Toward the end of the 90s, RuPaul had a few more cameo and acting gigs, many of which are surprising to modern-day fans. One of the most surprising guest roles was on “Walker, Texas Ranger.” RuPaul appears as “Bob” the drag queen (no relation to the “Drag Race” season eight winner) in the episode “Royal Heist.”
Ru’s part is small, but it involves our queen resisting arrest by Chuck Norris himself. “Bob” makes a getaway escape in a red convertible, and a thrilling car chase ensues. Ru’s bit part is stereotyped by today’s standards, but it was probably pretty surprising to have the world’s most famous drag queen on such a heteronormative show. The Queen of Drag pulled it off brilliantly, as always.
Ru Meets His Glam Rock Hero
RuPaul has always been vocal about performers and artists he admires. He never made it a secret how much he admired David Bowie. In 1997, another one of his wildest dreams came true. He met the “Space Oddity” singer at a dinner party and tried his best to keep his cool. At one point during the party, Ru excused himself to get a moment of quiet away from the crowds.
RuPaul suspects that David Bowie saw him step out because shortly afterward, the famous singer followed him out and introduced himself. RuPaul has never shared the specifics of what they talked about, but he shared that he was so ecstatic he couldn’t even stay at the party for dinner. He left early so he could do a little screaming and happy-crying down the street.
A One-Hit Wonder?
Following the success of his debut album, “Supermodel of the World,” in 1993, RuPaul tried to keep the momentum of his musical career going with two more records. His sophomore album, “Foxy Lady,” came out at the end of 1996 but failed to be as successful as his debut. Critics gave the album positive reviews, but the public didn’t latch onto it in the same way as his hit “Supermodel (You Better Work).”
“Foxy Lady” was followed up with a Christmas album titled “Ho Ho Ho” in 1997. This record was a bit more successful, breaking through the top 50 on Billboard’s “Heatseekers Album” chart. Michelle Visage contributed vocals to the holiday album and the whole thing was recorded in RuPaul’s New York City living room. Still, these albums had many wondering if RuPaul was simply a campy one-hit wonder.
A Necessary Step Back
In the late 90s, RuPaul decided to step back from the limelight. The few bit roles in TV shows and movies weren’t taking off in the way he hoped, and he also probably wanted to take a break from his music career. Most importantly, Ru left the world of Hollywood in order to get sober and focus on his relationship with Georges.
RuPaul had been drinking and using illegal substances for decades at that point in his career, so when he embraced sobriety in 1999, it was a big deal. RuPaul went radio-silent in show business for the next decade, but he would occasionally take performance gigs at clubs when he had to pay the bills. However, this decade of focusing on his well-being didn’t mark the end of RuPaul’s career. In fact, it was barely the beginning.
The Real Reason RuPaul Became a Recluse
There was another, deeper reason that RuPaul decided to take a break from show business and his drag career. He told Spin magazine in a 2013 interview that towards the end of the 90s, he felt public opinion about drag was changing. He explains that compared to the early 90s, there was a hostile vibe redeveloping toward drag queens and the rest of the queer community.
“I went on ‘Hollywood Squares’ in 1999, and I could tell that the audience, even some of the stars on the panel, there was a certain animosity towards me and what I was doing. At that point, I was so exhausted from not just explaining myself but trying to explain drag and reminding people I am an entertainer,” he explained. Long story short, RuPaul was sick and tired of people’s ignorance and hate.