This might entertain you.
It might not.
Really, it’s a lil good old therapeutic bitching for mine truly.
I went to bed content last night. Then I woke up…happy. Tired, still, but feeling happy. Before my feet hit the floor, I could feel that happy buzz ebbing. I know the Grumpopotamus is coming and I want to complain about what sent me to bed happy last night before it gets stampeded by it.
You see, I got to spend some social time with good folks last night. That right there is enough to make me content.
I found out around Little Buddy’s birthday that she’d never been to see the world famous drag show at Darcelle’s. Over the course of the next several months, we were able to coordinate a date to rectify that. Her husband, 2.0, is an unusually game fella and agreed to come along and the Silver Fox surprised me by accepting my invite.
I love that I have such an interesting group of friends! I can invite my best friend, a late in life gay, and one of my closest straight friends to a drag show and I expect my gay friend to decline but am not surprised that my straight friend is up for it.
My world is topsy turvy most of the time, but it’s a world with really. good. company.
Anyway, we go to the show because if you live in Portland…you go. Little Buddy having never been was a situation that needed to be corrected. I probably average a visit annually through no real effort and am familiar with the routine and several of the performers, but there is a drag sub-culture here that brings in a pretty steady crowd for their Wednesday-Sunday show schedule.
That’s nice, seeing a three-quarter full venue on a Wednesday night made me feel good for some reason. Sure, that reason might have only been relief that it wasn’t just my foursome and two bridal parties in the crowd.
The rest of the house was made up of relatively normal people, including a world famous (in Hood River, OR) stylist who was celebrating her 40th birthday.
Y’know, I just realized that I misspoke. The rest of the crowd wasn’t normal. There were four people celebrating birthdays in the audience last night, including two women who thought someone putting a microphone in their hand was an invitation to take over.
The aforementioned 40 year old – who world famously styled her double plus figure into some stretchy jeans and an open back top that looked like it was just a repurposed animal print bathroom curtain – was making the bridal parties look normal, and one of the brides was wearing a veil with dick horns on it. Her combination afforded me the opportunity to learn that she was wearing lacy underwear. I saw enough fabric over her waistband to make myself a pair of lacy underwear and enough skin to make Buffalo Bill break out his sewing machine, so that was nice and ughy. World Famous Stylist…
The second woman preventing us from being a normal audience was celebrating her 23rd. She was a “nurse” from a town whose population is just a couple unplanned high school pregnancies away from officially being “podunk” called Banks. Before she spoke, The Fox and I had referred to her as The Kardashian after seeing her tip the performers because…well, just close your eyes and think “Kardashian”. Whatever image pops into your head is exactly what she looked like. She had trouble answering the few questions Darcelle asks the birthday celebrants: how old are you, where are you from, what do you do…these are all questions that just function as set ups for Darcelle’s schtick. However, when the answer to “What do you do?” was “Uuuuhhh, I’m a – uuhh…nurse!” I think even Darcelle was momentarily surprised.
Or worried that she would one day soon be her nurse. Maybe she was scared.
You see, Darcelle is 87. As she pointed out, 88 in 100 days and she might need a nurse sooner rather than later.
I hope it’s not this nurse. We all agreed that she was likely the type of nurse that catered to rich old men with heart conditions…
Darcelle is the world’s oldest performing drag queen. She’s been doing her show at her own venue since 1967 and won an Emmy recently for a documentary about her story.
Holding a microphone is not an invitation to upstage her.
And this is why I went to bed happy last night. I got to watch this entertainer do what she’s been doing for half a century in the company of some very good friends. Any experience you can share with good friends is worth the price of admission. Watching Darcelle tolerate the antics of a Kardashian Nurse that weighed less than the wig and sequined full length dress she was wearing despite the fact that Darcelle’s age makes navigating her own showroom a physically challenging task was inspiring to me as a casually grumpy old man that barely tolerated the workplace shenanigans at my last job.
I felt pretty sure that old Walter Cole perfectly understood his place in the hierarchy of that room last night. I could sense it in his posture. The 23 year old didn’t realize that too soon she’d be some incarnation of that 40 year old world famous stylist who didn’t realize that she could call herself whatever she wanted while she was holding that microphone – go ahead, it’s your birthday – but that she’d failed to understand that she was standing in front of a soon to be 88 year old man, dressed in a gown that by itself probably weighed 40 lbs, wearing a two foot tall wig and enough makeup to paint the inside of the room we were all sharing who had been doing it for a decade longer than this 40 year old had been on this earth and she would never be him.
On top of that history in front of us, we also got to see some fun, campy lip syncing performances.
The entertainers ebb and flow throughout the week, depending on their day jobs and other gigs. The DQ I’ve known the longest – Bolivia Carmichaels – is the resident hostess at CC Slaughters right next door and leaves Darcelle’s after the 8:00 show to do a 10:00 show there. That’s a lot of work behind a microphone. Servers typically work 4-6 hour shifts…because taking care of people is hard. Bolivia taking care of people by serving up entertainment for 4 hours, in drag, largely unscripted?
That’s hard work.
I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t even know how to start. But I know that sassing a Drag Queen isn’t going to make me famous for anything other than being obnoxious. Darcelle gives a talk toward the end of the show about how every performer she hires learns their schtick by laughing at themselves first and the audience second. It’s a good lesson. People who are self-anointed as world famous or whose biggest accomplishment to date was finding a dress that was short enough have not yet mastered this lesson.
I’d bet they missed it last night, too.
But Darcelle still came out and did my favorite number, Rhinestone Cowboy. Even if it was an abbreviated version because she’s almost 88!
We got to see the present company do a Crying Game worthy version of Hey Big Spender from…Sweet Charity? That absolutely brought the house down.
I missed seeing the company do it’s Cellblock Tango. But it needs more than three queens to make it work.
However, in the end? Penis headdresses and world famous pretenders couldn’t rub the luster off a great experience with great people.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’ve got a spin class to get to. I’m hoping some endorphins will help keep the Grumpopotamus at bay!