Prince Poppycock readies his dandy flair for Atlanta Cotillion

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Packaged with flamboyant flair, Prince Poppycock’s performances captivated millions during Season Five of the hit NBC show “America’s Got Talent” – or as John Quale calls it, “a damn awful show.” Now, the performer hits Atlanta on Saturday.

Fresh from Long Island Pride, Quale reprises his Poppycock character for Atlanta Cotillion’s Cirque de Nuit en Rouge, which is set for 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Delta Flight Museum. The event benefits AID Atlanta.

Project Q caught up with Quale ahead of his stop in Atlanta for a candid chat about the difficult times he faced after AGT, a sneak peek of what fans can expect this weekend and what’s next for both himself and Poppycock.

When was the first time you donned the Prince Poppycock persona?

I performed at Jean Spinosa’s party “Wig Out” in 2006, billed as John Quale, but dressed for the first time in baroque fop regalia. I had just learned “Largo al Factotum” and wanted to perform it live. The only stipulation was that I wear a wig. I thought it would only be a one-off performance, but it ended up leading to several more opportunities.

Did you do your makeup then? How about now? Where did you learn how to effectively use make up?

I most always have done my own makeup. The only time it’s been done for me is by some of the top makeup artists in the world, including my very favorite artist Mathu Andersen. I grew up in the theater, and learned quite a bit about traditional theatrical makeup technique that way. I was a club kid in my teens and early twenties, so I was always trying out some new look or other – failing often, learning always. Then when I moved to Los Angeles, I met tons of amazing creative individuals that I was lucky enough to glean some secrets from. I’m always trying to evolve the look, and more importantly: make it last for an hour-long show with singing and dancing.

You have been vocal about your experiences with bullying. You've said in the past that “America’s Got Talent” were to make fun of you, you would proceed to make fun of yourself better. Is that a defense mechanism from your past and being bullied?

No absolutely not. My defense for bullying was always to go after someone else’s weakness, never my own. However I always did take note of how people would come for me, and whether they did a good job or not. Usually, it wasn’t very good, so I would concoct a few bon mots that would have been a better take down. However, on the battlefield, I admit that I was rather cruel, I always had a way of seeing what my foe most feared – then sticking a knife in it and twisting it. I’ve never suffered fools gladly, though I admit I’ve softened quite a bit in my old age. But I’m still prickly if you get a rise out of me.

How has your worldview changed since gaining notoriety and traveling as Prince Poppycock?

Well there were a lot of highs and a lot of lows. I’ve been able to travel this country in a way I’ve never thought possible, and the world. I’ve seen that dreams really are as close as you believe them to be. However I still haven’t learned to pack light, that’s for sure!

There were difficult times as well. I had a period of feeling very withdrawn, almost as if I experienced a period of PTSD. Going from oblivion to a household name was a little shocking. I’m a rather shy guy that needs quite a bit of alone time after gigs to feel real again. So when I’m interacting with thousands of people every night, I can feel like I want to shrink back into my shell. After the show I went through a difficult break up, and I had just lost my father right before the show, so by the time things settled down after the hubbub of AGT, I shut myself up in my room for quite a while. I felt like I had seen and done enough, thank you very much.

What I’ve been bowled over by again and again, however, is how much support I’ve gotten from my fans. They’ve really been there to lift me up through the hard times, and provide belief for me when I had none left to give. As a child all I ever dreamed of was being a performer, and now I get to live that dream, and the only reason that’s possible is because of my fans.

Would you ever be a contestant on another reality show?

I’ve been thinking about it a bit, but I wouldn’t perform as Poppycock in any competition again. Performing as myself would be a change, but it may be more fun to just release an album.

You’ve been called everything from “The Male Lady Gaga” to “The Adam Lambert of AGT.” Do those comparisons bother you?

No absolutely not! Once Macklemore stops co-opting other people’s movements, I’ll stop jumping on other peoples’ bandwagons! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both Gaga and Adam, and I think the world of both of them. So if I can be considered to be in their league then I’m going to take it and run with it. However yes, I do think that the general public definitely needs to put things into boxes so they can comfortably digest it, while being told what to think about it. It’s simply the way the system works. I’ve never felt compartmentalized as an artist, but I definitely understand the benefits of packaging yourself in a way that helps people understand you immediately.

Have you stayed in touch with anyone from AGT?

Christina and Ali and their Mom came over to the house to watch a movie and have dinner, which was fun. I chatted with Donna Summer a couple of times after the show, but we never did get to have that lunch date we were planning on. I’ve also exchanged a few Facebook messages with dark horse Lindsey Stirling, whose career is now going gangbusters. I’m very season-proud for AGT. It’s a damn awful show, but our season was the best, dag nab it!

You've given much of your time and energy to various HIV causes and events. Why is that important to you?

I feel that HIV/AIDS has been a human rights battle from its inception, so from that perspective I feel it’s everyone’s issue. Additionally because it’s so closely tied with the gay community and our struggle for equality it’s imperative that the stigma of this disease be eradicated.  There is no moral judgment that should come from any disease, for a disease does not pick its victims. I see a day when we no longer lose a single person to this disease, and that day is soon.

What surprises do you have up your sleeve for Atlanta Cotillion?

Well it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you now, wouldn’t it? I can tell you that special celebrity guest choreographer Bubba Carr will be helping me make it the best it can be.

You recently wrapped up Long Island Pride with Taylor Dayne and Kristine W. How was that experience?

Harrowing! Delayed flight, couldn’t get into the hotel room till 3:30 am, with a missing package of props that no one could find. After managing just a couple hours of sleep (if that) we found the package at 8 a.m. the next morning. Then our driver took us on a tour of Long Island, accidentally driving us to the wrong park, so we arrived an hour late. Barely made it on stage with only seconds to spare – on top of being late our curtain was pushed by 15 minutes. Barely got any sleep the entire trip, and never even got to say hi to Taylor or Kristine, unfortunately. Oh, and I think I repeatedly referred to Long Island as Long Beach (I’m an LA boy at heart I guess). But the show went great and was well received, though my makeup did not last in the heat! This is fairly par for the course though, I never get to see other people’s performances or hang out. It’s always on to the next show.

What’s next for John Quale?

Without seconds to spare I’ll be leaving the country upon returning from Atlanta on a Scandinavian tour with my bandleader, songwriter and dear friend Kristian Hoffman (of Klaus Nomi, The Mumps, and “American Family” fame). I’m currently working with electronic dance producers here in Los Angeles on a new dark wave dance EP, to be released under a non-Poppycock persona, and of course I’m still hard at work at finishing the long-awaited Poppycock debut.

Prince Poppycock performs during Atlanta Cotillion on Saturday. Purchase tickets and discover more about Poppycock on his website, follow him on Twitter and watch him on YouTube.

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