'To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar' Was an Iconic Film — inside the Backstory

Rebelander Basilan
Sep 14, 2020
08:00 A.M.
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"To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" is revered by many as a drag queen cult classic. The iconic movie has grossed over $47 million worldwide, making it both a critical and commercial success.

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Released in 1995, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" received good reviews from critics. It was praised for its actors' brilliant performances and its courage to portray characters that were not common in movies at the time.

The comedy film has a lifetime box-office gross revenue of $47 million around the world. It was number one at the box office for its first two weeks in the theaters.

John Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes, and Patrick Swayze in a car in a scene from the film "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," in 1995. | Photo: Getty Images

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Released by Universal Pictures, the film starred Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo. The actors portrayed three New York City drag queens who embark on a road trip and end up getting stranded.

Directed by Beeban Kidron, the film's plot is similar to the Australian movie "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," which was released in 1994.

The drag queens purchase an old Cadillac convertible and hit the open road, ready for an adventure of a lifetime.

Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, and Patrick Swayze stand outside a run down building in a scene from the film "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," in 1995. | Photo: Getty Images

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The movie is about two drag queens and a transgender performer. It touches on the AIDS crisis, making it relevant to audiences in America, where the disease was a leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 and 11 in 1994.

What sets "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" apart from the earlier Australian film is that it does not delve on the issue of AIDS. It tells the story of three healthy gay drag queens. 

One of the film's most memorable scenes is the opening one, where Vida Boheme, Swayze's character is seen exiting the shower. The first line the actor says is, "Ready or not, here comes mama."

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John Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes, and Patrick Swayze in a restaurant in a scene from the film "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," in 1995. | Photo: Getty Images

Vida is preparing for a New York drag queen beauty pageant. In the contest, Vida ties with Noxeema Jackson, played by Wesley Snipes. The prize they receive are airline tickets to Hollywood.

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However, plans change after Vida and Noxeema meet Chi Chi Rodriguez, played by John Leguizamo, a poor Hispanic queen. The encounter leads to a hilarious adventure.

Julie Newmar the "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" premiere on September 6, 1995 at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, New York. | Photo: Getty Images

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All her life, Chi Chi has been dreaming of winning something. Feeling sympathy for Chi Chi, Vida and Noxeema decides to cash their tickets to help Chi Chi.

The drag queens purchase an old Cadillac convertible and hit the open road, ready for an adventure of a lifetime. They take an iconic autographed photo of Julie Newmar with them as a good luck charm.

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The trip strengthens their bond and allows them to know each other more deeply. The trio goes through a lot before arriving in Los Angeles, where Chi Chi later wins the title of Drag Queen of the Year. The coveted crown is presented by no less than Newmar.

Because of this movie, Swayze and Leguizamo received nominations at the 1996 Golden Globe Awards - Swayze for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and Leguizamo for Best Supporting Actor. 

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