Celebrated San Francisco cross-dressing showman extraordinaire, Josh Grannell (AKA the ravishing ‘Peaches Christ’) recently stepped out of his (or her) flamboyantly stylish “Fuck Me” boots, hung up the bouffant wig, and washed pounds of makeup off to unveil his first feature film, All About Evil to eager festival audiences throughout California. Clearly a tribute to several of Grannell’s main sources of inspiration—including the stage gimmicks of acclaimed Gran-daddy of horror, William Castle, the transgressive trash of John Waters, and his obvious passion for performing arts—All About Evil is a wacky, whimsical trip to an old Victorian-style movie theatre that many of us movie maniacs will relate to the first place we ever experienced cinem-arousal.
For many horror & hilarity go hand in hand but it’s rare to find a movie that manages to meld the two without completely reeking of rancid shlock (the kind that is so bad that it’s actually BAD). All About Evil had me laughing out loud, falling in love with horror movies all over again, and feeling giddy about the whole thing for literally days after, not to mention recommending it to pretty well everyone I know. I’ve got a hunch that drag queens, Natasha Lyonne, and a set of homicidal twins will be enlightening the hearts and busting the guts of millions of horror hounds worldwide upon an official DVD release. I was lucky enough to catch Josh during some of his nearly non-existent downtime between hosting Midnight Madness shows as his drag clad alter-ego and attending premieres of his first film.
Peaches Christ in all her murderous glory.
Laceration Lacey: So how did Peaches Christ come about?
Josh Grannell: Peaches was born in my senior thesis film Jizzmopper: A Love Story. I was a student at Penn State directing the film and when the actor playing the drag queen part didn’t work out, I courageously slapped on that face, put on a wig and jumped in front of the camera to do the deed. When the film was completed, I graduated and moved to San Francisco where “Peaches Christ” launched her performance career at Trannyshack, and soon after created the midnight movie event Midnight Mass.
LL: What kind of thoughts do you have floating around in your mind as your packing on pounds of makeup and squeezing your manhood into an excruciatingly tight pair of pantyhose?
JG: Hmmm, I guess the whole process of getting ready really is transformative in a character sense. I can always tell that as the makeup goes on and I’m getting dressed and such, the voice of Peaches is bubbling up, thinking of things to say, to do onstage. It takes about two and a half hours to get fully ready, so the process is almost meditative at this point.
LL: Do you feel at least a little bit sexy upon doing so?
JG: I can act like I feel sexy as Peaches, but I never actually truly do feel sexy. The character’s costuming, makeup, hair, and accoutrements are actually incredibly uncomfortable. I won’t bore you with the details, but physically it’s wholly uncomfortable.
LL: Did you initially plan a role for her (Peaches) in All About Evil? Or was it something that just happened along the way?
JG: It happened along the way. I don’t think she was in the treatment or even the first draft.
LL: John Waters has obviously had a significant impact on you and the direction that you’ve headed with your work. What are some of your favorite Waters films?
JG: I grew up in Maryland worshipping at the altar of John Waters. My favorite overall is Female Trouble, but I also completely love Polyester, Serial Mom, Desperate Living, Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Multiple Maniacs, etc…
John Waters and Divine
LL: I read in an interview with Shock Till You Drop that you’re a fan of William Castle. What are some of your favorite films of his and do you think his natural showmanship and use of gimmicks has had a significant impact on your love for theatre & performing?
JG: I think much of my Midnight Mass movie event was really inspired by William Castle and I love all the showmanship that he stood for. I’ve even re-created some of his old gimmicks and handed out little axes at screenings of Strait-Jacket at Midnight Mass. I love Strait-Jacket by the way! I love that and Homicidal, The Tingler, 13 Ghosts, and more. He’s hugely inspiring to me. As part of my All About Evil tour and the Peaches Christ 4-D Experience, we’re handing out Jonestown style Dixie Cups to every audience member which is completely because I loved what William Castle did with those little mini-axes at Strait-Jacket screenings.
LL: Peter Jackson is mentioned a few times in All About Evil. Are you fan of his work? Do you think he should say screw the big budget stuff and re-live the days of classic Jackson splatter, Braindead style?
JG: I’m a huge fan! I think it’s great that he gets to do such big budget stuff now and I really loved the Lord of the Rings. I mean, wow. I also love Dead Alive, Meet the Feebles, and Bad Taste and of course Heavenly Creatures. Peter Jackson is just awesome. I’m one of the “theatre full of Peter Jackson dorks” that the Judy character refers to in All About Evil.
LL: What do you think of other recent genre films like The Hills Run Red, Midnight Movie and Behind the Mask: the Rise of Leslie Vernon—films that are based on a similar ‘movie within a movie’ concept. Were there any films that particularly came to mind for inspiration?
JG: OK, I’m a bad nerd now because I honestly haven’t seen any of the three movies you mentioned. I feel like I’ve been living on planet Evil and have missed a bunch of stuff. I can tell you that Theatre Of Blood, Demons, The Bad Seed, Carrie, and Female Trouble were all pretty inspiring when writing All About Evil. I was also inspired by Doris Wishman, her life and career.
LL: You obviously worked with some very talented people on the set of All About Evil, including Natasha Lyonne, Noah Segan and Thomas Dekker. How did you go about casting?
JG: I feel like I got my dream cast. Primarily we asked our friends and went through people we knew. I was pals with Mink Stole and Cassandra Peterson so I pitched to them directly and the producer Darren Stein knew Noah and Thomas which was great. Our fantastic cinematographer Tom Richmond had shot The Slums of Beverly Hills and so with his help, we were able to get the screenplay into the hands of Natasha. I think avoiding managers and agents when you’re a first-time filmmaker best known as a drag queen named after Jesus is the best way to go about it.
LL: The Ramsey sisters were sickly sultry, definitely my two favorite characters. How did they get involved in the movie? I have to ask, is there any relation between Veda & Vera and the twins in Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining?
JG: Everyone LOVES the twins! And how can you not? I adore them and the truth of it is that the twins were written to be blonde. In the screenplay they’re described as twin girls grown up, both blonde, both teenage versions of The Brood or Village Of The Damned. I wanted them to look like a teenage version of the little girl in Poltergeist or The Bad Seed. Anyhow, after auditioning tons of blonde twins in Los Angeles and not feeling satisfied, the Ramsey girls came in and did the audition where they timed their breathing to be the same. It was SO CREEPY. They walked out and that was it, I knew it had to be them. The homage then kinda became The Shining by default. And did you know they’re actually British?!?
The Ramsey Sisters
LL: Tell me about your experiences in the San Francisco underground performing arts?
JG: Well, being part of Trannyshack and creating Midnight Mass really was crucial to me building a creative community of collaborators that I work with to this day. I don’t think I could have had the same career in any other city in the world. San Francisco has really supported what we do. Peaches is now the face of the SF Museum Of Modern Art and is on billboards celebrating its 75th Anniversary around town. That’s kind of incredible and I really do have loads of gratitude for the people I work with here, but also the fans. It’s a special place to live and work.
LL: What was the childhood of a famous performing drag queen/filmmaker extraordinaire like?
JG: In some ways, it was very normal. I grew up going to Catholic school in a Baltimore/ D.C. suburb, Annapolis. I was always weird, but at the time I don’t think I really knew it. I was obsessed with horror as a kid and that never really changed. The Thomas Dekker character in the movie is really modeled after me in a lot of ways, though I was NOT that good looking. I was a geek, but got into performing and writing and putting on shows at a really young age and just never stopped.
LL: Will Peaches ever tour worldwide? Any Canadian dates in mind for the future?
JG: There’s an upcoming Canadian appearance that I’m doing as Joshua that I’m not allowed to announce yet, because the festival needs to do it first. Peaches and All About Evil will be appearing in Manchester England in October, as well as some other places in Europe this year and next.
LL: Any last words for Cinesploitation?
JG: Just thanks so much for including me! I love what you guys do and the stuff you cover. Let’s obsessively visit one another’s sites!
All About Evil‘s OFFICIAL SITE
Peaches Christ’s OFFICIAL SITE