THE FIRST TIME I saw Carla Rossi perform, I was charmed by her awfulness. Like a combination of Grey Gardens' Little Edie and Lucille Ball, she's hungry for fame and celebrity, but foiled by the fact that she is a clown who always puts her foot in her mouth. Artist Anthony Hudson has been embodying the character of Carla Rossi for more than four years. People call her "Portland's premier drag clown," she's become known for vaudeville and cabaret shows, and, as Hudson put it, "If they bring a RuPaul drag queen to town, I'm probably hosting the show."

This winter I visited Hudson's early-1900s apartment—filled with built-ins, books, cat paintings by his boyfriend, and an actual cat (Margo Martindale)—to talk about where Carla Rossi came from.

"The professional answer is that she started as a [Pacific Northwest College of Art, PNCA] project. The real answer is that I had a Lindsay Lohan semester at school," he says, laughing. "Which I recommend to everybody—you get to know yourself and you get to know the unmitigated horror of the void. I'd been through this crazy breakup. A good friend and I decided to go out to [PICA's Time-Based Art festival] one night, in 2010; we would put on these disgusting costumes and show up to parties and crash them. It was the Art Party [that TBA] did. They had a bunch of different bands, and we would jump on the stage with the bands, and then they started asking us to stay and be in the next set, and be in the next set."