Let's all take a bow and wish the fabulous and lively Carol Elaine Channing... actress, singer, dancer, comedian and most notable for starring in Broadway and film musicals, where her characters typically radiate a fervent expressiveness and an easily identifiable voice.....a very Happy 97th Birthday today!!!!!
On her special day she's here to toast and say.........
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,
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.
I must say...these weekends of hibernation have been wonderful, and I'm enjoying this while it last. The only problem is....those darn Mondays come way to fast. Yesterday found me sucked into a Rosemary and Thyme marathon for most of the day...at least till the Grammy red carpet started. Other then that, I didn't watch any of it, but before bed, I did see a video of Kesha's moving performance. I don't usually care for awards shows....although last year it was fun to watch plucky Adele take the award from Beyoncé, who I'm sure is still pissing about it. No,I watch for the fashion and then ditch the show.After all,I was off to watch the second season premiere of Victoria on PBS.I actually like the Grammy's because it's where one can, and should actually take fashion over the top and to the limits and have fun. One can wear things here that may look out of place at other award shows I feel. One has the room to get away with more here. My favorites from the red carpet.
Mother Monster always knows how to make an entrance!
A unexpected choice for Pink. By far my favorite, and I'm not saying that just because she's from Doylestown. It looked fun,whimsical, but music edgy and music appropriate, the color was her..and she let the dress speak..simple hair, no jewelry.
Cardi B rocked this number. Elegant but out of the box and couture looking.
Ten point upgrade to Kelly Clarkson from her disaster on New Years Eve. Did she take our advice and get a gay stylist? Either way it was much more the star she should like and did. She looked incredible.
Only the legendary Cyndi Lauper could pull this off and did. So her.
I have only recently heard of the Imagine Dragons....but love their group style.
India Arie looked great in the black and white look....I'm ready to wear it to work one day.
Not sure where she has been, but Ashanti looked stunning in the gold dress. Maybe demure for the Grammy's... but no denying she looked fabulous and tasteful.
So far the awards season has been spectacular and for the most part tastefully done. Has everyone finally come to their senses???
She is the neighborhood person who walks around with a major attitude, drives a muscle car, and loudly I may add, and has the personality of a door knob. Dear Jewel lives in the next little bijoux apartment next to mine. Now mind you, they take good care of the grounds here, even in winter. Jewel also smokes like a chimney. I'm sure her breathe has set off many a smoke alarm in local dinning establishments. But lately she has been taking to leaving the cigarette butts in the gardens and tan bark. Just the other day, I was outside pottering about and picked up with gloved hands, 20 -30 butts in the tan barked garden!!!!! Now you know I love me a well tended garden and the environment, and I'd hate to see any wildlife eat them. I have nothing against others habits, hell, I enjoy a good cigar two or three times a year, and others smoke here and always take a container of water or ashtray out with them. Not this bitch. Who does this lazy cow thinks she is spreading her dirty butts around?!?!? I have since sent off a eloquent email to the property management to address this issue. And if it's not....next time out, I'll light her god damn cigarette for her.....with my can of Aqua Net.
I may be sweet, prim and proper...but I'd HATE TO GO all Beverly Sutphin on her ASS! She won't like me when I'm mad.
One of my favorite pioneers in the world of drag and impersonation was Charles Pierce, who you may recognize.
The blazing career of the self-proclaimed “male actress” Charles Pierce was launched in the clubs of San Francisco around the time the struggle for gay rights was kicked into full gear with the Stonewall riots on the opposite coast. With his dead-on satirical send-ups of screen immortals such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Tallulah Bankhead, Pierce quickly earned a devoted fan following and it was common to see celebrities of the day ranging from Lucille Ball to Anthony Hopkins in his audience. One celebrity admirer, Bea Arthur, became a very close friend and paid tribute to him in her one-woman show. Before his death in 1999, Pierce had also racked up an impressive acting resume with guest spots on popular TV series Laverne & Shirley and Designing Women and in Harvey Fierstein’s seminal queer film Torch Song Trilogy. The late performerhad a forty-plus year career. He pioneered the art of female impersonation. Careers like RuPaul,Charles Busch and Lypsinka owe a lot to Charles and he hascontinued influence on drag performers everywhere. One of my favorite clips of Charles was of Mae West.
While I like winter, many of you can find it the cruelest month, but fear not.I found a way to sooth your pain this week in the Candy Shop. This one is a fine aged, melt in your mouth, like one of those fine dark chocolates filled with liqueur.
Farhad Z isn’t just a pretty face, and body, with snuggle-up chest hair that brings the macho back to men, he’s a 47-year-old Iranian/American who’s made a documentary film, has a Masters Degree from Columbia University, speaks fluent Persian, and has a much appreciated sense of humor. Farhad has no problems with his age, but does think it’s not the most marketable look for men. He's been quoted as saying- “They’re looking for overly juiced up body types, hairless, thin,” he says, adding, “I had one agency tell me I should do hair-dye commercials. Colton Ford looks great, there’s Aiden Shaw, Anderson Cooper. But age is such a big hang up in our culture.” HUH, after seeing these pictures, I couldn't disagree more. I don't know I have ever mentioned I like older silver foxes...MAJOR WEAKNESS of mine. Those eyes alone have made me get it bad...and that ain't good.
Drag Queens have become a popular fixture in the entertainment industry over the years, but their trousered counterparts – Drag Kings – are less widely known of. In fact, women have been dressing as men and ‘performing masculinity’ on stage for centuries, from regency actresses in breeches to music hall stars in top hats and tails. Here is a rundown of the long history of the drag king.
Throughout history, women have generally been prevented from acting in public, from as far back as ancient Greece. Instead, women’s parts were played by male actors in drag, which probably started the whole drag thing, and well into the Shakespearean era. The first woman to tread the English boards was in 1629, as part of a visiting French company – she was booed off the stage.
Vaudeville consisted of variety acts including comedy sketches and sing-alongs to popular songs. Both male and female impersonators were sought after acts.
Vesta Tilly was the most successful male impersonator of her day, touring both Britain and America for more than three decades. A child star, Tilly first appeared on stage when she was three years old, with her father who was a comedy actor. At six, she appeared dressed as a boy for the first time, singing opera. After this, she preferred to perform in exclusively male clothes.
Tilly was largely a comedic actress, most famously in the part of the London ‘swell’ Burlington Bertie, strutting across the stage in a tuxedo and flirting with the girls in the audience. Her songs such as ‘Following in Father’s Footsteps’, ‘The girls I’ve left behind me’ and ‘Naughty Boy’, portrayed a rakish young ‘man about town’, though she also performed more sentimental love songs directed at women.
Another popular entertainer was Ella Shields, an American woman from Baltimore who became famous in the London Halls for her parody of Vesta Tilly’s ‘Burlington Bertie’. Shields’ version was ‘Burlington Bertie from Bow’ – a young man who dressed the part of an aristocrat without the money to match.Shields toured the world as a male impersonator, and was known as ‘Bertie’ rather than Ella almost everywhere she went.
During the heyday of Music Hall (from the mid-1800s to the 1920s) it was also common for male impersonation acts to play soldier boys – adopting the uniforms of the British army in the Boer and First World wars. Hetty King popularized a number of songs from the trenches of World War One in her 1916 act ‘Songs the Soldiers Sing’.
The first male impersonator to become famous in America was an English performer, Annie Hindle, who immigrated to New York City in 1868. Hindle toured the country and was extremely successful, earning rave reviews wherever she went.
While Vesta Tilly, Ella Shields and Hetty King all generally dressed in women’s clothes in their private lives and all married men, Annie Hindle’s career came to an abrupt end in 1886 when she fell in love with and married her dresser – Annie Ryan. Hindle dressed in male attire for the Baptist ceremony, giving the name Charles. This was not to be her last marriage; by 1892 Ryan had passed away and Hindle was re-married to a woman called Louise Spanghel.
By the 1920s Music Hall and Vaudeville were in decline due to the advent of cinema as well as the American Depression. Social norms and gender identity continued to be challenged in other ways – step in Gladys Bentley.A hugely talented jazz pianist and singer, Bentley began her career as a nightclub singer in a gay speakeasy in Harlem.
Bentley, a lesbian was big, bold and irreverent. She performed dressed in a white tuxedo and top hat, sang raunchy songs backed up by a chorus line of drag queens and flirted wildly with the women in the audience. She even claimed to have married another woman. The rise of McCarthyism in America meant that Gladys Bentley had to tone down her act. She began to wear dresses, married a man and, even more tragically, attempted to ‘cure’ herself of homosexuality. Bentley was not the only LGBT woman to come out of the Harlem Renaissance. Other popular Jazz singers included Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, both of whom had relationships with other women.
And we can't forget this legendary king.On 28th June 1969, the New York police carried out a raid on the Stonewall Inn.
Things began to escalate when a woman – described by witnesses as a ‘typical New York butch’ was escorted into a police wagon from which she repeatedly escaped, running back into the crowd each time.Since that night, the woman has been called ‘the Rosa Parks of the gay community’ and has been identified by witnesses and by herself as Stormé DeLarverie, a butch lesbian drag performer. DeLarverie had already made a name for herself on the entertainment circuit as a drag king, and had been photographed by Diane Arbus. She performed as part of the Jewel Box Revue, America’s first racially integrated drag revue during the ‘50s and ‘60s. Even after Stonewall, Stormé DeLarverie continued to serve New York’s LGBT community. In the ‘80s and ‘90s she worked as a bouncer in various lesbian bars and was also the Chief of Security and later Vice President of the Stonewall Veterans Association.
A modern day king I enjoy immensely is Murray Hill.
A former fixture of the downtown Village scene, Murray Hill is making a wing-tipped footprint in the mainstream arena, traversing stages, states and seas to find his next act, whether as an emcee to a burlesque show, a standup comedian, a film sidekick or a television personality. Riding on the success of such shows as RuPaul’s Drag Race, Hill’s success has also become emblematic of the burgeoning transgender performance scene, once just simply known as “drag”.He is Mr Showbiz, the hardest working man in the biz and a true delight every time he hits the stage. His self-deprecating humor and entertaining skills are legendary.
Next time you have the chance to see a drag KING show...go! Their just as entertaining as the queens.