As one holiday song laments someone wanting only their two front teeth for Christmas, I personally want a good, old-fashioned Christmas drag show!
It seems the more popular mainstream America has gotten into drag (thank you, RuPaul), the less old-fashioned drag shows are around. There was a time when drag was really campy and performers oftentimes were amateurs, belting back drinks to muster the courage to stagger onto stage and do their number. It was all done in fun, and although the money grabbing (“lettuce picking”) was around, back in the day, it was nothing like it has become in recent years. Some are so busy collecting bills they don’t even attempt to lip-sync anymore.
In olden days the Christmas drag shows were a lot of fun and always highly anticipated. You never knew who might come from behind the curtain, draped in red sequins and green feathers with candy canes attached, and belt out Santa Baby. It was all fun and usually the proceeds went to some local charity.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some great Christmas drag shows on the island. The lovely Ladies of Lafitte’s put on quite a show and at Rumors the gals do a great job of RuPaul type drag. Still, there needs to be an amateur show, an employee turnabout shows or just an open stage show. These are the fun aspects of drag: surprise and sometimes shock!
These days there are fewer and fewer venues for drag on the island.
With rumors that Rumors is closing this month, that will leave the legendary Lafitte to carry on the powdered, puffed and tucked tradition. The late Robert Mainer started something that we hope will never go away from the island. Still bringing in the crowds and thrilling patrons, gay and straight, the shows on Ave Q are something to see, especially if there is a holiday number or two.
Some of the older queens are still out there, hitting the stage now and then (especially for fundraisers and community projects) but it seems the funny acts and parodies are fading fast. The hazy nights of C.C. Ryder wooing the crowd and Misty Valdez performing the best lip-syncs ever seen on stage seem to be getting few and far between. Carley Davin Nation can still poke fun at herself through a song or some outrageous stage skit and does so knowing she is being funny and entertaining. Don’t get me wrong — there is a place for serious drag, and the illusionists, if you will, do a fantastic job.
Most of the performers today are heavily involved in a trans life and they make it work for them, especially on stage. We all know them and honestly, we think of them as beautiful women, even when we run into them outside of a club or show. They have a role to perform and we are grateful for them in our island community.
To me, campy drag (my favorite) is usually best when some average Joe with a desire to dress and get on stage paints up, powders up (may keep his moustache or beard) and struts to a number that he has rehearsed at home alone with a stiff bourbon and water and a blue hairbrush for a mic. Oh, there are flaws and the act certainly does not meet the serious level of our local regular performers, but still, it is fun. It makes us laugh. The song choices, the costumes, the entire get-up is campy and fun!
Let’s hope this Christmas there will be some Christmas drag and lots of torch and twang in the songs. Everyone loves a good drag show, even some who outwardly oppose anything LGBTQ — hypocrites, we call ‘em. It is all about entertaining and making folks happy, especially at Christmas.
Maybe some evening yours truly will climb on a Christmas decorated stage a do a number or two. Though I love them, mine won’t be “Santa Baby” or “Last Christmas”, not even “All I Want for Christmas is You”, but something more along the lines of Loretta’s “Christmas Without Daddy” or Tammy’s “Lonely Christmas Call”. Either way you can bet a lot of Christmas cheer will have gone down the hatch before I ascend the stage.
Let’s put the drag back on Christmas!
Wishing a very merry, painted-up Christmas to all — even the hypocrites!