A Memorial for Drag Icon Miss Demeanor

by Linda Simpson on June 23, 2014 · 1 comment Obituary

Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi-1991. Photograph, Nan Goldin

“Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, NYC”, 1991. Photograph, Nan Goldin

My friend Misty, a.k.a. Miss Demeanor, was an art-world icon. She’s captured in one of photographer Nan Goldin’s most famous photos, “Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, NYC.” The photo, from 1991, was shot during the day—an unusual time for drag-queen starlets to be dolled up in wigs and heavy makeup. A couple of years later, it was published in Goldin’s book The Other Side , featuring a slew of edgy gender-benders.

Misty was found dead earlier this month in her apartment in Long Island City. I don’t know the cause. We only recently re-entered each other’s lives, and there was much about her that I didn’t know.

Back in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, we were both part of the East Village’s lively drag scene, which included performing at the Pyramid Club. She also posed for the cover of my underground magazine, My Comrade. Her look was fierce—rock-star sleek in tight latex and short punky wigs. On the flip side, her personality was laid back, a quiet queen surrounded by loudmouths. Her calmness gave her an air of mystery. She went by the boy name Scott, a.k.a. Scott Andrew. He worked as a makeup artist, and even painted me a few times. I never looked better. (Jimmy Paulette also entered the beauty industry, and works as a celebrity hair stylist named Jimmy Paul.)

Cover of My Comrade magazine. Photo by Keith Kotick. (1991)

Misty on the cover of My Comrade magazine. Photo by Keith Kotick. (1991)

Scott lived in a series of apartments in the rough-and-tumble East Village. At one point he lived right above a Catholic Church with two other drag roommates. (I thought it was a fab idea for a sitcom—Holy rollers below, sinners above.) His life took a big turn when he moved in with a boyfriend and he abruptly stopped hanging out with his queeny pals. Some feelings were hurt, but I kind of understood. Which one of us hadn’t fantasized about abandoning our bohemian lives for more luxurious surroundings? Over the next couple of decades, our occasional encounters were always amiable. He was still down to earth and sweet. More than once, he mentioned that he was eager to do another whirl as Misty.

Miss Demeanor at a photo shoot for My Comrade magazine. (1990) Photo by by Keith Kotick

Miss Demeanor out on a night on the town. (1990) Photo by Linda Simpson

Last fall, we began socializing again. After many years, Scott’s relationship with this long-term boyfriend ended. He was on his own, and he started reaching out to members of his old crowd. It was time to enter phase two of our friendship as more mature and insightful adults. But we were still silly. “I apologize for being squirrely” he texted, when he canceled our most recent plans to get together. Just a few days later, he died.

It’s been twenty-three years this month since Goldin snapped Misty in a cab. It just so happens that she and Jimmy Paulette were on their way to meet me and another drag queen named Lady Bunny. We had invited them to hop aboard our ragtag float for the LGBT Pride Parade. We were all creatures of the night, and schlepping uptown before noon took monumental effort. Misty and Jimmy Paulette look serene in their photo, but they might have just been half asleep.

Miss Demeanor and friends at the LGBT Pride Parade. (1991). Photo by Linda Simpson.

Miss Demeanor and friends at the LGBT Pride Parade. (1991). Photo by Linda Simpson.

The rest of the day was spent joyously cruising down Fifth Avenue on a flatbed truck. “Legalize Prostitution” was our deliberately outrageous theme—a great excuse for us to dress as sluts while delivering a vital message of sexual liberation. Ha! When the float finally got to Christopher Street, it started pouring rain; in our fatigue we started laughing hysterically. My own pictures of the day, from my collection, “The Drag Explosion,” always make me smile. Bunny, Tabboo!, Jimmy Paulette, Misty and me—we were delirious in daytime drag, and all just part of the gang.

  • Miss Understood

    I remember that float. Cracked me up!

Previous post:

Next post: