Text by Michael Bullock
Portriat by Stanley Stellar

Fondazione Converso, 2020

The Task of the Translator

Artist and sexual icon Peter Berlin recently shared his definition of comrade with me: “Comrade is kinship. It doesn’t need to be about sex, just great fun, great humor, great understanding.” For a generation of gay New Yorkers Nashom Wooden embodied comradeship. Shockingly and tragically he was also among the first New Yorkers to succumb to COVID-19. In his role as manager/bartender of NYC cruising institution The Cock (from 1998 until his untimely death at the age of 50) he was the mayor to a community, a champion of an unspoken ethos: sex, drugs, entertainment. Flawless butch glamour. Nashom injected each night with flamboyance, bravado, testosterone, and lunacy. At the bewitching hour his voice would soften and the handsome masculine flirt would transform into Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington (he loved Dynasty so much that he named his cat Claudia Blasdale). In that mode, he kept the room on their toes with campy, cutting, over-the-top reads: “ Hey Michael! Remember when you were FIERCE?” Our mutual friend Scott Ewalt revealed to me that Nashom’s stories were brilliant because he’d always rehearse his delivery before he went out for the night. This is pure Nashom. For him, real life was just as important a performance venue as any stage, all showbiz, always on point. In Nashom’s obituary in the New York Times, they credit him and his beloved, retired drag persona Mona Foot as inventing and hosting Star Search, a drag talent competition that preceded Drag Race. How much richer would gay culture have been if, instead of RuPaul, Mona Foot had ascended into the mainstream? This clip from Charles Atlas’s film It’s a Jackie Thing (1999) features Mona Foot’s rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon;” enjoy this sample of the genius that was Nashom Wooden.

Nashom Wooden, performing as Mona Foot at Jackie 60 in Charles Atlas’s It’s a Jackie Thing (1999). Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix.

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