Brad Shreve 0:03
Welcome Miss Coco Peru and I must ask, may I call you, Coco.
Coco Peru 0:07
I insist that you do Brad.
Brad Shreve 0:09
I feel like we’re old friends already. And I want to thank you for being on Queer We Are and helping me launch this new show.
Coco Peru 0:17
Well, I’m happy to be here and I’m happy that it’s called queer you are because I was recently called out in a negative way for using the word queer. But for me, it’s always been empowering. Well, it wasn’t always empowering. But I’ve sort of, it’s empowering to me now.
Brad Shreve 0:32
There still is touchy subject my old show had queer in the title. It didn’t originally. And when I changed the name, I got a lot of feedback. And it wasn’t pleasant. Yeah. Most people though, sent me a thank you email.
Coco Peru 0:44
Brad Shreve 0:45
We’re still working on that. Last night. I was thinking about you as I do every night. And I was thinking about how lucky you are. Do you realize you You’re very lucky.
Coco Peru 0:58
I’m lucky for many reasons. Yes.
Brad Shreve 1:00
Well, let me tell you why. I think you’re lucky. And I’m sure there are many, many reasons. The reason I was thinking that you were lucky is you get to be bitter and bothered and you fill theatres with people wanting to listen to you, bitch. When I bitch I’m called a tired old queen, and nobody sends me money.
Coco Peru 1:24
Uh, well, you,you know, you got to make an effort. Brad, you got to get dressed up in drag.
Brad Shreve 1:29
Well, maybe that would work. It certainly has worked for you.
Coco Peru 1:32
Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. You can’t just go around bitching. You have to you have to make it somehow entertaining.
Brad Shreve 1:37
The only time I did drag was in high school. It was a routine I was called Barbara Bondage
Coco Peru 1:44
in high school. Wow,
Brad Shreve 1:45
Believe it or not, it was in high school in the south. We got away with it for two years before the powers that be said, No, we can’t do the show anymore.
Coco Peru 1:55
Brad Shreve 1:56
But I did win a free tux to the prom. So that was the good thing. Of course, it would probablybebbetter if I won a dress.
Coco Peru 2:03
Yeah, exactly. Your whole career might have been something different. But now I thank you for acknowledging that I do feel very lucky that I get to express my the ugliness that I sometimes feel in this sometimes very ugly world, but I try to always write in a way that makes what I’m feeling relatable so that the audience also feels it so that it doesn’t come across as me just bitching. It actually comes across as that we’re all in this together. Let’s just acknowledge some of this stuff. And, and, you know, hopefully the audience leaves having exercised some of that ugliness from them and feel a little bit better about the world.
Brad Shreve 2:44
I think you do an excellent job of that many, many, many moons ago, I worked as a Bellman in a hotel. And I was pushing my cart from the parking lot into the hotel, and the cart tipped over. And this man looked at me and went, Oh, shit. And I looked at him and he said, you’re at work. I know. You can’t say it. So I did it for you. And that’s what you do for us.
Coco Peru 3:10
I think that’s that’s, that’s very accurate. Yes.
Brad Shreve 3:14
I think we should pause here for a moment to do the formal introduction just so people know who they’re listening to. I’m your host Brad Shreve,
Coco Peru 3:24
and I’m Coco, Peru
Brad Shreve 3:26
and queer we are.
Brad Shreve 3:27
Welcome to queer we are for stories by LGBTQ celebrities, athletes, activists, politicians, entrepreneurs, and more. Here entertaining conversations and accounts of queer people’s successes, challenges, and what they learned along the way.
Brad Shreve 4:03
My guest Coco Peru has been working in film, television and stage for 31 years. You may know her from her movie spots such as Trick and tTo Wong foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Her many television appearances, including Arrested Development and Will & Grace, and she most recently lent her voice to the new Netflix groundbreaking animated show, Dead End Paranormal Park as Pauline Phoenix, which I will say I started watching and it is a lot of fun.
Coco Peru 4:37
Yes, it’s wonderful. And I’m, I’ve always had to have some, like integrity around my career in the way I choose what I want to work on. And that’s not easy as a drag queen because the work it’s not coming at me. You know, it’s not and especially since RuPaul’s Drag Race, if you’re not on that show that they’re less interested in you and I haven’t always chosen wisely. But definitely when I auditioned for Dead End Paranormal Park, I so wanted to be a part of the show. When I got the role, I was thrilled. Now I play a villain. But I still think it’s such a great, you know, it’s the lead character is a trans gay boy. And it’s amazing that when I watched it, and even though it’s meant for a younger audience, I sat there just amazed going God, if this had been on television, when I was young, it would have totally changed how I felt about myself in this world. And so it really hit me again, just how important seeing yourself is, and entertainment and in the world, basically. So I’m thrilled to be a part of the show.
Brad Shreve 5:51
Well, you and I are close in age, if the internet is correct, you’re a year younger than I am.
Coco Peru 5:57
Brad Shreve 5:59
Okay, actually, little bit, I just turned 59. Okay, could you even fathom I know I couldn’t growing up that there would be a cartoon with a transgender child as lead.
Coco Peru 6:12
Now, I never would have imagined it. I mean, basically, when I was a kid, I didn’t even know trans was a thing wasn’t until I watched Phil Donahue as a teenager, you know, and he would have trans people on his show that I saw trans and and that wasn’t even always a pleasant experience. Because, you know, they would go out into the audience and these people would just say the cruelest things to some of these trans people that were on his show. So it was not a it wasn’t a positive experience. You know, even though I was watching it intrigued going Oh, wait, is this what I am, it was scary to see people have such hatred towards trans people.
Brad Shreve 6:55
I remember watching them on Donahue as well. And like yourself, I would be very excited like, oh, there’s somebody that thinks like me, but they weren’t treated very well. I will say what’s worse, was Jerry Springer.
Coco Peru 7:07
I didn’t watch Jerry Springer. So yeah,
Brad Shreve 7:10
he brought a whole generation to think that anyone who is queer is just trash. Of course, everybody on his show is just trash. But that’s a whole different story. Yeah, I know your love for Dolly Parton. And as I’m watching Paranormal Park, I’m thinking Pauline Phoenix seems like a scary version of Dolly. Am I right?
Coco Peru 7:29
Yes, she’s based on Dolly Parton, obviously. And, you know, owns a theme park. And I did tell the people who were putting together the show they I said, you know, I don’t do a southern accent. I do a Bronx accent. But they said now that’s all right. Well, we’ll make it work. So basically, Pauline, when she’s doing her Pauline Phoenix entertainer thing she puts on this sort of phony, Southern warm accent, but behind the scenes when she’s working her evil ways. She has more of that New York attitude and accent. So that’s how I worked it. In my mind. She’s really not southern. But she’s her whole career is based on her being the southern sweet belle.
Brad Shreve 8:18
Well, both of us living in the Hollywood area. I think we see quite a bit of that now. And then. I know I have. So your show Bitter, Bothered, and Beyond your most recent show that still running? What currently makes you most bitter and bothered these days?
Coco Peru 8:39
Well, oh, God, there’s so much. Of course, my I feel very put off by what’s happening right now. In politics, and how queer people are once again, being used to rally votes and whatnot. And being we’re being demonized, especially trans people. And, you know, they see these young kids coming out as trans, or gender fluid or, you know, non binary, and it’s freaking them out, because they think that we’re grooming them. No, I was very confused, growing up living in this very binary world. And I felt sometimes like a boy, sometimes I felt like a girl I knew. But I interpreted that something was wrong with me. And so my whole career I’ve tried to make people understand that the world is diverse. And the fact that these young kids are feeling like they can be self expressed to me was a sign that all that work that our community was doing was paying off, but they see it as that we’re grooming them. Rather than that these kids are able to be authentic and how that should be celebrated and embraced. So that really bothers me that, you know, there’s now steps being made to put things back, you know, years. And that’s very discouraging to me. I also get very upset when how I see the earth being treated. And that’s been something I’ve been very sensitive to, since I was a child. I mean, it’s, it’s almost like an obsessive compulsive thing. For me. It’s one of the reasons I take Lexapro was because if I saw someone throw a piece of litter down to the ground, it would just ruin my whole day, if not a few days, and I’d walk around with this, like hole in my chest, have just agony, and, and, and then wanting to correct the problem, you know. And oftentimes, that can be dangerous when you walk up to people and tell them to pick up the shit they just threw on the ground, you know, and they don’t want to hear that, you know, so I’m just very sensitive now to and I think the world has just gotten uglier with people’s attitudes and not I just see it everywhere, just people, so inconsiderate of how other people have other people’s experience here in the in the world. And that really, sometimes I just want to escape. And I keep thinking like, where, where’s that perfect place? And I just don’t think it exists.
Brad Shreve 11:22
What was your high school experience? Like?
Coco Peru 11:26
My high school experience was not good. Yeah, well, I was one of the kids that was targeted for being gay. And, but that, I will say, the good thing that I had going for me was that I had already realized that I could be funny, and that I was a great observer of people. And so I could target in on maybe a person’s insecurities that they had, and really go for them with a one little you know, tongue lashing and embarrass them in front of everybody. So but But still, there were there were certain people that I couldn’t do that too. And so it was real torture, I spent a lot of time in the nurses room during gym class, because I would always have this like mysterious illness that came just as you know, they were picking, it was torture. The other good thing was that I had a group of friends, because I was involved with the school shows the plays that we would do.o the musicals. Now, I never, I was never cast in a lead role. And I was always very bitter about that. But I at least had a group of people that I could hang out with, and that included me, but the dark side of high school was always very present. You know, and when you walk through your life every single day, waiting for the next shove into the lockers or something written on your locker, or you or you go to the bathroom, and you’re worried about the boy following you into the bathroom and pushing around you. You live in that constant state of fear. And so my grades suffered terribly in high school, I would study for hours and failed, failed the exam, I had no capacity to absorb any information, because I was so obsessed with just getting through the day without feeling attacked. And then when I came home, the way I dealt with all of that pressure was to fantasize about a different life. And that included you know, being famous and being on Broadway and you know, I just had all these fantasies of being famous because I thought that was a great way to get even with people they would see that I was worthy. And they would want to be my friend then
Brad Shreve 13:44
I share a very similar in a sense, I have never been to any my high school reunion but I’ve seen the pictures on Facebook, and I look at the people and I’m like, I look fucking fabulous. Look at what happened to them. And that gives me great pleasure. But as part of
Coco Peru 13:59
I will say this I did go to one of my high school reunions and everybody looked fabulous. So I for some reason my the people in my class took very good care of themselves. Although I did ask after this one girl I was like, Where is so and so? And a good friend versus Well, she got fat Of course she’s coming.
Brad Shreve 14:22
Well, so part of this dream of being famous was drag involved in that. Was that in your mind yet?
Coco Peru 14:29
Oh, no, never, never, never. No, no, no, I did. I did fantasize about being female. I would I used to wear it a blanket over my head and pretend that that was my long hair. And I was I would watch cartoons and always identify with the female characters when I played with my friends that I lived with on my street that grew up knowing that I was like so I was kind of normal to them because they grew up where I always played the female characters when we would act out you know the type Titanic or not the Titanic, excuse me, The Poseidon Adventure or some of our favorite TV shows Charlie’s Angels. So you know, I was always Kate Jackson. To them. That was normal. They didn’t never mind. The kids that grew I grew up with never questioned that. But the safety of my street was wonderful. But I you know, of course, I wasn’t on my street 24/7. And so I had to, I had to deal with that. And then, of course, there was great shame later, when I realized that everything that I felt happy about was going to be my curse. So I didn’t I try to when I went away to college, you know, I was I was told to butch up, I was in a theater program. And so even there, I felt shame for not being masculine. So when I finally graduated and decided to do Coco, Peru, it was very liberating to embrace finally, everything I had been taught to hate about myself.
Brad Shreve 15:54
Well, one thing I’m very proud of you talking about Charlie’s Angels of the three, you chose Kate Jackson, who was the smart one? Yes, she was still beautiful.
Coco Peru 16:05
She was beautiful. But she wasn’t the sexy one. She wasn’t Jacqueline. And she wasn’t Farah, you know,
Brad Shreve 16:11
she didn’t have her hair up to the sky.
Coco Peru 16:13
Yeah. And you know, if you look at Coco, it’s very similar in that way where I don’t wear the big hair. And so to the plain Jane. Well,
Brad Shreve 16:22
let’s talk about your hair for a second. I love your red hair. And of course, we have to talk about your flip when you first started doing drag was that there from the beginning?
Coco Peru 16:33
No, my first my first wig was very, Ann Margaret and very full. And big. And it took a lot of work. And I didn’t know how to do it. And I would bring it to my friend of mines hair salon, and he actually worked with my niece. And that’s how I knew he did it free. And then I could tell after a couple of years. Maybe he was over me because I wasn’t paying him. And um, you know, I’d be walking up to the salon, I could see him roll his eyes and I was you know, but I was desperate. So I would I’d still when you’re desperate you just keep at you would I would walk in and hand it to him and be like, I need this by whatever. And I can’t believe that I did what I did when I was young. But he he would do it. But finally I realized I’ve got to figure something else out. And so I bought another week that was the same color. But I had it cut differently, where the flip went under originally. And then one day I just decided to flip it out. And I thought oh my god, that’s Coco. And I was obsessed with the silhouette of That Girl as a kid.
Brad Shreve 17:37
I was gonna ask if it was Marlo Thomas inspired.
Coco Peru 17:41
I don’t think it was Marlo Thomas inspired I think it was just I was obsessed with silhouettes as a child. So anything that looked like a so Barbra Streisand Album covers Liza Minnelli, you recognize that was Liza even its silhouette, and that you would recognize Barbara’s nose even in silhouette. So that’s when I saw the flip. And it did remind me of Marlo Thomas. I thought, Oh, that’s a great silhouette. And so I just stuck with it. And I wanted to be recognized by my shadow. I wanted people to look at a silhouette of me and go that’s Coco Peru.
Brad Shreve 18:21
Well, it was a fabulous choice. You look great. And the big hair you see all the time just watch RuPaul the drag race.
Coco Peru 18:28
I know about a lot of the drag queens tease me for only having the one wig and that’s what they call me one wig. And I love it. I really I just love it. Because I love being read by other drag queens. To me it’s it’s just it’s a great honor in a way to have your sisters come up with nicknames and tease you I just love it. Yeah, I’m called Old one wig.
Brad Shreve 18:54
Well, I couldn’t imagine any other way and since we’re talking about drag queens and then being on your case about that you were doing drag before drag was cool. What do you feel about nowadays where it’s for lack of better word it’s in to be in drag?
Coco Peru 19:09
Yeah, I have good thoughts and negative thoughts like I guess you can have about anything but I think it’s wonderful that drag is so out there that young kids are able to watch something that as if I was young would have really opened the world to me would have blown me away wouldn’t I probably wouldn’t have felt so much shame. But the flip side of it is that now everybody wants to be a drag queen which is okay. But when I was starting in New York, you had to really be special. You had to really work on a craft. You had to find your niche your you created a character and so that you could have longevity or that people would come see your show that word mouth would spread, and more people would come see your show. Nowadays, a lot of people get attention without having really done a lot of work. And the sad thing is, is that the audience’s are okay with that, because if they see you on television, that’s all that matters. They just want that selfie. So they can say that they have a selfie with you, the work often doesn’t matter anymore. And that would be my negative thing about drag becoming so mainstream, is that a lot of the craft is not always there. That’s just my thought. But at the end of the day, I’m thrilled that I’ve survived for 31 years as Coco, I can’t complain. And you know, you as you get older, you want to pass the torch to other people and see what they do with it. And I know lots of young drag queens that are super talented and completely blown me away.
Brad Shreve 20:57
Well, forgive me because I don’t know how close you are to RuPaul. But I remember the first season of RuPaul’s drag race and possibly the second season, when they were getting ready in the back room. And somebody’s dress was ripped, or their hair wasn’t on right. They were all helping each other. And it seems like the producer said, no, no, no, no, no, this isn’t cool. And they all became bitchy. Yeah, and it’s created this, I think the stereotypes been there all along. But boy, they really took full advantage of it. I
Coco Peru 21:28
guess I my experience and working with other drag queens is always the dressing room is more fun than what’s sometimes happening on stage. And, you know, when I first worked with Bianca Del Rio, who of course has the reputation as being like the meanest queen. And I was a little concerned if this was before she was on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I had heard about it from New York City. But she saw me struggling, like you said, with trying to pin a witch’s hat to my head, and she walked over and said, Girl, let me help you. And, and I just thought it was the sweetest moment that she saw me struggling and she came over to help this older queen. And we became instant friends right after that. And she’s a sweetheart always pays her respects. And I just love her. And that’s what drag should be. You know, and I find that the ones that are bitchy, usually are the most insecure and oftentimes insecure because they probably are aware that they’re not as talented. And so the bitchiness comes through of giving them an edge. But most of the time backstage drag queens are laughing and giggling and teasing each other and, and like you said, can you zip me up? Can you buckle up my shoe? I mean, they’re, everyone’s helping each other. I think most of us save that bitchiness is for the stage. I mean, we’re bitchy to each other backstage. But it’s again, like I said it that’s all in comes from a place of respect and love. I believe anybody that’s been really bitchy to me. Where they’ve, you know, I’ve said hello, and they’ve ignored me or something like that. To me, that’s just a queen. That’s not really educated yet on how to have a long lasting career in this, but you know, the world changes and who knows. But I will say this, I do want to say this. I’ve met a lot of drag queens who have been on RuPaul’s Drag Raceripples drag race, who were the mean, bitchy ones, and they go out on tour, and the one thing they hear from everybody is, oh, my God, you’re really nice, you know? And so that’s often the case.
Brad Shreve 23:40
It’s a little off base, but it kind of reminds me I hear that Pamela Anderson is highly respected in Hollywood and very smart. And she has done a great job making a fortune playing a blonde bimbo.
Coco Peru 23:56
Yeah, she’s kind of like a drag queen if you think about it.
Brad Shreve 23:59
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. So this may seem an odd question. Do you consider yourself a drag queen?
Coco Peru 24:06
Yes, I do. I for me, I was I was inspired by a drag queen. That’s what got my wheels turning your all those years ago. And that person is now trans, but at the time, he was living as a boy and he was a cute boy and he came out as a beautiful show girl and I was amazed. And that got my wheels turning. And so when I decided to look at that as a possibility to me, drag queen was a wonderful term and I wanted to be a drag queen. I’ve met people who don’t like to be called a drag queen because they want to be called a female illusionist. Or, you know, but for me, I’m a drag queen. I also I will say this URL years ago, the word trans there was it was sort of an umbrella and drag queens were included in That worlds of transness as well, because we didn’t always feel necessarily 100% male, and, you know, but the trans girls that I worked with him was friends with, we were all sort of sisters, then that sort of stopped and that that were trans was no longer applicable to. So I’m very comfortable just calling myself a drag queen, I’m comfortable identifying as you know, she, he, I don’t like them. And they, for myself, because it still sounds so weird to me. But also, because I just feel like my whole life, I always felt like there were two people inside of me. And they were always at odds with each other. And I work so hard to make those two sides of myself into the singular person. So referring to myself in the plural doesn’t feel right to me. So I don’t mind being called he or she or anything like that. And, and if someone did call me at them, or they, I wouldn’t mind that either, because I know that they’re trying to respect something they see about me. But I would say I’m non binary, definitely. But when I’m a man, I really enjoy being a gay man. But as I know that there’s this female energy inside of me that also needed to be expressed and respected. And I enjoy that side of me as well.
Brad Shreve 26:24
I’m not a fan of them. And they either and the reason is, I fully respect what people want to be called. And I’ll address him in that manner. But it is so damn hard for me to remember.
Coco Peru 26:37
Yes, it’s hard, it’s hard for me to but I do respect it, because language evolves always. And because I’m older, I have an understanding that this is difficult for me. And it sounds weird to me, because I’m old now. But I have such a great respect and love for young people. And I love being around my young fans and young friends even. So I make an effort to not feel weird about it. And to feel like I, this is great that they’re defining themselves in with them. And they and it may not resonate with me personally. But I love that they’re creating new words and a new space for themselves. And because language does evolve, and there will be a time when then the day sounds completely normal. And so that’s the way I think about it.
Brad Shreve 27:31
Well, going back to what you said earlier about grooming what I see with queer kids today is they’re being allowed to be who they are. There’s nothing grooming about that at all. To me grooming is drilling in somebody’s head, this person is wrong, this person’s wrong. This person is evil, because they don’t think and look like you. Right? That to me is grooming.
Coco Peru 27:50
Well see, that’s the thing. It’s like, you know, I get messages on social media from these trolls calling me a groomer. And I had to laugh because it’s like, no, I was groomed. I was the one that was groomed to be a certain way, and finally realized the joy of tearing all of that apart and owning and decide. And that’s the beauty of drag. And that’s what people can learn from drag is that drag is really just a metaphor of how we really should live our lives every day where you actually get to choose how you present yourself to the world. You have choices in how you want to densify yourself or what feels comfortable for yourself. And that’s what drag taught me was that even in my everyday life, it’s always about choice. It’s always about how you see your life moving forward. And the great responsibility in that I think that people who live inside the box don’t get to experience what’s outside the box somewhere. What’s outside the box is where the real exciting things happen.
Brad Shreve 29:00
Amen to that. I know there’s trends today. But back when you and I were growing up, ever you knew what was in and you knew what you were supposed to wear. Nowadays, that’s not as true anymore. I mean, yeah, what the Kardashians are wearing this week, maybe more popular, but you pretty much can be who you want to be. and to hell with the rest of
Coco Peru 29:22
y’all. I think we if we use it who lives in LA County, I think we probably experienced that more. I think if you travel around the country, you’re not going to see people being able to be self expressed. And I think the way the world is turning, I think anyone that chooses to be authentic in a place that it might not be safe there. They’re putting themselves at risk in a way to to live openly and freely and choose how to look and that’s that’s scary to me. It’s not it’s scary to me that the world is turning that way again, because you You know, you’d look at you look at all the you know, I mean, there was almost every day I’m seeing a trans woman being murdered here in the United States. I mean, every time I turn on social media, there’s an announcement about another trans woman that’s been murdered. And, you know, that doesn’t make the big news. No. And people don’t care people, people lack empathy nowadays, they don’t want to take the time to put themselves in another person’s life and shoes, and try to feel you know, and that’s, you know, country’s very racist, very homophobic, transphobic. And it’s bothers me, and I just thank God for phones because now people are taking videos of these things sometimes, and you really get to see wow, what people some people have to deal with every day.
Brad Shreve 30:50
Yeah, so much happening in trans folk is very disturbing to me. Very, very disturbing, horrible. And I gotta say, regarding what you said, living other parts of the country, I lived in LA County for 20 years, and my husband and I, for the most part out pretty openly. And unfortunately, circumstances we had to move last year to the desert, and we are in the brightest red spot of California right now. And we realize we’re kind of back in the closet. And when we’re out and about, and he calls me babe, I get a little nervous and I look around to see who may have heard him call me that. Yes, so it’s a reality check, show reality check to what much of the country is like,
Coco Peru 31:31
yes, we live in. I’ve been fortunate in many ways that I’ve, I’ve lived sort of in a bubble, but I do try to educate myself, like I said, and recognize even my privilege, to have empathy for other people and what they go through. And I also, because I’m more of a public person, I get emails and texts, not text, but emails and messages on social media, from young people all across the world, who suffer, you know, and watch my videos, because it gives them a little laugh, or they feel like, you know, a bit free or being able to at least connect with me on a video. That’s, that’s always been my mission was to create a safer worlds for LGBTQ people, when I see the suffering still happening, or what’s happening with the trans kids, and what I think, or even when we mentioned earlier, Dead End Paranormal Park, even before that came on Netflix, there was senators trying to stop that from even getting on Netflix, because, you know, there was so worried about how it was going to affect children. It’s like, Listen, if you don’t want your children to watch it, don’t watch it. But the emails that I’ve gotten from parents who have trans kids, shows how much representation matters,
Brad Shreve 32:52
seeing what you do. And also, it certainly appears like you love what you’re doing, I’d be shocked if you told me otherwise, to have that kind of influence and love what you’re doing at the same time. That’s really a gift.
Coco Peru 33:02
You I sometimes lose sight of it. And I need to be reminded of that, because I can get caught up in the bad tapes in your head of Oh God, I wish I had made more money or, you know, I can’t believe I have to push these suitcases around and look at these young queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race have assistants I can’t afford and I can I can start some of that comparing myself to other people. And my husband is usually the one that will be will always say why don’t you create Coco Peru, and I say, to leave the world’s a better place for future generations of LGBT people. And that puts me back on track. As long as I feel like I’m accomplishing that, then I feel okay. But I can get distracted by the worlds. And that’s easy to do. And we all have to stay on track and not let those voices creep back into our heads. So yes, I’m very lucky. But there were times when I don’t always feel lucky. And I think oh god, you know, I do want to retire. I don’t want to be doing this forever. As much fun as it’s been. There’s other things I’d like to try as well.
Brad Shreve 33:13
Regarding retirement, I actually noticed your shows. I looked at your schedule. They’re very few and far between these days. That’s on purpose?
Coco Peru 34:18
Yes, I’m starting to slow down. Yes. Well, my mom is 96. And she lives in Florida, and my siblings and I take care of her. And so I’m now spending more time with my mom. So I’m going to do a show in Myrtle Beach. But then for three weeks, I’ll be staying with my mom. You know, that’s my life right now. And that’s okay. And I don’t I’m having another kind of experience by being a caretaker and it’s it’s kind of wonderful. And like I said, right now I’m at a place where I want to pick and choose the type of work I want to do. Yeah, and if it’s a struggle I’m less likely to want to do it. Whereas when I was young and hungry, you know, I’d do anything.
Brad Shreve 35:08
Do you understand earlier why I asked if you consider yourself a drag queen? I don’t know if you’ve been asked that.
Coco Peru 35:14
No. Oh, well, let me see if I can guess. years ago, there were many people who meant Well, who would tell me not to call myself a drag queen. Because they considered me theater. And they thought that by calling myself a drag queen, I’m not saying you’re saying this Brad, but that by calling myself a drag queen, I was doing a disservice to my career, because to them drag was something that was in bars. And my response was, No, I am a drag queen, drag queen inspired me. And you need to open up your minds about what drag can encompass. That drag is not meant to be just in bars. That’s fine. If it it is. But so the fact that drag is on television, and you know, that’s exciting to me, in many ways, because that’s what I envisioned. And that’s what I believe drag could be. So I always was very proud to call myself a drag queen now. So does that. Is that what you were thinking? Well, I
Brad Shreve 36:19
was thinking based on the stereotype, yes. The very first bar I ever walked into, there were drag performers. I was in Atlanta, and I, I looked up bars, and I chose one. And there were men there in leather, and it scared the shit out of me. So. So I saw drag club, and I went in, and they were singing with their own voices. They were fabulous. They were incredibly funny. And the stereotype I and I certainly thought of them as drag queens. And I feel like there’s a stereotype today of looking outrageous and lip syncing. And I don’t necessarily believe that’s true, but I can see where that’s going.
Coco Peru 36:56
Right, I think. Yeah, but I think that what I always believed was that yes, that’s that’s a very important part of the drag scene. And I love watching my sisters who lip sync and can dance and do those death drops. I think it’s great. But drag is way, much more than that. There’s drag musicians, there’s drag. Comedians, there’s drag magicians. So it can be it’s very diverse.
Brad Shreve 37:25
Well, I’ve never seen a drag musician or magician magician, I’ve never seen a magician that would be fabulous.
Coco Peru 37:33
I should say there was a drag magician because Cashetta passed away a few years ago down in Puerto Vallarta, and she was wonderful.
Brad Shreve 37:43
Well, I want to know if this is true. You knew Jonathan Larson, apparently.
Coco Peru 37:49
Yes I did.
Brad Shreve 37:49
And I heard or read that you auditioned to be angel on rent. Is that true?
Coco Peru 37:55
No, that’s not true. I, I was friends with Jonathan Larson in college. And we reconnected after we got after I graduated. And he told me he was writing the show. And there was a part for a drag queen. And he wanted me to come and do the, he wanted me to play the role of angel in the reading of it. So I would go to his apartment that’s been featured in that movie, and we would rehearse there in his apartment. And then we did the reading. And then it was after that he called me and said we have interest. And if this is this is going to happen. They’re putting it up. We have producers, would you come in and audition for Angel? And I said no. There were two reasons that I said no. One was that the part was written for Latina, Latina, drag queen. And I’m clearly not Latina. And I just didn’t think like, it’s just wasn’t authentic to me to try to play that. I thought it’s, you know, one thing is to do a reading and you explain to the audience this would in the future be played by see. But anyway, that was the one reason I said it. And the second reason I didn’t want to do it was because I didn’t think it was very good and I didn’t believe it was gonna go anywhere. And listen, I loved Jonathan and some of Jonathan’s music, even in college, you know, I was obsessed with. I mean, he was so talented, and such a sweet kind man. I really loved Jonathan, but I just didn’t think rent was great. From the reading that I did, it got better. He did work on it. Some of the stuff that I thought was so bad, was actually removed before it went forward. So, but I just wasn’t right for that role and it belongs to which it belongs to a Latina or Latino actor. And so that’s I had no qualms and I never regretted my decision.
Coco Peru 40:05
Well, between you and me, it actually has done quite well.
Coco Peru 40:06
Brad Shreve 40:11
in case you had noticed,
Coco Peru 40:12
you think? Yes. And it’s very tragic that Jonathan didn’t get to see any of that, because he works so hard. And he was such a supporter of our other artists as well. He loved all of us. And so that’s it sad.
Brad Shreve 40:32
The tragedy of dying when he did is the stuff movies are made from.
Coco Peru 40:37
Yes. And I mean, I think on many levels, that’s part of the reason why the show became, it had this sort of story that came along with the show, you know, and that resonated with people. And so people wanted to go out and support it, and it got a lot of press. So I think his death actually propelled the show even further than it would have been noticed. I’m not I’m not taking away from his work. But it definitely, his death gave it that sort of, I don’t know, it was almost mythical, in a way,
Brad Shreve 41:13
kind of Van Gogh kind of thing.
Coco Peru 41:15
Brad Shreve 41:17
I love Van Gogh. He was a little more successful than people think he was when he was alive. But he didn’t make it big until after he died. And that is no reflection on his creativity.
Coco Peru 41:26
Brad Shreve 41:26
I think that’s what you’re saying about Johnathon.
Brad Shreve 41:28
Brad Shreve 41:29
So you’re probably tired of this, but I can’t do this conversation without bringing up Trick.
Coco Peru 41:37
I never get tired of Trick. It was a magical moment in my life.
Brad Shreve 41:41
Can you believe it was 23 years ago?
Coco Peru 41:43
Yes. And no. I can because I, I can see, people always say you look so great. Coco, do you haven’t aged since trick I have. Unfortunately, when they filmed trick, they decided to light me in this very ugly, overhead lighting. And it just made me look older. And so I sort of grew intothat.
Coco Peru 42:07
Well, I guess that’s my thought you. She hasn’t aged at all. She looks fabulous. I thought maybe it’s good makeup.
Coco Peru 42:14
I was very skinny. I think I was a little too skinny, then I think I was a little bit kooky in the head and not eating enough. So that and the bad lighting made me look old.
Brad Shreve 42:26
Well, I watched it recently. And I am happy to say it has stood the test of time. It’s just a fun, fun movie.
Coco Peru 42:34
It was sweet. And you know, at the time it was it was groundbreaking in a way even though it’s a silly little calm, you know, romantic comedy. It was groundbreaking, because at that time, most of the gay films were either about coming out of tragic, they’re about AIDS. This was just a rom com. And it was about two guys looking for a place to have sex. And they were not. There was no shame. There was no having to come out. They were young and successful at that stage of their lives. And so that was kind of groundbreaking in 1998 when we filmed it.
Brad Shreve 43:08
It was refreshing. It wasn’t how do I word that it wasn’t a gay film. It just happened to be a film with two gay men. It didn’t. didn’t try hard to make a message. It was just fun.
Coco Peru 43:23
Yeah, that’s that was what was groundbreaking about, you know, in a funny way, and the and it was also there were gay characters. He had a straight roommate, and that was, you know, okay. I remember watching it don’t gotta, I’ve never had it straight. We were made, except in college, when I was forced to live with a straight guy. You know, it was really, I thought it was wonderful. And for me, it was a wonderful, wonderful experience, although the day of shooting was extremely stressful. And they were shooting, they were working on film on actual film, so they only had a certain amount of film. And I had the pressure of, you’ve got to do this seven minute monologue. You know, you’ve got to get it right, because we’ve only got this much film. And I cried myself to sleep that night, kept waking up crying, thinking I had failed and that I was terrible. And I even called the director and asked him to cut me from the movie. Because I thought there’s no way that what I did today is gonna sail and I remember I was doing Wigstock one year. And these two guys came up to me after Wigstock and said we literally just came from watching a preview this movie Trick that you’re in and you are hilarious, and I remember thinking what and so I was so happy with the result.
Brad Shreve 44:46
Oh, even when I watched the movie now I get so excited when you’re scene comes up.
Coco Peru 44:50
Brad Shreve 44:52
And I’m probably gonna regret saying this, or bringing this up. But I my face tends to get oily in the oil gets in my eye. As I’m sure you know, every time I look at that happens, I look at my husband and I say it burrrrns.
Coco Peru 45:08
Yes, yes. Yes.
Brad Shreve 45:10
Do you hear that a lot?
Coco Peru 45:12
Yes, I do. Not as much as I used to hear it, of course, because the movie, like you said is old now. But yes, that I did where even someone told me they had seen a bumper sticker with that in Fort Lauderdale. So yes, I heard I’ve heard that a lot. And I’ve heard a lot of people screw it up and say, you know, the come up and be like, it stings, you know, and I don’t have the heart to tell him. It’s wrong. Oh, yeah. Great. Thank you
Brad Shreve 45:35
That just doesn’t have the same oomph.
Coco Peru 45:37
No. But yeah, it was it was a great. That was a great experience. I’ve been fortunate. You know, I wanted to be in a gay movie. At that time. I thought I want I want to be in a gay film. And I remember being at Sundance watching it, the credits roll. And I, I was crying because I thought I actually achieved one of my goals. I’m in a gay film.
Brad Shreve 45:57
And I will say the fact that you did that seven minute monologue is what made you so memorable.
Coco Peru 46:03
Yeah, the producers, I think, at the time were not wanted me cut from the film before we even filmed it, because they didn’t think a drag queen could carry a seven minute monologue in the middle of film. And I was happy to prove them wrong.
Brad Shreve 46:17
And you did
Coco Peru 46:18
Brad Shreve 46:18
So was trick the launch to stardom?
Coco Peru 46:21
Well, I don’t quite think of myself as a star. I just think of myself as a working girl. But certainly, it was a step in my career that allowed me to reach a broader audience. And so at that time, I was only known in New York. And this gave me national exposure in the gay community. And so I could start to travel with my shows. Yeah,
Brad Shreve 46:44
I’m sure many are like me. That was my introduction to Miss Coco Peru.
Coco Peru 46:48
Yeah. And our younger generation, their introduction to Coco Peru was through the movie Girls will be Girls because that became like a cult thing. And now, the younger generation after them, they introduced they were introduced by silly videos, you know, and they were there are kids out there that will write to me go. For years, I thought you were a real woman. They thought I was just some cranky old woman out and you know, and Kmart, not realizing that it was a drag queen. So.
Brad Shreve 47:20
So whatever happened at trick two, was that a victim of the pandemic?
Coco Peru 47:25
Yes, that that was moving along. And we did a reading out here, and then COVID hit and put it to stop. And you know, when you’re doing independent films, which don’t really get done anymore, it’s a lot harder to get them made even more than it was back in the 90s. So that just killed it. I think. I think the director who wrote this new version of new film, he would still like to make it. I just don’t know if it will ever get made.
Brad Shreve 47:53
I read the synopsis and I love the idea. I’m disappointed didn’t happen.
Coco Peru 47:57
And now it’s it’s very sweet. Very charming. Very sweet. Very funny.
Brad Shreve 48:02
We talked about having a trans teen on Dead End Paranormal Park. What is one thing that’s queer related Other than that, that you did not think you’d see in your lifetime?
Coco Peru 48:14
Gay marriage? Yeah, I didn’t never never thought I’d see that. I mean, I walked for it. I marched for it. But I just didn’t think that it would happen in my lifetime. And it really bothered me that, that it was taking so long, and then all of a sudden it happened.
Brad Shreve 48:28
Yeah, it was like, boom.
Coco Peru 48:29
Yeah, and you know in the height of the AIDS crisis, I just thought that that was something, you know, I couldn’t picture how we were going to get out of that. And not that we’re out of it. But people live now and have great lives. But I knew so many that weren’t fortunate enough to live long enough to receive those drugs. So there was a time when I didn’t think, you know, we would have a cocktail or whatever. So things changed. That’s where my hope lies, you know, but right now, I, my new show, Bitter Bothered and Beyond is probably my least hopeful show.
Brad Shreve 49:04
It’s still hysterical.
Coco Peru 49:06
But I think it’s a reflection of how a lot of people feel nowadays.
Brad Shreve 49:09
Well, touching on what you just said, Before I let you go. You brought it up earlier, things look scary right now. Any words of hope or wisdom you have for the kid that’s just getting out in the world and seeing everything that’s happening?
Brad Shreve 49:25
Oh, gosh, words of wisdom
Brad Shreve 49:27
or any signs of hope?
Coco Peru 49:29
Well, I would say that I think that definitely, if you think about when I was young, and how isolated I was, there was no internet. There were no gay characters on television. And so things have gotten much better. And you can find your joy and that they’re better. But then you’ve got to do the work. And you know, that was my thing as a young person was that I realized that, you know, things weren’t going to get better for our community unless we were all involved and willing to to do work, and I, I decided that I was going to be a queer performer. Even when people told me that was not a good thing to do, and said, I was never going to work that I wasted my money going away to theater, college for theater, I just believed that we were each responsible for creating the world that we want to live in. So don’t ever lose that power, that that is your power, and that you have to create the world that you want to live in. And I’ve said that to people I disagree with on politics. And I’ll just ends my argument with them saying, well, listen, you create the worlds you want to live in the I’m going to continue to create the world that I believe I should be living in.
Brad Shreve 50:41
Do you consider yourself a trailblazer?
Coco Peru 50:43
I consider myself a part of the trail. There’s a long line of people. And I’m just one of those people. And there were many before me that I’m writing on the backs of
Brad Shreve 50:59
well, Miss Coco. It has been a pleasure talking with you. I’m so glad I had you on the show.
Coco Peru 51:04
Thank you, Brad. Glad we finally got that worked out.
Brad Shreve 51:07
Yes. So folks know we had some
Coco Peru 51:10
They were technical,
Brad Shreve 51:11
we had some real heavy technical problems. So you’re lucky that I got to speak with Coco but
Coco Peru 51:15
which were not my fault, everyone.
Brad Shreve 51:18
No, it was not.
Coco Peru 51:19
They were Brad’s fault.
Brad Shreve 51:20
It was my fault. Fortunately, my husband’s is an IT technician. And he took care of matters. And I will say Coco was very patient. Bless you for that.
Coco Peru 51:31
You’re very, very welcome. And I enjoyed this. And thank you for your thoughtful questions. And hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.
Brad Shreve 51:40
I hope so. Thank you again.
Coco Peru 51:42
All right, Brad. Thank you.
Brad Shreve 51:46
Do you enjoy the show? If so, tell a friend because the number one way podcasts grow is word of mouth. So pass it on, so others can enjoy queer we are
Coco Peru 51:42
All right, Brad. Thank you.
Brad Shreve 51:46
Do you enjoy the show? If so, tell a friend because the number one way podcasts grow is word of mouth. So pass it on, so others can enjoy queer we are