J-Ro Takes Part In A Drag Queen Documentary

You’d think when my trip to Edinburgh finished up that I’d sit back and collapse in a heap after nearly three weeks of madness – oh you don’t know me at all! As I scrolled through my FB timeline while I waited to get the plane back home, I wasn’t too mad about the prospect of coming back to that pot of pasta & stir-in sauce I suddenly remembered sitting on the hob. I could only imagine what furry mouldy creature awaited me when I eventually removed that lid.

I may have been gone for some time.

I may have been away for some time.

So on I scrolled listlessly through my timeline not really paying any attention, until I saw a post from the page “The Queen Of Ireland”, a documentary about the now world-famous drag artist and Grand Dame of Dublin, Panti Bliss, which had set up a GoFundMe campaign in order to raise the finances to extend the documentary up to and just beyond the result of the Marriage Referendum. I had offered my services to help with spreading the word about it in my little corner of the internet and in the Midwest in general, and had gotten to know lots of the crew and PR team involved. It seemed to be a real labour of love for everyone, and the fact that we’d gotten the result we’d all campaigned and worked so hard for in the Referendum (spoiler alert rock-dwellers; we smashed the bigots in the ballots!)

What a lady. Click on the pic to head to her official FB page

What a lady. Click on the pic to head to her official FB page…

By now I’m sure anyone with internet access in Ireland knows about #Pantigate, so I’m not going to go into all that – but it was the response of Panti to all the furore around it, in the form of The Noble Call, that captivated everyone. Here it is just in case you felt like upping your daily recommended dose of goosebumps.

The documentary team had been following Panti for the last 5 years or so, and when all the controversy kicked off, they were there to capture every second of its evolution, and the lead-up to the referendum, and the aftermath. Suffice it to say that it’ll be a hell of a Hollywood ending, even we DO know the outcome.

The documentary team were looking for anyone who would be around Dublin on the Wednesday after I got back, who would like to be in a studio audience for what would be the final day of shooting. Naturally, in the spirit of saying ‘Yes’ to as many things as possible in order to make life interesting, and because I had time on my hands, I emailed and secured myself a place in the audience. So I flew into Dublin, getting in rather late and thanking the stars for my awesome mate Katia who picked me up from the airport and saved me serious hassle. I stayed with her that night, and arose at half six in the morning (WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING) to get out the door and make my way to the National Film School at the IADT Dun Laoghaire where the last scenes were being filmed.

I have no feckin' idea how I'm smiling, having gotten up that early.

Waiting to be called for filming. I have no feckin’ idea how I’m smiling, having gotten up that early.

Tell you what, if you’re going to get busted putting your make-up on in public, it may as well be by a crew of a documentary of a drag queen. My only regret is that it wasn’t dramatic enough by any means. These gals have SURRIOUS contouring skills. I must have looked like a boring pleb with only one shade of foundation on my face. The transformations were worthy of CGI skills. Having met Rory that morning halfway through his metamorphosis into Panti, he was laughing and joking with the crew discussing the plans for the day’s shoot. I swear, if I looked a tenth as fresh and happy as he did if I were in his Jimmy Choos, I’d be doing well.

There wasn’t a huge number of us in for the audience, but there was enough to get some good crowd shots and for Panti to engage with and share her anecdotes. There was no mistaking Panti for Rory either. She was Panti, as if Rory had been merely acting as her personal assistant that morning, carrying her personality in a make-up and clothing bag until it was time for her to emerge, sacrificing his entire physical being to help her come alive. That’s the best kind of personal assistant a diva could ask for. She did it all, in form-fitting dazzlers of gowns and super-high heels. That takes some doing.

(I need an assistant. SHUT UP I TOTALLY NEED ONE.)

I’m sworn to secrecy about the content of the shooting and of showing pics of the sets, until the documentary is released (which is fair enough; besides, I fucking HATE people who post spoilers). Fortunately that won’t be too long, it looks like there’s a desire to really get this done as perfectly as possible and to not lose any of the fantastic momentum and spirit surrounding our little island’s victory for equality. So instead, here’s a clip of Panti’s triumphant return into Pantibar on the afternoon of the referendum result as it began to emerge that we were looking at a massive resounding Yes vote. Having been around Dublin city centre as the news was starting to spread, myself and my friend Emma were walking around getting teary-eyed one minute, hugging each other and grinning like stoned apes the next.

So basically I’m telling you I had a really interesting, long, tiring, awesome day watching some of the best drag queens in the country do their thing, and giving feck-all away. But sure who doesn’t love a story full of suspense? I guess the point is that just when I thought all the adventuring had stopped, up popped another opportunity to do something out of the ordinary – and get to be a part of something a wee bit historic. I’m a very grateful J-Ro to be able to do stuff like this on a whim, and every day I’m thankful that I can share my adventures with people who seem to enjoy it! You mad eejits…

Lord knows what’s lined up for me in the next few weeks, but in July…I GET MY VOICE BACK! So between now and then I’ll try not to dissolve in terror at my first surgery since childhood and post some word-vomit on here to distract myself from The Fear. Please don’t hate me…


J-Ro Goes Solo…In Edinburgh! (part 3)

Keeping my cool on the way to meet Amanda Palmer. Should probably work on my poker face. (click on pic for my Instagram)

Keeping my cool on the way to meet Amanda Palmer. Should probably work on my poker face.
(click on pic for my Instagram)

I began my last day in Edinburgh by waking up to a juicy, squishy, throbbing mass of inky corned beef that used to be my arm. The first 24 hours are always a bit messy; after I cleaned it, I was pure delighted with myself, checking out my new upgraded HD colour arm in the mirror every ten minutes. Apologies to Mags & Bryan for leaking my tattoo-goo on your duvet. I wrapped my arm in 3 meters of cling film in an attempt to keep it airtight before I went to sleep. Once it was all taped up, I couldn’t help thinking it resembled a plastic-sealed tattoed ham; a vacuum-packed part of a once-badass pig. Oh yes. I was in my sexual prime. Form a queue lads…

So on into town I went, having been dropped off on one end of Princes St, before realising it was the wrong end. If there’s one thing I LOVE to do, it’s running or power-walking down a street that’s – and I’m not prone to exaggeration as you well know – twenty-five miles long, while a gale-force wind bitch-slaps me in the face and I try and avoid people who all seem to want to shoulder me at full force into my supremely tender freshly-inked upper arm. It was quite the sight that met the staff of Waterstone’s fifteen minutes later. I looked like the ‘before’ picture for a Goth heart attack prevention campaign. I know. There’s too much sexiness in this post…

The queue was fairly substantial by the time I got there, with all sorts of folk waiting to meet the fantastic Amanda Palmer and get her book The Art Of Asking signed. If you haven’t heard of the book, I’d highly recommend giving it a go. It’s a wonderful work; part memoir, part guide on how to get over ourselves and reach out to ask for help when we need it. That and she’s also just a very cool interesting person with many great stories to tell from her days earning money as a living statue on the streets of New York. Check out her Ted Talk in the link below, it’s well worth a watch.

While we waited in line, I got chatting to the two girls behind me. Danielle and Cass were from Ottawa, Canada, and had been travelling around Ireland and the UK for the last few weeks. We had great craic, chatting about Dublin and their Edinburgh experience so far. They were SERIOUS Amanda fans, even knowing her PA (Whitney, who told me my outfit was ‘super-cute’ – legend) on a personal level. The Waterstone’s had a café directly above us in an open-plan area up a set of stairs, so we kept ourselves comfortably refreshed with giant coffees & teas all round. I tell you what; if you’re going to be stuck queueing anywhere, a bookstore like that certainly isn’t the worst. I had a ball before I even got up to get my book signed.

Me armed with my copy...

Me armed with my copy…

When the time came, Amanda Palmer came down the steps looking relaxed and happy and glowy as hell with her baby bump proudly on display. You’d never know that she’d done a massive show the night before, and she was delighted with everyone who showed up. Next thing she took up her ukulele, and before she started to play, she said “If all you guys want to huddle up and stand closer to hear this, I know everybody will keep their place in the queue and not jump, right?” With that, she played one of her lovely tunes, and it was like listening to a friend serenade you. Stopping, laughing, having little jokes with the crowd or bemused Waterstones customers who had no idea what was going on, and one really cute moment where a mother walked past her with a baby in her arms and she slightly melted and we all laughed, because Amanda being the open soul that she is, blogs and updates FB talking about impending parenthood and how excited she is, and what a great father her husband Neil (Gaiman for those who don’t know!) will be to the new arrival. Here’s a clip I took of her playing:

Believe it or not, EVERYONE went back to their original places in the queue! I guess that’s more a testament to the nature of her fans, everyone is pure sound. Imagine that happening in Limerick?? Doesn’t bear thinking about. THE HORROR…

One of the best things to happen was as we got closer to the signing desk, I sent Neil Gaiman a tweet with a pic of Amanda singing, only to find he had replied to me a minute later. Delighted, I was. Announcing it to a giant queue full of artsy nerdy bookworm-types who have quotes from his books tattooed on their bodies wasn’t my wisest move if I wanted to not have the arm thumped off me in disbelief as they said “Fuck off. SHUT UP. No way!” To which I only made the situation worse by responding “Oh God yeah, sure I’ve spoken to him a few times. He’s such a legend.” Well, in for a penny….

Ah, you know...regular day. (click on the pic to head over to my Twitter)

Ah, you know…regular day. (click on the pic to head over to my Twitter)

Finally, I got to get my book signed and meet the woman of the moment. She’s so frickin’ nice! She didn’t even look bored or freaked out when I gabbled at her nervously as she signed ‘To @JayRow’ on the inside cover. She pulled me in for a hug / picture like she hadn’t been spending all day doing the exact same thing to everyone, we all really felt like we’d had proper time with her, which, given the size of the queue, was no mean feat.


I skipped out of Waterstones (metaphorically – nobody needs to see that) pure delighted with myself. For the rest of the day, I packed and got my shit together, planning on how I would handle the sudden anticlimax of coming home and not getting selfies with world-famous authors for a change. I didn’t feel like getting off the rollercoaster just yet, and wondered what the Universe had in store for me next that I could see myself saying ‘YES’ to.

Later on that evening, I found out…and it was going to be a real ‘drag’.

Tune in next time to find out what J-Ro did next!