Karla Marx grew up just outside Edmonton, and has been in Calgary for 14 years. This weekend, the First Comrade of Your Heart and mother of the Marx Werk Ware Haus (she puts the Mao in LMAO) will host Taboo’s The Everything to do with Sex Show. We talked about the show, lube, the history of drag, and my terrible pun names.
By Cory Schachtel | November 17, 2022
What got you into drag? Any fabulous, early memories of it?
I mean, you see drag growing up in pop culture and things like that, and I’m sure I saw drag performers in the ’90s or something, but there wasn’t a distinct memory.
What really got me into it is my partner. She’s a burlesque dancer named Bitch Sassidy, and I was kind of hosting burlesque shows for her a little bit before I started drag, and she was like, “You’re really sassy — you should do this!” And I was like, all right! And now I love doing drag because it lets me be engaged in the queer community and build spaces for queer people and queer art.
What speaks to you most about Karl Marx? Is it his support of the exploited working class, or his disheveled beard?
His support of the working class, definitely.
And among drag queens, is there a lot of camaraderie or is it more of a cutthroat, free market situation?
It’s a bit of both. There’s definitely a lot of people who kind of work together and raise communities up and build spaces together where we can cooperate and do amazing things together. And there are some people who are more independent minded and kind of just doing their own thing. It’s kind of hard to fit only into one or the other — there are so many people who do drag that there’s a bit of both for sure.
To an outsider, it does seem like more people are doing drag. Would saying drag is “having a moment” be inaccurate, because it’s so mainstream now that it’s more than “a moment”?
It’s definitely more mainstream than it’s ever been. Historically, there have been drag moments going all the way back to the 1920s, the 1880s — even before that, depending on how you view drag. But it’s been extremely popular during the silent film era. It’s been popular during the Pansy Craze, and vaudeville. It’s been popular in the pageant scene of the 1960s and 70s. You look at Divine and John Waters, Rocky Horror, and Sylvester, all in the 70s — these were amazing drag icons. And then RuPaul in the 90s — drag has always had these moments, and I think Drag Race is probably the biggest one. I don’t think there’s any debate on that. So yeah, I think drag’s had many moments where it’s kind of filtered in and out of the popular consciousness, and now is probably the biggest one because of how big it is on TV.
Obviously, coming up with a drag name is of utmost importance. Did you consider any other German philosophers?
Oh, well I came up with some other German philosopher names I wanted to run by you: I’ve got Fredrika Niece for Friedrich Nietzsche, Georgina Kegel for Georg Hegel, and I thought you could capitalize “man” in ImMANuel Kant, or make it Immanuelle, but I can’t come up with a feminized version of “Kant.”
Well, there’s a pretty obvious one right there, but I don’t think you can use it in print. But for me, “Karla Marx” was really just about the communist connection.
What would you say is the biggest difference in the Edmonton and Calgary drag scenes?
Oh wow, I am not touching that one. That’s a great way to get into a Twitter fight.
Assuming Twitter lasts. So what will you be doing at Taboo?
I will be doing an introductory show to warm up the day. And then I introduce all the different acts that will be on the mainstage.
So I’ll be introducing acts like Body Heat, which is based out of Edmonton. The Peep Show will be back, so we’re really excited we have new performers for that. You’re gonna see some burlesque, some circus. And one show that I know will be really fun is called Femme Flux — it’s a very avant-garde, very experimental kind of queer fashion show for all bodies, all people, all genders. And the vendors are always amazing — they always bring great deals and you can actually go down and look at things and touch things and see if you like them rather than ordering online and just hoping maybe they’ll fit or look good.
There’s also loads of people who run workshops that will explain things, or how to do things safely, or how to try something new. There’s a huge educational component to Taboo as well.
Can you tell when someone’s a newbie at the show? Is there a certain look on their face you can pick out?
There are always new folks who come down and check it out, and some people are just there to take a look and see what it’s about. But some get really into it — even for their first time, they’re ready to go and are super excited. Some show up a little more reserved, but usually they find that it’s a pretty open, accepting space to just enjoy things that are sexy, enjoy things that are fun, and try something new — or even look at things and go, wow, I didn’t even know that existed. It’s a very embracive environment, which is kind of the fun part of it. And people usually leave really excited. I notice more the smiles when people are leaving after having an amazing experience.
Any advice to a first-time Taboo-er?
Oh, my advice to somebody who’s considering, but is maybe a little nervous about going, is don’t worry, it’s not that big of a deal. No one’s going to judge you. You’re free to come and explore things. There’s no kink shaming at Taboo. Whatever you’re into, let’s figure it out. Let’s have fun. Even if you’re just looking for a good bottle of lube, let’s find what you’re looking for. It really is for everyone.