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Joan Jett Blakk, 1992


The Drag Queen who Ran for President. An interview with Queer Nation presidential candidate Joan Jett Blakk.
 

By Owen Keehnen

 
In 1992, Joan Jett Blakk became the first drag queen to toss her wig into a presidential race. Running on the Queer Nation Party ticket, Blakk used drag, camp, and her unique persona to bring visibility to queer people and issues.
 

Keehnen: Joan, what was your initial motivation in running for president?

Blakk: At Queer Nation we decided we needed some representation, but queer representation, not some gay candidate, but someone who can really scare straight people for no other reason than to scare them. We're taught from the time we're children that anyone can be president. We had a bad actor, why not a good drag queen?

Keehnen: It's a visibility thing too, right?

Blakk: Queer visibility. Gays and lesbians have a way of blending in and queers don't blend in. I'm taking something that doesn't blend in and putting it somewhere it really doesn't blend in, the White House.

Keehnen: What's your campaign strategy?

Blakk: Get your ugly face in as many magazines as possible. It's a publicity campaign. But these things are just beauty contests anyway.

Keehnen: Do you have any ideas about a possible running mate?

Blakk: We keep thinking about it. I want a leather-oriented lesbian, a leather dyke.

Keehnen: If elected what will be your first official act?

Blakk: I'd fire everyone in Washington. Fire them. We're going to the Capitol Building and firing everyone. We're going to all the federal buildings and firing everyone. We're going to the Pentagon and I'm going to have great fun firing everybody. I'll stand outside with a bullhorn and tell them to clean out their desks and go home. The only way we are going to effect any change in this government is if we change everything.

Keehnen: How do you plan on dealing with the national budget?

Blakk: Well, once we do away with the military--because I'm going to have Dykes on Bikes patrolling the borders, there'll be an incredible amount of money. I'm also going to turn the CDC (Center for Disease Control) over to Act-Up so we can get some people in there who can do things right for a change.

Keehnen: How else would you change government spending?

Blakk: Guys like Charles Keating, Milliken, [Ivan] Boesky, and Neal Bush -- these guys all had ties to the top echelon of the government. Fine! If they can get away with it so can everyone else. One of the first things I'm going to do is abolish all student debts. It's insane to make people pay that much money to learn.

Keehnen: That's an excellent point. Is it true you are almost on the ballot in Utah?

Blakk: Almost. And we're also very close in Oregon and Tennessee.

Keehnen: Who would you appoint as a Supreme Court Justice?

Blakk: I'm going to revamp the Supreme Court. I'm going to make it a lot more fun and call it The Supremes Court.

Keehnen: Tell me about your previous bid for Mayor of Chicago.

Blakk: We decided Chicago needed a drag queen as mayor. It ended up being a lot of fun. We did campaign swings. We campaigned down Michigan Avenue the day before Easter Sunday and a lot of people from out of town were downtown shopping, thinking... "Oh, look at the tall buildings...Oh my God! There are drag queens on the street." We went into all the stores with cameras and shook hands. People didn't know what was going on until we were upon them. They were stunned and then we were gone. We ended up getting quite a few votes. I actually went down and filed at City Hall to run for mayor, which was fun. I don't know how often people go to City Hall in drag.

Keehnen: Your press has been good. I saw the National Examiner did a piece on your presidential bid.

Blakk: Usually those magazines are so nasty, but it was pretty positive. The only problem I had was that they called me an "avowed homosexual." I've been on my knees a few times, but I never knew I was taking a vow.

Keehnen: Speaking of being on your knees, is there a sex scandal in your past?

Blakk: I've been trying to create one, but I can't think of anything Ive done that everyone thinks I haven't done anyway.

Keehnen: Tell me about riding in the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Blakk: Up to the moment we did it I didn't think I was going to live through it. I'd stupidly gone to see [the Oliver Stone film] JFK two weeks before. It was very scary to be up there because we didn't know what to expect...but I had forty queers with me. Most people had no idea what was going on until we'd gone by...and I don't think that straight people really know what drag queens look like. I had a big leopard coat and a wig and from the distance people were watching from I don't think they knew. We had one person throw a plastic cup and only a couple of times did I hear "faggot." But other than that most people were pretty positive. In New York and Boston they had trouble, but here we just marched right down the middle of the street, no trouble at all.

Keehnen: Chicago can be surprising sometimes. I'm shocked we haven't had any of the rioting that's hit LA.

Blakk: I'm suspicious of the way the news is talking about the riots. They're making this split between blacks and whites bigger instead of trying to put it together. And the media is not dealing with why this happened in the first place. I wish they'd talk about the real problem. The Rodney King decision is much more insane than anything I'm trying to do.

Keehnen: Agreed. What does the candidacy of Joan Jett Blakk mean for the American people?

Blakk: It means a major change and I don't just mean a major change of clothes either.

Keehnen: Is it true you're planning to do the Democratic National Convention?

Blakk: I'd like to. There's work afoot.

Keehnen: Who do you admire?

Blakk: Divine. When I was a young drag queen I used to watch those movies over and over. I kind of think of myself as a combination of Divine, David Bowie in his early days, and Grace Jones--mix that all up and you're talking Joan Jett Blakk.

Keehnen: What's your long range plan for the United States?

Blakk: I want to make America the beautiful again. They use that line all the time but they don't know what they are talking about. I think in a lot of different ways we can bring beauty back into people's lives. It's all become too serious...but if I'm elected it's going to mean major major fun. I'd love everybody to be happy. That and to beautify are my long range plans.

Keehnen: Thanks, Joan and best of luck to you.

 
About Owen Keehnen
 
Owen Keehnen has worked as a journalist, book reviewer, and interviewer for a number of years. Currently, the Chicago based author is completing a trilogy of interview books on gay XXX stars, finishing a horror novel, and supporting himself as a massage therapist. He is also launching a website which celebrates independent horror films, www.racksandrazors.com.
 
Related Pages
 

Act Up

AIDS Activism

David Bowie

Camp

Divine

Identity Politics

Parades and Marches

Queer Nation

 

 
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