With COVID lockdowns shuttering queer spaces across the country, drag star Trixie Mattel decided to step in to save the oldest LGBTQ+ bar in her hometown, Milwaukee. Now officially co-owner of the bar, the Drag Race alum — and All Stars Season 3 winner — will be partnering with This Is It! throughout the year, supporting with everything from virtual appearances to creative direction.
Even her newest music release, a special cover of Wisconsin punk outfit Violent Femmes, pays tribute to her Milwaukee roots, home of the bar where Mattel sipped her first legal cocktail: a Tootsie Roll.
Trixie Mattel, Zach Fenske, Cory James and Price Smith
Premiering today on PAPER, Mattel's take on Violent Femmes' '80s classic "Blister in the Sun" is as sunny and energetic as the original with her own full rock band to boot. "I'm high as a kite/ I just might stop to check you out," she sings, dressed in the music video as an ultra-mod Nancy Sinatra type. She wears matching crossword puzzle prints with her bandmates, dancing in a clean white space that looks almost like a vintage TV spot.
Mattel has a special relationship to Violent Femmes, who also got their start in Milwaukee. Her first ever performance in drag was for the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Oriental Theater, where Violent Femmes was reportedly first discovered back in 1981.
"I remember starting drag at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee and hearing that the band Violent Femmes got discovered outside the very same theatre," Mattel tells PAPER. "I discovered the song the same summer when I started drag. I own two homes and a business in Milwaukee, so 'Blister' is a love song to Milwaukee to me. Also, I heard it's about masturbation which after 2020 has never been more relevant."
"Blister in the Sun" is only the beginning for Mattel in 2021, following a year of big releases. Her third studio album, Barbara, saw Mattel return to the blueprint of her drag persona, describing it to PAPER as Barbie moving to California from Wisconsin to become a star. "When I was working on this album I began going back to the original sketches of what I thought Trixie was," she said. Then, there was the release of Mattel's book, Trixie and Katya's Guide to Modern Womanhood, as well as her podcast, The Bald And The Beautiful.
Watch the PAPER premiere of Trixie Mattel's Violent Femmes cover, "Blister in the Sun," above, and stream it, below.
Photography: Bird Lambro
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