Please join me in welcoming our newest BYT contributor Michael, who starts off by giving you everything you did (and didn’t) want to know about Shea Van Horn AKA drag queen Summer Camp, enjoy! -cale
In hosting the quarterly nightlife event CRACK (held this Saturday at DC9, 8pm doors, 9pm show) performance artist Shea Van Horn has landed an onstage persona with a mouth as filthy as his former colleague Dan Savage. Van Horn, who developed his theatrical skills under the direction of the nationally syndicated sex advice columnist, doesn’t shy from incorporating simulated sex acts, nudity and vulgarity into his performance as CRACK host and drag-queen Summer Camp. And like Savage, Van Horn has found a way to use titillation and unabashedly gay themes to capture the attention of an audience that extends well-beyond the D.C. gay community.
“This isn’t a bunch of guys performing Barbra Streisand or Celine Dion,” says Van Horn who is a fixture on the D.C. nightlife scene as both DJ and drag performer. “Our event is more like a fun mix of shock, theatre and performance art.”
CRACK was created last year from the efforts of Van Horn and nightlife promoters Chris Farris and Karl Jones. Each was looking to foster a dance event that incorporated performance art and comedy. With such events having long been mainstreamed into New York City nightlife, the trio began work on developing a showcase that would similarly develop the creative talents of D.C. residents.
The night attracts a mostly-gay crowd to the DC9, a venue which Van Horn believes “provides just the right kind of intimacy that we think fuels the energy between Summer, the performers and the audience.” Yet the event also maintains a growing straight fan base, who Van Horn will encourage to stick around for the launch of JUICY, the dance-event that will follow his performance as Summer Camp.
To more deeply explore CRACK, Brightest Young Things spoke with Van Horn’s over-the-top stage personality of Summer Camp to discuss the upcoming event:
Brightest Young Things: As a quarterly event, each Crack tends to feature a seasonal theme. Saturday’s performance is billed as Crack 4: Camp Crackahoa. Tell me a little bit about that concept, and what audience members can expect.
Summer Camp: When I think back to childhood, my memories of summer camp are among my most cherished…singing inspirational tunes around the campfire, hearing ghost stories that made me pee my pants, gobbling down gooey s’mores, swimming naked in the lake, and cute counselors that flirt with disaster by groping unsuspecting sixteen year-olds.
I wanted to share my love of summer camp with DC, and maybe I’ll get to grope an unsuspecting sixteen year-old. So we’re going camping this Saturday at Camp Crackahoa. Audience members will be transported to the great outdoors with absurd performances, games, sing-a-longs, and videos that feature many of DC’s oft overlooked talent all while sipping tasty alcoholic beverages served by super-sexy bartenders. They’ll also get to see me, me, and more me. What else is there?
BYT: Your show is equal parts performance and audience participation. As the emcee of the show, how do you maintain control over the show to ensure that it moves along at an entertaining pace, especially when encountering a rare performance that is less than entertaining?
SC: I just get drunk and encourage the audience to get drunk. Everything is funny when I’m wasted.
BYT: Crack tends to reflect the altDC scene a bit more than the traditional gay nightlife in Washington. Readers of Brightest Young Things may feel at home at the DC9, but the performance is a departure from the experience offered at most gay bars in Washington. What has been the reaction of the overall gay community in DC to Crack, other than the gay hipsters who make up a core of your audience?
SC: You know, when you look deep inside my Crack, you will find a little something for everyone. Part of the beauty of Crack is that each show attracts a different audience based on who is performing because each performer drags along his/her own entourage. That makes for a unique chemistry experiment every time we host Crack.
We have developed a core following of addicts who show up to each show, and most of them are gay mensss, but I have had the pleasure of performing for my lesbian sisters and brothers, the ungay, and everything in between. As far as the reaction of the overall gay community in DC, you know, I’m not sure. As surprising as this sounds, I’ve only slept with about 34% of them. But most of them can’t get enough of my Crack.
BYT: You openly solicit for Crack on your website. Where have you found most of your talent, through existing contacts or through the website?
SC: Yes, I’m always looking for a new dealer. The last one I had laced my crack with something, and I didn’t come down for six…oh, you’re talking about performers. Sorry, my bad.
The answer to that version of the question is also, “Yes.” We solicit performers on our website, but the bulk of our performers are just
desperate, desperate friends who are dying to embarrass themselves in front of a crowd. Oh, and we also have the proverbial “casting couch!”
BYT: Have you ever had to reject a potential participant from performing, either through lack of talent or lack of class?
SC: No. We welcome the classless and the talentless.
BYT: Right, tact doesn’t seem to be a virtue in your performances. Your Christmas show began with you dressed as the Virgin Mary and simulating sex with God before birthing the Christ Child onto stage (all set to music by Madonna). Has a concept ever been discarded from your performance for fear that it went a bit too far?
SC: Hmmm…Let me think. One time I shot up heroin while blood dripped from my veins. Another time I opened a “Free Blow Jobs” stand, put on a burqa, and gave George W. Bush a hummer. Then there was the time, I took a dump into a toilet, ate a little bit, and finger-painted the word, “Bananas” (set to Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl). So, I guess the answer is, “No.”
The only time a concept gets discarded is when it isn’t funny. I’m sure some of your readers may be thinking, “How can eating a turd be funny?,” but I assure you, it was hilarious. Part of the fun of Crack is pushing buttons and playing with taboos but always maintaining theatrical integrity and hopefully, providing entertainment.
BYT: Your shows are infamous for featuring audience participation games such as “Show Us Your Crack!” that often reward men for offering the crowd a sneak peak at some skin. Thats great for the gay guys and straight women in the room. But, with an expanding audience, does Crack plan to offer any peep show games that titillate the increasing number of straight men who come out to the show?
SC: Everyone has a crack, maybe even more than one. It’s an equal opportunity titillation game. On Saturday, when I ask for volunteers to join me on the Crack stage for a rousing game of “Show Us Your Crack!,” I hope we’ll have some brave women step up and show it off all for a super-duper t-shirt! I mean come on it’s a free t-shirt. An I’m sure that the lesbians and straight men in the audience will enjoy it.
BYT: In her 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, Whitney Houston proclaimed that “Crack is whack.” Did you have a particular reaction to that statement, and what response would you offer to the children, who are the future?
SC: I know exactly how she felt after she uttered those infamous words. She felt HIGH. So, I guess I can’t hold it against her that in her own Whitney-way, she mocked my show. When I’m out promoting our show and the first thing people say, after I tell them that it’s called Crack, is “Crack is Whack.” It just breaks my heart to hear those words.
And as far as the children are concerned, they should watch my inspirational film, “The Passion of the Camp” on YouTube. It’s
jam-packed with important messages that really speak to the hearts and minds of today’s youth.
BYT: Tell me a little about the debut of JUICY, which follows the Crack performance. Do you plan to continue Crack and Juicy as a joint production in the future or as separate events?
SC: Mmmm. Yum. Just hearing those words, “juicy” and “crack.” Doesn’t it make your mouth water? What is better than a juicy crack? I guess if this Saturday’s “Juicy Crack” gets DC all hot and bothered, then I don’t see why it shouldn’t become a tradition.
Summer Camp can be seen hosting the fourth installment of Crack (Crack 4: Camp Crackahoa) this Saturday:
May 12th 8pm doors, 9:00pm show @ DC9
1940 9th Street, NW
The $8 cover charge includes admission to the dance party JUICY immediately following the performance.
For more information, see www.CrackDC.com