Last night I went to my first real New York drag show, hooray! It was the best. I got to participate and everything.
I’m so glad my friends Xio and Tony decided to take me to this particular show for my first outing: Anger Management at Therapy on 52nd. Unfortunately, the pun of “Anger Management at Therapy” is terrible SEO and I cannot find any information about the show online or at the club’s website.
Clubs have the worst websites, can we all agree?
Anyway, you’ll have to take my word for it: Logan Hardcore and Bianca del Rio, every Wednesday at 11.
I arrived at the club wearing my new sequined leopard-print sheath dress, which I had nearly torn straight from the hands of another size 8 at a clothing swap. I had asked my lifepartner when I put it on at home, “Does this dress look stupid? Do you think a drag queen will make fun of me for wearing it?”
Lifepartner didn’t even look up from the yoga ball he was inflating. (We all have our New Year’s resolutions!) “Sweetie, a drag queen will definitely make fun of you. It doesn’t matter what you wear.”
The bitch was right, I knew. So I wore the dress despite the anxiety. And as we sat on upper stage right waiting for the show to start, Bianca came up and said to me, “Love the dress.” I thanked her, maybe a little too profusely, because she frowned and said, “That was an enthusiastic reaction.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was just so afraid that…” I leaned in to whisper, “someone might make fun of me for it.”
Looking back, this was probably the moment one might categorize as a misstep.
Bianca looked at me like I had just fallen off the back of the truck yesterday. Well, she was not far off. “Enjoy the show,” she said.
Logan performed a few lip syncs, but the bulk of the act was audience participation, which is like improv for drag queens. You have probably experienced a similar performance (minus the hair and dresses) at a television show’s audience warm-up or something. The idea is to pick a few people out of the crowd and, either gently or harshly, poke fun at them for everyone’s amusement. As you might have guessed from my pollyannaish “here, Miss Drag Queen, allow me to tell you about my vulnerabilities” outlook, I am sometimes uncomfortable with this type of act. I am not very good at being mean, and in normal life, I don’t understand meanness in others. I am still learning how to identify what a person is most self-conscious about and attack it with such precision.
Side note! I am sure not all drag shows revolve around reading us poor sods for laughs, but reading is a skill drag queens should have, yeah? I mean, when you’re an eight-foot-tall man in a dress, you should probably be good at slinging shit at people before they sling shit at you. The skin, it must be thick, right?
What I’m trying to say is, in the context of the drag show, the audience is prepared for this and, in a way, consents to possible meanness in exchange for possible laughs and free drinks. Everyone is supposed to be a good sport about it. And by and large, everyone was. There was one strange man who seemed a little too drunk for 11 pm; he was escorted out after he tried to climb the stage, but not before Logan called him some really creative names.
Anyway! I’m just putting off the inevitable, aren’t I? You’ve already correctly guessed from the foreshadowing that I was dragged up on stage along with three other poor sods. I wasn’t even surprised when they called for the “little lesbian in the leopard dress.” I was just smiled and did my Ditzy Lady.
A quick word on The Ditzy Lady: this is a character my mom used to play when she wanted to get her way with strangers who didn’t know she wasn’t actually stupid. My future feminist self should probably be more angry at the tactic, but my baby self loved it because it combined theatre with lying. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to drag queens? Is it lying when everyone knows the hair isn’t real? Anyway. Ditzy Lady. Out she came. I just wanted to be easygoing and give the queens plenty of chances to get some jokes in. Not that they needed my help; we were all of us a mess.
But the strangest thing of the whole night, stranger than the dance-off that the paralegal in leather pants won hands down, was that the queens never made fun of my dress.
Here is a list of things they could have used in their act re: my dress:
1. My ass was hanging out of it.
2. The cut kind of made my shoulders look like those of a line-backer.
3. It was clearly from H&M like, two or three seasons ago.
4. I kept forgetting it was a dress and not a sensible pair of trousers, and I kept running my hands down my hips searching for pockets while I stood fidgeting on stage.
Not one word on these deficiencies. In fact, they went out of their way to say how nice the dress was during the act. Well, of course they would say that; it was covered in sequins, just like Logan’s leotard. But I choose to think that maybe, possibly, they were actually worried about hurting my feelings. Maybe mean queens do have hearts of gold. Maybe they saw something of their proto-queen selves in me. I snatched that dress from the swap, after all, with visions of my drag heroes in my head. If I learn nothing from my drag research, it’s that there’s nothing wrong with being shiny. I think the queens might have appreciated that.
But that didn’t stop them from making fun of my giant lesbian boots. Oh well, we must all make sacrifices, mustn’t we?
For my next drag outing, I hope to see Peppermint at Barracuda. Very excited, Xio recommends her highly!
Tags: drag show