SOME YEARS AGO AMONGST THE GLITZ AND GLAMOUR OF NEW YORK’S BARTENDER’S BALL, I SPOTTED A SPARKLING QUEEN FROM ACROSS THE ROOM. I HAD NOT HAD THE PLEASURE OF MEETING HER, SO I WALKED OVER AND COMPLIMENTED HER ON HER GOWN. WHEN I ASKED HER HER NAME, SHE REPLIED IN A DEEP “BOY” VOICE “EILEEN, IT’S ME FRANKIE, YOU JERK.”
Since then, Frankie Cocktail has become one of the most vivacious and popular bartenders/drag queens to grace New York City’ gay night life. Along with his witty sense of humor, and his magical talent of conjuring up the best beverages in the city, Frankie Cocktail is a kind and genuine person. I’ve known and loved him for many years and was overwhelmed with excitement at the chance to interview him.
Frankie, you have been involved in the gay nightlife scene forever. Everyone knows and loves you. So what started you?
I became a bartender. I got out the Navy and I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. My mother used to watch late-night TV, and there was a commercial for American Bartending School, and she thought I had the perfect personality for a bartender. So she borrowed money from my father and gave it to me and sent me through the course – and that was 35 years ago.
Where did you start bartending?
Jimmy Armstrong Saloon.
When did you start doing drag?
The first time was probably with Johnny Pool. I worked at the Ice Palace, and every first day of summer they have Drag Attack – that was actually the first time I did it right before I started working at Lips.
How long were you at Lips?
I’ve been at Lips for 17 1/2 years.
And you make the best frozen cosmos ever.
Yes, I agree.
Where are you originally from?
I grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian family. I had two sisters and lots of cousins, but they’re all dead now except one sister.
Who would you say inspires you most in life?
I’ve been emulating my look after Dolly Parton. I don’t consider myself a Dolly Parton impersonator, but I like big, blonde hair and big breasts. I like that kind of look, and I like the fact that she is a really nice person and gives back to her community in Tennessee. She helps the young ones there. She’s just such a nice, positive person.
You were on TV recently.
I did a commercial – the guy who interviewed me asked me if the drink I made him was free. I told him nothing in life is free.
Speaking of life, anyone special in yours?
Nobody special in my life – a number of years ago my father took ill, and my sister and I took care of him for about six years. That’s why I didn’t come to Fire Island for a while. It really sucked the life out of me. I didn’t want to see anyone. I have a lot of sexual experiences, but nobody that I am romantically involved with.
A lot of sexual experiences – OK, my slutting sister, and I mean it in a fabulous way…
People always ask, “You’re not involved with anybody?” I say, “No it’s been over 10 years.” And they say, “Oh no,” but I tell them I’ve had a lot of sex and they say “OH, OK!” in a very relieved way.
Now, this summer you’re going to be at Top of the Bay in Cherry Grove.
Yes I am, on Monday evenings.
Anything you would like your readers to know?
I recently got my license to marry people.
I haven’t married anyone yet, and I’m not sure if I’m going to do it in drag or not. We’ll see how it pans out. Also, I developed a hobby of taking photos of NYC, and I have a lot of followers on instagram. A lot of people who follow me don’t even live in New York. I have already posted 4,000 pictures.
I’m trying to develop a purpose in life. It’s a passionate hobby that I really like, and in January I turned 60.
You don’t look a day over 30, sister!
That’s why I love you – you need glasses and you don’t wear them around me.
OK then, your famous line “see you in church” – what does that actually mean?
That’s a good question. I took it from “Victor Victoria.” Leslie Ann Warren says it; that’s where I “thought” I got it from. Well, my father developed Alzheimer’s, but he took some medication that made him come back for a while, crystal clear. One day he called me and got my machine, which said “see you in church.” And he said, “See you in church? I used to say that to people 40-50 years ago.” Then I think it goes back even further when people used to really go to church. It was a way of saying “see you around.” Mine is more like, well, to me church is the bar.
YOU CAN SEE FRANKIE COCKTAIL IN CHURCH AT LIPS (227 E 56TH ST BTWN. 2ND & 3RD) EVERY WEDNESDAY THROUGH SATURDAY EVENINGS & THIS SUMMER AT TOP OF THE BAY ON FIRE ISLAND, MONDAY NIGHTS.
Watch this video on Vimeo: “My name is Frankie Cocktail”