Bob the Drag Queen’s latest role: Madonna hype diva

Bob the Drag Queen’s latest role: Madonna hype diva

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Bob the Drag Queen wasn’t built for a supporting role — he’s the whole kit and caboodle, with wigs, glamorous gowns and a stage presence that electrifies a room. But when Madonna calls, you answer.

“This is a pop extravaganza,” said Bob, a.k.a. Christopher Delmar Caldwell or his stage name Caldwell Tidicue, referring to Madge’s 35-city Celebration Tour. It’s “a 40-year retrospective on a cultural icon’s life.”

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Bob, who is nonbinary, pansexual and goes by he/him or she/her pronouns, gained international fame after winning season eight of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and is now lending Madonna a hand on her tour, which rolls into D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Monday night.

Bob boisterously (and occasionally crudely) pumps the crowd by performing an oral history of the musician before she hits the stage. He then returns periodically to add charisma and character to the production. During “Vogue,” he lip-syncs ballroom commentator Kevin JZ Prodigy’s part during an ode-to-nightlife sequence (Prodigy was also the voice of Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour), which he calls “an absolute honor.”

Though popularized by Madonna with her 1990 hit single, voguing was created in the queer dance halls of New York City in the ’70s. “Continuing the legacy of what New York nightlife and specifically the ballroom community has to give to the world is just really exciting,” said Bob.

While Bob joked the pair “met at boarding school,” they didn’t strike up a relationship until decades after Madonna began topping the charts — specifically 2022, when she rang him up from an unknown number.

“My agent called me [and] said Madonna wants your phone number. And I was like, ‘Why does she not already have it?’” recalled Bob, who went on to host Madonna’s New York Pride show at Terminal 5 that year. “I guess she enjoyed me, so she invited me back to join her for the international tour.” Bob then tee’d up for a grueling schedule that lasted more than a year and consisted of six-days-a-week, 12-hour-a-day rehearsals in New York City, Manchester and Long Island.

Madonna has long been an outspoken supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. In the 1980s, she was one of the first celebrities to call attention to the AIDS epidemic, and she’s frequently spoken out against homophobia.

“I think Madonna’s connection with drag culture really goes back to her connection to queer people and her support for queer people for a very, very long time, even when it was wildly unpopular,” said Bob.

So, what about his work appealed to Madonna? As Bob, a stand-up comic, put it: He’s “really funny,” “in demand” and, since “Drag Queen” is in his name, maybe he’s just the first person who popped up when she Googled “drag queen.”

With this tour, Bob will be traveling to places such as Texas and Florida, which have attempted to ban aspects of drag in recent years. As someone who’s visited those states without “the backing of Madonna,” he said he’s empathetic to “queer people or trans people who have to live there and work their jobs at restaurants and as nurses and as teachers and as sex workers or whatever kind of job they’re doing.”

Amid the rising political controversy surrounding drag, there have never been more ways for drag queens to make money through their art. This past year, Bob debuted a makeup collection, as well as a clothing line, House of Bob, that reflects his gender-inclusive style and is made by U.S. workers who are “paid fair wages.”

Such success has prompted some fans to complain that the art has gone “too mainstream.”

To that, Bob says: “What’s wrong with you? Why do you want people to struggle?”

Honey, it’s mainstream,” he continues, mimicking critics. “I liked drag when it was cool. I prefer my drag queens broke, destitute and hungry.

For Bob, the appeal of drag is simple: He likes “dressing up” when he performs. His first night in drag was also his first stand-up experience.

“Why does John Mulaney wear a suit? Because he feels nice in it when he performs,” Bob said. “I don’t think John Mulaney wears a suit every day of his life but when he’s out onstage, he wants to wear a suit. And I want to wear a dress.”

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