Talking with “The Doll”

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Possibly best known for playing herself in the film hit “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” based on the John Berendt book by the same name, The Lady Chablis has traveled many roads both before and since her transition to the big screen. Starting out as the Grand Empress of Savannah “The Doll” was already commanding the attention of devoted fans throughout the South when Berendt published his book in 1994 making her an even bigger star than before and it didn’t take long from then before she had published her own autobiographical 1996 work entitled “Hiding My Candy”.

When she reportedly told director Clint Eastwood, “Uh-Uh, Honey! If the Lady Chablis isn’t in the movie, then The Lady Chablis won’tbe in the movie” (referring to the film version of Berendt’s book. Eastwood was rumored to be eying Whoopi Goldberg for the part) she managed to catapult herself to international superstardom seemingly without even trying.

Now living in South Carolina, The Lady still wows audiences from the stage when she’s not bringing her unmistakable tell-it-like-it-is style opposite “the Anti-Dr. Phil” Josh Estrin on their weekly World Talk Radio show “The Lady and the Champ: Shut Up! And be Successful”.

Scheduled to perform on Friday night at Play in Nashville as well as appearing at the first ever Nashville GLBT Business Expo alongside Estrin, The Doll took time out from her busy itinerary to talk with O&AN about what she’s been up to.

Tell me about your talk show.

We broadcast the show live every Monday on World Talk Radio over the internet. It’s all about being successful and the things that you have to go through to have success. We talk about relationships and a variety of other things. We invite people to call in and ask questions and join in on the conversation. It’s really a lot of fun.

How did you decide that you wanted to do a talk show?

Well, in addition to being my co-host, Josh is also my publicist and he had this fabulous idea after I appeared as a guest on his already existing show. We worked so well together that he and the sponsors got together and asked me to be a part of it.

What is it like broadcasting advice to people on a weekly basis?

It has been very good for me because Honey, I’ve already done everything else! I am really enjoying it so far because I get to talk to people from all over.

What’s the most unusual call you’ve ever gotten?

I’ve gotten nothing unusual just yet. I’m still waiting on someone to challenge me. Most of the calls we get are people who want to comment on our topic for the day or who have read either my or Josh’s books. I can’t wait for something off the wall to happen to give me a reason to cuss somebody out over the radio. That’s just a part of being The Lady Chablis, darlin’.

Even before Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil you had certain notoriety in Savannah. How have your fans in recent years changed with things like your book and other high profile projects.

Baby, my fans love me no matter what I do. I am the total package. I perform onstage. I do private parties. I do lectures. I have been in other movies. I have the best fans in the world. They just want to know what I’m doing on the weekends if I’m not working.

So what do you do when you aren’t working?

I do whatever anybody else does. Only I think I tend to lounge more than most people.

With all of the attention that you tend to attract do you ever feel overexposed?

Not any more. Honey, there was one point when I was very uncomfortable with being out in public because I didn’t realize how noticeable I was. I had to come to grips with that. I could be traveling incognegro – no make-up or anything, when I just want to hang out—and my voice or the way that I walk would give me away and people would approach me and ask me “Aren’t you that lady from that movie?” It still happens a lot, but I’m okay with it now. Luckily, I’ve never had to deal with anybody saying anything negative.

And, of course your name has been legally changed to The Lady Chablis, so if anyone asks to see your ID that’s probably a dead give-away.

That’s right, honey. I always tell people right off the bat that they can just call me “The”.

You have done almost all that there is to do as a personality and performer. What is there left for The Lady Chablis to conquer?

I want to expose myself more to children. One of my biggest concerns is sickle cell anemia. I try to do as much as possible for those charities. I also want to help younger kids learn that no matter what they decide they want to do to get out and go for it no matter what society says about it. I’m the perfect example of that. I’m black. I’m from the South. I’m gay. I’m from the South. I’ve got a big mouth. I’m from the South. But I did it my way and I never let anyone stop me. I want children to realize that they can do anything they want to and I want parents to learn to support their children no matter what doubts they may have about the paths that they choose.

You have managed to overcome so many terrific obstacles in your life on the road to success. What do you feel was the greatest obstacle for you to overcome?

For a long time I was angry with so many people when they referred to me as a “drag queen. It was something that I was not at all used to. I was angry with John Berendt for telling the world about me. I was very angry with myself for exposing myself so much. There was a lot of things in my life that I was forced to face. There were people in my life that didn’t even know that I was a “drag queen” per se. Hell, I even forgot I was one too! That was my biggest obstacle. Everything else was just a challenge that I met head-on.