By Entertainment Correspondent, John Frazier

Way before Madonna borrowed this art form for her own personal gain as she launched it into the mainstream; to vogue was an artistic expression from the black gay men and women in Harlem. I can recall hearing about the annual "Balls". It was always after the fact, since it was like a secret society. It was a place where the "children" could come and be themselves.


Jose Xtravaganza, former dancer with Madonna (top) and Willi Ninja,
the Legend (bottom)

At this event, competition rules as the rivalry is taken to the "run way". There, waiting are the panel of judges, who will score the competitors based on the required skill of that moment. Part Cinderella, part realness, part dance, part walk, part geisha, part boxer and part extreme, are born into the performance as the audience claps and screams with excitement. Is he a woman? Is she a man? The painted faces, the colorful outlandish clothing, the bright stage lights and right before your eyes the man, the woman becomes the character as the D.J. plays underground beats and house music. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender are allowed to come together and become one in celebration.

By the evenings end, the winners stand before the crowd, feeling like kings and queens. There are "houses" a group called by a house name, such as the house of Ninja. The name describes who they are. They're a part of a unit like a family and like gypsies.

After the movie, "Paris Is Burning" and Madonna's "Vogue", this original art form was force to go back underground, from which it came.


Wolfgang Busch

* In 1983, Wolfgang immigrated from Heppenheim, Germany to Newport News, Virginia in the United States. He traveled for one year as a sound and light engineer with Rock & Pop bands throughout the south. In 1984, he moved to Queens, NY, to assist his 83-year-old aunt and to continue his music business education.

* From 1985 through 1987, he volunteered at the largest Musicians Union, the Local 802 in New York City. Besides working at the Dues department, he managed the Rock R&B; Committee, a 1,200 membership organization. On June 6th, 1986, Wolfgang co-produced an all day "New York New Rock" concert, held at Lincoln Center's, Damrosch Park. He received a proclamation signed by Mayor Ed Koch, proclaiming June 6th, 1986, New York New Rock Concert Day. For two years he produced monthly seminars with Music Industry Leaders at the Musicians Union, serving and educating the 1,200 members. Wolfgang met his first stars such as Ben E. King, Dr. John and Mink DeVille. Wolfgang became a music activist, a leader and educator in the local Rock community. From 1990 until 2000, he produced a weekly public access TV show called "New York New Rock", supporting many communities, such as the Disabled, Gay/ Lesbian/ Bi-Sexual & Transgenders, Arts, Sports, Theater, Politics and Fashion. All shows were produced to highlight the cultural and educational aspect of a community. It has been a very successful publicity tool to many artists and Not-For-Profit organizations; showcasing their talents and services, reaching 500,000 households in Manhattan. As a result Wolfgang was able to sign national and international record and licensing deals for several artists.

When he was introduced to the "Vogue" world, he was immediately hooked. It's taken Wolfgang 10 years to make this project come to light, it was hard to get financing. Some of the "Vogue" community couldn't understand why this white guy would be so interested in their underground culture. It was difficult for him to even raise $1000.00. Michael Stone, club promotion in NYC, introduced Wolfgang to Kevin Ommi. The first encounter was a test to see how serious Wolfgang was, as he experienced "shade", meaning negative and rude fierce attitudes. But he passed the test. The making of the film was born.

While filming, "How Do I Look?" Wolfgang felt that it was necessary, not to make a "Paris Is Burning", part two. His mission was to show the other side instead of making it seem like the community was/are whores, drug addicts, and poor. It was important to show the strength and not the weakness. In doing this film, it has allowed not only Wolfgang, but every person who has seen this film to get a closer look.

* Below are some of the awards given at the Vogue ("Ball") Awards: (list from Wolfgang Busch's website)

 

 

* Celebrities have become interested, such as Mo'Nique, who was a celebrity judge on September 8, 2006 in Chicago and she even attended the "Ball". Also John Fleming of Madman Productions, Chicago, directed the "How Do I Look Ball", and attended the screening on July 22, 2006.

Another thing that's special about Wolfgang is that he's also involve with the community's awareness of HIV/AIDS. His dear friend, Willi Ninja passed away from a AIDS related illness. Wolfgang feels that if Willi would have gotten treatment earlier, that he would still be alive today. However, Willi felt that if he got treatment, that it would appear on the front page of the newspapers. Unfortunately there are still people who are afraid of the rejection in our gay communities. Rest in peace, Mr. Ninja. The house of Ninja are carrying on in Willi Ninja's name. Also rest in peace, Ms. Pepper LeBeija and carry on House of LeBeija. Both Willi Ninja and Ms. Pepper LeBeija were in "Paris Is Burning."

* The Stars of "How Do I Look?" below are:

Jose & Carmen Xtravaganza - Octavia St. Laurent Manolo Blahnik - Luna Luis Ortiz Khan - Junior Labeija - Willi Ninja - Andre, Kool-Aid, Jack & Jazmine Givenchy - Kevin & Muhammad Omni - Ross & Angie Infiniti - David Ultima - Harmonica Sunbeam - Kenny Ebony - RR Chanel - Emanuel Xavier - Marcel Christian - Ashley Icon - DJ Carlton - Roxy Evisu - China Blue Latex - Stanley Angel - Alvernian Prestige - Shawn Eminence - Tony, Rickey & Anthony Revlon - Monica Continental - Jamal & Jaimee Balenciaga - Gerard Gaskin - MASHALA - Mystery Dior - Tracy Africa - Mann Prodigy - Portia Labeija McQueen - Jay Manolo Blahnik

If I've missed anyone please forgive me. The "Vogue Balls" are of a rich history, its too much to mention here, however if you would like to learn more or wish to purchase DVD's, T-shirts, C.D's, Soundtracks, posters and/or T- shirt designs visit Wolfgang at www.HowDoILooknyc.org

For bookings: WolfgangBusch@Earthlink.net

The reason that I copied some of Wolfgang's information is, I thought it would be important for the reader to know the road that he has traveled. Here 's this white guy, who has dedicated himself to "Vogue- The next chapter, "How Do I Look?". A lot of talent was taken away from us due to HIV/AIDS and it's heartbreaking. They had so much to live for. It's wonderful that he doesn't want this history to be forgotten or for this art-form to be hidden in the shadows.

Wolfgang is a activist for several causes, some are HIV/AIDs & Not-For-Profit organizations. Continued success to Wolfgang!!

* http://www.howdoilooknyc.org