The Man Behind the Merman

September 22, 2014 6:49 PM

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The Man Behind the Merman

One of today's great comediennes is in fact a man. In the tradition of other celebrated gender benders, like Divine, Dame Edna and RuPaul, the man who transforms nightly into Varla Jean Merman--"the illegitimate love child of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine"--has spent the better part of 20 years elevating "drag" to a peerless variety of this art form.

The character known as "Varla" is immediately recognizable, usually among the GLBT community where he has earned much of his success. With Varla, we meet a "naïve victim, with a severe wicked streak" complete with side-splitting, shockingly raunchy humor, and a set list sung operatically by a voice ...

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