Lugosi is Manchester's very own vampire queen, and one of the country's
more interesting performance poets and cabaret chanteuses. A founding
organiser of Manchester-based Club Lash - the largest fetish club outside
of London, and onetime member of eighties goth band The March Violets,
her show mixes perverse parodies of some favourite songs with social and
sexual satire. She has picked up an Erotic Oscar for 'Performance Artist
of the Year', had three collections of poetry published, and is currently
looking for a publisher for her first novel. went along to Manchester's gay village to catch up with Ms Lugosi.
Interview with a Vampire
How would you describe yourself?
As Rosie Lugosi the radical lesbian separatist, dominatrix, bitch, goddess,
top fem, vampire queen!
How do you integrate all these different aspects
into one person?
With a great deal of corsetry but also by using my brain, which often
scares people rigid. Rosie Lugosi is kind of an alter ego…and she's
tremendous fun to go and play with and to play as. She says the things
and does the things that… particularly women aren't allowed to say,
or be or do. It's like she's assertive and angry and bossy and bad, at
all these people around and she's exactly her own woman and knows exactly
what she wants emotionally, physically, sexually. And that's actually
very scary but on the other hand it's also tremendously attractive.
What's your anger directed at, and in what
way are you a 'predator', so to speak?
The kind of stuff I'm angry about, all my work is about 'wake up!' I guess
my anger is directed at the falling asleep of people and I know a lot
of comedians use that. One of my favourite comedians is Bill Hicks and
his whole act was 'Wake up, wake up to life! Wake up to what's going on
around you!' And I suppose it's the idea of using an undead vampire to
tell humans to wake up! So that's what my anger's about, it's about complacency,
it's about bigotry, it's about falling asleep. It's about cowardice, laziness,
all those kind of things!
And how does the predatory aspect fit into
The whole idea of the vampire is a predatory creature that goes out and
hunts and bites and kills and drinks blood but it also links in with the
idea of any woman that is sexually predatory is seen as a vampire. So
I'm thinking that I'm actually going to take that image and turn it around
and reclaim it and use it for myself. It's reclaiming being a show-off,
because…the worst insult you can give a girl is being a show-off.
Yep, I'm a show-off and I'm proud!
What goes into making a successful stage performance?
It's about my presence on stage. It's the idea of standing there and drawing
everyone in, and I find that if I've got something to say…a really
good way of getting people to listen is through humour. I like to play
with the audience, I like to lift them up with something 'fluffy' and
humorous, and I like to pull them back down with something dark and terrifying.
Despite the avowed disinterest in conventional
morality - I'm thinking here of 'Wanking Is Forever' (her take on Shirley
Bassey's 'Diamonds Are Forever') - there comes across something clean,
and uplifting and moral - as opposed to moralising - about you.
It's part of the 'wake up' stuff, I'm totally ethical! I think that whole
'Wanking Is Forever' song is completely ethical, it's encouraging people
to have safe sex, but they are laughing at the same time, coz encouraging
people to have safe sex by preaching at them is going to get you NOWHERE!
Looking through your poetry, one stood out:
'I'm Being Queer For Britain'. I thought it was very simple but very clever,
could you talk a little about how that came about and what you were trying
Again that's one of my slightly angrier poems, but it's also got humour
in it - sometimes it can feel very lonely as a queer performer. I've got
a big wig, 6 foot tall, and I've got fangs, you can't really miss me!
I was just thinking of the whole idea of how difficult it is to be queer
and to stand up and be counted, you know I've been in jobs where I wasn't
able to come out as being queer, and there are a lot of people out there
who are still like that. Still getting married, still hiding it for fear
of getting beaten up. People say, you know, 'it doesn't happen any more',
but a guy got killed three weeks ago in London. He got kicked to death
by a gang of lads because he was queer.
I liked the way you were mocking - in a humorous
way conformist notions - it refers back to 'wake up!' Would that be a
Yes, but it is also undercutting what people think of as queer. What Rosie
Lugosi looks like is not quintessentially queer. Rosie Lugosi is a drag
act, because I'm dressed up as a woman; I'm a female drag queen. I'm a
woman who dresses up as a woman if you see what I mean. I'm dressing up
as an extreme example of... what a woman is supposed to look like.
read you saying previously that Rosie Lugosi is very pansexual - she appeals
to all sexualities - could you elaborate on that?
I started off performing for queer audiences, particularly for dyke audiences,
who were like 'great, wow, here's someone who is a dyke and gets her tits
out, this has got to be good', and then I started performing to general
audiences, and surprise, surprise, straight guys went for the image as
well. Then I started performing for totally mixed audiences. A gay guy
who I know came up to me and blushingly admitted that he'd had sexual
fantasies about Rosie Lugosi, and I think he thought I was going to be
really angry, in fact I was really delighted. I thought 'Oh my god, Rosie
Lugosi appeals to everybody!'
I read that you said being Rosie Lugosi allowed
you to play around with what women are and aren't meant to be….
That kind of goes back to being a show-off. When I was a kid I loved the
idea of being a kid and dressing up, I had a dressing up box with bits
and pieces that me mum had got from jumble sales and stuff like that,
and then when I grew up I didn't realise that you were supposed to put
all of that away, and a lot of the Rosie Lugosi thing was 'Wow, I get
to have a dressing up box again!’ A lot of it was about play, you
know, wouldn't it be nice if adults still played rather than feeling that
they've continually got to be grown up? And I think adult play is something
we've really, really lost out on.
Do you have any explanations as to why adults
don't have, or have lost the ability to play?
I think we get it crushed out of us. We are told it's okay to be like
that when you are young but now that you've grown up you've got to behave.
And fit yourself into this really narrow tram-track of what's acceptable,
and what's acceptable seems to be pink for girls and blue for boys, getting
married, settling down, getting a Barratts starter home, and having two
children, preferably the eldest a boy and youngest a girl. And no wonder
people are going completely mad, because although there are going to be
a number of people who are going to be happy with that, there's got to
be a finite number, and why do we see people so bloody miserable if they
are so happy with it? If someone's happy with that fair enough, but don't
have those choices continually made for you.
Vampires are seen as exploiters. Is this unfair
Well history is always written by the vampire-hunters. That's another
queer analogy. I don't understand why people don't automatically see vampires
as queers, it's like you know, vampires get staked, queers get bashed,
it's like vampire history was written by Bram Stoker who was on the side
of Van Helsing, and it's like the history of the world is written by heterosexuals.
It's like in the concentration camps gay men wore the pink triangle; it
took decades before that was even recognised as something the Nazis shouldn't
have done. When the people with the pink triangles were liberated from
the concentration camps they didn't get compensation. Everyone else…the
Jehovah's Witnesses, the gypsies, the politicals, the criminals…they
all got compensation for being in the camp; the pink triangles didn't
coz it was a sin!
Turning now to your role as one of the main
contributors to Club Lash in Manchester, could you tell us a bit about
Club Lash started in 1997, myself and three other women…were fed
up that there was nothing in Manchester for people of a BDSM persuasion,
so we set it up and from the very first night we've been heaving. We've
always had a fifty-fifty mix of men and women in the club and that is
untold of for any fetish club in the whole country. From the very beginning
we wanted it to be a real mixed bag…people defining their gender
identity in whichever way they wanted. It's always been a real mix of
ages, everyone from eighteen to sixties.
Do you think people coming to your club are
in the minority, or rather represent the 'tip of the iceberg', mainly
hidden in the mainstream?
It would be really nice to think it was the tip of an iceberg, and that
what we get in the club is people who've opened themselves up to this…it's
about sensation, it's about awakening the senses of sight and touch, and
particularly touch…we are very bad on touch in this society, I think
we've got very closed off from touch, I think we've got very scared of
touch, sometimes with very good reason.
Do you see S&M as fundamentally different
from 'conventional' types of sexual behaviour or merely a variation?
Sadly…being into BDSM is seen as a mental illness, under the World
Health Organisation. What I think is going to be very different from that.
It's about adults expressing themselves safely, sanely and consensually;
my attitude is that if it's safe and it's sane and it's fully consented
to by two adults then that's okay.
On what grounds is it regarded as a mental
Well on what grounds is homosexuality regarded as a sin against God? Somebody's
Should sexual politics be more important in
people's consciences than it is?
Once the word 'politics' gets associated with the word 'sex', I think
people just fall asleep, because I think there are a lot of memories of
sexual politics being around… some very grim feminism of the eighties.
I mean I am proud to call myself a feminist, although it really is a dirty
word now, and I think that is sometimes the fault of some dodgy sexual
politics, which is around 'all men are rapists', really unhelpful stuff
like that. And yet again Rosie Lugosi is about saying sexual politics
is about looking like this. Sexual politics looks like rubber and corsets
and riding crops, this is sexual politics, it's the body politic.
If you cared to define being a feminist, how
would you do so?
I think I would follow the old one, that I always get called a feminist
when I express views that differentiate me from a doormat. The thing I
couldn't get with some…eighties feminism…there was a lot of
negative stuff which is like 'do not dress up', 'women can't wear make-up',
'women can't wear tight clothes', this was women saying it to women, it
wasn't blokes. I'd had enough of blokes putting me down, but it was a
bunch of women doing it. And Rosa Luxembourg said 'If I can't dance, it's
not my revolution'.
Excerpts from 'I'm Being Queer For Britain':
I'm wearing black for Britain
So you can pack your wardrobes with BHS beige
Comfort yourselves in supermarket trainers
I'll take the strain in stilettos
Sweat it out in a rubber corset
So you can bask in polycotton
I'll camp it up and vamp it something rotten
Paint the town pitch so you can paint it pastel flowers and frills
No one will stare
I'll wear black so you can fade into the walls.
Still I battle through it
It's a hard job being queer for Britain,
But someone's got to do it.
Rosie Lugosi is due to perform again in Liverpool for details visit: