Friday, April 24, 2009

Today in Gay History

Happy 54th Birthday

John Epperson (b. April 24, 1955)

"Lypsinka" debuted 1988

Credit to glbtq

John Epperson has had an extremely successful career performing as the glamorous and hilarious drag character Lypsinka. In addition, he has appeared, both in and out of character, in several plays and films.

Epperson was born April 24, 1955 in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, not a particularly gay-friendly place to grow up. He said in a 2002 interview, "I was always like a changeling in my home . . . like an alien among them." He wondered "why I was so fascinated by show business, when no one else in my family was."

Epperson rejects the term "drag queen" for himself and has stated that he does not enjoy much of the drag that is being done because "it is loud and tacky and trashy and has no sensibility or thought behind it." He intends his own work as "a commentary of performance in general and drag performance specifically." However outrageous Lypsinka may be, she is always at heart affectionate toward the women to whose work she performs.

In his cabaret act as Lypsinka Epperson typically does not utter a sound. The entire shows are meticulously crafted from recordings of music and the spoken word, which Epperson interprets through expression and gesture. He has been praised for his ability to convey the wide array of emotions to which Lypsinka is subject as she works her way through the existential crises of her life.

Epperson has also written a play, My Deah, his version of the Medea tale transplanted to Mississippi. It . . .debuted at the June Havoc Theater in New York.

In Epperson's play, Euripides' tragic heroine is re-envisioned as My Deah Hedgepeth, a Louisiana State University beauty queen who has committed the heresy of falling in love with and marrying a football star from arch-rival Ole Miss. My Deah finds the couple settled in Jackson, Mississippi and surrounded by a colorful bunch of friends and neighbors.

Epperson does not see himself as a particularly political person. On the possibility of gay marriage he commented in a 2002 interview, "I understand why people want the legal benefits of marriage. It just doesn't appeal to me to be married at all." A year later he called himself "too idiosyncratic for anybody to live with me," adding that "traditionally most gay guys aren't interested in going with drag performers, because they just can't go there."

Epperson has stated on various occasions that although the status of outsider can be difficult, he prefers individualism to assimilation. In a 2003 interview he said, "When I see [gay] people who want to be assimilated into the mainstream, I can only say that if Tennessee Williams had wanted to be assimilated into the mainstream, he would never have written Streetcar. Being an outsider made him what he was."

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