On Ma Butcher's Slab
GT caught up with international pig-nosed scenester Ma Butcher in the run-up to Gay Bingo’s 10th anniversary show.
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Ma Butcher, the multi-wigged demon of the gay underworld, has been clopping about for years. Organising gay boat parties, tripping over sound system cables and undermining Kylie singles is just a day in the life for Ma, unexplained bingo cards fluttering in her wake.
One third of the successful Gay Bingo cabaret troupe, she’s made the lubey arse of East London her pigsty for two decades now, quite content rolling around in her own glitter. But that’s all started to change. Tours around Australia, major music festival appearances and the continuing rise of East London’s gay scene have placed Gay Bingo in the limelight, putting Ma, her mayhem and her cheap strappy heels on a cultural pedestal of sorts. We thought it was time for an update from the snout herself…
For readers who’ve not come across you Ma, how did the iconic pig nose come about?
The pig nose was a huge stroke of luck. The original one I found in a joke shop and as soon as I put it on I loved the way it changed my look and the fact that I could hide behind it. (Flutters eyelashes menacingly).
When we interviewed your DJ sidekick John Sizzle he said that you ended up in the Gay Bingo trinity by "sloshing about in the George & Dragon until eventually you were let into the group" - What's your version of events?
Pretty accurate - we were all climbing the walls - literally - of the George & Dragon, at Jonny Woo’s amazing Radio Egypt nights. Back then Jonny’s name was actually Satanica Pandamonia. It still remains the stuff of legends. We all met and bonded over a love of cheap drinks and Bucks Fizz, the band.
How did your name Ma Butcher come about?
Well I’m very organisational and with Gay Bingo this can sometimes be like herding cats. I was chasing Madam Woo about doing something or other once and he said - 'GOD you are such a MA Butcher!', as my surname is Butcher, and it just stuck. I became Ma Butcher.
As Ma, you often act like a dumb mute onstage, leaving a lot of the talk to Jonny. Are people surprised to discover you can actually string sentences together and have reputable job when you're out of drag?
Life is full of surprises my dear!
If Ma had to settle on one wig - which would it be?
I'm quite attached to the baby blue pastel chignon!
Jonny Woo teases you onstage for being from St. Albans - do you actually live there?
I grew up in St. Albans and I suppose deep down I am a home counties girl, despite living in the East London ghetto for nearly 20 years now!
What was the first gay scene that you stepped onto?
I think we look back with rose tinted lenses but when I came out the gay scene felt more underground and I liked that. There were still bars with chrome fittings, pubs with boarded up windows, people always shagging in the toilets. I like that sense of anarchy whereas now - with a few honourable exceptions - it feels like you’re constantly being told what you can and can't do. Stand here. Smoke there. Help yourself to drinks…! But not having everything to your taste can be a good thing too.
If you had a two minute supermarket sweep, what would Ma grab?
She would go straight to the make-up counter and stock up on macquilage.
Give us three songs that sum-up the Ma Butcher sensation
Pretty In Pink by Psychedelic Furs, Tomorrow by Grace Jones and Who's That Girl by Madonna.
If you could freeze-frame one Gay Bingo moment for the National Portrait Gallery - what would it be?
I think our boat parties are legendary so cruising the Thames with two hundred drunken queens in sailor drag is quite a moment, topped off with me done-up as Cher circa Turn Back Time lip-synching along to the Shoop Shoop Song! Magic!
We heard a rumour that John Sizzle’s name has something to do with a sausage?
Have you seen her without a bodyshaper?!
We’ve already reached the last question... Kirsty Allsopp or Davina McCall?
Let’s go with Kirsty for her crafting and arranging skills. Although I do love Davina circa the Word Is Out video.
Gay Bingo celebrate their 10th anniversary with an extravaganza show at Hackney Empire on October 25th. Contact the venue for tickets, or book a Royal Box for £100 (seats four) by calling 020 8985 2424. Definitely one of the best cabaret shows you will see in a long time.
Read our interview with Gay Bingo’s notorious drag DJ John Sizzle here.
Read our review of the notorious 2012 Gay Bingo boat party here.
Words: Jack Cullen (@Jackcullenuk)
Photo: Sink The Pink