Herstory 101: That Girl Can Slay! by Scarlett Bleu

Settle in my fellow queens and queen enthusiasts; it’s time to learn your drag herstory!  That’s right, dolls! We are going to learn all about those lovely people who laid out the groundwork and made drag what it is today.

We are going to define “drag” as, “a person of one biological sex wearing the clothing of the opposite sex for entertainment or enjoyment purposes.” We are not excluding anyone, but if we started writing about any person who has ever put on the clothes of a different sex, we would go on about every football player who ever dressed up like a cheerleader for a laugh. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So whom in the world do we talk about?  Do we start with RuPaul, who is credited for bringing drag into the mainstream spotlight?  What about the drag queen who supposedly started the Stonewall Riots that ignited the LGBT Civil Rights movement?  According to several online sources, the variety of drag that we have come to know and love today did not exist until the 1950’s or 60’s. Should we ignore that it was normal for men to play female roles on the Elizabethan Stage for a significant period in time, starting in 1660?

Time was taken to carefully consider each of these questions.  And then I remembered this is my article, and I can write about whomever I wanted!  So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to an inspiration for my personal life as well as my drag persona:

Ms. Julie d’Aubigny

Yes, that’s right.  I’m not even going to start with a QUEEN.  I’m going to talk about a drag KING!  Take THAT, patriarchy!

This lovely lady lived in France from 1670 to roughly 1707.  She was not only proudly bisexual, but she often wore men’s clothing whenever the mood struck her. Oh, and she was kick-ass.

She often made money while demonstrating her fencing talents in the streets of Paris while wearing men’s clothing.  According to several accounts, when a particularly intoxicated man doubted she was actually a female, she simply ripped open her shirt to prove it.  Clearly, she was comfortable with her own body, and played a convincing male as well.  Julie-D’Aubigny

You may be wondering if wearing men’s clothing was the norm for Julie, especially since it was pretty difficult to wield a sword in the corsetry, hoop skirts, and elaborate powdered wigs of the day.  While she did often wear men’s garments for comfort and the occasional disguise, she was no stranger to feminine garb. Most notably, she wore a nun’s habit during her short stint in a convent.

Yes, before she had even left her teenage years, our sword-slinging heroine had fallen in love with a young girl who was sent away to a convent when their relationship was discovered.  So d’Aubigny joined the convent herself, until eventually the convent burned down, (conveniently) giving the two lovebirds a chance to run away together… for about three months.  d’Aubigny then left the girl with her parents and took off for Paris.XT772_HistoryBoys_image_FinalPRINT

Another story says that while wearing men’s clothing, she accidentally walked into a young nobleman, Comte d’Albert, who then challenged her to a duel, not realizing she was a female.  She won the duel by running through his shoulder with her sword.  She later visited him in the hospital and it is rumored that the two began a passionate romance. At the very least they became good friends.  She was clearly very forgiving.

Other versions of this encounter say that she did not accidentally bump into d’Albert on the streets, but rather he accosted her after one of her shows, throwing vulgar insults at her that loosely translated into “I’ve listened to your chirping, now display your plumage.”

Have I forgotten to mention that Julie d’Aubigny was not only a master swordswoman, but also an opera singer?  Not only was this amazing woman able to stand up for herself and hold a remarkable sense of dignity and self-worth for a woman in this time period, but she was also the 15th-century equivalent of a rock star. Picture Beyoncé getting into sword fights.

I know, right?

There was also the time that she dressed as a gentleman and snuck into a ball in the royal palace, winning the attention of a beautiful young female.  When the lady’s three suitors discovered Julie and the maiden kissing, Julie was challenged to another duel, which she accepted.  She fought all three of them outside of the royal palace and beat them all.  Some say she even killed all three men.

Because of her celebrity status, and because she had gotten into trouble with the law before, she had to leave town until things quieted down.  She was, however, pardoned by the king for breaking the anti-dueling laws of the time.

As mentioned, drag as we know it didn’t come about until about the 1950’s.  So why does a bisexual, crossdressing, French opera star from the late 15th century matter to us now?

She matters because this is proof that wearing the garments of another sex is not exclusive to today’s modern times, nor is it a shameful act.  Drag is a very personal mode of self-expression and artistic identity.  While Julie d’Aubigny may not have had a direct influence on the art form, she serves as an example of someone who unapologetically lived her life the way she wanted, no matter who or what stood in her way. Whether she dressed for comfort during sword demonstrations, or to disguise herself to slip unrecognized into royal balls or down the street, she carried herself with the confidence every drag performer ought to embody when they present themselves to the world.  It’s exactly what RuPaul always preaches, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Perhaps we ought to stick to using our sharp wit rather than burning down convents, though: just a suggestion.

For more information regarding Julie d’Aubigny, or to just make sure I got it all right, check her out on http://www.rejectedprincesses.com/princesses/julie-daubigny .

11030793_784740051611047_1143283186634995044_nScarlett Bleu, a Connecticut native, began her drag career performing in Philadelphia. The former Miss Venture Inn 2013 enjoys sharing her drag knowledge with willing and unwilling audiences alike, long walks on the beach, and lace front wigs. She has learned to love herself, and feels that is enough.

Traveling Queen

You know I love me some queens, but it is difficult to get into the city if you are me. ICYMI I’m a woman who uses a wheelchair for my main form of mobility and those descriptors combined are liabilities for traveling alone. I have hoodwinked my friends to give me rides to the clubs. They loved every minute of it, but jobs, sleep, blah, blah, blah. If only Erik Koral lived on this coast, not in Los Angeles, and had launched his www.drivingisadrag.com Lyft idea out here! I’d be set , because in the end it is all about me, right?

Alas, Erik, known in drag as Erika Simone, was between jobs after leaving a digital marketing position and needed to pay his bills (get the money, hunty!). He delved into the make-your-own-hours app world of Lyft, a car service much like Uber in which drivers connect with passengers who need a ride via text message. At the same time Eric was also experimenting with trying on his drag persona. Viola! @drivingisadrag was born!


Erica Simone and @venusdlite

Others have begun building their businesses on the Lyft platform, too, but none as glamorous as http://www.drivingisadrag.com . There is a @DISCOlyft car whose Twitter profile boasts being “the pioneer of the #LyftCreative movement”. There are also @hihoplyft, @MomLyft, and @drawlyft, among others. Those sound fun, but imagine the surprise of passengers that see Erik’s photo on their Lyft app image only to be greeted by Erika. Plenty of customers have walked right by the car not realizing their ride had arrived, because they are looking for someone that looks like a male driver. In those cases Erika Simone leaps out of her driver’s seat, leans against her car in her sky high boots, and yellow taxi driver get up and asks, “Need a ride, honey?”. The reaction usually goes: shock (People have been known to drop shopping bags), awkwardness (lots of nervous giggling), and acceptance (We still need a ride after all). Everyone fills the car, has a good laugh, gets a few selfies, and sometimes gets posted on Erika Simone’s Twitter feed. Genius, right?

All kidding aside, Erik is aware of the safety issues in driving in drag. He was scared the first week out, but took appropriate precautions to ensure his own safety by choosing neighborhoods he felt were safe and only driving from 2 pm to 10 pm. He has not had any problems as of yet and finds his biggest fans are straight girls. He is sharply aware of how unfair the facts are that he needs to take these things into consideration, but that is the whole point of his business.


The gangs all here and ready to go!

Of course, neither Erik nor Erika are satisfied with one Lyft cab. Erik is an entrepreneur, not a performer (perhaps the only one in L.A.), and wants to expand his business. If you do see Erika Simone in a drag club she will likely be hobnobbing with the likes of Morgan McMichaels about safe rides for people of the LGBT community and not heading on stage to rock it out. The big vision is @drivingisadrag in every city. Erik and his alter ego hope to join forces with groups like The Trevor Project, “a hotline for gay and questioning youth”, and GLAAD to gain visibility and assist in creating a safe form of transport within the LGBT community, which can also extend out to anyone. The pinnacle of this business would include the ultimate party bus in every major city in the United States and a non-profit to help those in need of a ride, such as people traveling alone or hospital patients with no family support.

I sure do hope so, because summer is coming and the sooner @drivingisadrag gets to the Philadelphia area, the better. Because this girl is a big fan of drag queens, but not such a big fan of the speedline.

A Starr Among Queens

Roxi Starr does not like to be late and I suspect neither does Larry Cook ( Roxi’s boy self). I gather this as she sweeps into Voyeur Nightclub with Donna Ria and Aloe Vera in tow. She greets me with air kisses and shimmies off to the bar to get a drink and greet the staff and clientele. She makes a round in her ladylike strut to say hello to a group of friends and family out to support Donna Ria’s debut at Cash for Queens. And then she is back and ready for her interview. We are outside on the narrow sidewalk that flanks the cobble stoned Philadelphia road Voyuer overlooks and Roxi lights up a cigarette. She inhales deeply and leans against the building, her legs crossed at her ankles.  It seems to relax her. I wonder if she is nervous. She is not performing tonight, but Donna Ria (Ray Miles, Jr, Larry’s boyfriend) is. She tells me she has read the prep questions I sent her and that they are very good. She is ready. “I really hate being late,” she repeats, “especially when it’s because of somebody else,” but then she backtracks and adds, “It was all of us tonight though,” referring to herself, Aloe, and Donna. Roxi’s story starts out in Tuscon, Arizona, home also to RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 contestant Tempest du Jour. “I’ve always been an entertainer,” she says, “even now I’m a server and before I was in healthcare, but I’ve always been an entertainer, whether it’s singing or drag or whatever.”


Boys DO make passes at gurrrrls who wear glasses.

I ask about how she got her start and about her drag mother. She mentions her former hairstylist fiancee, a nameless figure of the past who encouraged her to explore drag when they first met. But the story is mostly about her drag mother Janee’ Starr, a drag queen she knew and admired before considering doing drag. When Roxi approached her to ask if she ever took on drag children Janee told her to do her makeup and show up at the club. It was good enough and instantly Roxi had a fairydragmother! She says she owes a lot to Janee, seeming to imply that it is important that she make her drag mother proud as the only other drag children were a pair of twins who ended their connection to the House of Starr. If making Janee proud is her goal in drag, Roxi is tallying up the accomplishments with a weekly RuPaul’s Drag Race show with her ever-present counterpart Aloe Vera, a recent debut in New York City, and herirst Philadelphia pageant win. There is so much going on behind Roxi’s painted and bejeweled eyes. It seems she harbors a brain that never rests. It’s a March evening, still cold in the city, but she does not seem to notice. Whether it be the padding of her drag ensemble or the fact that she is deep in her own thoughts teasing out her precise answers, she is well insulated from the chill of the Philadelphia winter night.


On Wednesdays we wear FIERCE! (And every other day of the week!)

As we chat there is a fellow queen who shows up out of drag as a boy and Roxi and some friends nearby on the street tease him about it. “Who is this?” they call as if they do not recognize him without makeup and a costume. She is then greeted by someone changing his drag show and they have a quick conversation about it. He says he will be in touch with her about performing and is off on his way. Her drag sister Aloe Vera ducks out of the club to bum a light and they banter a bit back and forth laughing like teenagers at a high school dance. They are a perfectly synced combo as a team at iCandy and when they commute to bookings out of state they call themselves “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Gaff”.  All the while I observe Roxi and notice how she has mastered and incorporated the subtle flip of her hair over her shoulder and the ladylike way she keeps her knees together as she stoops down to hear me better. The grace of her character permeates her every move. Larry has internalized Roxi and she in turn is present with him whether on stage or not. This is a pointed fact for someone who has only been in the art for two years.

I know she has given thought to auditioning for RuPaul’s Drag Race when she says, “I’d like to do the show, but on my own terms.”  She does not elaborate, but I get the sense she means “When I am ready”. The fact that she invests much thought into most things is evidenced in how she answered her pageant question in the video below.

It’s no wonder Roxi Starr is the newly crowned Miss Fish Philly 2015 after such a short time in this city. That same shadow of a fiancee was the one she followed out here and though the relationship did not last it seems Roxi is here to stay. Naturally we are enamored by her ways and looking forward to see how Her Majesty will hold court. Long Reign the Queen! image

Misguided Tweet or What I Couldn’t Say in 140 Characters

Here is my open (hearted) letter to Pandora Boxx, one of my favorite drag queens, for a miscommunication that happened over Twitter.

Dear Ms. Boxx,

I have been researching, tweeting, and blogging drag queens for only the last 5 months and still have much to learn. My ignorance became glaringly clear after a tweeting exchange between us. I was so excited to finally have a queen I admire retweet and comment on something I tweeted only to find out I may have offended. So in that vein, here is my long winded apology.

I am verbose which can easily and quickly be seen by glancing at my blog. Of course I have yet to master the finer points of expressing myself on Twitter in only 140 characters. The day I tweeted you I had read this post on Facebook from the RuPaul’s Drag Race Family page:

“‘People in the Drag Race fandom who are coming for RuPaul and saying you don’t like Ru’s decisions, etc.. Need to calm the fuck down. Do you have any idea what she has done for this community, without Ru none of this wonderful world we enjoy on Monday nights would be possible. IT’S RU’S SHOW, NOT YOURS and tbh she can do what she likes, and you still watch regardless so calm down please and learn your herstory! So beat it queen if you bitching about Ru!’ -Anonymous.

What do you think about this, kitty girls?”

Then I saw all the posts on Facebook, like I do every week, about how viewers are mortified that a certain favorite went home and how they will never watch again (until they do, the next week). After that, like I do every week, I read your News and watched this week’s Drag Center video. You also asked what others thought and having just read the above quote and everyone swearing off the show for another week I misinterpreted that as a call to stir the masses who are already hyped up about this being a disappointing season of RuPaul’s Drag Race in which many deserving talented queens are going home too early. That is when I tweeted you ” dearest aren’t you just feeding the ? Ily!

And what I meant was, “Hey, Pandora I was wondering what you think about all this talk concerning the show this season.I definitely agree that many of the stand-out drag queens with the most original and unique ideas are dropping like flies and much too early. Many of my drag fan friends were livid that Trixie Mattel went home not once, but twice, and others were reeling that Max went home, too early. Now Katya is gone! I am disappointed I didn’t get to see more from these queens, too, but realize that in each case they were eliminated not by their entire body of work or the stamina of their creativity, but only on one challenge and a one song lip sync.Then ultimately only by one person, RuPaul herself”

But I couldn’t say all that in a tweet, because I haven’t yet learned to express myself sufficiently in 140 characters. That being said I absolutely agree with you that in the case of Katya, “ everyone is right. Katya brought a great fun attitude and I love her drag. She’s more interesting than anyone left.”

All this to say, i hope you will forgive me, my Queen! I am still a novice and never want to offend. I finally get a retweet from a drag queen I admire and this happens. I need to pay closer attention when Ru says, “Don’t f*ck it up!”

Sincerest regards,


P.S. You make the damn cutest unicorn out there!


The gracious and generous Ms. Pandora Boxx read and retweeted this post with the sweetest response:

Pandora Boxx retweeted Elaine Paliatsas-Hau

Oh doll, you never offended me! No worries!

Misunderstandings happen, but they are always easier when the parties involved are kind.

The Straight Girl’s Guide to Drag Queens

Gurrrrl! Guess where we are going tonight? We are heading down into Old City Philadelphia to meet some boys dressed up as women! Drag Queens! It’s Saturday night (or Monday or Thursday) and you want to go to a club to dance off some of that stress! But you wish you could go without worrying about being hit on, groped, catcalled, or having something nasty dropped in your drink. The Philly gay club scene is the best place to do that. Look, you and I might be late to the party because my girlfriends have been hanging out at bars like Woody’s and iCandy for years, but here is our invitation now!

Now let’s get something straight before we go. Just because a man wears a dress as a performer does not mean he is transgender, transitioning from female to male, and that is the first thing drag queens want you to know. Drag comes from Shakespeare’s time when the guys played all the roles and when they played the women they were told , “Dress Resembling A Girl”. While there are some trans* performers, the majority are very happy as men, thank you very much, and view drag as a performance art that centers in heightened femininity as it is represented in our culture. If women in America are displaying full hairdos drag queens are piling on two wigs with extensions. Yes, the majority is also homosexual men, but the exceptions may surprise you. The local drag culture is inclusive of female drag queens referred to as faux queens and even straight men. Whatever their biological gender or sexual orientation these “girls” are characters and everything about them screams DRAMA (in the best way)! That’s how they like it and you will too.


Let’s Get Ready

You and I only have to pick out an outfit, do our hair and makeup, and off we go. Two hours tops, right? A drag queen will need at least two hours to paint her face on and that’s a standard makeup application. My “girls” Roxi Starr and Scarlett Bleu estimate between one and a half to three hours. While we are practicing perfecting an application of liquid eyeliner to resemble a cat eye without poking our eyeballs out these dames have already glued their eyebrows down with a glue stick, slathered on white clown makeup, and covered everything with foundation to create a blank canvas to begin their art. Schlomo Steel, a Michigan drag queen named Miss Dig, holds the art of painting on a face at the highest level of esteem and equates it with a type of meditation when he, a usually high energy restless individual, gets the opportunity to relax. Who needs yoga, right?

Queens are not born knowing how to paint their faces. Jarred Kyser, the aforementioned Scarlett Bleu, actually feared drag queens, much like many people fear clowns. “If they were on the sidewalk outside a club I would cross the street to avoid them,” he says. However, while perusing Netflix in the spring of 2013 he caught an episode of the now wildly popular RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality television drag competition show on the Logo channel. This lead to watching another episode, which lead to watching a whole season, which lead to binge watching the entirety of the series available up until that point. Jarred was hooked more than anything on creating a drag queen face and vowed to himself to bring this makeup art down to a science. His first attempt, in his own description, was awful. Being a tenacious spirit though he was determined to get it right and create the prettiest face imaginable. It took several months, but now Jarred transforms into Scarlett in a matter of two hours. While we were crying about our lashes sticking together with mascara these guys just turned into “girls”.

Next, as the queens say, it is time to create body-ody-ody. This step involves taking that straight up and down figure and sculpting it into the gay ol’ gal that will mount that stage. It all begins with the tuck. All the boy parts have got to “disappear” especially if these dollies are donning a leotard or bodysuit. This process may begin with cleanly shaving the genitals. There is no room for error here, so no depilatory creams.  Yeah, it ain’t pretty, but beauty hurts. Once everything is hair free and smooth the testes are tucked up into the inguinal canal, as I have been informed by Ray Miles, Jr., A.K.A Donna Ria, “where they came from”, and then the scrotum and penis are duct taped back into the buttox area between the legs. Yes, I said duct tape, but stay with me, girl. We are already through the rough parts. The alternative to tucking, and AMEN to an alternative, is a gaff which is a panty made of synthetic fabric incorporating spandex for stretch and security. Everything is held in place and you and I will never complain about lying on the bed to pull on a pair of Spanx over our hips again.

Speaking of hips these “ladies” need curves. The feminine shape is quite literally sculpted out of foam. Occasionally a queen might invest in hip or butt pads, but at $150 dollars that is an investment. Most will make the better investment of an electric turkey carving knife and foam from a local crafting store. One drag queen I spoke with was a poor college student when he started doing drag and made his hips out of the chair cushion of a broken desk chair. It is definitely a “do what you can with what you have where you are” kind of artistry.  At least three pairs of nylons or tights are pulled on one over the other for smooth legs and a sizeable derriere and hips and shoved down in there and adjusted.

You think she is done? Not by a long shot. Sit down and browse some Facebook, darling, because there is more. Strap on a corset or tummy shaper, two to three bras, falsies in the base bra, and a tank top shaper to keep everything in place and smooth. Then she can pull on her dress or other costume and her often very high heels. Never flats! Don’t even think about it. Plus, this probably will not be the only outfit she wears during this evening, so rest assured you will very likely see her or one of her sisters rolling a small suitcase behind her full of more couture.

It’s a Girl!

 Our little “girl” is all grown up and tucked in and she needs a name. No doubt if you have come across drag queen names you have wondered where they have come up with these creations of two word poetry. Each individual has her own naming story but there are some traditions as well. When a person wants to become a drag queen he or she will need a drag mother. The fairy-godmother-like drag mother leads the newby through a type of apprenticeship in which the fledgling queen learns techniques for face painting, body, and performance while the more experienced queen creates a house or legacy and earns a name for being someone who creates drag stars or drag flops. It depends on who you listen to. Girl, gossip is everywhere and we call it kiki.  Roxi Starr for instance became interested in drag after her then boyfriend suggested she would be good at it. She approached a drag queen she knew and admired was born out of the Haus of Starr of Arizona. Janee’ Starr is her drag mother who she received her last name from. Roxi was a female name she always liked.

In other instances queens have used creative methods to name themselves or be named. Ariel Versace adores the Disney princess with the same name from the animated film The Little Mermaid and chose the last name of a fashion designer she admires but says, she ‘…will never probably be able to afford”. Donna Ria’s christening happened at the hands of Mimi Imfurst during a 1950’s themed show in which Mimi named Donna off the cuff as part of an impromptu gag during the show. Scarlett Bleu kicked around monikers with her friends and originally liked Lola Stellanova, but abandoned that for her current name as she was inspired by the singer songwriter Pearl Black.

Some drag queens use party game rules such as create a name by using the name of your first pet and the street you lived on as a kid. Mine would be Goldie Dewey.

Other drag queens abandon conventions all together and choose flashy and memorable handles like Pearl, Miss Fame, or Jiggly Caliente. Still others stick with their boy names like RuPaul himself or Willam Belli and Max, both former contestants of Drag Race.

Sometimes names are dependent on drag style. If a drag queen chooses a creepy character she might choose a name like Sharon Needles or Annie Christ, two dark goth queens who play on the themes of horror movies and assimilate Mortician Addams style into their acts. Similarly campy comedy queens will choose a funny or cutesy name like Trixie Mattel that incorporates the name of a toy brand.

Show Time!

We are headed into the famous Philadelphia Gayborhood, located between 12th and 13th streets and Locust, which boasts one of the oldest gay bars in the United States, Venture Inn. There are many types of shows every night from drag variety to full scale musical productions performed in drag. Tonight we are coming out of the suburbs and into a land of garments and glitter.

If it is Monday night any one of the bars is hosting a RuPaul’s Drag Race Party. The show airs at 9 pm Eastern Standard Time and the viewing party begins. There are drink and appetizer specials as well as witty commentary from patrons and drag queen servers alike. You can join in or simply relax, knock back a few five dollar cocktails, and laugh your ass off. My favorite viewing party is at iCandy with Roxi Starr and Aloe Vera, a va-va-vavoom pair that have perfect comedic timing throwing shade both at each other and the RuPaul drag queens. There are other excellent shows hosted weekly at clubs like Tabu and Venture Inn.

Any other night of the week your choices are more varied. You might want to check out the ongoing Drag Wars Cycle which starts up again in a couple weeks at Voyeur. It is a local competition hosted by former RuPaul’s Drag Race competitor from season 3 Mimi Imfurst. Voyeur is Mimi’s home club and you will rarely see her perform elsewhere. Established drag queens are a little territorial like that, but the newer emerging queens can get bookings in many clubs. Mimi’s club is a large open space with a surrounding balcony overhead where sound technicians and DJ’s do their thing and two long bars flanking the right and back walls. This leaves a lot of room for switching up the staging area. You might prefer the cozy feel of a smaller bar. Venture Inn serves food until 10 pm and serves up Venture Variety with the adorable Billy Cavallo as your host. One Wednesday night we were treated to Mary D’Knight Philadelphia’s premiere Lady Gaga impersonator who has performed with the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Choir and is one of the host/organizers of the Code Red event, a drag show that raises funds to support HIV/AIDS research. In that same evening we were also entertained by the uproarious Bev the current first alternate in the Miss Comedy Queen pageant. And if you do really want to shake off the stress on the dance floor, iCandy revealed their new one, called THE ARENA, at their fourth anniversary party Saturday, April 18.

In some cases bookings in not-necessarily-gay clubs are available for drag queens such as at Bob & Barbara’s that holds the title for hosting the longest running weekly drag show. Promoters like Ray Miles, Jr. will schedule a drag queen for a one night performance and if she wows the audience she will hopefully be asked back to perform at a later time.

What you will see at a typical show is a series of three to five minute performances that include lip syncing to tracks created by mixing songs and spoken word. You will see people tipping performers by extending bills out toward them in a calm polite manner until they are accepted. I learned how to do this via Schlomo Steel’s blog which covers everything about drag-itequette. As he writes, “Don’t make a drag queen work for the tip. She’s already working for it”. Keep in mind all that preparation she did and rehearsal, not forgetting the tucking. Also, you will see people having fun, cheering for their favorite queens, and generally being good spirited. Most of my “girls” inform me they have not seen a fist fight at a drag show which is automatically a point in favor of gay clubs over straight clubs for those of us who prefer our drinks do not get spilled on us.

Another thing you will see at shows are the drag queens mingling with the crowd prior to the show. As I learned from a prerecorded Q&A with Ariel Versace, many drag queens get ready at home first and then arrive at the club fully dressed or at least with body on. At Thursday night’s Cash for Queens competition the queens were especially fishy, that means pretty. Iris Spectre, who I met at Venture Inn, was wearing a long sleeve head to toe gown of ombre sequins and a matching feather head dress. She was captivating in that ensemble and even moreso during her performance as Cat Woman which included lip syncing and dancing to dance, pop, hip-hop and rap music, and clips from the Batman movies.

A more atypical show is a musical production. On my first visit to the Gayborhood, I was in the audience of a drag version of “Into the Woods”, a musical that was recently released as a movie. Voyeur’s cast lip synced to the well known show cast that featured Bernadette Peters as the Witch. In the drag show version, Mimi Imfurst took on Bernadette Peters’ role and at the end of Act One transformed from a scraggly faceless creature to a sparkling goddess in green thanks to the help of the well-known drag queen and sartorial talent Cleo Phatra. She is Mimi Imfurst’s best friend and seamstress. Mimi is clad in all kinds of Cleo creations. For the evening gown portion of the Miss Comedy Queen Pageant she recently donned a full-body Miss Piggy costume with animatronic capabilities so Piggy’s mouth moved when Mimi spoke. The shows are the over-the-top spectacles they are planned to be. Every show will surprise you whether it be with elaborate costuming, hilarious unexpected comedic timing, or the ending dance move queens call a death drop in which they throw themselves bodily to the stage at the end of a number. This late night, even in the middle of the week, is well worth that fourth cup of coffee the next morning.

After Party

The best part about drag queens is their interaction with the audience before, during, and especially after the show. As long as you ask politely and do not grab at them, they will always pose with you for a selfie to post on social media. You definitely need to do that to make your friends jealous and get them out to the clubs. Some queens stay once the show is over and the dance floor opens up to dance with the crowd. Even the internationally famous drag queens like Bianca Del Rio, Sharon Needles, and Pandora Boxx who are currently touring the world in many live spin-off shows connected to Drag Race are all over Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook posing with fans around the world.

As many drag queens have accounts on these sites they also directly respond to fans’ comments and questions.  Often on Twitter you can see drag queens retweeting fan comments, fan art, and fan photos along with their own promotions of show dates, record releases, and online Drag Race recaps.

I do not know if I just happened to fall into a lucky batch of queens, but every one was generous and sincere about her craft and sharing anything about it. There is a kindness that comes from seeing fans accept and admire the work and a joy of celebration in the work itself that permeates through the audience. Drag queens don’t know a stranger because everyone they meet is a friend. In the end, isn’t that what we want in a man anyway? Girl, these “girls” make me a better woman.

Looking: Wigs, Wigs, Wigs

Drag queens wear wigs! Well, when they perform, most of the time they do. I have seen a few queens all pained without wigs on, but that is a different icon from a queen aiming to look as womanly as possible. Since wigs are the crown jewel of the queen’s outfit I went to a salon store to check some out with a hairdresser friend.

We entered Not Just Wigs a salon store in the Berlin Farmers Market and are greeted by hundreds of foam heads topped with varying lengths, colors, and styles of wigs. The shelves from the floor to about 2/3 the way up all three surrounding walls are stocked with hairpieces, hair accessories, and hair products. Above that all around the perimeter of the store/stall are two shelves that run parallel to each other one above the other. Here is where all these heads from white faceless foam to darker brown with eyes, lips, and noses. Stare down at us. I am so mesmerized by the selection and the way it is displayed I absently roll behind my friend who bee-lines it to a glass counter where a worker is stationed. She asks to see two types of wigs and only after the store clerk goes to get them do I ask her what we are going to look at.

“There are basically two types of wigs,” she says, “Real hair and synthetic. The real hair is usually human, but some are made of animal hair  and synthetic is the fake stuff.”

She goes on to say she doesn’t use animal hair wigs, because she is never knows if the goats they get it from are treated humanely. I start to imagine a billy goat with a head of long red curls and giggle to myself. I shake off the thought as the clerk brings the two wigs to the counter.

My friend takes them both and turns them inside out. “The other thing about wigs is how they’re made.” She is showing me the inside of a blonde bob. I quickly scan the shelves to locate the bald head where it came from, but she calls my attention to how the construction of the wig before us. “This one is a lace-front cap. Every single hair is hand-tied in place, so it looks real, moves more like real hair, and looks like is grew out of your head.”

I exam the delicate sheer fabric and imagine how long it must have taken to tie each hair in place by hand. Then I spy the price tag attached inside and realize all that work is reflected in the price: $289! I mention the price to my friend who is checking out the other wig. She informs me that is actually on the low end as she has seen real hair monofilament (one strand tied at a time) hand-tied wigs go for anywhere from $650-$2000. Drag queens are not kidding at all when they talk of how expensive a quality wardrobe, including high quality wigs (yes often more than three), can be. I put the blonde bob right side out and back on the counter. I get a little nervous considering I haven’t washed my hands and have been touching the tires of my wheelchair.

The next wig we look at is a much longer, dark brown, curly one. My friend has it inside out too. This is what is called a basic wig. Instead of the lace on the inside there is a cap made like a lattice work and wefts, or long reams, of hair are sewn into the cap. wefts are what people often think of when they imagine hair extensions. These basic wigs can be made of human or animal hair, but the one before us is synthetic and therefore costs a lot less than the others. It’s still too pricey at $69.99 for me though.

My friend has to leave to go to work, so we thank the young woman who helped us and let her know we are done looking at the wigs. On the car ride home I ask about taking care of these expensive creations. I guess right when I think I probably could not throw one of these wigs into a plastic bag and hang it on a nail until I am ready to use it again like the cheap wig I picked up at a party store for Halloween decades ago.

“Synthetic wigs are easier to take care of then real wigs, but after a while you get a routine going for either one,” she begins, “With the real hair you have to comb them gently to get any knots out first literally with a fine tooth comb. Then you wash it like you would your own hair with shampoo, but you have to be sure not to get the cap wet. Once you rinse that out you condition it and rinse again. Real hair can be blow dried, but not synthetic. Synthetic hair will melt or shrivel up in heat. No curling irons, straighteners, or hair dryers for fake hair.”

Synthetic hair has to be replaced on its stand a foam or plastic head to dry. Luckily, because it isn’t human or  animal hair it won’t absorb the water and will dry quickly. There isn’t as much versatility in styling a synthetic wig contrasted against a real hair wig, but they can still look very good and natural especially on stage.

As my friend leaves me at home and drives off, I think about my mild obsession with wigs. I would like to go back to the store some time and try a few on. A wig can really bring out a persona, which is why queens use them.  Between the cost and the care though, I don’t think I will be rolling out of the store with a new persona anytime soon.