Emeryville resident Robby Kendall AKA “Ms. Sweet Nothing” is a bit of a trailblazer having orchestrated what might be the first recurring public drag performance in the city.
Kendall has been producing and hosting drag performances and film screenings at Bureau 510, a show he’s dubbed “Fishnets and Film”, for the past two years.
Kendall will help kick off Pride Month in Emeryville by hosting a weekly Drag Bingo at the Bay Street Tipsy Putt beginning tonight.
Tipsy Putt has been hosting bi-weekly ‘Drag Bingo’ events at their Sacramento location featuring local Drag Queens and has tapped Kendall to help spearhead these events at their new Emeryville location.
Drag Bingo, for the uninitiated, is played like a traditional game of bingo … but filled with fun performances and prizes.
We caught up with Kendall to learn more about how he got his start in the world of Drag performance, what his inspirations are and what the current political obsession with drag performers is all about.
Q&A with Robby Kendall AKA “Ms. Sweet Nothing”
EE: Tell us more about your Drag Queen persona, “Ms. Sweet Nothing”. Who are your drag performance inspirations?
MSN: Oh this girl, my free-spirited queen from within. I would describe her as joyful, engaging, unpredictable, witty, and fearless. Some might describe her as shameless, infectious, and unrehearsed.
She’s pure fun. She is able to adapt to any environment, performing in bars, restaurants, private homes, or hosting the July 4th parade in San Jose or doing a routine in the Sanctuary or a church. She’s like me; she will have fun, create a spectacle, and make friends in any setting you might find a Drag Queen.
As far as inspirations, my boy persona was inspired early on the ‘80s by the creative minds of John Waters & David Lynch, and by sketch comedy from Kids in the Hall.
EE: So what originally attracted you to becoming a drag performer and where did you get your start?
MSN: Sweet Nothing was created at a time of angst, to be honest. Back in the late 90s, where I was living at the time, there was a stigma against those who performed drag. And around that time, I was writing plays and partnering with venues to get my work produced. During one production meeting with the head of a local LGB Center in Fort Lauderdale, we were interrupted by a volunteer who said they needed a Drag Queen for Bingo the next week. The Director tasked me to find a Drag Queen to seal a bartering deal with them. I went on a wild goose chase trying to find a drag queen in a short amount of time, not knowing any drag queens personally. Many of my friends encouraged me to do it myself, because I was an “effeminate pretty boy”. Someone offered to do my make-up. I ultimately ran out of time and succumbed to doing it myself. But I wanted to do it MY WAY, not how other performers were. So I thought about it and channeled my theater background into my performances, as well as my innate knack for comedy and sketch improv.
The name: Sweet Nothing. I was a big romantic at the time – which is where I got “Sweet Nothing” because of all the sweet little things my boyfriends used to do for me. And there she was with a name. Ms. Sweet Nothing.
EE: What would you tell someone who has never been to a drag performance what they might expect and are your performances appropriate for all ages or just adults?
MSN: Folks can expect a joyful, engaging experience, one that is also uplifting, fun, and energetic. For me, watching a drag show is like going to a high-quality comedy show, one that features someone in a glitzy costume, makeup, and big wig. Many drag queens are unique to their own signature look, style, voice. Some shows are adult themed, while some performances are family-oriented. Sweet Nothing can adjust to any venue or audience. She can be sweet and charming. She can be family-friendly. She can be crude. She can be politically correct. I work full-time as a Psychologist;. I work with children. That definitely helps me be and stay family friendly, and also helps me engage & communicate with children as a Drag Queen.
At Tipsy Putt, Drag Bingo is 21yo+. Sweet Nothing will definitely be in her comfort zone and not be too conscientious of what she says or does. She will, though, be fully dressed at all times. And if she says a curse word here and there, no one will likely notice.
EE: Has the Emeryville community been receptive to your performances and do you feel you and others are building momentum for creating a drag culture in Emeryville?
MSN: I’m surprised Emeryville doesn’t already have a large drag culture. I’m so excited to see the recent increase in LGBTQ+ events, and performances, happening in our city. And I’d like to think I had something to do with that. Folks at City Hall have always been so supportive of my creative endeavors from the start when I reached out for endorsement of my first Drag Show at the Bureau 510, “Fishnets and FIlm”, in 2021. Our neighbors, sponsors, and guests made it a success right away. I’ve never had shows sell out so quickly. Having packed houses was a sure sign there was a need for Drag and ‘queer’ entertainment here in Emeryville. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make some history and am doing what I can to keep the momentum going.. And I’m beyond thrilled to have been asked to host Drag Bingo at Tipsy Putt. Drag is IN, Rob.
EE: These days, drag queen performances have been a target of conservative groups. Why do you think drag queens are suddenly under attack by the right?
MSN: It’s difficult for me to fathom ~ why Drag performances are being subject to such outrageous social injustice. In my two worlds, it’s unheard of. It’s just so depressing, to know there are people out there creating darkness over all the light our drag community has brought to this world. Drag is essential to our community and to many on a personal level. I’ve learned over the years the many wonderful and beautiful reasons why folks do Drag. Drag is a vehicle for folks to entertain, express themselves, explore their identities, heal from trauma, socialize, educate others, empower one another, build their confidence, become famous, etc. Laws designed to restrict Drag performances and ultimately PASS is beyond my level of understanding. It’s like taking paint brushes from Picasso and saying “It’s now against the law for you to paint”. It’s downright terrible.
EE: What can people expect from Drag Bingo?
MSN: Well, for starters, folks don’t have to dress in drag to attend. It’s basically Bingo being hosted by a Drag Queen (me). I plan to start off with an engaging, fun routine to get the energy & ‘party’ started and then will start Round One. We will have games, prizes, and will just have a great time getting to know one another. I will try and ‘gay up’ the game a bit to make it more fun and memorable. I am certainly not going to call bingo numbers in a monotone way. I plan to introduce some of my own designs players will have to match. I expect healthy competition and might even attempt some match-making with singles who show up. Sweet Nothing has been hosting trivia around the Bay Area in HER WAY. I’m excited she gets to show folks how she’s going to manage all those balls.