In the world of redheads, Miss Coco Peru — who performs two shows today at the Victoria Theatre — manages to blend an air of impossibly good breeding, a la Bree Van De Kamp Hodge (Marcia Cross of “Desperate Housewives”), with the scrappy snarkiness of Kathy Griffin.
Clinton Leupp, the actor inside the always impeccable, titian-toned Marlo Thomas flip and restrained cocktail chic, has turned the act into a science that has earned kudos from both Cross and Griffin.
Looking for a way to stand out in a crowded field two decades ago, Leupp opted for a less-is-more approach and avoided excessive makeup, hair, lewdness and lip-syncing.
“I created Coco as an extension of myself,” Leupp says. “I don’t pretend to be a woman. I tell autobiographical stories of growing up as a boy in the Bronx. Coco can say things that I might not always be comfortable saying. I think Coco is a better version of me.”
Being in drag is a state of heightened reality for Leupp. “When I’m in drag I feel much more aware of my surroundings. I’m much more aware of how I’m being perceived. It sort of takes you out of reality, but in a way it’s so much more real because you’re more aware of things. Sometimes I think Coco is just a little bit more evolved than I am.”
Coco has evolved as well.
“People who have only seen me in [the films] ‘Trick’ or in ‘Girls Will Be Girls’ might have this perception of me as an unhappy, mean person,” Leupp says, “but when people see my shows or get to work with me they see a completely different side of me. I’m not a mean drag queen!”
In our era of label-sensitivity, Leupp does not mind the “D” or the “Q” words. “I have no issue calling myself a drag queen, although it seems the rest of the world thinks I shouldn’t call myself one.”
Leupp’s current show, called “There Comes a Time,” takes on a lot of what people think. “I’m raging in it about a lot of things, but it’s never at the audience. There are moments that can be very dark, but people are saying that the show feels very healing for them.”
Audiences for the show often include gay men who have brought their parents. “One mother came up to me afterward,” Leupp remembers. “She was crying, but from a good place, because she said the show made her feel very close to her son. So I’m just healing the world ... one soul at a time!”
Miss Coco Peru
Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco
When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. today
Tickets: $25 to $29.95
Contact: (415) 863-0611, www.ticketfly.com
Note: A benefit screening of “Girls Will Be Girls” is at noon today, with a brief appearance by Miss Coco Peru; tickets are $10.