LGBTQ South Florida

Drag star Bianca Del Rio recalls Joan Rivers, brings ‘Rolodex of Hate’ to South Florida

Drag star Bianca Del Rio
Drag star Bianca Del Rio

Drag queen Bianca Del Rio climbed into Joan Rivers’ YouTube bed last summer just weeks before the comedy legend’s disasterous throat surgery.

Rivers opened Del Rio’s In Bed With Joan segment with a toast: “Let’s drink to your winning the season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race!”

“I didn’t expect it,” Del Rio told Rivers, “but it actually became real all of a sudden because the check cashed, and you know how that is: Once you get the money, then this s--- is actually real.”

Preparing for four shows Saturday and Sunday in South Florida, Del Rio gets serious talking about Rivers, who died Sept. 4 after an elective throat procedure Aug. 26 in New York City.

“It was very difficult for me in the beginning,” Del Rio says about working with Rivers. “I didn’t want to seem like a fangirl. And I also didn’t want to seem aloof and over the whole situation. But as soon as I got in the room with her, it was effortless. It was an amazing afternoon”

Del Rio said appearing with Rivers “could have blown up in my face.”

“She was a strong personality. It takes a lot for someone who is a very strong personality to allow someone else their moment to make a joke. She was very gracious with that and made me feel completely relaxed, which was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect, but I came out of there a bigger fan than I could ever be. Rarely do I get excited or lose my mind, but inside there was that 6-year-old gay boy saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening!’”

Born Roy Haylock to a Cuban mother and Honduran father, Del Rio is the fourth of five siblings.

“I never officially came out. I was always the different child. Later on in life, when I had boyfriends and my family met them, it was never a big deal. I don’t have one of those amazing coming-out stories like most people do,” Del Rio says. “Since my brother didn’t sit everyone down and say he was heterosexual, then why should I?”

Because of YouTube and TV shows like Drag Race, Del Rio has become a cult star and a role model for some gay boys.

“I’ve had several emails from kids that are 13 years old and know that they’re gay and their parents are happy with it, they understand it and they watch the show together. Which is amazing. That didn’t happen 20 years ago for me at all.”

Del Rio says that growing up near New Orleans, “my life could have gone a completely other way if I chose to be a victim.”

“My parents didn’t understand what to do with me, but it had nothing to do with them. It was ignorance on their part. They had three normal kids and then here I came along,” Del Rio says. “It wasn’t so much the gay thing. With my particular family, they were concerned what other people were going to say. To either make fun of me and taunt me, or for someone to look at them and say they are bad parents because this child is different.”

Life changed in high school. “Then I could choose my life,” Del Rio says. “In high school, I found theater, I found an outlet where people did understand me and it wasn’t a question of who I was. … It was my saving grace.”

Haylock first performed in drag in 1996. “Back in the day, you had to go to a gay bar on the other side of town to find a drag queen. Now, they’re kind of everywhere. And it’s amazing. But a lot of it has to do with this particular television show.

“People are now realizing, with the show, that not all of us want to be girls and that it’s not necessarly a gender issue,” Del Rio says. “That’s a whole ‘nother ballpark. That we’re basically men in wigs having a good time. For me in particular, I always say if I didn’t wear a wig, I’m called a nasty hateful faggot. I wear a wig, I’m called hysterical. It’s just a packaging for me to get away with murder. But it’s definitely not a gender issue, an identity issue or anything to be a afraid of. That’s what’s amazing. A majority of the fans of the show are straight girls in Middle America, that travel to see the show.”

Del Rio is bringing a new comedy show to South Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Rolodex of Hate.

Most of the younger fans don’t even know what a Rolodex is.

“I’m going to be 40 in June,” Del Rio says. “It’s quite shocking. I’m quite fascinated by it. Many people say, ‘Thanks to Bianca, I now know what a Rolodex is.’ Are you f----ing kidding me? I’ve never been the old person in the room, but it’s happening and it’s scary.”

The show’s ads scream: “WARNING: Adult content. This ain’t no lady!”

“I just like to put it out there,” Del Rio says. “This is what it is. You get the option to leave and it may not be your thing. God bless you. But if you’re highly offended, I suggest you stay because you’ll enjoy it.”

Del Rio continues:

“It’s never my intention to shock people. I’m shocked by people who are shocked by something I’m saying. When people say, ‘Oh, that’s crossing the line,’ I sit back and go ‘You’re watching a man in a wig at 10 o’clock at night.’ Consider the source. I’m not on CNN. I’m not standing in front of the White House with a bullhorn telling people my business. I am in a bar. I’m in a room. I’m in a theater. Relax. That’s what people lose sight of. There are people that are standing up for serious rights. Advocates for everything. I’m all for it. I’m all for equality. All of that. But there’s a time and place for it. My show is not it. My show is my show. People lose sight of it, as well. Because of what I do, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s my identity. It’s my act.”

If you go

Bianca Del Rio’s ‘Rolodex Of Hate’ will be performed 8 and 11:30 p.m. Saturday at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; and 7 and 10 p.m. Sunday at the Amaturo Theater at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Adult content. Tickets begin at $35. VIP meet-and-greet also available.

Click here for tickets to the Miami Beach shows or call 305-434-7091.

Click here for tickets to the Fort Lauderdale shows or call 800-745-3000.