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Wigstock was an annual outdoor drag festival that began in 1984 in Manhattan's East Village that took place on Labor Day. Continuing, with a few gaps, until 2005, the festival would traditionally act as the unofficial end to the summer for the gay community of New York City. After a 12-year gap, the festival was revived by Lady Bunny and Neil Patrick Harris on September 1, 2018 at Pier 17 of the South Street Seaport in New York City.The name refers to the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
Hosted by co-creator Lady Bunny, the festival was held in its first years in Tompkins Square Park. According to Lady Bunny, the event began spontaneously in 1984 after a group of drag queens (along with Wendy Wild, Scott L. and a couple of Fleshtones) became inebriated at the nearby Pyramid Club and decided to put on a show in the park. In the mid 90s the Giuliani administration prohibited the festival being in Tompkins Square and Union Square and moved it to the Hudson River so the event would lose its grassroots activist appeal. Lady Bunny said that 2001's Wigstock would be the last, but in 2003, 2004, and 2005, Wigstock and Bunny returned to Tompkins Square, this time under the auspices of the Howl Festival.
In 1987, video artist Tom Rubnitz filmed a 20-minute documentary titled Wigstock: The Movie. Rubnitz's film captures the event's early improvised atmosphere; early years of Wigstock often made direct reference to Woodstock (including performance artist John Kelly's send-up of Joni Mitchell and her song "Woodstock"), and Rubnitz's film mimics aspects of the 1970 Woodstock concert film.
A second documentary titled Wigstock: The Movie was released in 1995;the festivals captured are larger and more polished, with rock music largely supplanted by house music, and the influence of the original Woodstock festival less evident. The 1995 film gained a wider audience and was distributed across the country, then released on video and DVD.
The 2019 film Wig by Chris Moukarbel explores the festival's origins, evolution, and 2018 incarnation.
Woodstock was a music festival held August 15–18, 1969, on Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York, 40 miles (65 km) southwest of Woodstock. Billed as "an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music" and alternatively referred to as the Woodstock Rock Festival, it attracted an audience of more than 400,000. Thirty-two acts performed outdoors despite sporadic rain.
A drag queen is a person, usually male, who uses drag clothing and makeup to imitate and often exaggerate female gender signifiers and gender roles for entertainment purposes. Historically, most drag queens have been men dressing as women. In modern times, drag queens are associated with gay men and gay culture, but they can be of any gender and sexual identity.
RuPaul Andre Charles is an American drag queen, actor, model, singer, songwriter, and television personality. Since 2009, he has produced and hosted the reality competition series RuPaul's Drag Race, for which he has received six Primetime Emmy Awards, in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. RuPaul is considered to be the most commercially successful drag queen in the United States. In 2017, he was included in the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. In 2019, Fortune noted RuPaul as "easily the world's most famous" drag queen.
Vincent Philip D'Onofrio is an American actor, producer, and director. He is known for his supporting and leading roles in both film and television. He has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and two Saturn Awards, winning one for his supporting role in Men in Black.
Lady Bunny, originally known as "Bunny Hickory Dickory Dock," is an American drag queen, nightclub DJ, recording artist, actor, journalist, talent promoter, founder of the annual Wigstock event and television personality. She has also released disco singles such as "Shame, Shame, Shame!" and "The Pussycat Song".
Tompkins Square Park is a 10.5-acre (4.2 ha) public park in the Alphabet City portion of East Village, Manhattan, New York City. The square-shaped park, bounded on the north by East 10th Street, on the east by Avenue B, on the south by East 7th Street, and on the west by Avenue A, is abutted by St. Marks Place to the west. The park opened in 1834 and is named for Daniel D. Tompkins, Vice President of the United States.
The Pyramid Club is a nightclub in the East Village of Manhattan, New York City. After opening in 1979, the Pyramid helped define the East Village drag and gay scenes of the 1980s. The club is located at 101 Avenue A in Manhattan.
Miss Understood is an American drag queen originally from Levittown, New York, who has been based in New York City since the late 1980s. He was a prominent figure in the East Village drag scene of the early 1990s which revolved around the legendary Pyramid Club and Wigstock, an annual open air drag festival.
Stephen Tashjian is an American artist. His drag queen character Tabboo! became known in the East Village underground scene of New York City in the 1980s. He is also a puppeteer, painter and singer.
Candis Cayne is an American actress and performance artist. Cayne performed in New York City nightclubs in drag since the 1990s, and came out as transgender in 1996; Cayne came to national attention in 2007 for portraying transgender mistress Carmelita on ABC's prime time drama Dirty Sexy Money. The role makes Cayne the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character in primetime.
Wigstock: The Movie is a 1995 documentary film focusing on Wigstock, the annual drag music festival that had been held New York City's East Village through the 1980s and 1990s. The film presents a number of performances from the 1994 festival, including Crystal Waters, Deee-Lite, Jackie Beat, Debbie Harry, Leigh Bowery, Joey Arias and the Dueling Bankheads. The film also captures a performance by RuPaul at the height of his mainstream fame during the 1990s.
Dorian Corey was a trans woman, drag performer, and fashion designer. She appeared in Wigstock and was featured in Jennie Livingston's 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning.
John Epperson is an American drag artist, actor, pianist, vocalist, and writer who is mainly known for creating his stage character Lypsinka. As Lypsinka he lip-synchs to meticulously edited, show-length soundtracks culled from snippets of outrageous 20th-century female performances in movies and song.
Michael Venus is a Canadian artist, actor and producer.
Chris Moukarbel is an American director and producer. He is best known for his 2017 film Gaga: Five Foot Two, a critically acclaimed documentary about American singer-songwriter Lady Gaga.
Desmond Napoles is an American teenage drag performer, fashion model, actor, and LGBTQ activist, known by his stage name Desmond is Amazing.
Barry Shils is an American film director and producer. He is best known for directing and producing the films Motorama and Wigstock: The Movie, and for producing Vampire's Kiss starring Nicolas Cage.
Wig is a 2019 documentary film by Chris Moukarbel about Wigstock, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and later was telecasted on HBO on June 18, 2019.
Charlene Incarnate is a Brooklyn-based female performer and writer. She started out her gender transition as a drag queen as part of her life experience.