To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

Infobox_Film
name = To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar


director = Beeban Kidron
writer = Douglas Carter Beane
starring = Patrick Swayze
Wesley Snipes
John Leguizamo
editing = Andrew Mondshein
producer = G. Mac Brown
distributor = Universal Pictures
budget =
released = September 8, 1995
runtime = 109 minutes
language = English
amg_id = 1:135022
imdb_id = 0114682|

"To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" is a 1995 film, starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo as three New York drag queens who embark on a road trip. The film's title refers to a totemic autographed photo of Julie Newmar that the trio carries with them on their journey.

Cast

*Wesley Snipes as Noxeema Jackson
*Patrick Swayze as Vida Bohemme
*John Leguizamo as Chi-Chi Rodriguez
*Stockard Channing as Carol Ann
*Blythe Danner as Beatrice
*Arliss Howard as Virgil
*Jason London as Bobby Ray
*Chris Penn as Sheriff Dollard
*Alice Drummond as Clara
*Beth Grant as Loretta
*Melinda Dillon as Merna
*Michael Vartan as Tommy
*Robin Williams as John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
*RuPaul as Rachel Tensions

Plot outline

After entering a local "drag queen of the year" contest in New York City, Vida Bohemme (Swayze) and Noxeema Jackson (Snipes) win a trip to Hollywood to take part in an even bigger, national drag queen contest. Before they depart, Vida persuades Noxeema to take along the inexperienced 'drag princess' Chi-Chi Rodriguez (Leguizamo) as their protégé (the duo initially refer to Chi-Chi as a simple "boy in a dress" rather than as a fully-fledged drag queen). In order to do this, they trade in their airplane tickets for cash and buy a stylish but old Cadillac convertible with money given to them by John Jacob (Robin Williams) and the three of them set off for Los Angeles by car.

While on the road they are pulled over by homophobic and racist Sheriff Dollard (Chris Penn), who tries to sexually assault Vida. He discovers Vida is not female, and in the confrontation, Dollard is knocked unconscious. The ladies think he is dead, and they hurry off and leave him behind. While recovering from the incident at a rest stop, their car breaks down. A young man, Bobby Ray (Jason London), from the nearby small town of Snydersville happens by and gives them a ride, where they take refuge in a bed & breakfast owned by Carol Ann (Stockard Channing) and her abusive car repairman husband, Virgil (Arliss Howard).

The three ladies remain trapped in the town for the weekend as they await for the replacement spare part for their car to arrive. While there, they are confronted by the town's small-mindedness, though none of it centers around their gender as everyone believes them to be female. Chi-Chi is nearly gang raped by a group of roughnecks, but is saved by Bobby Ray. The ladies are ecstatic to find vintage fashions from the 1960s in the town's clothing store, along with its young, awkward, stuttering store clerk. Vida gives him a copy of her book on Diana Vreeland to inspire him.

Noxeema, along with the group of women, are later disrespected by the same roughnecks that attempted to attack Chi-Chi. Fed up, Noxeema handles the situation in a typically New York manner and teaches their ringleader a lesson in manners. Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi do what they can to be positive and they set out to improve the lives of the townspeople. This includes makeovers and assistance in organizing the annual "Strawberry Social" event.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Dollard is ridiculed by his colleagues, who believe he was beat up by a woman. He goes in search of the drag queens with a list of places to look entitled "Places for Homos", which reads: (1) flower shops, (2) ballet schools, (3) flight attendants' lounges, (4) restaurants for brunch, and (5) antique shops.

Vida, meanwhile, becomes acutely aware of Carol Ann's abuse at the hands of her husband Virgil and, shortly thereafter, the three queens overhear Virgil giving Carol Ann a beating. Vida decides to intervene and beats up Virgil before throwing him out of the house. The next day Virgil runs into Sherrif Dollard at a bar and the two realize that the newcomers to town are the same people Dollard has been searching for. They head back to Snydersville and Dollard insists the townspeople turn over the drag queens.

The townspeople, who now realize the true gender of their new friends, begin to protect them. One by one they step up and confront Dollard, each one claiming to be a drag queen, a la "Spartacus". Dollard is humiliated and flees. The Strawberry Social commences with everybody dressed in vibrant red outfits for the party. Shortly after, Carol Ann repairs their car and the ladies are finally able to leave Snydersville though by now they are slightly saddened to leave behind their new friends. They eventually make it to Los Angeles where Chi-Chi, after having received many tips from Vida and Noxeema during their ordeal, wins the title of Drag Queen of the Year. Fittingly, the crown is presented by Julie Newmar herself.

The 4 Steps to becoming a Drag Queen

The 4 steps are made up by Noxeema and Vida for Chi-Chi during their trip, as she goes from drag 'princess' to drag 'queen.':1. Let Good Thoughts be your Sword and Shield::As they embark on their journey, Noxeema tells Chi-Chi that there are four steps to becoming a drag queen. When Chi-Chi asks what they are, Vida responds that she will only know once she has done them; and Noxeema ("duchess of protocol") will inform her.:2. Ignore Adversity:3. Abide by the Rules of Love::Chi-Chi quickly grows fond of Bobby Ray, and the feelings seem to be mutual. However, Bobby Lee, another girl in the town, has had her eye on Bobby Ray for quite some time. After some coaching by Vida and Noxeema (and the realization that while she is outwardly female, she is still biologically male and Bobby Ray is not gay), Chi-Chi concedes that Bobby Lee and Bobby Ray should be together.:4. Larger Than Life is Just the Right Size::This final step is spoken by Noxeema in the last scene when Chi-Chi is crowned, though the film does not make it clear which of Chi-Chi's actions are "larger than life." This may be a general reference to a drag queen's fabulousness and over-the-top costumes, make-up, and jewelry. Chi-Chi, by being crowned drag queen of the year, is the most fabulous of them all.

Critical response

Swayze earned a nomination for the "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical" Golden Globe Award, and Leguizamo garnered a "Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture" Golden Globe nomination.

On the set

The opening and closing scenes were filmed in New York City featuring dozens of New York's local drag performers and underground stars in small roles or as featured extras. Included in the mix were RuPaul, Joey Arias, Lady Bunny, Miss Understood, Candis Cayne, Flotilla DeBarge, Clinton Leupp a.k.a. Miss Coco Peru, and Quentin Crisp. The three stars had previously spent some time in the local drag scene while researching their roles. The ending scene of the movie, the anticipated Miss Drag Queen USA contest was actually filmed at The John S. Phipps Estate in Old Westbury, New York, now colloquially known as Old Westbury Gardens. Much of the rest of the film was shot in Loma, Nebraska, as well as nearby Lincoln and Omaha.

Robin Williams also has a cameo early in the film as the queens' friend John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Julie Newmar, an iconic figure to the main characters, also makes a cameo appearance as does supermodel Naomi Campbell, although it is not clear whether the latter is playing herself or not.

Trivia

*The Dorothy Dandridge bio-pic of which Wesley Snipes' character dreams was later made in 1999 as "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge". It starred Halle Berry, whom Snipes dated.

*The film is referenced in the song "Drinking in L.A." by Canadian musical collective Bran Van 3000.

*Julie Newmar herself does not know who Wong Foo is [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE0D71538F933A2575AC0A963958260 To Wong Foo, Who Is Julie Newmar? - New York Times ] ] , although she speculates that he is the owner of a New York City restaurant called the China Ball [ [http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19950908&slug=2140332 Entertainment & the Arts | Who Is Julie Newmar? New Film Drags Actress Back Into The Spotlight | Seattle Times Newspaper ] ] . The picture in the movie is of her standing on the diving board in her parents' backyard when she was 18 years old.

References

DVD

A DVD release is available with several deleted scenes.

ee also

* Cross-dressing in film and television


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