San Francisco has its fair share of eccentric characters, but only one can truly be referred to as the “local high priestess of irreverence and camp.” Peaches Christ, the drag alter ego of filmmaker Joshua Grannell, turns 40 on Saturday with a celebration at Rebel, 1760 Market St., hosted by fellow performer Heklina.
“Finding myself becoming an ‘aging’ drag queen, I’m completely fine blasting my age everywhere I can,” Grannell said, describing Peaches Christ as overtly forthcoming. “I love that so many of my drag idols — RuPaul, Elvira, Jackie Beat — are all a bit older and still working quite successfully.”
Over the years, Peaches Christ has been able to meet such idols, inviting RuPaul, Elvira and John Waters to come and be admired in person at her Midnight Mass event series. Midnight Mass paid homage to cult classics with a movie-inspired drag show leading up to the screening of the original film, along with elements of “other cults like the Catholic Church,” Grannell said. Started in 1998 at the Bridge Theater, Midnight Mass grew into a decadelong institution in San Francisco’s art drag scene.
“I’ve had lots of time to grow, make mistakes, fall on my face — literally once — and build a group of loyal attendees,” Grannell said. “Once we began selling out multiple nights at the Bridge, the Castro Theatre was the next logical step.”
Peaches Christ’s sold-out shows at the Castro have included drag re-imaginings of camp staples such as “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Heathers” and “Death Becomes Her.”
“The cinema is our church and we earnestly believe in these characters,” Grannell said of the audience. “We’re the Dawn Wieners [a character in “Welcome to the Dollhouse”] who grew up to become the Dawn Davenports [from John Waters’ “Female Trouble”]. Both Dawns are saints to us.”
Next to be canonized? The late actress Brittany Murphy’s character in the 1990s seminal high school comedy “Clueless.” In addition to Peaches Christ, the March 8 event will feature “RuPaul’s Drag Race” crackpot Willam Belli.
Creative relationships in a thriving culture hub, where everyone has a pet project, can be difficult to establish and maintain. Thus, Grannell is grateful to have been embraced by Heklina’s Trannyshack community, including graphic designer Chris Hatfield, stage manager Sam Sharkey, art director Ric Ray and “sidekick Martiny who moved with me from Penn State back in 1996.”
“Midnight Mass was really born out of Trannyshack,” Grannell continued. Peaches Christ’s stage productions share Trannyshack’s “art for art’s sake” mentality, even as they’ve grown into bona fide blockbusters.
“She’s taken it to the next level, while still keeping the shows irreverent with an added one-night-only, don’t-miss-it excitement,” Heklina said. Herself a drag impresario, Heklina applauds Peaches Christ for sold-out shows at the Castro Theatre, Grannell’s business savvy and strong team of collaborators, as well as for having an impeccable insight on what the people want.
“What do you think about a preshow starring bitchy bears and we call it ‘Mean Grrrs’?” Grannell said.
Oscar Raymundo is the author of “Confessions of a Boy Toy.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.