Dixie Longate is anything but your typical Tupperware lady. Longate is a hard-drinking, hypersexual single mother, thrice widowed, from Mobile, Ala., who affectionately refers to her audience as “hookers.” Her style may be retro, all high hair, bright blue eye shadow and hoop earrings, but her energy and approach are definitely cutting edge.
She is full of down-homespun witticisms, and food storage lifehacks, like how a surprising number of JELL-O shots can fit into a cake taker.
She also just happens to really be a he in drag. Actor and dancer Kris Andersson created the character in 2001. According to his origin story, Longate got her start selling Tupperware when she got out of prison and got her kids back.
“They’re like, ‘Hey, you’re out of prison! Freedom!’ and then they give you your kids, and you’re like, ‘What? No that’s not right, I don’t want them back,’” Andersson tells me as Longate, preferring to give most interviews in this fashion.
Needing a job, her parole officer suggested she sell Tupperware.
‘Dixie’s Tupperware Party’
Through July 19
Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
Special Event on July 9: Blumenthal’s LGBT social group, Out on the Town, partners with Charlotte Pride. Tickets include a post-show party with appetizers and two free drinks. Purchase tickets through the special event link at charlottepride.org/event/dixies-tupperware-party/.
Andersson did in fact begin selling Tupperware as Longate in personal homes in the Los Angeles area that very year. The act was a hit, and before long Andersson, as Longate, was a national top seller.
In 2004, the show jumped from living rooms to the stage, as “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” debuted at the New York Fringe Festival.
In 2007, an off-Broadway run brought a Drama Desk Award Nomination for and birthed a successful national theater tour. Longate has appeared all over the country, and her June 30 to July 19 run at Booth Playhouse at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center marks her second time performing in Charlotte.
“It helps to stay away from the law,” Longate says of being on the road for over seven years now. “But it’s fun, it’s fun!”
Fun is what “Dixie Longate’s Tupperware Party” is all about.
“You know, everybody wants to have a good time,” she says. “Especially in this day and age, the economy has been in trouble, and people have been getting a little more excited about things; it’s always good to do something that makes you laugh and have a good time.”
It’s light, escapism entertainment: part drag show, part stand up prop comedy, part interactive theater.
But it is also serious business. The show functions as an incredible marketing tool. It is not only a performance, but also a legitimate Tupperware party, albeit one that is unusually large and well produced.
Each audience member is given a catalogue and ordering form. Products are also available in the lobby should one wish to buy on the spot. Sales have proven robust enough to make Dixie Longate America’s number one seller of Tupperware, with over a million dollars worth of product sold.
She’s the biggest name in game since her idol, Brownie Wise.
The single mother turned pioneering saleswoman who helped propel the company to new heights when she convinced inventor Earl Tupper that his wares would sell better if they were taken into potential customer’s homes. Her “party plan” system proved an incredible success when it was rolled out in the early 1950s.
Sandra Bullock is set to play her in the upcoming film “Brownie Wise.”
“Clearly they should have [cast me], but I’m so young, I can’t help it,” Longate says of the casting slight. But she thinks Bullock will do a good job portraying Wise, and hopes it brings an increased awareness of an important woman who is often overlooked.
Wise provided inspiration, and for many a career path, at a time when a woman’s role was often seen as being in the home. Her ingenuity and toughness helped guide her toward a life many of her contemporaries couldn’t have imagined.
“I just hope the story really tells of how much she really did. Because a lot of people honestly don’t know who she is and how important her contribution was. People think, oh she created the Tupperware parties, but the thing is, every other direct sales company that exists took their model from the Tupperware party,” Longate explains, pointing out that that adds up to a lot of people making their living thanks to a woman whose name they may not even know.
It has provided Andersson with a solid income, but also with a new creative outlet and personality with which to play.
Longate is, of course, no shrinking violet herself, and for all her gyrating and sailor worthy jokes, emerges as a perhaps unlikely symbol of self-reliance, surviving on wit and will.
You might not come to the show looking to be uplifted, but Longate says it will likely happen.
“You walk away from the program having had a great night and feeling a little bit empowered…thinking, I can do some great stuff in my life too,” she says. : :