Remembering experimental Drag-Punk icon, Phatima Rude – Blogtown

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Phatima Rude at a 2016 performance in Portland. Patrick buckmaster

She had several names: Sister Hateful Sow of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Inc., Leigh Pankonin and Pronoun among them. But there was only one Phatima Rude. She was a transgressive performance artist; a staple of the avant-garde drag scene in San Francisco since the late 1980s. In May, Rude, who used both the pronouns she and them, died in her sleep at the age of 55 in her apartment from Portland.

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The remains of Rude and his beloved dog, Mary Kate, have left town. Although she’s only played here a handful of times, Rude left a lasting mark on Portland, a star who is fondly remembered who kept her weird in her heart.

Don’t cry: Rude’s survivors remind us that “choose death” was his philosophy, tattooed on his body. She had previously organized her funeral at Stud in 2017, where she performed regularly at Mother, a dance party that spanned decades and changed its name in 2015 and where her life was celebrated again on August 1. Vogue featured Rude as one of the Bay’s most revered drag legends in 2019, at a time when she lived homeless. Admirers such as Portland arts scholar Pepper Pepper helped Rude secure an apartment before the pandemic struck last year.

” I always loved [Phatima’s] performances because she was such a visceral and … confrontational artist, but with her own vision of beauty often through the grotesque. Corn [there was] still a sense of what I would call love for the art of it, a fierce love, a very San Francisco kind of love, ”Pepper told the Mercury.

The short documentary Ladies and Gentlemen: Phatima Rude (2014) framed a snapshot of Rude’s life back then: living in a van by day, performing and driving at night, and between sharing stories about amateur home surgery, the club kids lost because of the HIV / AIDS crisis and being swept from a park by the cops. It is currently streaming for free on Vimeo.

Rude’s work has abrasively pushed the axoms of glamor, bodily politics, and gender identity to the most extreme extremes. Rude once wore a sensory deprivation hood and let strangers stick wide Velcro eyes and drawn lips to his face. Another time, she let one of her dragster children perform live dentistry sessions to experimental British music and Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”. But her signing act used performing art to staple dollar bills and other objects to her body. Rude didn’t invent this stunt (Portland circus / burlesque actor Burk Biggler was also infamous for this performance), but his most prominent drag kids, including Cochinous cochin and Dragula by the Boulet brothers contestant Hollow Eve, proactively defends their queer drag mother’s legacy as one of the first queer artists to perfect the act.


“It’s one of those things where the art and the artist are the same no matter where they go or what they do.”


Rude’s raw style draws inspiration from popular sources such as Leigh Bowery, Genesis P-Orridge, and Divine. There were also less conventional inspirations, like the Midwestern shopping mall walkers and mental health patients that Rude observed as a child, observing his mother’s work at the public hospital. Rude was somewhat of a holdover from the shock art era of the 90s-00s, whose schtick didn’t always land with Portland’s culturally sensitive audience (e.g., one of his stage names used an insult to people with intellectual disabilities). But behind the scenes, she was preceded by a reputation for disarming kindness and selflessness.

Patrick Buckmaster, DJ and former events producer, hosted Rude for a week in 2016 at his Portland studio, after booking her for his gay goth party, NecroNancy. He recalls how Rude designed that night’s number during a summary visit to a since-closed Burger King, and how Rude once brought home two strangers she met in a parking lot. Buckmaster compared the art of Rude to the fiercely self-actualizing divas Amanda Lepore and Tiffany “New York” Pollard.

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“You couldn’t put a price on the performance she gave all week,” Buckmaster said. “It’s one of those things where the art and the artist are the same no matter where they go or what they do. I was so in love with this fact.

Kochina and Eve’s brother Ti Rayn aka The Antichrist won NecroNancy’s disgusting contest, Filthiest Person in Portland, in 2020. Rayn lived next door to Rude and, like Pepper and Buckmaster, was wowed by the non-presence. filtered from Rude. Rude and Rayn were in each other’s social bubbles during quarantine. Rayn says that Rude’s acceptance of her own mortality has been heartwarming in her grieving process.

“Phatima is the epitome of not giving a fuck what other people think,” Rayn said. “Just do whatever you wanna do, be loud, be you, be queer… that’s what she was and that’s what she wanted someone to be.” She didn’t care about fame or anything, she did [drag] because she liked it. Don’t be afraid to be abrasive and push yourself forward, that’s what she was.


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