Prince Poppycock, the unlikely star of America's Got Talent, is coming to Vancouver Nov 19 to perform at Guilty Pleasures. I say "the unlikely star of AGT" because Prince steps out of the box as a performance artist and continuously defies, and helps expand, America's comfort zone. He's a self-proclaimed "roguish operatic dandy" whose talent is even bigger than his wig, fake eyelashes and theatrics. He was kind enough to indulge Blitz & Shitz by answering a few questions; we discussed fame, his crush on Zachary Quinto and, but of course, his cock!
Blitz & Shitz: The United States is a country very conflicted when it comes to gay rights. Why do you think you were able to break through fears and be embraced by the country on America’s Got Talent?
Prince Poppycock: I believe that I got as far as I did because of a great team that I had around me, several years of paying my dues in the mines of showbiz, and an insane amount of luck. As far as the politics of my performances, I think that Poppycock is a practically asexual being; he is only attracted to his own image in the mirror. So in my work I don't dwell too much on sexuality outside of the swagger that Poppycock comports himself with. I don't feel like my work as Poppycock is a threat to the general public. With every act I do, I think about my niece and nephews seeing it. For this reason I feel like it's appealed to so many people from a wide variety of demographics.
B&S: What is the biggest thing you learned from your experience on the show?
PP: I've learned that the new nature of the entertainment industry has been built around reality shows like AGT, and that's a paradigm that isn't going away anytime soon. I learned that it isn't a surefire ticket to a recording contract or Vegas show. I learned that this country is full of amazing individuals that I've had the great honour of meeting and performing for. I've learned that there is a lot of pain in this country for kids who feel enormous amounts of pressure from all sides of their lives. I've learned that fame is incredibly fleeting and meaningless. I've learned that there is a lot of work left to be done.
B&S: You became a sensation so fast. Was it weird to adjust? Are you fazed by your success? Do you feel you deserve it?
PP: I don't feel famous at all most of the time. I get to live my life in quiet obscurity as John and then trot out the glamour for work, and never the two shall meet. I have worked so long and hard to get where I am today that I hope that the success that I have is commensurate with the blood, sweat and tears that I have shed. And this is all far from over.
B&S: There is something very Nomi-esque about you, with your eccentricity, showmanship and, of course, remarkable voice. Is Klaus Nomi an inspiration? Who inspires you?
PP: I was absolutely starstruck with the artists Klaus Nomi, Jobriath, David Bowie, T-Rex from a young age. I'm currently blessed to be working with the amazing songwriter Kristian Hoffman, who wrote several of Klaus Nomi's best-known songs, who is a constant source of inspiration and encouragement.
B&S: You have called Prince Poppycock “your mask.” How is he different from John Quale? Who do you enjoy being more?
PP: John is quite reserved and happy to have a quiet conversation, while Poppycock, of course, isn't satisfied till he's centre stage wearing something fabulous and putting on a show!
B&S: One of your most memorable America’s Got Talent performances was the medley of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” where you quoted the Declaration of Independence, saying, “All men are created equal . . .” Why did you want to make this statement? One of the background images during this performance was Prince Poppycock’s face on a $3 bill. What was the significance?
PP: I feel very strongly that while equality was an ideal that America was founded on, we don't live by that today. Certainly some men are treated more equally then others. No place is this better illustrated than the current civil rights battle that we wage for GLBT equal rights in this country. More often than not I've seen the dehumanization of GLBT Americans treated as an acceptable thing to do. What if I were to walk up to another citizen and deny their rights, deny them their American dream, deny the right for them to even exist. That's what happens every day in this country.
So when I made the statement "We hold these truths to be self evident, all men are created equal. Of course, some are just a little more equal than others," I wanted to show that even though I was treated as a second-class citizen, even though I was as "queer as a $3 bill," I was still the most fabulous -- I was the one that was a little more equal this time!
B&S: I know you support the Trevor Project and the It Gets Better campaign, but does it get better? Do you face homophobia as an adult in your personal life? Do you face it in the industry?
PP: The cold hard truth of the matter is that the only one that can actually make your life better is yourself. However, I think that having mentors around us that can guide us gently down a brighter and more sure-footed path is a godsend. Life is dark and light; trying to ignore the dark parts of life is only going to make you ill-equipped to handle life at all. One of the most important things that we can tell a kid that is experiencing feelings of self hate, or desire for self harm, is that those feelings are absolutely normal. There doesn't need to be any secrecy or shame because of dark feelings. The only way to deal with the problem is to talk about it, and that's not going to happen if kids are too ashamed or scared to seek help. I know for a fact that all feelings, no matter how dark, will indeed pass and that if we can keep our hearts open and be gentle with ourselves, in time we will be able to experience the joy of life again. This pain can also be a tool that will help you to envision the change that you want to see in the world.
I have absolutely faced discrimination in the industry. Just look at why Piers buzzed me in the finals. In his eyes I was supposed to be a mincing faggot, and I had crossed a line by taking on a dramatic role. Since the end of the series I have not been offered a record contract, despite having a legion of fans supporting me. I was recently dropped by power agency William Morris for homophobic reasons. I chose (against the advice of my former manager) to perform at various Prides and GLBT youth events (like Rise Up and Shout, and the Trevor Project Prom). I felt very strongly about participating in these events; I thought it my civic duty to lend my voice to a civil rights battle. As a result, they told me that I had come off looking too "fringe" to investors. I was actually incredibly shocked that someone would sign me on to their talent roster only to expect that I would not be performing at GLBT events. It was ridiculous and depressing. I had felt things would be different in this day and age. Even though I think of my act as wholesome family fun, somehow I still have something about me which makes people in the industry too nervous to bet on.
B&S: Do you think it’s important for celebrities who are gay to be out?
PP: Absolutely. Zachary Quinto recently made me so happy by coming out . . . not just because I have a massive crush on him, but because I think it's terribly important to live an honest life. Call me, Zachary!
B&S: Let’s say iPods weren’t in alphabetical order. Which two artists would Prince Poppycock be between, and why?
PP: If I flattered myself highly, I would like to think I'm somewhere between Jobriath and Klaus Nomi. Someone outside of their time.
B&S: Have you ever had sex as Prince Poppycock? (I’m sorry, I had to ask.)
PP: The nerve! Well, there was this one time at David LaChappelle's studio for his birthday party. After I performed for David (and Perez Hilton and Lady GaGa), when I got back to the dressing room my boyfriend at the time had his way with me . . . someone actually walked in on us, if you can believe it . . . it was a night to remember.
B&S: Your name is Poppycock. Poppies make opium; opium is addictive. Are you saying your cock is addictive or just very, very red?
PP: The impertinence of such a question! I'm porcelain from head to toe! As to my addictive properties, you may as well ask my fans who have taken the liberty of naming themselves the Poppies!
B&S: You’re performing at Guilty Pleasures in Vancouver Nov 19. Are you excited? What can we expect?
PP: I'm so excited to visit the super-duper gorgeous city of Vancouver for the first time! I'm looking forward to singing my heart out and making lots of new friends!