Tuesday, January 30, 2018

DRAG NOSTALGIA IIII

Lady Bunny, Mistress Formica, Sweetie, Anna Conda, Tabooo

In the spring of 1969, the modern gay rights movement was emerging in the United States after all the Stonewall Riots were done. With any drag revues shuttering and the after math of the riots drag was getting near extinct with exemption to major gay clubs...and even then was falling out of vogue. A few queens in the 70's early eighties got things started up again, with exemption to the few well known female impersonators, like Jim Bailey and Charles Pierce.

  Divine was one of the first on the scene and was one of the first queens to break into huge mainstream culture, notably in the films of director John Water. Her fearless and uncompromising manner influenced others to be a badass bitch like herself. Tragically, she died of heart failure in 1988 at the age of 42. Meanwhile on the West Coast we had the like of Pristine Condition
and May Doll,
Jean Hardlows
bringing drag slowly back into the light.
Meanwhile in New York, Mother Flawless Sabrina was out and proud. The flawless one challenged LGBT issues  all along  the east coast and led in rallies against New York businesses that refused to serve gay Americans. She was arrested more than 100 times during her fight to normalize cross-dressing.
Sarria A.K.A. The Widow Norton, Absolute Empress I de San Francisco, was the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in the United States, paving the way for other gay politicians to follow. From the west coast, she was an activist for gay rights during the 1960 and 70's. Sarria also founded the International Court System of the United States which helps aid LGBT issues. Sadly Sarria died in 2013 at age 90.
Pepper LaBeija who was known as “the last remaining queen of the Harlem drag balls”, LaBeija had a successful career as a fashion designer. She ruled the drag scene of the ’70s and early ’80s with her wild persona alongside queens Angie Xtravaganza, Dorian Corey and Avis Pendavis. She passed away in 2003 at the age of 53.

But then in the late 80's there was a drag explosion! I myself firmly believe, in part it was the NYC club kids and Leigh Bowery and the arrival of a yet to be known Rupaul, Lady Bunny and Lahomma Van Zant who arrived from Atlanta with their looks and shtick to get things jump started.
Lady Bunny with Leigh Bowery

Lady Bunny and Rupaul
LaHomma Van Zandt

The club kids with Amanda Lepore

It was glamorous, glitter-drenched nights that crept into mornings. From notorious East Village spots like the Pyramid Club to mega venues like the Palladium, Roxy, the Limelight and The Tunnel, it seemed more and more people were taking notice of drag again....and soon a evolution and eventual explosion of drag into a widely-acknowledged subculture. But in my mind, it wasn't until the 90's that drag really went nuts. I remember living in Harrisburg and started going out in the mid 90's right out of college. I became enthralled by drag when I first met Lady Bunny in New York and that was that. But outside of the big cities it was still risky. It was to the true God Mother of drag, Rupaul, who got to big for New York and went mainstream.
After that, drag came out of the closet and never did go back in. All of a sudden , even in Harrisburg and other little cities drag queens went from 2 to like 20 over night it seemed. Rupaul was everywhere, radio, tv, a talk show and it seemed hard to find anyone who disliked him. RuPaul,to me, really altered history more then anyone. I know people who watch Rupaul's Drag Race, who I never thought would.....and they can't get enough. These queens of the 90's really did bring drag out, and into everybody's face, like Lady Bunny who put on the wildly popular Wigstock every year, and drag shows at clubs would be packed...even still to date. I knew drag was here to stay when one New Year's Eve, yours truly in 2000, went to a party. I was decked in a white floor length,  skin tight gown, that was  lace, beaded and pearled, huge hair with white plumes and doves in it and jewelry. I was informed the party was going downtown right before midnight to watch the ball drop in the center of Harrisburg. Well, I had never been in drag outside a gay club, in a huge crowd before. The friends I went with had rented a limo, which we drove down in. Once there, we got out. I was shocked by the reception. People were enamored by me. people talking to me, and commenting my look. There was even a huge fraternity there from Penn State and they had a group picture taken with me. It was quite something. And this was a time when Harrisburg was not as gay friendly as it is currently.  I swear it was because of Rupaul!!! Everybody loved her and was all curious about drag. I firmly believe because her him, drag was more accepted and more mainstream then ever before. Now we have drag queens on web shows, recording their own tracks and completion shows. And we have all our fore Queens to thank for that and Rupaul. We must always remember our roots and history.

26 comments:

  1. I agree about drag in the 90's....the door flew off the hinges and never did shut...and it did seem drag was EVERYWHERE!!!!

    I also agree with Debra.....your personal account was fun to read. But like Rupaul your very easy to talk to, and fun. Not to mention a vision of loveliness in drag.

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  2. I remember starting to notice that Rupaul seemed to have staying power, I just saw Rupaul on the Colbert show the other night. I never really took an interest in this part of gay culture but I definitely would be interested in seeing you post about yourself dressed up in different styles. No pressure.

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    1. I have done some in the past, with the most recent back in October. I only do drag now a couple time a year, since I "retired" doing drag...to do other things.

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  3. Lovely. I'm in the camp of those who love hearing about your first hand experiences, Maddie. Thanks for sharing those tidbits. I love some of those old drag names. Anna Conda, ha! I want a drag name *pout*.

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    1. I mean to do posts on personal stories, but never seem to get around to them.

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    2. Hey MM, to quote the Isley Brothers "It's your thang, do what you wanna do." Speaking for myself, I enjoy it all!

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  4. You're right about RuPaul. He was the first glamorous and fashionable and charismatic drag queen that I had ever seen! Supermodel, is still one of my fave dance songs! Until RuPaul, most of the drag queens I was aware of where either demure/prim/proper/lady like, such as the Lady Chablis. Or they were over the top costume wearing, loud, flashy personalities. RuPaul was the first one that I recognize as a Glamazon! Gorgeous, fierce, and talented. It's great to see drag make a big comeback, and kudos to those who kept the art going in the most difficult of times, and cheers to those who struggled to make equality and justice possible for all people, including drag queens, minorities, and the entire LGBT community. We are stronger together and when we look out for each other.

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    1. Rupau l and Lady Bunny were two of my inspirations along with a local queen named Ito Lame.

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  5. A great post. It has been interesting to see this series come full circle and see how the queens and times have changed. Those early pictures of Lady Bunny and Rupaul are entertaining.

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  6. Great post Mistress!!!! One thing I pcked up on here was giving credit to the NYC club kids. You may be right. When they and the drag queens joined hands and turned nightlife on it's head....it seemed a turning point to express yourself and take a "I don't give a shit attitude" what you may think, and didn't waiver. As colorful as they were, they were brave. I too enjoyed your own story of that finally feeling accepted. It would be nerve racking to enter a huge crowd in drag in the 90's and doing so outside a club. You too have balls kid!!!

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  7. drag queens and Rupaul make everything better.

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  8. I had no idea how many of my Aunt Florence’s supposedly women friends were really drag queens!

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  9. I remember being a young queens when I loved in New York.... Rupaul and Bunny were just becoming popular and the night scene was insane. I also met Jose Sarria the a widow Norton. He was who got me involved in the Imperial Court and Night of a Thousand Gowns. Yes it is nice to finally see people enjoy drag for what it is art and campy good fun. Now I'm in Ann Arbor in my old age....enjoying the little drag circle here.

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  10. No where like New York City for drag queens! I swear, every bar has a drag show.

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  11. A gay friend of mine will swear the excesses of Studio 54 played a roll in the comeback of drag....

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    1. Studio 54 I'd say safe to say play a role to some extent....but the drag queens were out of full force already...but I'm sure it proves to be a nice safe place for questions queens to emerge.....

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  12. A couple of comments...

    That photo of Mother Flawless Sabrina looked familiar, so I did some googling. That picture was taken by none other than Diane Arbus, who photographed many a drag queen in her day.

    I've seen pictures of RuPaul out of drag before, but in that one with Lady Bunny, he looks in-between drag and civvvies, as if it was taken in her dressing room.

    Finally, any thoughts on Boy George? Or have you done a post and I just missed it?

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    1. I have never done a post on Boy George, but he is right in there with the club kids, and sort of a fluid like drag queen...not quite a male role but not full on drag either. He is actually a pretty good dj. I heard him spin twice in clubs....he had the Mistress worshipping like I was in church!!!!!

      As for Ru and Bunny...they got their start together in Atlanta where they were friends... right into NYC. It's great they remained close all these years.

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  13. I liked the series also. I remember this time as it was when I became armoured with gay men and drag. It was a fun magical time. Loved the vintage photos you included. And your outfit sounded like quite something.

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  14. Thank you for a great month!
    Yes we love us our Ru.

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Go ahead darling, tell me something fabulous!

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