Money, Success, Fame, Glamour
Dallas Dellaforce constantly raises the bar with sheer shock-factor, innovation and glamour. Ahead of her first fully-fledged show at The Vanguard, In Pursuit of Glamour, Daniel Cater – the man who created her – speaks to Garrett Bithell.
Dallas Dellaforce isn’t really a drag queen. Because it wouldn’t be fair to lump her in with the bevy of Oxford Street lads content to shove on a wig, slap on a face, tuck their way into a frock and mime to other people’s songs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But Dallas – the creation of Daniel Cater – is a different proposition entirely. More performance artist than drag queen, Cater has always marched to beat of a different drummer. Since hatching Dallas in 2000, he has been responsible for a seemingly endless procession of visually arresting personalities and daring performances. He is ever shifting, ever challenging, ever shocking.
However the vast point of difference Cater has established with Dallas isn’t a self-conscious decision, and certainly not something he works to maintain. “I have thought about this a lot, and the truth is I really just do whatever turns me on creatively,” he tells SX. “Sometimes that crosses over into the mainstream and sometimes it defies the norm. There have been many instances, though, of apparently-shocking things that I have done very quickly becoming mainstream.”
“I love being different to my contemporaries. I feel like the more diversity within our community the better.”
Part of the wonder of Cater’s creation is exemplified by the fact this writer doesn’t know whether to refer to Dallas as a man or a woman – which I’m sure is at least partly intentional. Although Cater does refer to Dallas as a woman, she does defy gender, and is androgynous in every sense of the word. Sometimes uber-feminine, sometime uber-masculine, often an unsettling fusion of both, she is always compelling.
In an exciting coup for Cater, Dallas is getting a fully-fledged show as part of the Mardi Gras festival, titled In Pursuit of Glamour. “It is a journey through my most exciting, funny and infamous performances,” Cater says. “It’s an invitation to meet the many faces and multiple personalities of Dallas Dellaforce and a look at her tireless exploration of glamour in all its incarnations.”
Blending performance art, drag, burlesque and multimedia, In Pursuit of Glamour is an introduction to the fascinating way Cater digests and reinterprets fashion, history and popular culture through Dallas. “I have always wanted to create a one-man show, but the problem is that my shows are so different from one another – with the exception that I almost always end up nude,” he tells. “The looks are always so specific to the performance, and the idea of moving from one to the other without half an hour changes between was almost impossible.
“So I asked myself: what is the main theme in my work? And the answer is glamour. There is always an element of glamour in everything I do. The illusion and the artifice are what excite me so much about drag. It’s completely synthetic and utterly manufactured – a beautiful lie. I’m still that little boy spinning around and around trying to make my skirt fly up.”
The format is a blend of existing highlights in Cater’s repertoire – including ‘Scary Clown’, ‘Money, Success, Fame, Glamour’, and ‘The Graduate’ – and new acts created just for this show. “There is no definite storyline and at times it’s very abstract, but always comes back to the central theme, glamour,” he tells. “The show runs for an hour with an intermission. It’s hard to describe without giving away some of its most fabulous and surreal secrets, but let me just say that conceptually there has never been a show like this.”
In Pursuit of Glamour also features Cater’s “dream team of performers”, including Lillian Star, Betty Grumble and The Amazing Ari. “This group of Glamazons are the best in the business and will blow you away,” he raves. “It is going to be surreal, ethereal, beautiful and sometimes scary. It will thrill you, seduce you and leave you wanting more.”
Befitting such a consummate showman, the show is taking place in one of the most hallowed venues in Sydney, Newtown’s The Vanguard. “It’s my dream venue,” Cater says. “Its old-world charm and supreme glamour factor lends itself perfectly to this production. It really is one of the coolest venues in Sydney. It’s intimate but not too small, and I love that you can have the option of dinner and a show as well.”
Detailed characterisation is hugely important to Cater’s performances, and yet another point of difference to the cookie-cutter drag world. “Everyone is so desperate to conform, and that makes up a large percentage of the drag community all over the world. There’s this prevailing notion that if you are not doing the fiercest RuPaul’s Drag Race face replete with contact lenses and two tonnes of studs attached to your giant fake boobs then you’re just not fierce enough. Or similarly if you aren’t passing as the most un-springable Barbie doll under the sun then you just aren’t cutting it either.”
But this is not to say Cater is totally indignant about mainstream drag. “Drag will always be the main vehicle I use in my performances. But depending on what I want to say and who I am saying it to it can veer from one extreme to the other. I love drag and performance art and the freedoms they allow me. I don’t think the two things need to be exclusive from one another. I guess I’m an in-betweener!”
[Image] Dallas Dellaforce goes In Pursuit of Glamour. Photos: Richard Hughes
In Pursuit of Glamour, February 21, 22 & 23 at The Vanguard, Newtown. Bookings at www.thevanguard.com.au.