In the mid-90s the image of drag was changing in the movies. For the most part a man wearing women’s clothing was used in movies as way for a character to get out of the army, hide from mobsters, bust perverts in the park, land a part on a soap opera, sneak onto a lifeboat or kill people. A character was either faking it or mentally disturbed if they dared wear wigs and high heels on screen. They were out to fool others and not truly be themselves. No depth was expected from a drag character. It’s either a shock or a joke when the woman turns out to be a guy in a Hollywood film. Even in real life the drag queen was used by conservative politicians and holy roller preachers to warn their followers of what will happen to their town if the dare to question a strict life. But then in the mid-90s, drag queens erupted on the screen. First hint of the change was RuPaul’s video “Supermodel (You Better Work)” being all over TV in 1993. This was followed by the Australian epic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and the documentary Wigstock: The Movie being arthouse hits. Thus in 1995, Hollywood decided it was time. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Productions gave America To Woo Fong, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar with major stars dressing up as women (although he didn’t claim an executive producer like he did The Flintstones).
New York City’s “Drag Queen of the Year” contest ends with a startling tie. Noxeema Jackson (Blade‘s Wesley Snipes) and Vida Boheme (Road House‘s Patrick Swayze) must split the big prize of money to go to Hollywood for the big “Miss Drag Queen of America Pageant.” Instead of flying out, the use the money to buy a convertible and bring along newbie contestant Chi-Chi Rodriguez (Land of the Dead‘s John Leguizamo). They figure they can mentor him. The journey has it’s fun moments such as when they get confused for women basketball players at the hotel. But things turn a bit dark when they get pulled by Sheriff Dollard (Reservoir Dogs‘ Chris Penn) who uses his power to bring Vida back to his patrol car. He wants more than to frisk her and Vida doesn’t like her private parts violated. This leads to the trio speeding away. And they might have gotten completely away if the old car could crank after they hit a rest stop. They take refuge in a small town where they transform the locals with their outlook on life and ability to brighten up any drab corner. But will the locals handle their lifestyle and will the law come down on them?
When To Woo Fong, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar was about to come out, a lot of people thought it was going to be a clone of Priscilla with different wigs on the three performers heading through a rural world on aging transportation. But while both had those things in common, there’s no ping pong balls coming from Julie Newmar. The film gives us Noxeema and Veda doing their best to give Chi-Chi a deeper understanding of what it means to be a pageant queen. She’s a bit of a mess in the early parts of the film including the cardinal sin of lipstick on her teeth. They fashion is also a major part of the show. All three look fabulous on the screen like screen goddesses of the Golden Age of Hollywood. They stun the small, drab townspeople so used to hand me down rags. They inspire others to look like they want to feel.
What really makes To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar enjoyable is a the appearances of several stars from Wigstock: The Movie. After decades of protesting depictions of drag queens outside of theaters, RuPaul and others were on the screen. RuPaul makes a statement as Rachel Tensions, the previous winner of the New York contest. She wears a shimmering gown made to look like the confederate battle flag. While it’s easy to imagine some upset Tweets at such a fashion choice, this is an amazing backhand slap to those who hold the defeated flag sacred. It’s a choice that declares that this film isn’t going to be completely safe and cute. There’s subtle teeth to Julie Newmar. The film did well at the box office, occupying the top ticket seller spot for two weeks. all three actors wouldn’t be stereotyped as drag queens. While To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar didn’t create a rush for drag queen Hollywood blockbusters, it allowed more people to not see that a man who identifies as a woman wasn’t going to stab them. Eventually the show allowed TV audiences to be entertained by RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the shine in the dresses. It also lets you appreciate the work of the make up artists who transformed the lead trio. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. You get the good vibrations from the soundtrack as the car cuts across America. The movie is subtitled.
Easy Rider In Dresses: A Look Back At The Making Of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (51:34) features John Leguizamo, director Beeban Kidron and screenwriter Douglas Carter Beane. They really get deep into how the project was able to make it to the screen. He used to eat at a Chinese restaurant that had the Julie Newmar photo above the booth. Kidron was pregnant during production.
Deleted Scenes (15:04) includes more table talk including an argument about the best Catwoman.
Theatrical Trailers (2:12) plays up how their tough guy actors are in their toughest roles ever.
TV Spot (0:33) features RuPaul.
VHS Promo (2:31) wants you to rent this tape at Videorama.
Soundtrack Ad (0:33) will turn you out for the record.
Shout! Factory presents To Woo Fong, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. Directed by Beeban Kidron. Screenplay by: Douglas Beane. Starring: Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, John Leguizamo, Stockard Channing, Blythe Danner, Arliss Howard, Chris Penn, Jason London & RuPaul. Rated: PG. Running Time: 109 minutes. Released: May 28, 2019.
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