You couldnt help but feel like one of Gods chillun when drag mama LADY SIMONE belted out some righteous down-home gospel under the big top at at the Beach, the biggest, baddest, blackest, gayest, proudest beach bash around, now in its 12th year at POINT DUME. Hordes of Speedo-sportin and bikini-clad chocolate queer kiddies camped out on the beach to get a taste of MEDUSAs (pictured) mad lyrical science on the events main stage, where earlier comedian D.D. RAINBOW got a few laughs followed by some soulful crooning from trio MOSA and vocalist TRACY KENNEDY. The days highlight was the diva competition, where grand drag illusionists looked like a bevy of vogueing dreamgirls doing a guest spot on Baywatch. The lineup of glamorous transgendered Nubian hotties overshadowed the equally intense hard-body competition, where a batch of bulked-up n beefy gay bros flexed, pranced and posed for the judges and the hootin crowds. While mobs of butch sista gals clamored to get a better view of the curvaceous crew of real girls vying against each other for the hot-body title, we shimmied on back to the big top, where a soul saver in his own right, house DJ BEN, took us back to the sweat-soaked glory days of Catch One, creating some fierce Disco Heat on the beach. Sylvester would have been proud!
Saturday at ECHO PARK LAKEs annual LOTUS FESTIVAL, which draws our citys diverse cultures together to celebrate L.A.s Asian community, a new strain of lotus was introduced. The specimen: Resting on one water-lily pad, tantalizingly near the shore, one could observe a shiny nickel, clearly just minted. Later, it was gone. Harvested? If grown in greater numbers, the cash-bearing lotus would contribute greatly toward leveling the worlds financial inequities. The Lotus Fest offered other attractions. You could eat food: Thai, Chinese and Thai-Chinese. You could watch a small child in shimmering gilt-edged garb dance to prerecorded ritual percussion (Thai? Chinese?). You could Ride the Dragon. You could laugh with a Chinese comedian (Have you heard the one about Taiwan?). You could listen to South Pacific islanders from Tonga play their native music (roots reggae). You could buy colorful aboriginal didgeridoos made in Hawaii. You could witness multiethnic musicians demonstrating the exotic sounds of their indigenous rolands and yamahas. KURT COBAIN was in the audience, digging it. He looked pretty good, considering. Toward the end, as a superblast of red fireworks silhouetted the tall, supple palms, you might have been inspired, as a tribute to Independence Day, to found your own new country. Or world. But apparently thats been done.
The OUTFEST opening-night reception, awards ceremony, screening and after-party at the grand ORPHEUM THEATER (where beloved JUDY was discovered) turned out to be quite the gala spec-tack-u-laire. Speeches went on for over an hour, with much horn tooting and congratulating. LILY TOMLIN presented awards to filmmakers ROB EPSTEIN and JEFFREY FRIEDMAN, and a manic RuPAUL in male drag introduced the documentary (which he also narrated) The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a genius choice for kicking off this years fest. In the film, the one-of-a-kind TAMMY FAYE BAKKER MESSNER blots her tears and white-knuckles her Betty Ford Clinic triumphs. And then theres that makeup. In one scene, makeup artist ROZ MUSIC is about to paint Tammys face, and Tammy explains that the lip liner, eyeliner and eyebrows are permanent, but the look on Rozs face said this was no ordinary cosmetic tattoo job. Amongst the thousands present for the screening and after-party were K.D. LANG with the Murmurs LEISHA HAILEY, CHASTITY BONO, LESLEY ANN WARREN, screenwriter ALAN BALL, director/screenwriter KEVIN WILLIAMSON, wardrobe mistress SUSAN MATHESON, DR. VAGINAL DAVIS (looking a little plucked that RuPauls boy look was identical to her own), eternal John Waters star and Glue advice columnist MINK STOLE, Out magazine photo editor NANCY NATHAN, photographer DINO DANKO, artist CONNIE SAMARAS, and ever-happy to be everywhere CANDY ASS. With all the drag queens at the after-party, there was a desperate scramble for the false eyelashes and tubes of mascara party favors. Those Eyes of Tammy souvenirs were snatched up faster than you could say Praise the Lord!
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Roll, Truck, Roll
Burbank Mexican restaurant VIVA FRESH, where the music is terrific and the service abysmal, recently pulled off a tremendous coup when house bandleader and booker CODY BRYANT managed to not only get Bakersfield country-music legend RED SIMPSON down to L.A. County, he assembled a band good enough to inspire Simpson to really work for his tequila. With Bryant on guitar, BRANTLEY KEARNS on fiddle and the unbelievably great veteran ax man AL BRUNO providing a stunning, wide-open sound, Simpson growled through classics like his own Highway Patrol and Hello Im a Truck, then threw down some recent unrecorded originals such as Til Ugly Gets Pretty and Ethels Corral, a song about a lowdown Bakersfield tonk thats located, Simpson lovingly crooned, halfway between the dump and the cemetery. The crowd, a hardcore handful that included faux-tiger-fur-swathed former Shindig go-go girl SYLVIA FLOWERS, positively gorged on Simpsons unorthodox, scowling presence and wild, stuttering takeoff guitar style executed with his hand draped over the fret board. Despite a history of hard knocks, rotten publishing deals and a cancerous nose (life is pretty weird in Bakersfield), Simpson delivered a couple of beautiful sets, highlighted by some decidedly caustic patter: Any MERLE HAGGARD fans here? he asked. Applause. All right! Any BUCK OWENS fans? Cheers. A pause. Red sneered, Who cares? Owens recorded about 35 of Reds songs, but Red still lives in a double-wide. Prestige doesnt put groceries on the table.
Jonny WhitesideEdited By Kateri Butler