up the aisle and bringing the ring got millions of views. In the comments, every 20th comment is “That lady looks like Mink Stole. Hey, wait a second. Is that Trixie Mattel laughing in the background?”

Mink: Okay, so I’ll go with that one. Officiating Joshua and Nihad’s wedding was a highlight for me. It was a beautiful moment. 

That’s sweet, a lot of crying Mink. You’re getting a little soft in your older age.

Mink: I’m a total marshmallow. 

For tickets, visit peacheschrist.com.