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Drag Queen Merrie Cherry On the First Annual Brooklyn Nightlife Awards

merrie_cherry_image.jpgIt's no secret that Brooklyn nightlife has taken off in the last decade. While we nervously await for Output to open on upper Wythe Ave. in Williamsburg -- and do our best not to take to the street with pitchforks and torches, shouting dystopic LCD Soundsystem lyrics -- there's still a flourishing DIY party culture on the east side of the East River. And drag queen Merrie Cherry wants you to celebrate it. She's gathered a whole slew of Kings County creative types -- from super well-established co-host Murray Hill to more underground performers like Di Ba and Horrorchata to local gay faves AB Soto and Leo Gugu -- to present the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards at Glasslands Gallery on Sunday. Ahead of the big event, we chatted with Cherry about what to expect from the queer-ish, "straight-friendly" awards ceremony and her thoughts on what sets Brooklyn nightlife apart.

What made you want to do this event and awards show now?
I've noticed that a lot of people [who go out in Brooklyn] don't know the same socially-active people that live in the borough and have parties. You don't really get that in Manhattan. In Manhattan, everyone really knows everyone in the party scene. That disconnect [in Brooklyn] bothered me and that's pretty much why I decided to do the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards -- to bring all the people that are working really hard [together]. We don't get paid as much as they do in Manhattan but we do it because we love it and it's the only thing we know. The other reason is that Brooklyn needs a spotlight. There are so many great things going on and people need to know [about them].

Why do you think Brooklyn nightlife doesn't get the same attention as that in Manhattan?
I think it's because it's new. It's been five years or less that things have been growing here. Manhattan has owned the spotlight and it's easy for people to say, "Oh, everything I need to know about is in Manhattan." It has nothing to do with who's better, or who's worse, or who's higher up. A well-known Manhattan promoter tried to come into Brooklyn to do a party and the management said no.

Are you willing to say which promoter?
I can't. But to me, that was a huge sign because that [promoter] has been written about multiple times and is very popular but the [Brooklyn] management didn't want what he wanted to bring to come here. I feel like when people are looking for a different energy they come to Brooklyn because we go hard here.

How long have you been in Brooklyn?
I've been in Brooklyn on-and-off for two years now. I was in Manhattan for a year and I ran right back to Brooklyn.

What do you think of Manhattan nightlife?
I am not anti-Manhattan. I love going into Manhattan when I have the chance, but every time I go, it's the people I know from Brooklyn that are hanging out with me. I feel like even when you go to parties in Manhattan where people are dressed to the nines and there are these creative party kids in crazy outfits, [those kids] are really from Brooklyn. Manhattan's starting to realize that they need to get those kids in to make their parties more interesting.   

What's your favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn?
My favorite neighborhood right now is Williamsburg, only because that's where my bread and butter is coming from. That's where all my shows are but I live in Bushwick. There's a lot of energy there. I haven't put my finger on exactly what but there are so many creative people.  It's really the next frontier after Williamsburg has been taken over by a lot of the "I can't afford Manhattan, but I still want a nice place to live" people. There's some great bars like Tandem and One Last Shag in Bed-Stuy but Williamsburg is where all the money is right now, so even if you live in Bushwick [or Bed-Stuy], you're still going into Williamsburg to party.

Do you think South Brooklyn nightlife is sleepier?
Yes. I don't know why that is. I used to say that that part of Brooklyn is where the hipsters go to grow up, so I think that maybe there's a little truth in that even though I always say it in jest.  Maybe the people that are all about parties live in [North] Brooklyn. But I tried very hard to get people that work in South Brooklyn [to be a part of the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards]. 

There are a lot of members of the LGBT community involved with the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards. Should we be calling it the Brooklyn Gay Nightlife Awards?
I wanted to make sure that it was LGBT and straight-friendly as well. Whenever I talk to people about it, I say this is for the LGBT, queer community and the people that love us. 'Cause straight people come to my parties all the time and I love them and I feel like it's not a party unless it's everyone.

Ab Soto, Horrorchata, Di Ba, Leo Gugu, Zebra Baby, Krystal Something-Something are all performing. Tell me what to expect.
So Di Ba is actually a burlesque performer and she's part of Backspace, which is an ensemble with Krystal Something-Something and Charmin Ultra. It's just going to be Di Ba performing [from that group]. I wanted a hip-hop performer, I wanted at least one or two drag queens, I wanted a burlesque performer and I wanted a pop-y performer just to make it all around different. So it's going to be shows, shows and more shows, honey.

And what about the after party?
There's an after party at This n' That where the shows will continue. We're gonna have a live band play and a few drag performances and I'm looking into trying to get Thorgy Thor to try to host the party because I'm gonna be done after that. And I'm really excited about Murray Hill. The fact that Murray Hill is even doing this with me is a huge honor and proves I'm doing something right. I can remember being a wee lad and seeing him on access television in California and just being in awe of him.  

The Brooklyn Nightlife Awards at Glasslands Gallery, 289 Kent Ave., Williamsburg, Sunday, January 27 at 8pm; $10. Visit their website for more info.

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