MANCHESTER, N.H. -- "I am not Ron Paul!" shouted RuPaul, the famous drag queen (wearing men's street clothes), at the top of his lungs inside a cramped diner here, a picturesque little restaurant that presidential candidates have visited for years. "And I am not running for president of the United States!," he added.
Sleepy locals sipping their coffee looked up from their cups. What the hell?
And what was RuPaul doing in chilly New Hampshire just days before the state's first-in-the-nation primary? The back story: When Ron Paul first ran for president as a Republican in 2008, a picture posted online of a Ron Paul campaign sign altered to say "RuPaul for President 2008" spawned a viral joke that the septuagenarian statesman from Texas was actually RuPaul, the black drag queen. Now that Ron Paul is ranking at the top of the polls, after placing third in the Iowa caucuses, RuPaul is here to capitalize. Leaving Los Angeles behind for a few days, he's traveling the state "campaign-style" with television cameras in tow to prove once and for all that he is definitely not Ron Paul. The tour will feature in his reality TV show, "RuPaul's Drag Race," which airs on Logo.
The Red Arrow Diner, where RuPaul made his declaration on Saturday, is a must-stop on the presidential campaign trail, so there's nothing particularly strange about people gathering there, anticipating a glimpse of a candidate or a handshake. Yet Saturday morning brought a different mix of patrons: drag queens, RuPaul fanatics, gay activists, and rowdy high school students jostled amidst the regulars, including one angry local who was just trying to enjoy his breakfast in peace. ("Don't bump me!" he grunted after absorbing an elbow in the ribs from a over-excited tween.) Earlier in the morning, a C-SPAN crew rolled up next to the diner in a deluxe campaign bus with the hope of talking to some Regular Americans. Instead, they came across a hoard of freaky and fabulous ones.
RuPaul greeted each person in the crowd, inside and outside the diner commenting on and complimenting various personal attributes. (One girl asked for a picture. "I'm short," she said, standing next to him. "You're not short. You're perfect," he replied.) Every few minutes he'd utter his "I am not running for president!" line. As he made his way down the counter, extending his hand to every patron, he reminded them, of course, that he is RuPaul, not, Ron Paul.
Standing along the wall, a 19-year-old boy from Boston wearing rhinestone-studded stilettos, a pearl necklace and earrings and a mink stole waited patiently to see his hero. His name? "Gee-Gee Louise," he said, the "world's only drag burlesque dancer."
"I'm technically a drag queen," he said before getting his picture taken with RuPaul. "But I take my clothes off."
Several feet away, an old man stood alone, watching the scene unfold from a safe distance.
"I came to catch the flavor of the campaign," he said. "I was thinking more along the lines of Rick Santorum."
Eventually, RuPaul wrapped up inside and stepped back out into the frosty morning.
"You betta vote!" he whooped at the cheering crowd. "Remember, this country was founded by a bunch of men wearing wigs!"
"And heels!" a voice hollers from the scrum.
Somewhat surprisingly, RuPaul seems to have been made for the campaign trail. He's warm, great with eye contact and liberal with compliments.
But politics, of course, isn't really his game. Since the 1980s, RuPaul--which is his real name--has built a career around his flamboyant female alter ego. He's written music; he became the first drag queen super model; he hosted his own day time talk show; and is now the star of a reality show where transvestite competitors battle for his approval to become "America's next drag superstar."
Yet, for entertainment's sake, I planned a little test to verify that RuPaul is definitely not Ron Paul. He agreed to meet with me in Manchester's Palace Theater, just a few blocks from the diner.
How do you feel about the printing of fiat money?
"Fiat? I do love that new J-LO car! I do love that."
Where do you stand on the merits of lowering the marginal tax rate to boost growth?
"I usually stand on six-inch platforms. It's actually not as tall as it looks."
Who is more fabulous? The economist John Maynard Keynes or Frederich Hayek?
"You better work!"
What does that mean?
"That's drag for no comment," a camera guy said.
Any predictions for the New Hampshire primaries or the general election?
"I'm not really a psychic...I'm more of a psycho, really."
We talked about the possibility of him endorsing a candidate.
"Well I do have a line of shoes coming out if that's what you mean," he says. "They're called Iron Fist shoes and the platform is amazing."
I also listed the names of candidates and asked RuPaul to say what first popped into his head.
"Uh-huh! That's right!"
"I'm not really a political person by nature," RuPaul said, yet his trip to New Hampshire has piqued his interest in the subject. His advice for the candidates? "I think they could probably have a lot more fun and not take it so seriously...I think that's a great message for everybody out there. I think politics is very similar to show business. I just think in show business we have better outfits."
Correction: An earlier edition of this article suggested that C-SPAN departed the scene because of the type of crowd that arrived at the diner. Although the bus left before RuPaul departed, the camera crew remained and continued covering the event.
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