“[Jack] was real innocent, real quiet,” Mizrahi said of that 1992 meeting. “But also wanted to learn the culture and anything that came his way.” In short order, Jack was attending balls, his first coming two weeks later when Mizrahi debuted the House of Mizrahi. Jack quickly went from being the house’s photographer—using the skills he had been developing for the Turnbuckle Tribune—to becoming Andre’s closest collaborator. Within months the pair had launched the New York Awards Ball, and a year after that they launched ballroom’s Hall of Fame, which is the longest standing and most revered institution of the scene to date.
There was a lot of buzz around that first event. While preparing for the Hall of Fame launch (where they intended to name Paris Is Burning stars Paris DuPree and Pepper LaBeija, as well as Stewart Ebony, as the first inductees), Jack was ominously contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We always knew that the FBI knew of ballroom but we never would know how much they knew until this day,” Gucci said. Ahead of the launch, two agents came to speak to the organizers. “I’m like, ‘Holy fuck!’ All these things are running through my head because there’s another side of ballroom.”
The agents pulled both Gucci and Mizrahi into a room and said that they needed to interview both LaBeija and DuPree, who were on all the flyers. Then the FBI took the two stars of Paris Is Burning down to their precinct for questioning in connection to a mummified body allegedly found in Dorian Corey’s attic, before returning them to the ball. (Corey had died recently, and the mysterious unidentified remains found in her apartment would later make headlines.)
“So yeah,” Gucci said, “the Awards Ball became a staple of the community.”
Jack initially made a name for himself in the ballroom category of face, where contestants walk down a runway, running their fingers down the bridges of their noses and sliding their tongues over their teeth. Prizing not only facial symmetry, skin clarity, and bone structure, the category also requires an innate charisma—you have to be able to sell it. Jack did that, and did it well. But once he started getting on the mic for the House of Mizrahi and the House of Chanel, he blossomed into a full character, a compilation of his past inspirations.
“That ‘Mouth of the South’ Jimmy Hart, Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan, the Grand Wizard that I could have been in wrestling, I ended up merging that into my Jack Mizrahi persona,” Jack said. “It’s in the fanfare of how I announce people, whether they are in my house or not. That comes from me wanting to be the next Bobby Heenan, you know?” What Jack has done on the mic has left an indelible imprint on the scene, not only in naming various performers (Leiomy Maldonado of Legendary and Pose was dubbed the “Wonder Woman of Vogue” by him) but by the legacy he has left. He channeled commentators and emcees that came before him, combining the limericks and rolling of the tongue from Kenny Chanel, and the tell-it-like-it-is preacher’s voice of Kenny Felder Ebony. Alongside contemporaries MC Debra and Eric Christian Bazaar, Gucci gave the burgeoning style of vogue femme a narrative. “I don’t think there’s many people from the new generation that have had the impact and brought so much to ballroom as people like myself and Jack,” Andre Mizrahi said.
Along with Mizrahi, Kenny DuPree, Stewart Ebony, Tony Revlon and RR Chanel were all instrumental mentors to young Jack Gucci. While he doesn’t necessarily name anyone as his mother or father, they handed out indispensable advice about navigating through life as well as the community. (DuPree , for example, once told Jack to stop flirting at the bar with a man much older than he was, and instead to go back to the dance floor with people his age.) “He really took [things I showed him] and took it upon himself to grow with it to become the man that he is,” Mizrahi said. “I believe he’s a great preacher, he’s powerful, he’s one of a kind, and I believe that anything that comes his way, he’s going to do the best he can with it.”