Hedda Lettuce: Still Garden fresh



Turning ten, still up to her timeless tricks

Drag hostesses in this town come and go like dollar store panty hose — but Hedda Lettuce don’t wilt, honey. She just keeps rolling along. The bitchy mouth that launched a thousand pissy missives (that’s girly girl talk for cutting remarks, people) has long reigned as one of New York’s finest. Has it really been ten years since she first brought her cutting remarks and superior appreciation of camp to a cinema? Yes, it most certainly has.

Those who’ve been known to walk up and down 23rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues (just to see the sights, you know) have grown accustomed to the sight of her lettuce-hued hair beaming from a poster promoting her 7pm Thursday night gig at Chelsea Clearview Cinema (W. 23rd St., btw. 7th & 8th Aves.). That’s where she screens a classic film, which has gained a deservedly loyal following over the years (everything from Bette Davis flicks to John Waters atrocities). What Ms. Lettuce’s selections all have in common is a larger-than-life legacy earned by repeat viewings and that oft-used but rarely deserved crown of glory known as “camp.”

We recently chatted with Hedda from, well, we’re not sure. Either her glamorous Gotham penthouse bubble bath or a sleazy holding cell somewhere in flyover country. Hard to tell. In both instances, you’d expect a tremendous amount of angry accusations and promises made in exchange for cigarettes. No matter. We were happy to have her, either way.

The Villager: So, Hedda, ten years, huh?

Hedda Lettuce: It’s gone by like that — now it’s the longest-running classic movie night in the city; but with a queer sensibility of course, because I am hosting. It’s a real community-based event that’s just kept going all these years. I’ve seen the younger ones get old and some of the older ones pass away. But every week, it seems like there’s a new group of people who come to these movies they’ve never seen before, to be exposed to them for the first time. It’s a mixed crowd. There’s a group of NYU students who come. A man proposed to his fiancé at the theater.

The Villager: A straight man? Proposing? To a woman?

Hedda: Yes! The movie was ‘Now, Voyager.’ He had won the raffle, and came onstage and proposed — which put her under pressure, you know, to say ‘yes’ in front of 200 people.

The Villager: You chose ‘Mommie Dearest’ as your special anniversary screening. Why?

Hedda: It’s not just a movie. It’s a lifestyle. This is one of those camp movies that has longevity and will captivate audiences for many, many years to come. The only film that comes close to it is ‘Showgirls’ — which, once again, has a lead actress who’s the last one to be in on the joke. But “Mommie Dearest’ stands alone. Today, the acting style is so different; more naturalistic — and the actresses are really dull on a whole. Not compelling, nothing to make an impersonation from. People can impersonate Faye Dunaway. What are you gonna do, a Julia Roberts impersonation? A lot of her films are bad, but they don’t cross over into that category of being so bad that it’s good. The only one I can think of that came out in the last 15 years is ‘Glitter’ — because she’s psychotic. She’s out of her mind. But they won’t let us show that one.

Hedda Lettuce’s 10th Anniversary of Chelsea Classics (aka “Interactive ‘Mommie Dearest’ ”) takes place on Thursday, June 23, 8pm at the Ziegfeld Theatre (141 W. 54th St., btw. 6th & 7th Aves.). For tickets ($15), visit clearviewcinemas.com. For all things Hedda, visit hedda.com.