My First Job with RuPaul (Ep. 196 - Jamal Terry-Sims)

This Week’s Guest: Jamal Terry-Sims

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You've seen this week's guest on RuPaul's Drag Race, and you've seen his choreography in Footloose, on the Emmys, and videos and stage shows for Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, and the Spice Girls -- despite having never taken a dance class. Jamal Sims' dream began when he saw The Wiz and knew he needed to be up on stage dancing. And now, after a career spanning nearly three decades, he's shining a spotlight on up-and-comers with the documentary When the Beat Drops.

We'll have that conversation in a minute. But first I want to invite you to a weeklong livestream of games starting Sunday, October 28! It's the return of Extra Life, an annual fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital. We're kicking the week off with a big gay game of Dungeons & Dragons featuring Comedian Bryan Safi, Culture Critic Carlos Maza, Writer Anthony Oliveira, and Scholar Bryan Wuest. Then I'll be streaming games every day from October 29 to November 3. And on Sunday, November 4th, join us for another game of D&D featuring the drag queen cast of Queens of Adventure in full drag! We'll be serving looks, interacting with viewers, and encouraging everyone to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital -- 100% of everything you give goes straight to the hospital. Get the details and watch us live at bit.ly/extralifeseattle. See you starting October 28.

BTW, I hope you'll also join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat, with special guest Trish Bendix -- managing editor of Into, the queer news site that's a part of Grindr. That's on Saturday October 13 at 2pm pacific. There's a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

Head over to SewersOfParis.com to see clips of the stuff we talk about on each episode of the show. And for more queer podcasting, check out Queens Of Adventure to hear drag queens on an epic Dungeons & Dragons quest. That’s at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week’s Recommendation: The Wiz

Thanks again to Jamal for joining me. He mentioned The Wiz as an early inspiration, and if you haven't seen that film for heaven's sake what are you waiting for. There have been countless iterations of the Wizard of Oz story, from a forgotten 1910 silent film to the the 1939 classic to last year's Emerald City series, cancelled after its first season.

The Wiz originated on Broadway in 1974 before heading to the screen in 1978. It's a uniquely African American take on fantasy worlds, melding contemporary music with black stars and magical cityscapes. The result is a movie infused with beauty and pride, and an empowering finale that in my opinion outdoes Glinda's "you've always had the power" scene from the 1939 version.

The Wiz is pure 70s, and not every moment ages well. But if you buy into the campy disco and Michael's somewhat prolonged clown shtick and a bit of a meander around the middle, you'll be rewarded by a joyful, empowering, uplifting climax that doesn't just belong to Dorothy but to the audience as well.

I've always felt that a weakness of the classic Wizard of Oz is that Dorothy is forced to leave her better world behind and return to the black and white, like her big lesson has been that she was wrong to dream. In the Wiz, Dorothy and the audience see a better world, where its possible to tap into inner strength and literally peel away the disguises that only served as tools of injustice.

As in other tellings, Diana Ross as Dorothy unites with a chosen family. But in this version, she returns home to the city triumphant, empowered, forever changed -- and unwilling to ever participate in her own oppression.

That's a vision that was particularly meaningful to the audiences that The Wiz was addressing in the 1970s. And wouldn't you know it, themes of liberation are still meaningful to this day.

Stuff We Talked About