My love of drag started in 1972, when I attended the first Miss Gay American pageant. The night of the first pageant I made friends with one of the performers and he became the person who helped me to get through one of the most painful times of my life. I was 29 and everything was falling apart. Mr. Danni Ross helped me hold it together. (Sidenote: back then “impersonating a female” was against the law, so the queens had to be introduced as Mister, just to make sure they weren’t trying to fool anyone.) Through my friendship with him I met several other queens and became a regular at Jerry Peek’s Watch Your Hat and Coat Saloon, on Nashville’s Second Avenue. Jerry started the Miss Gay America Pageant and I love it that they always honor him at the performances. Jerry is a perfect example of graciousness and a real role model as well. He and his partner, Joe Heatherly, have been together for decades. I am always happy to see Jerry and Joe.
The years have rolled by fairly quickly and I still love drag. My precious friend Arnold Myint/Suzy Wong brought me back into the thick of this world a few years ago and I have loved going to pageants with him and photographing Suzy. His original makeup artist, Andrew Pentecost, whose drag persona is Angel Electra, has become my adopted son. In fact (another side note) if I did have a son I would probably be quite disappointed if he didn’t do drag.
This weekend Arnold, our girlfriend Candace Keller, and I, rented a nice little Air B&B in Memphis for a weekend of pageantry. Andrew/Angel joined us for Saturday night and it was just a wonderful time with my friends. I really savored the moments as it is rare to have this kind of time together with people who mean so much to me. I don’t take friendships and special people for granted. I try to freeze the moments in my life that make me happy so that I will always remember those times. I have been very blessed to have married Fred Ellis. He has never given me any grief about my love for drag. He doesn’t share my interest, but he cuts me the slack to enjoy it. He is friends with my friends, and I am thankful he doesn’t get weird when I load up with Arnold and head for a pageant.
The performance highlight of my weekend was seeing the great Charity Case. Charity is a Miss Gay America and a very, very fine performer. To watch someone who has mastered this craft over the years is a rare privilege. Her performances move me, and I love the woman that Mark Coleman/Charity has created—very strong, quite glamorous, and a true performance artist.
I have no doubt in my mind that I will always love drag. Some love tennis, some love football, others–golf. Drag is my SuperBowl. (Thanks for the concept, Arnold). I get lost in it. I like to get there early, get a good seat, and completely lock in to the performances. I like to take the photos, tip the queens, and shout encouragement. I can see into my crystal ball that Fred and I are going to be spending more and more time living in Mexico as the years roll forward. I also predict that I will schedule some trips back to El Norte for some drag shows. There is nothing like a good drag show.