Chad Michaels is a game-changer.
In 2011, the veteran celebrity impersonator competed on Season 4 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on Logo TV — up against louder and bossier junior drag queens — and finished in the top three. It was a strong showing, but couldn’t the consummate professional who’s in demand as a Cher impersonator and who had met the legend place a little higher?
The following year, Michaels was invited to “RuPaul’s All-Stars Drag Race” to portray diva realism with the best performers from all of the past seasons. He trumped the competition and took top honors, including the “Queen of Queens” title and praise from RuPaul.
Michaels is expected to bring his mad skills to the Hunters Nightclub stage this weekend in Palm Springs. He’s performing at 8 p.m. Sept. 29 with one of his favorite sisters from “Drag Race” and another guest in celebration of the club’s 15th anniversary.
Michaels recently chatted with Desert Outlook about the performance he’s planned, the second time he met Cher, and the popularity of drag.
What can fans expect from your appearance at Hunters Nightclub’s anniversary weekend?
Well, I’m coming out with Shannel, who was my partner on “RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race.” We’re known as Team Chad. I’m definitely bringing Cher (his drag persona) because you know It’s A Woman’s World these days. We have a fun little duet planned for the audience. I think when we’re booked together people like to see us do something together.
And then Bruce Eric with Liquid360 is going to be there with us. Bruce and I are going to be performing our new song “Tragic Girl.”
Tell us how “Tragic Girl,” your foray into music, came about.
This is my first song project. I’d been looking for something for a little over two years, and just wasn’t finding what I wanted. And I had actually written a fun song that I wanted to do, and had known Bruce since high school.
We do have this really long history. He had written this song “Tragic Girl” six or seven years ago, and it got shelved. At the time he was shooting a video for it and wanted me to star as the tragic girl in the video. So I thought, let me call Bruce (about doing his music project).
I’m lucky to have friends who guide me really well. His advice was great: “This solo project is cool, but let’s get your feet wet first.” He came back with “Tragic Girl.” He really was a patient teacher with me. He taught me how to sing and worked with me. We’re really happy with the results. It’s a fun song. It’s unapologetically a pop song.
Are you planning to do more music?
Well, we’ve actually recorded another song. Bruce recorded “Chains of Love” by Erasure. He’s already got a video out for it. They love him and Liquid360 in Europe. He brought me into “Chains of Love.” It’s been remixed. We’ve been performing it live with “Tragic Girl” as a set.
It’s been reported that RuPaul said you elevated “Drag Race.” What’s been your legacy on that show?
That was a very generous thing for him to say. RuPaul is amazing and very kind. I think it just meant: Girl, you walked through the fire and you can hold your head up high.
I conducted myself with a little bit of dignity. Whether or not the judges liked what I wore on the runway or liked my hair that day, I think everyone can respect me for being a grownup drag queen, I guess. I didn’t go there to fight and be catty.
What’s one word that for you best describes the RuPaul that the public might not know?
RuPaul is so funny. He’s a very funny person. One word? I would say that he is clever. Ru is always a step ahead of everything. If he’s involved in one project, you can bet the next one is already planned and being executed. Watching him in action was one of my favorite things on “Drag Race.” He’s a pro and that’s what I admire about him. He can be kind and he can be caring, but he can also be like, “Cut the bull *&^*; it’s time to work.”
I read that you recently met Cher. She then tweeted that what you said about her almost made her cry. What did you say?
We had a really short interaction before the performance. They brought her back into the VIP suite. It was wonderful. There’s a lot of people in there. She came in, saw me and waved. I went over to her, and she said, “How are you doing? You look great.”
I said, “It’s really tough keeping up with you,” and she just laughed.
She was just cute and bubbly. They took a picture of us, and she told me to come over here because she wanted to photographed on her good side. I said, “You don’t have a bad side.”
I just took a moment to thank her for all she’s done. It’s like a visit with a spirit.
Drag performance has gone through cycles of popularity. I remember years ago when people said the art form was over. Why has it regained such popularity?
Drag has gained popularity now because of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” hands down. It’s brought drag to TV, mainstream. The wives are watching it. They’re making their husbands watch it. They’re getting into it. You have no idea how many emails I get — and from couples.
It has made it amazing, a craze, accepted. People understand us now. They’re seeing us in a natural environment. They’re seeing we’re funny, we’ve got heart, (and) we’ve got real stories from our lives.
What’s your ultimate career dream?
Well, my ultimate thing has always been — I am and always will be a celebrity impersonator. That will always be where I came from and what I love. It’s always been my dream to tour with Cher, and something I’ve worked hard for, to be good enough to be that person she would even consider.
(Impersonating Cher) is what I love. That’s my bread and butter. That’s what people expect of me. I kind of thought after “Drag Race” that people would accept that I do a lot of different things, but it boils down to people wanting to see me do Cher.
That’s been a weird thing for me, because I really wanted to stand on my own. But I will always have Cher attached to me, and I’m lucky. I have to acknowledge that people like what I do as Cher.
IF YOU GO
What: Hunters Nightclub’s 15th anniversary show, featuring a performance Chad Michaels, Shannel and Eric Bruce.
When: 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29
Where: Hunters, 302 E. Arenas Road, Palm Springs
Info: (760) 323-0700, huntersnightclubs.com