In the late Seventies, John Epperson, a native of Hazelhurst, Mississippi, and a fan of the ballet flick The Turning Point, headed to New York City to fulfill his dream of entering showbiz. By day he worked as a rehearsal pianist for the American Ballet Theater. By night he was a regular at Greenwich Village clubs where he'd watch vintage Warner Bros.' cartoons, zany movies such as Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and sixteen-millimeter versions of old TV sitcoms like the Donna Reed Show. "We now regard them not as nostalgia or as camp, but as important pop culture artifacts," Epperson notes. "Although we couldn't say that at the time because back then we didn't even understand what the words 'pop culture artifact' meant."
Little did Epperson know a few years later he would be on the way to becoming a pop culture figure in his own right. While still busy at his day job in the early Eighties, he began transforming himself into Lypsinka, drag entertainer extraordinaire, at night. Citing idols "Ann-Margret, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and all the women on Laugh-In," Epperson also credits an actress from the Fifties named Dolores Gray as his biggest influence.
In 1988 Lypsinka debuted in an off-Broadway show called I Could Go On Lip-Synching, which played for a year. The redheaded glamour goddess, who sometimes bears an eerie resemblance to a young Joan Crawford, was such a hit she has since been featured in ads for the likes of the Gap, L.A. Eyeworks, and Ilford film. She has modeled for high-fashion designers Valentino, Pauline Trigere, and Thierry Mugler, appeared in feature films, helped introduce a new cosmetics line for Prescriptives, and started her own Website: www.lypsinka.com.
She has also continued to write and star in several shows including Lypsinka! A Day in the Life, Lypsinka Must be Destroyed, and The Fabulous Lypsinka Show. Epperson brings the latter to the Colony Theater this weekend. Until last year's Lypsinka Is Harriet Craig!, the Lyp had never uttered a word onstage. She lives up to her moniker and lip-synchs anything from Fifties tunes featuring obscure singers, to snippets of old movie dialogue, and specially recorded sound bites from actress Barbara Feldon.
Long list of accomplishments aside, it took a People picture to make Epperson see himself as a star. The magazine featured a photograph of him as Lypsinka standing alongside Madonna (who helped finance the L.A. production of I Could Go On Lip-Synching) in the late Eighties. "I called ABT and said 'I ain't coming back,'" he recalls. "That was it. That was my turning point!"
-- Nina Korman
The Fabulous Lypsinka Show begins at 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. Saturday, March 20, and at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, March 21, at the Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach. Comedian Steve Moore opens the show. Tickets cost $25. Call 305-674-1026.