His Fair Cher: San Diego Drag Queen Chad Michaels out to take reality TV with a bang (and a tuck)
Forty-year-old Chad Michaels’ destiny was sealed from inception.
Local lore says he was rhythmically conceived to “I Got You Babe” while his dad was rocking a fur vest and his mom nothing but a full Indian headdress; and after his birth, a gipsy, a tramp, and a thief made a pilgrimage to Encinitas to lay gifts before his tiny, porcelain-like feet.
Sure, any ho can put on a three dollar wig and lip-synch a pop song, but anyone who’s caught one of his weekly Dreamgirls revues at Urban Mo’s knows that what he does is elevated to performance art status.
Putting on his face before a refcent show, no topic was off limits and Michaels spilled the T on everything from illegal plastic surgery parties to vaginal squirting all while unconsciously doing the trademark tongue-to-lip gesture his legendary doppelgänger is known for in between answers.
Token Madonna diss? It’s in there.
What inspires you?
I’m really inspired by strong women role models. My parents divorced when I was 15 and my mom along with my grandma raised me so I was around women a lot. I grew up on sitcoms and admired shows like Wonder Woman, That Girl; ladies like Bea Arthur, Carol Burnett and of course Cher, who’s been my bread winner.
You’re original intention was to become a Madonna impersonator. How do you think your life would be different?
First I would have had to be lucky enough to look like her. It might be a lot the same; though I always felt Madonna had a bitchier edge than Cher, and that’s not really me.
What’s your relationship with Cher like?
It’s not like we talk on the phone every day, but I got to work with her once at a benefit and she was very kind to me. She definitely knows who I am and what I do and she’s never tried to shut me down, which I really appreciate. It’s always been my dream to tour with her and do some sort of a fake-out onstage. Who knows? It still might happen.
Interestingly, you like to be called “Mister” even when in full regalia. Why?
I had a drag name when I first started, it was Brigitte Love and I always felt weird about it because I didn’t identify with the character, but figured it was what people expected. When I went to Vegas in ’97 and toured with La Cage, they insisted that you be introduced at the end of the show by your male name, so it just stuck.
What’s the secret to a good “tuck”?
It’s a trade secret that I’m not going to share with you, because it’s messy (laughs). It’s called a gaff, and it hides all the special nuggets back to where they came from.
Really? That was for Mekhi Phifer’s birthday party. It was ‘70’s-themed and I was hired to go in and mix and mingle. That meeting was very short. I was more excited about meeting Mo Collins from Mad TV, love her!
Oddly enough, it’s on a site dedicated to the pleasures of female squirting orgasms. Any experience on the topic?
Wow, none at all. I’m a complete novice on that realm.
How much of the illusion is smoke and mirrors, and how much of it is scalpel-enhanced?
It’s no secret that I’ve had some surgical procedures: injectables, fillers and what not; but you must have the basic facial structure to do any character. No plastic surgeon can magically make you look exactly like somebody else.
Talk to me about the underground pumping party scene
It’s a really bad scene, and if I need to be the poster child against it, I will be. It’s dangerous, and the problems that people who have silicone injections will develop can’t ever be predicted. The people who pump at these parties are not your friends, and they’ll leave you dead on a table if something goes wrong.
What’s the drag scene is North County like?
You’re looking at it. Unfortunately I haven’t found a bar that will give me a show there yet.
What can viewers expect to see on RPDR season 4?
The tone and the feel of the show are much different than before. We’ve all gotten a chance to watch the previous seasons, so we were savvy as to how to present ourselves on television, and were more in control of our mouths. On the flipside, the cash prize is a hundred thousand dollars, so the girls were out for blood.
There’s a scary-looking bitch in it named Sharon Needles. Did she try to cut you?
Sharon Needles is the spookiest bitch I’ve ever met. You’re gonna have to watch the show to see how things pan out between her and I. All I can say is that you will not be disappointed.
Being the more seasoned of the bunch, did that help, or work at your disadvantage?
Being the senior member worked for my advantage. I’m the oldest bitch in the cut to ever be featured on Drag Race. I can’t disclose too much, but I’ll just say I fared well for the time I spent there, and it is what it is.
Complete the following sentence: If I Could Turn Back Time…
I would have never had silicone injected into my face.
Final question: wanna let the cat outta the bag and tell us you won already?
I would love to let the pussy out of the bag, but I can’t do that. You’re all just gonna have to watch and see what happens. All the people that have been anticipating it will not be disappointed, trust.
Season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Mondays, on LOGO.
Version of this feature originally appeared in the pages of San Diego CityBeat. Credits: Chad Michaels featured image by Enrique Limón, El Zonkey Show /RPDR logo via Wikimedia Commons /ChM as Cher image via ChadMichaels.com