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Kings, Queens and Full Houses
by Michele Christopher
Well, here we are a week or so later, and here we are again, so what to talk about this time? There are so many things I COULD discuss; For example I could talk about how my last two dates were marred by the dog finding out that the animal he was chasing was not, as he had thought, a cat, but a skunk! (A very smelly and sort of interesting story, but not exactly what I had in mind.) I could also talk about my life, and what I've done in the past, but those stories are better told in small snapshots as opposed to just laying all the cards on the table at once. So this week I think I will talk about my fellow queens or at least about the few that I have met and gotten to know. I have been told that my audience is actually quite interested in this part of my life, so here we go:
I have been performing in drag as Ms. Alexandra Chase, since I was about 18 years of age, the debut of my alter ego as a performer was at a gay club called "Club 240". it was billed as the first annual drag contest and show, and funny enough it wound up being held the last night the club was ever open! I was the Dee Jay, a performer and also one of the hosts of said show. (At 18 I was already a back stage maven!) I lost the contest portion to a wonderful Drag King By the name of Jason Wolf, whose rendition of "Piano Man" By Billy Joel totally wowed the audience. The winner was gracious enough to actually give me the tiara and wand that we had for prizes. It was a great time had by all but one. I recall going into the back stage area where one of the performers by the name of "Crystal Balls" was getting out of costume for the night. She looked at me and then told me that the whole thing was a farce, and that no "Woman" should win any drag shows. I recall responding to Crystal with “Jason did a wonderful job and was dressed in the opposite gender. This qualifies him/her to win any drag show!" This brings me to my first real gripe about the world of a drag queen.
WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO BE SO BITCHY?
One of the things that disturbs me a little is that not all drag queens are the wonderfully sweet ladies of "Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar". Actually a few queens that I have met while performing, or when attending a show is that when all is said and done they bitch about the other queens and performers. "She Stole My Act!!" Is a popular statement, along with "Bitch has my Hair!", "She copied my dress!", and my personal favorite- "She Can't DO Celine Dion! I'M CELINE DION". (Add whatever diva you'd like.) As far as I know there is ONE Celine Dion, One Whitney Houston, one Madonna, and one Cher. So Ladies, you aren't that diva, and other drag queens will do the same material you do so unless you're both doing the exact same song, get over it! I don't care who "wins" or who "loses" as long as the paying audience has a good time and enjoyed themselves. Personally, I think we need to get over our egos and begin to work together to produce really good shows people WANT to see. I have also produced a few shows; one was a weekly event at a club a few years back in Burlington known as "Club 156" Not to be mistaken for that OTHER gay "Club 135 Pearl" on the other side of town. The Show was entitled "Diva" and was every Thursday night. It was a young Ms. Nova Caine Fox, and a young Latino queen that sadly decided to call herself "Ms. Chi-Chi Rodriguez", copying the movie "Too Wong Foo..." and myself.
Ms. Rodriguez as a very picky drag queen and had issues about music, lighting, and costuming. Now Ms. Nova Caine Fox and I had already been friends for a while and she took her cues from me, calling me her "Drag Mother". For those of you straight people this means that I was the person who introduced her into the art of drag and gave her tips on makeup and style, very much like "Ms. Vida Bohem" did for both “Noxeema Jackson", And "Chi-Chi Rodriguez" in "Too Wong Foo...". So she and I shared my growing wardrobe of dresses and jewelry, heels and makeup, music and themes. Ms Chi Chi Rodriguez also used my things; however she would use them and insist that no one else use them ever again except her! Going as far as to have stolen a wig, one of my best dresses, and my favorite "Little Black Shoes". Due to scheduling conflicts, and new management, the show was put on the shelf and my alter ego was put to rest for a while. But it was during the time spent on "Diva!" that I met members of an organization known as "The Barony Of All Vermont" At the time, a lovely group of fantastically dressed drag queens and kings that belonged to a larger organization known as the "National Imperial Court" Or at least something like that. The premise of this group is to perform and collect money for non-profit organizations, like a battered women’s shelter or my personal favorite, any local humane society. There are dues to pay to belong to this group and there are rules that must be followed regarding performance content and appropriate material, etc. I was asked to join this group, and after reading the information I became hesitant and declined the offer. Among these restrictions were rules of conduct for other members based on station, standing, and title. This brings me to another little gripe I have.
DRAG QUEEN OBSESSION WITH CROWNS.
Part of the Imperial court is that there is a leader or "Baron" (Or Baroness) who conducts the initial planning of the events. He or She is given this "Title" based on standing, and is awarded the job in a great big ceremonious event, or coronation. Part of the clause in this group is that you cannot wear a full circle crown, or any other garment or accessory that is not approved by the leader of your "chapter". This to me just screamed of total horse manure. I don't need anyone to tell me that I am not a "Queen" or that I cannot wear a piece of costuming because it is not a part of my "station". PLEASE, I will wear and call myself whatever I care to, I am a performer first, and my priority is to put on a fabulous show, not bow down to some silly queen who takes delight in waving about some scepter and giving me a foolish title that I would only really be using in the confines of the drag world... I hardly think "Grand Diva Alexandra the First" would help me get a job on a resume`. Don't get me wrong, they do a lot of good work, I have friends that belong to the company, and I have worked with and performed alongside them for various causes. I personally just don't think my performance career should be dictated by whoever might have earned a few more "Princess Points" than I have. Ms Chi- Chi Rodriguez from "Diva!" used to talk incessantly about all the "Crowns" she had one over the years at past events, and it pissed me off badly enough to never want to have my career measured in "crowns" or "titles". Nothing like taking a queens ego and inflating it to the size of a very large blow up doll. Let’s skip a few years down the road, shall we?
Alexandra Chase was put in a box and stored until just under two years ago when I got a job as a bartender at the new gay club "Shooka Dooka's" In Rutland Vermont, The Barony Of All Vermont (under new leadership) was there to perform for a show to benefit something... I can't recall at this time...When the current Baron and I got to talking and I was asked to perform with them sometime. (Again with the whole "Join Us" routine.) I said I'd think over joining the group, but that I would be happy to perform for a good cause. About a month later, they had a performance to benefit the humane society in Rutland, and I was happy to add my name to the play list. I was given one slot or song on the program, which means that I had to go through about 4 hours of preparation for one 3 and a half minute performance, but they didn't know what I was capable of and I wanted to show them what I could do as well. So I got all glammed up and went to see and participate in the show. Now for those of you who don't know how it works at one of these events, it kind of works like a strip show, the performer gets onstage and lip syncs, sings and/or dances to a song playing overhead. Fabulous costumes and raunchy jokes may even be a part of the spectacle too. During these numbers, the audience "tips" you, waving bills for you to take, or suggestively sticking a five dollar bill in your bra or wherever you deem necessary, so while you sing and dance you also get to collect cash!
Sometimes it can get distracting and I have a hard time recalling where in my routine I am, but thankfully rehearsals help to allow my body to do one thing and my mind another! So, back to the show. The performers were fun and some were exciting to see, and before every show, I get nervous, so I was all kinds of shaky and just genuinely full of butterflies when they announced me and I took the stage. Some of the patrons actually knew me from my first performance almost six years prior at the ill fated "Club 240" fiasco. (Remember Crystal Balls?) So I got applause for just stepping on stage. Once the music started it was almost a blur, (It usually is with your mind on so many things.) and when I finished and stepped offstage I was immediately swamped with the other performers gushing about the number and practically begging me to join them... Little did I know that in those three minutes I had gotten almost double what the other performers had received in donations (tips) for their cause. Some performers had more than one number, and still did not manage to get as much! I have performed a few more times with the Barony of all Vermont, and a few of their number actually performed with my drag company, "RoaDiva Productions" for a show I planned in order to raise money for renovations at "Shooka Dooka's". This event: "Moonlight Dancing!" saw me reunited with both Jason Wolf, and the uncanny Ms. Nova Caine Fox. Then went on to earn just under nine hundred dollars in profits in order to put a back deck on the building for us smoking folks. I am proud of that accomplishment for such a small area. My next show was planned for the second anniversary of "Shooka Dooka's" and I had a lot of plans to make a bigger and better show, as well as thrust "RoaDiva Productions" more into the mainstream as a viable performance group. Sadly, and as in the past, "Shooka Dooka's" closed. (Though not permanently.) The owner has yet to find a new location to house his establishment, and until that time all plans for a grand show have been put on hold. However I have been thinking more and more seriously about putting together a show for no reason at all than to earn money for my "RoaDiva Productions", to have a good time, and to see a smiling audience once more. What do YOU think?
That's enough for this week, Bless you all and may you find happiness in the week ahead! Don't worry about me, I'm a Drag Queen, What do I know?