The closest the 12th Annual Stonewall Street Festival and Parade will come to a royal appearance is South Florida’s own Dame Edna, played by Michael Walters. But who's complaining? Michael Walters is a local theatrical phenom who impersonates the real Dame Edna at venues around the country. With the help of his partner’s designs, Walter is the “longest running Dame Edna in the United States.” Both fabulous local legends agree to talk what makes Michael Walters, getting to know Dame Edna, and the LGBT community.
Dame Edna Impersonator Does Stonewall Festival
Michael Walters to headline the Stonewall Street Festival and parade
Published at 7:00 PM EDT on Jun 17, 2011 | Updated at 8:08 AM EDT on Jun 18, 2011
Who is Michael Walters?
Dame Edna: Well he’s an actor he’s a singer, he’s an entertainer, and he’s a failure, he such a disappointment. He tries to handle all of my South Florida appointments, but he manages to dazzles people with what they think is talent I find him marginally diverting, on the other hand, I am wonderful. Michael, if he were going to be a big star that would have happened by now. So he spent a lot of time impersonating other celebrities, such as myself and also Jackie Gleason. He can sing well but I’ve had Pavarotti on my answer machine so I wasn’t that thrilled.
Michael Walters: I am the longest running Dame Edna in the United States. I am the only one who wears replica clothing. Her clothing costs 20-30,000 dollars easily.
My partner is a designer and replicated his dress for 1500 because you can’t just go out to Ross-Cross-Dress-for Less and pick up something
When did you first realize you were Dame Edna?
Dame Edna: Michael is not Dame Edna. I won’t say he’s been doing me for ten years because that would be yucky to put on the Internet, unless you’re Representative Weiner. No, Michael’s been performing as me for ten years now.
Michael Walters: I was performing in the Finding Nemo Musical as Bruce the shark as well as at a dinner show in Orlando. There, they always had a man in a dress.
Well they had written a role for a “Julia Childs” cooking show host, who goes into panic over the mention of word blood. They had several actors try, but they didn’t bite.
So, they asked me what I could do with it. And I asked for a lavender wig, rhinestone lashes, and a gown and I wound up doing my first ever Dame Edna in a mystery cooking show. The character was not written to be Dame Edna; I made it a Dame Edna type.
Favorite Dame Edna Experience?
Dame Edna: My favorite Dame Edna experience, well that’s a very interesting way of putting it. Everything I do is my favorite moment.
Michael Walters: Meeting Dame Edna for the first time. A friend of mine who is a dancer at Walt Disney world wound up being a dancer on his very first world tour. And I had no idea. And I had always been a Dame Edna fan. And never in a million yrs did I expect to impersonate him. I sent a note back stage and she sent out an usher with a note saying, “You are so full of it.” I wound up going backstage to meet her.
The impersonation, when I first started was mediocre at best. And I really honed and perfected the voice and mannerisms to be as close to her as I could. You see, I have spent far more money playing the character, then I will ever make from doing the character. And when you invest that much time and effort impersonating someone else you want permission
If people don’t know who Dame Edna is, what do recommend they do?
Dame Edna: If people don’t know who I am they are terribly uncultured. I’ve been around for 50 years. Go to YouTube, watch my videos, Go ask your neighbor. Chances are if they’re over 50 and Jewish, they’ll probably know who I am.
I’ve been mistaken for Mrs. Doubtfire now and then, but I look nothing like Robin Williams. I really don’t. That’s just their culture reference. That’s why I said Americans are uncultured.
If you gave an American an atlas they’d be totally confused. They don’t know red states from blue states, because they don’t know where the red and blue states are. I gave George Bush an atlas once. And he called me because he was having some difficulty. He said, “I keep looking for overseas and I can’t find it”. And I said “why don’t u try ‘A’ for abroad, George?” Oh, he’s so easily confused.
Is this your first appearance at Stonewall Festival?
Michael: When I moved down here two years ago the Alibi saw me perform one night and asked if they could offer me a gig and I have been in at that club ever since July of 2009. But the entire community of Wilton Manners has really collectively taken me in their arms. The audiences are loyal and they come to see me week after week. It’s such a nice opportunity to have an audience that wants to see what you’ll say next. She gets risqué but she never goes blue. She’s as much about satire as Archie Bunker was. She gets away with what she’s saying, by enlarge because, what she’s saying is in purple wig. I’ve participated in Stonewall the last three years and I’m happy to be here
Dame: I’ve been there for three years. Last year I performed and I rode in a convertible. And I’ve never seen so many of those people with their same sex partners but they tend to turn out in groves to see me and I love it. You know, there will also be drag queens performing there. I can never understand why a man would wear a dress, those funny lads.
What are you anticipating about it the most this year?
Dame Edna: I’m anticipating all of those people that will line up around that stage at 4:30 p.m. for a little bit of culture. Some of those people, the only culture they get is in a cup of yogurt. So I hope to remedy that as I best I can. It’s not so much a duty, as it is a calling.
I’m a personal friend of the Queen and even have my own shelf in her refrigerator. I went to the royal wedding and covered it for Australian news and the tonight show. And it was nice to watch Lillybet, that’s what I call her. She came in my suite and in my Jacuzzi and we boiled in there together for about one hour.
Michael Walters: I’m anticipating, yet another, responsive, wonderful crowd that hopefully pays attention. We live in very interesting historical times and the LGBT community has made strides with acceptance. But we have miles to go. People wonder why have a pride festival of any kind and a lot of people have a skewed vision of what pride is. Here in South Florida it’s not as big as an issue. In North Carolina where I’m performing this week they’ve had picketers.
I think it’s healthy for people to see great numbers of people that are out and not hiding in the closet. And what I love to see, that I’ve seen more and more over the last 3 years are families coming to the festival as well.
Why do you think people disregard that long time committed couples exist in the LGBT community?
Michael Walters: Everything is born of fear. Every bit of prejudice or ignorance is born of fear there’s no real thought behind it. And fear is what stops people from getting to know one another and when you get to know people they are, at heart, good. I’ve been out for eleven years; I’ve been with my partner for two years.
For the most part, a couple that lives next door is of the unknown. The reason that people are worried is that all they do is sexualize gay relationships. They don’t see us paying bills and washing dishes like everyone else. That’s why I say to let us get married and be married like everyone else. My partner and me are the most boring couple on the planet. We pass out on the couch watching TV at night. The only time we’re in the club is when I’m working, because that’s the life that we have.
So I encourage people to actually go and talk to people and learn something about them. Don’t stare at us like we’re lions in a zoo. And you don’t need to know what they do in the bedroom; frankly that’s not your business.
What advice do you have for young couples?
Dame Edna: What advice do I have? Don’t do it! I’ve been widowed for a very long time and quite happy. But for newly married couples I want them to go on couples weekends and honeymoons. And while they are I want them to stand in front of each other, look up and down at each other, and ask themselves one question “What would Edna want us to do now?”
Michael: If you’re going to get into a relationship remember that everyone has baggage. Just make sure that your luggage matches.
Where's the after party?
Dame Edna: The after party is any place on Wilton Drive. My personal recommendation is they go to Georgie's Alibi. If I performed at any of those other places, I'd say go there. But I don't, so I won't.