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Dixie's Tupperware Party Is Not Your Grandma's Tupperware Party

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And here, you may have thought the days of Tupperware parties were over - no way. Lauren Silverman from member station KERA went to one recently in Fort Worth, Texas, along with 250 other people. It was a little different - part improv, part satire, part drag show.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REDNECK WOMAN")

GRETCHEN WILSON: (Singing) 'Cause I'm a redneck woman. I ain't no high-class broad...

LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: Dixie's Tupperware party isn't classy. Instead of a red, suede curtain onstage, there's a tower of plastic products. Forget the playbill on your seat, there's a Tupperware catalog and a pen.

DIXIE LONGATE: Thank you so much for coming. My name is Dixie. I'm your Tupperware lady. I'm so excited to be here today, I could ride a mechanical bull with no panties on.

(LAUGHTER)

SILVERMAN: Dixie Longate is prancing around in 5-inch, gold, polka-dot heels and a blue-flowered '50s apron, her red curls pulled back by a headband, her raunchy humor bursting out. She's here to entertain, but also to sell. And she starts off the 80-minute show with her favorite item - Tupperware product number 1511.

LONGATE: My rectangular cake taker.

AUDIENCE: Wow.

>>LONGATE (Laughter) I know.

SILVERMAN: Yes, you can use the cake taker to carry cupcakes to church, Longate says, but there's also her preferred, less virtuous use.

LONGATE: If you take off this cover - 34 Jell-O shots fits right on the other side like a...

(CHEERING)

LONGATE: Becomes your little Jell-O shot caddy, and now think how great going to church is - right? - because well...

(LAUGHTER)

SILVERMAN: The stereotypical Southern-belle-gone-bad shtick works. Longate has sold more than $1 million of Tupperware products. The whole thing started when Kris Andersson, who's a man, began dressing up in drag and hosting Tupperware parties in people's living rooms more than a decade ago. By 2004, he was one of the top sellers in the country and took the performance on the road. In a sit-down interview, he stays in character as Longate with silver hoop earrings and turquoise eye shadow. This flamboyant personality is partly what keeps people coming back.

LONGATE: I think the reason it lasts so long is people just want to have a good time. They want to laugh.

SILVERMAN: Her humor can be a bit campy, and the trailer park sex jokes might make you cringe. But attendee Mary Churchman thought it was darling.

MARY CHURCHMAN: I loved it. I had more fun. And actually I do remember Tupperware parties.

SILVERMAN: At a typical Tupperware party, people are invited. Attendees here paid $40 to watch Dixie sell, take part in a raffle and learn the true story of Tupperware hero Brownie Wise.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LONGATE: Yes, Brownie Wise. OK, now look. You all don't know this...

SILVERMAN: Wise didn't create Tupperware - that was Earl Tupper in 1946 - but she put the product on the map by taking the pastry sheets and snack sets out of retail stores and into women's homes. Longate has taken the product out of women's homes and brought it to the theater, and she's done it more than 1,000 times across the country. After the show, people stock up on electric blue tumblers, neon green pitchers and gravy shakers.

KINN KINNEY: We were looking forward to this opportunity to replenish all of our Tupperware, so we're going to buy a lot of bowls.

JANE KINNEY: (Laughter).

SILVERMAN: Kinn Kinney and his wife, Jane, are in their 40s. They plan to spend $1,000. On that, Longate earns a commission, just like the rest of Tupperware's sales force of 2.9 million people. Still in character, Longate says the money isn't why she does the show.

LONGATE: I get to go to work every day and I get people who just when I walk in the room smile and cheer, and I'm very lucky. So it's something that I don't ever want to walk away from 'cause I have too much fun, you know?

SILVERMAN: Getting people together to poke fun at life, talk leftovers and party. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Silverman in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.