For some drag queens, getting dolled up in wigs and makeup can make every day feel like Halloween. For Sharon Needles — recording artist and fan-favorite RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4 champion — every day is a ghoulish celebration. And that’s never been clearer than it is in the Pittsburgh native’s cover of Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” the music video for which EW can exclusively reveal above.
“This is my fourth studio record. As with my other three records… I’m kind of a hokey-jokey, campy idiot in black lipstick, but when it comes to my music, I take it very seriously,” Needles exclusively tells EW of the song’s parent EP, SPOOPY (out now). “[But] this is only six tracks. It’s an EP, and they’re all covers. This is more of a Halloween gift to the fans who’ve stood by me for the last seven years — all 13 of them!”
In support of Needles’ release, EW caught up with the drag superstar to discuss the video’s odd (yet satisfying) mix of old Hollywood aesthetics (from crafting an Annette Funicello-themed beach fantasy to dressing hunky bodies with classic Universal monster masks) and how she devised a hilarious cameo from her ex-partner (and fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race alum) Alaska.
Watch the “Monster Mash” music video above, and read on for EW’s full conversation with Needles.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What exactly does SPOOPY mean, and why was it a good title?
SHARON NEEDLES: If you’ve never heard the word “spoopy,” you must be living under a rock, or you’re over the age of 40. The kids rely on misspellings of words. I think [this one] comes from a misspelling of a Halloween decoration that was at Target, where instead of a K, they put a P, and it became “spoopy,” like “creppy.” There are these buzzwords in pop culture, and I think they’re completely stupid. In fact, I don’t even know how to read, but I still stand for literacy. SPOOPY makes me laugh so much. It’s a word that connects me with this newfangled thing called social media. The new medium of celebrity and exposure is in these kids’ cell phones, so I thought, why not meet them halfway? I’m a compromise queen. I went from representing the future of drag to some washed-up queen from season 4. But, if you look it up on Urban Dictionary, SPOOPY means to be funny and scary at the same time, and if that doesn’t sum up someone like me, I don’t know what does.
That hybrid of words also encapsulates the EP’s tone?
Yes! This is my fourth studio record. As with my other three records… I’m kind of a hokey-jokey, campy idiot in black lipstick, but when it comes to my music, I take it very seriously. [But] this is only six tracks. It’s an EP, and they’re all covers. This is more of a Halloween gift to the fans who’ve stood by me for the last seven years — all 13 of them!
You have way more fans than that!
Please send checks!
You’re talking about connecting with the kids, you should really request Venmo.
Sure, that’s what the kids are doing! Is PayPal gone? I still put on a nice hat and deposit my checks at an actual bank.
You do have that old-school reputation, but you’re also known for having amazing music videos. I love the throwback aesthetic of “Monster Mash.” What inspired this video’s look and feel?
“Monster Mash” is one of those great, throwback Halloween songs. In the ’50s and ’60s, even Hollywood revived the 1930s Universal monsters, like Creature from the Black Lagoon, werewolves, Dracula, and Frankenstein, so I wanted to merge that resurgence and nostalgic feeling of Universal monsters with a juxtaposition of an Annette Funicello/Rock Hudson, G-rated, feel-good beach movie. Those concepts melded together. All of my 13-year-old fans are really going to connect with an Annette Funicello reference [Laughs]. But, it’s all about three things: rock & roll, nostalgia, and Halloween. “Monster Mash” blends those things together!
I want to talk about Alaska’s cameo as Joan Crawford, too. The fandom loves seeing you guys together, especially given your history as a couple. After separating, why was it important for you guys to stay on good terms with each other — enough that you can now collaborate like this?
When Alaska and I broke up so publicly, I personally wanted to retain our friendship, and just because you lose a boyfriend doesn’t mean you can’t make them a best friend. And, she’s not even a best friend, she’s more like a brother. [Long pause]. So, I used to f—k my brother.
I was going to say it, I’m glad you said it first. Seriously, how did this collaboration happen?
The night before, we went to see Judy, and we had one or 10 cocktails afterward. You know Alaska, she’ll go to the opening of an envelope. I got this great idea since she played Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? for an All-Stars 2 challenge. I knew I was doing a beach-themed video, and I’m all about putting Easter eggs in my videos. If you remember, at the end of Baby Jane, Bette Davis drags Joan Crawford to the beach and orders two strawberry ice creams. So, I have the scene of me walking over Alaska with the two strawberry ice cream cones. To make it hammy, we stepped away from the visuals of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? And went full-on Mommie Dearest.
It’s so great seeing you still making music. People credit you with being one of the first Drag Race alums to step up your music career.
Not one of the first, the first. I was the first Drag Race alum to have a full record…. I’ll wait for my thank you note later [Laughs].
What do you think of the legacy you’ve built? Where do you see your influences and what do you think of the current state of music from your Drag Race sisters?
Not to be rude to my sisters, but I don’t listen to drag music. I listen to everything from punk to Italo disco to Appalachian country music, but I don’t know what their records sound like. I hardly listen to my own records. I’m like Cher!