There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
What do you call a wig-wearing, falsetto-singing Baton Rouge boy who went on from LSU to make a name for herself in the cabaret canyons of the Lower East Side? Anything but a drag queen: Varla Jean Merman (aka Jefferey Roberson) is a cabaret artiste, thank you very much, or a sensation en travesti, but what she does isn’t anything so quotidian as drag. The towering flame-haired temptress (love child, it’s said, of Ernest Borgnine and the one-and-only Merm) has starred in everything from All My Children (as prostitute Rosemary Chicken) to a stage parody titled The Mailman Always Comes Twice to a Sundance favorite called Girls Will Be Girls. The dear thing writes her own material and does her own singing, too, in a style that’s been described as equal parts Shirley Bassey and Montserrat Caballe. An operatic take on “Disco Inferno” is among the more frightening of her accomplishments. Also, she’s been known to sing duets with a talking wiener and inhale an entire can of Cheez Wiz while sustaining a trill, though I’m guessing she dropped that last trick a coupla years back, when she dropped about 70 pounds. (She looks fabolous, just fabolous, these days.) Oh, and she’s funny as fuck; Margaret Cho could learn a thing or two about timing from this diva. Leave Ester Goldberg and her sad little show to the people who read the Post, and hum wickedly along when Our Lady of the Prodigious Poitrine makes her D.C. debut in Varla Jean Merman: I’ve Got the Music in Me at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at the Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1530 P St. NW. $25-$45. (800) 494-8497. (Trey Graham)