Mario Lavandeira, better known as gossip blogger Perez Hilton, doesn't make it back to his hometown of Miami that often, but when he does, he tries to make it interesting. This time around, he'll be hosting the Ultimate Drag Queen competition at the Magic City Casino tomorrow night.
"I'm the master of ceremonies," he tells Cultist, "so I am introducing everybody and making sure that things run smoothly. Maybe some color commentary, too, like a live version of my website."
Hilton is excited to be coming back home, his first visit since starting a family. Longtime fans may be surprised that Hilton didn't examine the sonogram of his son for "gayface" the way he has done with images of shiny television hunks on his website. On the photos he's been taking of his son, he has yet to draw any cocaine particles spilling from his nose or a penis ejaculating all over the boy's face.
For most of the existence of his website, Hilton would taunt the celebrities he wrote about by annotating their paparazzi photos with large chunks of cocaine. White outlines of penises would spray furiously, with the force and regularity of geysers. He still imagines the celebrities' thoughts in word balloons but lately, as his web empire has expanded to fitness and pet-centric versions of his site, he's taken a more positive and less confrontational stance -- as though drugs and sex weren't good additions to any photograph. You don't really need 40 different versions of your bridesmaids posing out front of the church, but you might if they had coke all over their faces and elephantine dongs spurting at them from every angle.
"I didn't have a specific one in mind," he says of the penis that he would regularly conjure, disembodied and spectral, as celebrities wandered across red carpets and LAX. He claims it was not a representation of his own, one he had seen before, or a drawing made from life models. "It was a very rudimentary drawing I'd do," he claims modestly; there's nothing fancy about the 10,000-year-old outlines of hands on cave walls in Argentina but they too are art works of enduring historical importance, a testament to the desires of man to express himself and leave his mark.
These days, his encomium to posterity is fatherhood.
"I haven't done much traveling since I had my son," he says. "I'm literally going to be in Miami for 24 hours and then I'm going back to be with him."
Hilton has performed drag under the name Amonia Dik ("She's German") so fans may be disappointed to not see how fabulously the apple falls from the tree tomorrow night.
"I don't want to take him out of his routine," the new father says. "I'm learning a lot about parenting and the most important things they need are stability and structure."
Um, yeah. And to be able to lip synch to Linda Ronstadt in heels. State-sponsored mandatory infant drag shows are just one reason why the Chinese are the new international superpower.
"There are things that drag queens do better than anyone else," Hilton says of the lessons that can benefit young and old, men and women. "In terms of makeup, it's contouring. Shading. Women and men can use it. This is something that when I really was a lot heavier, I would do myself. Some contouring around the jawline. It helps to hide your triple chin, your double chin. It can help make your nose look thinner. You can give yourself plastic surgery with makeup."
Instead of makeup, these days Hilton relies on diet and exercise.
"Seventy percent of it is eating as healthily as possible," Hilton says. "The number one thing I do when I come back to Miami is see family. Now that I'm eating healthy, I don't try to gorge myself on Cuban food anymore."
He expects to see many friends and family members in the audience at the Ultimate Drag Queen show. One old friend who is unlikely to be there is Amanda Bynes. The two used to be good pals although along with reality, Bynes has also lost touch with Hilton.
"That's a new thing," he says of her fondness for pronouncing people such as Chrissy Teigen and Barack Obama as "ugly."
"I don't remember her ever using that word. It's not something she was ever saying around me."
Hilton also does not recall ever meeting publicist Jonathan Jaxson, who claims to be a good friend of Bynes. He was uncharacteristically quiet when asked if he thought there was something suspicious about that friendship.
"I think she just needs to get in a healthier place and do whatever that takes," he advises. "It took Britney Spears a while. But if Britney can survive 2007, Amanda Bynes can survive 2013."
And if she does, she'll make it to see PerezHilton.com celebrating its tenth anniversary. So hang on, Amanda.
"What I've learned in that time is that this business is very cyclical," Hilton says. "People love a comeback. The key is perseverance. Staying in the game and not dying."
Useful talents for a drag queen, as well.
"You know what I don't like? I don't like lazy drag queens," Hilton tells us. "Like ones who don't even memorize the lyrics to the songs they sing."
If it gets rough tomorrow night, Hilton has a tip: "The more you drink, the better they look."
Even though Hilton recommends against drinking if a person is trying to lose weight, he also says, "One or two cheat days a week is okay."
The Ultimate Drag Queen competition goes down on Saturday night at the Magic City Casino. Your $40 ticket includes a complimentary drink, parking and hors d'oeuvres. It does not include immunity from getting read to filth, bitch, so watch your step. VIP tables are $300 for four seats and include a bottle of Champagne. You must be 21+ and it wouldn't hurt if you were fierce+, too. Show starts at 9 p.m. Visit theultimatemiami.com.