One of NYC’s longest-reigning drag queens reclaims her own voice at The Duplex
After 40 years in lip-sync showbiz, life has become a bit of a drag for one of the Big Apple’s oldest living — and working — gay nightlife legends. This summer, Bronx born
drag legend Barbra Herr is leaving the concrete jungle for sunny Puerto Rico to care for her ailing father — but not before she reclaims her OWN voice on May 23 at the historic Duplex Cabaret in Manhattan’s West Village.
“It’s really important to me, at this stage in my life, to use my own voice — at least once! — in a venue,” says the 58-year-old platinum blonde bombshell. “Bottom line: This is what I was born to do. I’m doing it as a tribute for my mom — and for myself.”
“I’m Still Herr: A One Woman Show,”directed by Helen Hayes Award nominee Luis Caballero (“DC-7: The Roberto Clemente Story”), tells the true tale of Bobby Hernandez, a little bullied Boricua boy from the Bronx who grew up to be the woman of her own dreams. This alternately hilarious/heart-tugging story of struggle and survival (from Stonewall to DOMA) is told through the memories and musical stylings of the transgender artist/activist soon to be seen in HBO’s “Habla: Men.”
Full disclosure: This is not Herr’s “ass-shaking Ms. Latina happy hour act.” Expect standards and Broadway show tunes. “I’m Still Herr” is a stripped down, one-night-only workshop production of what’s been conceived as a possible touring act starring Barbra and a baby grand. The tagline: “All singing, no syncing.”
Make no mistake, Barbra is very proud of her hard-earned “drag queen” status (Lady Bunny once declared Herr a “hysterical and great old-school Latina lip-sync artiste”),
but she actually broke into show business as an 8-year-old nightclub singer, circa 1963. Armed with a beloved Puerto Rican “stage mom” who refused to let her son bow to the prejudices of the time, Bobby Hernandez fought his way on to stages from the Bronx to San Juan at a time when being effeminate just wasn’t mainstream.
But his voice was silenced at 17 when Mama Mona died in 1973. Soon after, Bobby Herr, a gay underground alter ego, was born after she returned to her native Puerto Rico
for 16 years. On May 23, after more than two decades of channeling other divas in NYC, this transgender trailblazer aims to take back her own voice on the live stage.
“Without her realizing it, Barbra was an inspiration for a generation of artists,” says Caballero, her director who first encountered Herr’s stage persona when he was a teenager in P.R. “This production is just a way for me to give back to her, for what she did for me.”
The Duplexis located at 61 Christopher St. at 7th Avenue in the West Village. Admission to “I’m Still Herr” is $15 plus a two-drink minimum. Showtime: 9:30 p.m. Check out the calendar at TheDuplex.com or call (212) 255-5439 to for more information or reservations.