Home Features Q&A: Drag Icon Varla Jean Merman Opens 2020 Outlandish Series

Q&A: Drag Icon Varla Jean Merman Opens 2020 Outlandish Series

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Varla Jean Merman / Rex Bonomelli

Logo TV founder Matt Farber is bringing his Outlandish series back to South Florida for the fourth season, opening Jan. 18 at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale with drag icon Varla Jean Merman in “A Star is Bored.”

I have interviewed Varla before, but never in person, and imagine my surprise when our interview time came and a ginger, mustached, big muscle men came knocking at my door. I thought he had the wrong place until he smiled and I saw the infamous Varla smile. That’s right boys, the girl we have known and loved for her originality, creativity and stage presence is a muscle man! 

It was a pleasure to sit down and talk with Varla’s Alter Ego Jeffery Roberson for this exclusive Hotspots interview:

What have you been up to since we last spoke about a year ago? 

I have officially moved to Fort Lauderdale and I love it. 

As a child, were you always a ham/performer or when did the bug bite you?

I think I was secretly a ham and it would come out at times. But it wasn’t until I went to a boarding school in High school that I got the confidence to act like a goofball. 

When was the first time you did drag?

It was actually in high school. A friend of mine had a senior auction, where a junior could buy a senior and make them do whatever they wanted. We paid these 2 girls to make us do drag in school the next day. 

How did you come up with the character of Varla Jean Merman? 

That came later. I went to LSU and met this guy named Timo who had a Video Camera, and he introduced me to John Waters movies. Needless to say, I fell in love with Divine. Timo and I started making these small movies doing crazy things. I sold them to the gay bars, and they got popular. When I moved to New York I walked into a gay bar and they were playing the same video tapes….and I told the bartender it was me. They were about to do a big benefit and he asked me if I would perform and that’s how Varla was born. 

In your wildest dreams did you ever imagine she would have such longevity and be this popular? 

I hoped she would be a little more popular. 

Do you still do the Easy Cheese number?

I have not done that in 15 years, because when I got older I became lactose intolerant. However, it may make a comeback. 

You have a wedding ring on, how long have you been married and how did you meet?

We have been married a year and a half and we met on a RSVP cruise in the gym around 3 years ago. 

When did you know he was the one?

I knew right away that I wanted to be with him, but I didn’t think about marriage until about 6 months later. I never thought I was the marrying kind!

How does your hubby, Dewitte, deal with you traveling so much?

He gets to come with me a lot as he is retired and he loves to travel. 

Speaking of traveling, you have traveled the world. Is there a favorite city or concert hall you performed in and why?

I love San Fran.  I always have, because I connect with them. I also love Palm Springs and Sydney Australia. 

Is there something Varla has not done yet that’s on her bucket list?

I have always wanted to do an ice skating show, or a show in a swimming pool on a lifeboat. 

Describe Varla in three words?

Ditzy, narcissistic and a fun drunk…ok that’s more than 3, but who’s counting? 

Tell me about your new show, A Star is Bored, and why should our readers come see it? 

It’s really funny and it’s one of the only shows I have done that’s based on real life stories. It deals with being an old hefer (like myself) and having to play the new social media game to keep up. I also talk about my influences in the biz and how they helped me get started. Miss CoCo has had a huge influence on me, and took me out of bars to work in cabarets and do my own shows.

I also feel the responsibility to pay it forward. 

Is there something I didn’t ask you that you want to talk about? 

Yes….I love the Outlandish festival and I am so happy to be a part of it 2 years in a row. Matt does such a great job, and Fort Lauderdale is lucky to have this festival. 

For more information on Varla Jean Merman, you can go to her website at: Varlaonline.com or follow her on Instagram.com/VarlaJeanMerman.

Tickets for Varla Jean Merman’s A star is Bored start at $30 at OutlandishFL.com. Premium seating and VIP tickets (including an artist meet-and-greet) are also available.

Discounted full series passes to see all shows are available, as well as a new “Pick 4” option, to see any four shows. For tickets and more information, go to OutlandishFL.com

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