When Miami comedian/drag queen Shelley Novak (aka…
When Miami comedian/drag queen Shelley Novak (aka Tommy Strangie) was navigating the early-80s as a gay teen in Saugus, MA, no performer loomed larger as an icon and roadmap towards the future than Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. We convened at the secret lair of South Beach noise impresario Rat Bastard and took a deep-dive into their often-maligned sophomore record Pretenders II. Along the way Shelley references Gloria Estefan, Judd Hirsch, Kate Bush, Timothee Chalamet and more as we desperately try to keep up. This episode is rated FABULOUS!
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Where did you grow up? In a little town called Saugus, which is just south of Boston. I think the name is Native-American for “I have to move the fuck out of here.” But it was the perfect Currier-and-Ives-type childhood. How long have you lived in South Florida? Since 1992. Why did you move here? After my first long-term relationship broke up, I had to reinvent myself. All of my friends from home had moved to South Beach, and they told me that if I had to start all over, that Miami Beach was the place to do it. When I first moved here, we all ended up living in the same building, and we joked that it was our very own little Melrose Place. New England is a great place to be a kid, but Miami is a great place to be an adult. What part of South Florida do you live in? South Beach—I’ve always lived in South Beach. What do you like most about living here? I love being immersed in the diverse culture, and I love the weather. I also love the gay community in South Beach. It’s really just a small town, since it’s only a few blocks long. We all have each other’s backs. What South Florida venue do you miss that’s gone? Well, I’ve watched them all come and go. Off the top of my head, it would have to be Crobar. I worked at the door there for the run of the club; it was seven years. Where do you hang out in South Florida, and why? when I want some down and “me” time, I sneak away to Twist. What’s something that’s unique about South Florida? I’ve lived in LA and Boston, and Miami, to me, has the perfect balance. It has the weather, interesting people, the beach and available transportation. I can walk everywhere. In LA, for example, a trip to the ATM is a four-hour event there.
What’s your claim–to–fame? When it’s all said-and-done, I will probably be remembered for the Shelly Novak Awards. I’ve done them in South Beach for the past 25 years. You know, when a drag queen falls in the forest, no one hears her (laughs). The basic idea of the “awards” was to give a voice to all the drag queens who are out there working for nothing. You know, no one gets into drag to get rich, so I felt that it was important to recognize the practitioners of this art form. How did come up with your drag name? I took my first name from Shelley Winters, and I took my last name from Kim Novak. Will you ever retire? I keep saying that I’m going to retire, but then I get drawn back into it just like Al Pacino did in the third Godfather film. If people still want me, and I’m still relevant, I’ll keep doing it. Why do you do what you do? More than in any other way, I’ve always felt that you can change people’s opinion with laugher, satire and humor. And it seems more important in today’s world than ever before.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? A big comfortable bed with my dog and someone I love in it, Chinese food, a good movie, and a big fat J. What’s your greatest fear? I’m pretty fearless, but it would have to be things that I can’t control, such as nuclear war. How do you most enjoy spending your time? After all those years in the clubs, I love my quiet time. At this age, it all seems to revolve around film, food and naps (laughs). What celebrity would you like to sleep with? It would have to be a three-way with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Miguel Gomez from FX’s The Strain. Who do you admire? My mom, because she’s the strongest person that I know. What’s your favorite quote? " I never swim in shark-infested waters. " It was said by William Devane on Knot’s Landing. If you could bring one person back from the dead, who would it be, and why? I think it would be Divine. She was such an inspiration. And the punk scene stole the mohawk from her. Where would you go in a time machine, and why? I think I would go back in time to the Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s, and I would be friends with Joan Crawford. And I personally believe that those children were spoiled and ungrateful. I would have hit them, too (laughs). I mean, if you were so traumatized by her [Crawford], why would you write a book? And then you allow the book to be turned into a film? The last I heard, the daughter was on stage with drag queens playing her mother, as she was getting hit with wire hangers. All that for a quick buck?
What would your last meal be? A foot-long Italian cold cut sub from a place in my hometown called Sub Villa. It’s the kind that has the oil, and the banana peppers, and all this other stuff. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.sadlly they are now closed after 60 years What do you worry about? I worry about my older relatives—their health and their age. If you were a musical instrument, what would you be, and why? I would probably be an electric guitar, because I can be soft or hard or out of control. It would all depend on who’s playing me. Are you more like a sheep or a wolf? Neither. I’m more of a lion. Sheep are pushovers, and wolves are sneaky. Who depends on you, and for what? My dog, CharlieSheen. Who are you closest with? I have four very close friends, and they know who they are. I’m really lucky to have them, because some people don’t even have one. Two of them are in Boston, and two of them are in LA, so Miami is a little lonely for me. What is your autobiography be called? " I’ll Shave Tomorrow." Do you ever put music on when you’re upset? When I went through a breakup in the 90s I wore out my Lisa Loeb CD. Do you have a regret in life? only one - I should have used more sunscreen.