If the temperature of the room has suddenly gotten warmer, odds are that Ben Strothmann has just arrived. An actor, singer, dancer, photographer, puppeteer, animal rights advocate, LGBTQ activist, and vehemently Vegan drag queen, among other things, Ben Strothmann vividly projected a completely different persona each of the first five times I encountered him earlier this season. Our actual sit-down in the West Village for a cup of socially conscious coffee—unsweetened, with almond milk—brought forth yet another.
The first was as an unsmiling, vigilant watchdog patrolling the perimeter of Queer Rising’s Madison Square Garden Anti-Violence Rally and March, when his six-foot-one sturdy build and stern demeanor certainly were effective deterrents to any potential troublemakers.
The second was as a charming, but terse and businesslike chair of the weekly Queer Rising membership meeting, when his Teutonic efficiency and focus took care of not-for-profit corporatequeer business in record time.
The third was as a professional mainstay of the excellent Pride week presentation by TOSOS of Doric Wilson‘s play “Street Theater,” when his finely observed portrayal of a troubled guppie in therapy earned him an excellent review in this periodical.
The fourth was as Honey La Bronx, his drag persona, at a fundraiser for Queer Rising, when I saw what looked like a six-and-a-half-foot tall Gina Lollobrigida/Rene Russo/Ben Strothmann, in broad daylight and full regalia, sailing down Hudson Street on her/his way to co-host the event from the mini-stage of Henrietta Hudson.
The fifth was as a dolorous protester holding a banner opposing one of the current candidates for Mayor, the very image of the downtrodden 90%.
The Ben Strothmann of this interview impressed me as high-energy, forthright, sincere, and ultimately self-effacing in the way that certain artists are whose egos are the servants of their missions. The gestalt that emerged in our two- hour one-on-one is that of a passionate and unorthodox spirit made articulate by a quick and facile mind, and rendered chameleonic by a sensibility as fine-tuned as it is responsive.
In 2000, Strothmann came to New York City from his native Wisconsin with the simple goal of making a career in theatre. Indeed, his theatrical resume might make of him an LGBTQ Prince of Off-Off-Broadway, with a range of appearances spanning Charles Ludlam’s “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” to “The Mikado” of Gilbert and Sullivan. Even more extensive is his record as theatrical portraitist and production photographer for Playbill, Broadway Yearbook, and BroadwayWorld.com (www.BenStrothmann.com ). Being on “Broadway,” however, came to mean something much more profound than simply performing on the Great White Way.
Opening to the possibilities of a much larger stage, Strothmann unleashed his formidable imagination to further his principles. Carefully crafted as they are, his performances, and most particularly his appearances as Honey La Bronx, are also a “megaphone” [sic] for his social conscience: speaking out in compassion against cruelty to animals, and fighting for LGBTQ rights. On the eve of Marriage Equality’s passage in New York State, Strothmann brought forth for the first time Honey La Bronx, “The Vegan Drag Queen” (www.HoneyLaBronx.com ), and was one of eight arrested for blocking traffic during a pro-marriage demonstration in Times Square—Google Ben Strothmann arrest. He and Honey immediately became members of Queer Rising.
The cooking demonstrations on “Honey La Bronx’s Vegan Drag Queen Cooking Show” (www.VeganDragQueen.com ) have gone mainstream, attracting the attention of Perez Hilton on www.fitperez.com; major corporations—industrials for Whirlpool/KitchenAid; and Animal Rights organizations—PETA. In addition, Strothmann and La Bronx have taken their message to places a diverse as New York’s Lucky Cheng’s and Hamburger Mary’s, PridefestMilwaukee, and the Icelandic Drag Competition.
Strothmann’s persuasive podcast, “Big Fat Vegan Radio” (www.BigFatVeganRadio.com), co-hosted by Laura Yaz, is rapidly establishing itself as a destination for the Vegan community, and the number of its followers grows weekly.
The many aspects of Ben Strothmann are anything but scattered fragments which have no relationship to one another. They are cognitive choices which radiate from one central source: Ben Strothmann must and shall make a difference. The method?—first acquiring, and then disseminating information. There is no Plan B.
When questioned about the future, and what causes he perceives as next in the category “Necessary to Espouse,” Strothmann replied, without hesitation, that Transgender Protection and Rights and eliminating HIV stigma were at the top of his list. Given the recent transgender murders in NYC and the advances in the development of HIV preventative vaccine, Ben Strothmann is right on time.
When asked why he chose the “La” in Honey La Bronx, he replied that the definite article was absolutely necessary.
Describing himself as a “homo”—Latin for “man”—rather than “gay’ or “queer,” Ben Strothmann is a creative force and a masculine presence to be reckoned with.
Socially conscious coffee infused with testosterone and flavored with a double dose of drag is strong stuff.