The Next 'Big Wig'
Trannyshack's 15th Star Search
by Ronn Vigh
When I was a child, the original Star Search always seemed to be on the television in our house and I always thought it was so boring to watch. I particularly never understood the spokesmodel category. However, if the competition was stacked with larger than life drag queens such as Heklina, Peaches Christ and Sue Casa, then I probably would've never left the living room.
This Saturday, Heklina cohosts the fifteenth Trannyshack Star Search competition, the annual epic, "no drags barred" event to find the next big drag star. Heklina took some time from rehearsal for her Hawaii Trannyshack show to talk to me about her experiences as a drag performer and the upcoming competition.
Ronn Vigh: How long have you resided in San Francisco?
Heklina: Going on 23 years now! I, uh, moved here when I was ten.
Did San Francisco immediately feel like home or did it take some time to find your way?
I immediately felt at home. I never fit in anywhere, it seemed. All that changed the day I arrived in San Francisco. To this day, no matter where I travel to, I always feel glad to come home to our fair city; corny but true.
Did you already do drag before San Francisco or was Heklina born here?
I did drag in Iceland a couple of times, but Heklina was really born when Trannyshack started.
How did Trannyshack develop, and did you envision that it would grow to be so successful?
Trannyshack started very much as a fluke, on a dead Tuesday night at The Stud. It was only supposed to last a few months, but once it exploded, I thought, "Well, I better learn how to do this!" Maybe one day I will!
Can you tell us where your name comes from and what do people most often think your name is derived from?
Heklina is derived from the Icelandic volcano, Hekla. People of course think it's some variation on the word Heckle, which may explain why my name is so commonly misspelled as Heck-lina, which drives me crazy. It is a huge pet peeve, and if I'm booked for a gig and the artwork comes out with my name spelled like that, I immediately cancel!
This is the fifteenth annual Trannyshack Star Search competition. Has anybody ever done anything on stage that truly shocked you?
With Star Search, nothing really comes to mind that is shocking in itself. But there were years back at The Stud with lots of poop, cum, or what have you. Now that the event is at DNA Lounge, the performances have become much larger and more multi-media huge productions.
Do you find your performers and competitors or do they find you?
For Star Search, we are looking for new talent. I have spies that go out for me to pick contestants. I rarely go to clubs unless I am working them, so it's much easier to ask my assistants, "Who is new on the scene?" It's changed a lot from the days when I actively went out and scouted, spending endless hours calling people during the week.
You're searching for the next Trannyshack star, but if NBC was searching for someone to portray you in a mini-series on Trannyshack, who would you want to play you and why?
A much younger Kathleen Turner, or Lili Taylor. Kathleen has the low voice and Lili has my features, sort of.
You seem to be hitting the road more and more. What has been the best and worst place you've ever performed?
Good question! I'm answering these questions from Waikiki and I love it here! Is it the best place I've ever performed? No. The best place was the many magical nights at The Stud., all those countless Tuesdays. The worst was in front of the vile, homophobic audience at The Exotic Erotic Ball. Yuck!
Trannyshack has developed an image of not being your traditional show, almost anything goes. As you take Trannyshack on the road more often, do you have to alter the show for each city and venue, or is it always anything goes?
I try not to, but yes, ultimately you have to. Here in Waikiki, I've found that they don't want High Art or conceptual. They want nasty and shocking! L.A. wants things a bit more slick. Seattle and Portland are politically correct. So, yes, you have to adapt.
Trannyshack does a lot of themes. Was there ever a theme you regretted doing or looked back on and thought, "Well, that didn't go as planned!"
Yes! My advice to any drag show promoters is, don't ever try to be casual, flippant or
transgressive when it comes to racial themes. Trannyshack took on everything, and that was the one thing I regretted. Everything else (gender, religion, politics, sex) is fair game, although as far as drag performance or parody goes.
Besides Trannyshack, you've become quite famous with your production of The Golden Girls each Christmas. I'm a huge aficionado who can deliver most of the lines with them. Were you a big fan of The Golden Girls prior to doing these shows and do you have a favorite episode?
I wasn't a big fan because I was living in Iceland when The Golden Girls was actually on the air. Then someone asked me to play Bea Arthur. I watched a few episodes and I was hooked. I've since grown to worship all four actresses. I own all the seasons and I watch them and quote them incessantly. I think it's perhaps the best TV show ever.
Do you have a favorite episode?
My favorite episode is probably the Burt Reynolds one we just did this past December.
I think you deliver Dorothy's lines superbly. Did it come naturally or take some work?
Doing Bea Arthur came naturally. We both have very dry humor and delivery. And, we both are big and manly!
As someone who has been a huge part of San Francisco LGBT nightlife and culture, do you have any thoughts on the new show, Looking ? Or, could you care less?
I couldn't care less.
And, I agree!
Heklina co-hosts The 15th Annual TrannyShack Star Search with Peaches Christ and outgoing Trannyshack Sue Casa this Saturday, February 21 at DNA Lounge. Doors Open at 9:30pm. $15. www.trannyshack.com www.DNAlounge.com