By Reid Cammack | Header photo by Mr Means
What happens when you can’t go to a drag show? The drag show comes to you, of course!
D’Arcy Drollinger and the team over at Oasis have been recently covered by The New York Times, CNN, and The San Francisco Chronicle for their now-iconic meal delivery service Meals on Heels. Simply order your food and a drag queen will personally deliver it to your door and even perform socially distanced drag number right on your sidewalk. What’s not to love?
Meals on Heels isn’t the only thing keeping Drollinger and the Oasis crew busy though. The club just reopened their rooftop area for live drag shows and has been churning out an excessive amount of content for their YouTube channel.
The club’s new original YouTube show, Hot Trash, consists of club owner Drollinger taking on the biggest headlines of the week and reading them for filth like only a drag queen could. In addition to the new series, Drollinger has also been releasing archival footage of live Oasis stage shows that fans can watch on YouTube for free.
On top of all that, Drollinger is also getting ready for the world premiere of their debut film, Shit & Champagne. The film is written by, directed by, and starring the club owner and is set to open the Frameline Film Festival later this month with its own drive-in debut.
In the midst of the Meals on Heels media frenzy, we got the chance to call and catch up with Drollinger. The drag icon talked about her “meat paste” bologna cake, what it’s like to run a club during a pandemic, and how her cult-favorite Shit & Champagne stage show transformed into a festival-opening motion picture.
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I know it’s a weird question to ask in COVID, but how are you doing? How’s life going?
You know, it is… I sort of feel like I’m spending a lot of time tap dancing as fast as I can. But, you know, for all the lemonade I’m trying to make out of these lemons, it’s going okay. We’ve got enough stuff happening that it’s definitely keeping us busy. The question is, is it sustainable?
Your Oasis YouTube channel has had a lot of action in the past couple of months with Oasis TV and Hot Trash. Can you tell us a little about the different series and videos you’re putting out?
I mean, that was our first line of attack. Luckily we had all of these old archival videos we had taken from past shows that I never thought would see the light of day. I took them more just to really have for posterity sake and in case I ever wanted to do them again, I could look back at those for direction. But then it was a great resource that we could start almost immediately putting them up.
At that point, I think we only thought it was going to be a month or two. Then when it started to become clear that we were going to be here for a while, I started to realize that we had to do something else and we had all this space. So I sort of turned the main room into a soundstage and started filming an original show called Hot Trash – something I had always imagined doing even back when we first opened the club. Heklina and I were maybe going to do a ”hot topics” kind of happy hour, talking about what was going on that day or that week in the media, but that never happened. It was always kinda in the back of my head and I figured during this time I can’t do something with a big cast, so why not just take that on?
I’ve been watching Hot Trash and the one thing that’s stuck with me is the bologna cake you and Snaxx made. It honestly haunts me. What did it taste like and why did you eat it?
I will say this – you put enough cheese and meat and salt on something and it’s sort of okay. It’s sort of like Fear Factor. It’s kinda like drag Fear Factor. It tasted like a weird meat paste. It stuck to the roof of your mouth immediately. Those are the things we’re suffering through for our audience. There was gonna be another one, obviously, we’ll do more, but there was one someone had found that was a Jell-O mold with Vienna sausages. It was a little scary, but it didn’t end up happening – yet, anyway.
Can we expect either that bologna cake or the Jello-O mold to be on the Meals on Heels menu anytime soon?
I won’t torture my customers the same way I’m going to torture Snaxx.
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In the past week, I feel like I’ve seen you guys on every major news site with Meals on Heels. What’s it like receiving all that national attention?
Oh my god! I definitely was not ready for it. I feel like I’m caught with my panties down.
It is obviously, I think, a combination of it being an interesting story and there aren’t a lot of feel-good stories right now. It’s just so much negativity between COVID and fires and Trump. It’s just like, my god! I can see why people gravitated towards it, but I was not expecting it at all.
ABC News did a story on it. The journalist has done a number of things on the club over the past five years, so he’s supportive of what we’re doing. He did a really nice piece where he interviewed me and followed one of the queens and interviewed a couple of the other performers. And then he re-edited it and put in on this thing called Localist and then that kind of went national and that’s when everything started to blow up. And then the Washington Post called and then AP called and then it just kinda snowballed where literally the last three days have been having to be a publicist again – that’s what I used to do. It’s been insane. CNN is doing a story. New York Times is gonna do a big story. They called like eight people yesterday and they’re sending a photographer. Getty Images is sending a photographer. The Chronicle is doing a second story…
It is wild to have it go so national and I feel it is a great story, because I do really think that what we’re doing is important – almost in a USO sort of way where we entertain the troops. I think we are bringing a lot of community and joy to these people who maybe haven’t gone out very much and they’re really not having a lot of communication with other people like this and they haven’t seen a performance or a performer, let alone a drag queen, in at least five months. The queens are getting to dust off their heels and shake out their wigs and perform again. Which is what a lot of them did multiple times a week and it’s also able to give them a little income – a lot of them had lost that part of their income. And it helps me bring more staff on at the club, keep the lights on, and pay the water bill.
We even extended to a second day now. We’re doing Thursdays as well. We did one East Bay delivery day last month and we’ll do another one this month. So, I don’t know how big it can honestly, realistically get, but you never know. When it starts to go national, you start to wonder, “Well, could we set this up in all the metropolitan areas to offer this to people?” I’m sure people would love it in Chicago and New York just as much as they like it here. Some people do often say there’s the “only in San Francisco experience” and maybe that’s what it is. I don’t know, but it does feel really good to be doing it.
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Back at Oasis, you guys recently opened up your rooftop and have been doing some live shows up there. What’s it like having drag back in the physical Oasis club?
Again, it’s the same sort of feeling, but because of social distancing, we can only have about 30 people on the roof at one time and 20 people in the parklet. It is bringing so much joy to people, because they get to come back to where they love and feel like, “Okay, this isn’t going to be taken away. This isn’t gonna go anywhere.”
It’s also great for the performers as well. I get to be there when it’s their first time back on stage after five months of just cold turkey of no drag performing. Even for me, the first time I did it, the first time I’m hosting and MCing, I sort of forgot how to do it.
It also allows me to get more staff and bring more people on. Some of my staff couldn’t even get on unemployment, so it’s a big deal to bring people back.
Outside of Oasis, you have a film that’s opening up the Frameline Film Festival.
I do! I was supposed to premiere this movie in April at the San Francisco Film Festival and that got canceled. So it’s been an interesting don’t-get-too-stuck-on-your-plans sort of reality, but I am super happy to be one of the centerpiece films and be the film for opening night as well as the only film in the festival that’s going to have a live screening. We’re going to do it at a drive-in in Concord, the West Wind Drive-In, which seems sort of appropriate for a movie that takes place in the 70s.
I’m thrilled. They’ve been super supportive from day one. I worked so hard on this and spent so much time and money on this project – even from when it was first a play in New York to getting it on the screen. It feels like a major milestone in my personal and professional life to be able to do this, so for that, I feel grateful and excited.
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You mentioned that it started out as a stage show. Can you give us a brief history of how Shit & Champagne went from a stage show to a full-on movie that’s premiering on the big screen?
I wrote it originally in 2004/2005. Opened it in 2005 in New York at a strip club. We would do the show first, before the strippers came in. That ran nine months and got some pretty good reviews.
From there, I didn’t pick it up for a while. I moved back here. It was January 2014 in San Francisco where I remounted it at Rebel, which was a little bar that Heklina was managing. We had been doing Sex and the City live there when I’d first come back and some other TV parodies. I mounted that with the San Francisco cast and the chemistry was just so electric. It ran for about a month and a half and it got extended twice. Then that closed and we had some downtime before we figured out how we were gonna open our own space.
Then it was the inaugural show at Oasis – the very first one. It was crazy rehearsing for that in what was sort of a construction zone. At that point, it had developed a really strong local fanbase. These people would come over and over. They called themselves the Shitheads. Some of them had seen it like twelve times. They would chant lines along with us and turn it into a bit of a Rocky Horror experience where there was a lot of interaction with the audience and the actors. And then from there I actually wrote two sequels that we put on at Oasis. Champagne White & The Temple of Poon and Disastrous! So people can look for two more movies down the line.
And then in 2017, it wasn’t my original choice. We had just done a show called Bitch Slap that I had wrote, which was an 80s soap opera spoof, and I wanted to pitch that as a possible movie or series to Netflix. I was talking to my friend who had done some work with Netflix and he suggested Shit & Champagne as sort of my calling card for the festivals and for people to see what I could do first. So I kind of turned it around and thought, “Okay, I’ll go back to kinda my first big hit and work that out.”
Then it was supposed to film in 2018. We got pushed back for both crew and financial reasons and then finally we were able to film it in April of 2019. Again, I had never made a feature film and I knew it was gonna be intense trying to direct my first film and also star in it. So I got a very young and accomplished assistant director to help and a great crew of really professional folks that fell in love with the script and/or wanted more feature film experience. So I just kinda got lucky. The movie looks like a million-dollar movie. It’s great.
I learned a lot. I can’t wait to do the next one. It felt like a crash course in film school. It was super intense doing it in twenty days. It’s been a long road. Originally we were going to use a whole lot of popular music, but I quickly learned how expensive it is to use music for films. So the songwriting team that’s been doing all my music for Hot Trash jumped in there and made sort of funny sound-alikes. Instead of Relight My Fire, it’s Ignite My Flame. You know, things like that. They’re homages to the songs that we were originally going to do, but all original and original lyrics. I think having a really beautiful film with an original score does, in a way, make it extra special. I’m excited. It’s getting its color correction done right now and all the foley sound and dialogue mixed and it’s gonna get back right before… (Laughs) The movie’s going to be done a few days before it premieres, which I’m told often is the case, but it’s a little intense.
Portions of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.