By Donalevan Maines
Galveston’s Dixie Monroe reclaims her screen crown November 5 with her co-starring role in the first two episodes of an upcoming web series Walt and Tony Go to Bars, which premieres in a coveted spot at “12 Minutes Max!” at The Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (the MATCH).
The two-night collection features “a fast-paced, high-energy ‘sock-it-to-me’ presentation of performance art, dance, experimental sound, comedy, spoken-word, and more,” according to its producer, DiverseWorks.
Following the unveiling of Walt and Tony Go to Bars on a big screen at the MATCH, Monroe will perform a song, Phoebe Snow’s “Teach Me Tonight.”
“It is jazzy and bluesy and sexy, which also describes me. I guess it really kind of does,” says Monroe, a former Miss Gay Lufkin, whose stage name comes from signs for Dixie Farm Road through Pearland and the Monroe Road exit near Hobby Airport in Houston.
“It’s exciting to debut the web series at a mainstream event,” she adds. “It would be exciting anywhere, you know? A gay bar would be just as exciting. And there is more to come.”
Coming soon to a computer device near you, rolled out one or two at a time, will be all five 2016 episodes of Walt and Tony Go to Bars, explains Houston entertainment hyphenate Walt Zipprian.
In them, he explains, “I go to bars telling disgusting stories, accompanied by a drag queen and a guy playing accordion. One episode, we filmed at the Ripcord,” a popular leather bar in Montrose. “Other episodes we filmed at Rudyard’s, Big Star Bar, and Notsuoh.”
The accordion player is Anthony Barilla of Houston.
“He plays a whole bunch of instruments,” says Zipprian.
In fact, Barilla is a Renaissance man, a musician, writer, and performance artist who creates interdisciplinary works that often spotlight things he’s learned in travels with his wife to, and work in, Kosovo, the Caucasus, Africa, and Europe.
Last year, he dazzled small Houston audiences, at private readings in people’s homes, with Disputed Territories, an atlas in narrative form, which incorporated maps, invented histories, extensive footnotes, and personal stories.
The content of Walt and Tony Go to Bars, says Zipprian, is limited to “bar stories” that he’s curated from decades of partying in Houston, as well as more recent weekends in Galveston. On the island, Zipprian became a fan of Monroe, who entertains regularly at Robert’s Lafitte, the venerable Galveston bar that its owner, Robert Mainor, calls “the oldest gay bar in the state of Texas, with the longest-running drag show, ever.”
When Mainor was featured in the acclaimed 2013 documentary Before You Know It, which spotlighted the struggles of three LGBT seniors with discrimination, neglect, and exclusion from their own community, cameras also captured Monroe, specifically in a scene where she and Mainor practically pillage a yard sale for Hawaiian shirts.
Next, Monroe appeared in several music videos, before joining Zipprian and Barilla in Walt and Tony Go to Bars.
“I am trying to broaden my filmography,” she says. “I am an actor. I follow direction. I like to do that.”
Monroe, who was born in Mexia, Texas, says that, following high school, she became a cosmetologist. “I did hair in the ’80s, when it was fun to do hair. Big hair, big teasing, and highlights were taking off.”
She arrived in Galveston a year before the island was struck by Hurricane Ike (in September 2008).
“We opened [Robert’s Lafitte] the next morning,” she recalls. “I was a bartender. The past seven years, I’ve been exclusively an entertainer.”
Zipprian says, “The thing I like most about Dixie is her emceeing abilities. She is very engaging and fast-witted. There is a lot of charisma that she brings to a show. In the web series, her ability to respond quickly and add a zinger, and her line delivery—she has amazing line delivery—it’s pretty much like what she does on stage.”
“Jaw-droppingly shocking” is how Zipprian describes the tales he tells of wanton, sexual misfires in Walt and Tony Go to Bars, but he shrugs off comparisons to the transgressive art of, say, The Aristocrats. In that 2005 movie documentary, the midsection of what’s considered the filthiest joke ever told is improvised by almost 100 comedians (such unfiltered favorites as Mario Cantone and Margaret Cho, Carrot Top and Phyllis Diller, Whoopi Goldberg and Eddie Izzard, Lisa Lampanelli and Bill Maher, Don Rickles and South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Rita Rudner and Bob Saget, Sarah Silverman and Rip Torn, and others).
“I saw it. Wasn’t that impressed,” he sniffs.
Joining the trio of Zipprian, Barilla, and Monroe at 8 p.m. November 5 will be Sandy Ewen, Allison Hunter, Christina Keefe, and Melissa Noble.
The lineup for November 4, the first night of “12 Minutes Max!,” will be Alisa Mittin, Atton Paul, John Stronks, and Ben Doyle.
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.