Movie released in 1995 starring Patrick Swayze, John Leguizamo, and Wesley Snipes as their secret alter egos- drag queens. Yes, drag queens! Psychological thriller it was not, but the movie does cover some pretty deep themes under a seemingly light subject matter- such as acceptance, tolerance, double standards, and overcoming sexual abuse.
The movie is centered among the dynamic relationship of the three- Swayze as Vida Bohemme, Snipes as Noxeema Jackson, and John Leguizamo as the drag wanna-be ChiChi Rodriguez. Opening in the seedy Webster Theatre of New York City, we see a room full of men in assorted stages of she-dress duking it out like a bunch of adolescent girls. The Drag Queen of the Year pageant begins (hosted by RuPaul as Rachel Tension), and not surprisingly, front runners Vida and Noxeema both grab the title, sashaying down the aisle for gay men in various stages of undress. ChiChi, however, is new to the tranny scene, and is desperate for both attention and acceptance. After finding ChiChi crying on a stairwell, Vida, generous heart that she (he?) is, offers to help her. They both scalp their round trip tickets to Hollywood for the drag national competitition to John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt in exchange for a voucher at Crazy Eddie's Cars (My Cars are My Children!).
After embarking in a sad excuse for a convertible
(style over substance is the Drag Queen Motto), and after a series of complications and mishaps, they find themselves stuck in Snydersville, a small, oppressed
town in the middle of nowhere
. To their dismay, their car is needs an entire weekend to fix. These New York City "career girls
", as they call themselves, have never encounted Southern culture
, or a small town, for that matter. The comic ignorance of the townspeople to the girl's true identity is played well ....and over the weekend, they subtly change the people's perceptions just by being there. They counsel the lovely Carol Ann, who is distraught over the persistent abuse by deadbeat
husband Virgil. They beautify
Bobby Lee, who pines for local heartthrob Bobby Ray... and organize the first social event in Snydersville history, the ridiculously flamboyant Strawberry Social. By the end of the weekend, strong relationships are formed, and the girls gain acceptance that they could never have found back at home.
I won't give anything else away, but the result is remarkably heartfelt and lighthearted at the same time. Who knew that such a crazy subculture could be fodder for a touching piece of Americana and family values? I have transvestite friends that learned the Four Rules to Queenness by heart. This movie definitely has an effect on people.
About the origins of the interesting movie title: while John Jacob, Vida, Noxy, and ChiChi are dining in Sbarro's Italian Eatery in Times Square, Vida spies with her sneaky glare a framed photo of Julie Newmar. Intrigued, she can make out the signature "To Wong Foo: Thanks for everything! Julie Newmar". Deciding that is definitely an omen, Vida swipes the portrait as a guardian over their trip to California.
Some memorable quotes:
"I wish I was as pretty as you." - supermodel Neve Campbell to Noxeema Jackson, to which she replies, "Hehe.... good luck."
"Now, I know you've met John Jacob Jingleheier Schmidt."
"Oh, his name is my name too!"
"The people always shout.. I hate that!"-Vida and Noxeema introducing John Jacob to the audience
"She is the perfect... the ultimate... try to describe her without using the word statuesque."- Vida on Julie Newmar
"Bobby Ray and I have a lot of differences, okay?"
"Yeah, like for starters, the business going on between your legs! Boing! Boing! Boing!" Noxy to ChiChi, arguing about ChiChi's infatuation with Bobby Ray
(I'm paraphrasing this one) "When a straight man dresses up in a woman's clothes for sexual kicks, he is a transvestite. When a man TRAPPED in a woman's body gets a little operation, he is a transsexual. And when a gay man has *way* too much fashion sense for one gender, he is a drag queen. And when a little boy puts on a dress... he is a boy in a dress!" Noxeema defining tranny classifications