LOST IN TRANSPLOITATION
Ask any drag hag (girls who love boys who dress up like girls) why we’re so enthralled by the queens, and most will tell ya it’s about the fun, fearlessness, and yes, fierceness they convey. Nightranger has always supported transgendered/cross-dressing/poly-sexual party peeps and entertainers, especially when it comes to the color and creativity these communities have brought to L.A. nightlife, and getting to know many of them personally over the years has been eye-opening — and we’re not just talking about perfecting our shadow/lash/brow technique. The appeal of performers like RuPaul, Jackie Beat, Jer Ber Jones and Momma, for example, goes way beyond the novelty of a dude in a dress. They are writers, illusionists and provocateurs. More important, they are artists — artists with one hell of a canvas.
We’ve always admired the talent and glamorous getups, but we’d never really thought too deeply about the feelings and identity issues behind the quotable quips and glitter-glazed lips. Well, at least not before last Wednesday night’s Ultra Fabulous, Beyond Drag: Part Deux at the Downtown Independent Theater. Created by photographer Austin Young and Saskia Wilson-Brown, the series was first screened in 2007 as part of the Silver Lake Film Festival, and last week’s follow-up sought to probe the “transploitation” genre (as the creators have coined it) further, with short films and music videos by and about their favorite gender-blender superstars. There was plenty of the expected laughs and flash, sure, but the work was also compelling, complex and downright educational, notably Calpernia Addams’ “Bad Questions to Ask a Transsexual” (which has more than a million hits on You Tube), Beat’s video for “Don’t Tell Me You’re Gay” (an anthem for gaydar-less gals searching for Mr. Right, set to the beat of Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way”), Chris “Leave Britney Alone!” Crocker’s discussion of his sexuality, and Zackary Drucker’s powerful piece, “You Will Never Be a Woman” (which we won’t even try to explain here). Just watch it on his Web site, zackarydrucker.com.
A panel discussion with Beat, Zucker, Addams and Buck Angel — the world’s most famous female-to-male trans porn star (a.k.a. “the man with a vagina”) — was even more enlightening, even when the conversation was comedic, and fittingly we had two major revelations: 1) human beings are so much more than their genitalia (if we all accepted this, maybe the marriage issue would be moot) and 2) only queens, trannies and cholas can pull off really dark lip liner. Alexis Arquette (who knows a thing or two about the former, though not the latter; she was pretty in pink hair and zebra print), Selene Luna, Miss Barbie Q and the rest of the adorned theater denizens seemed absorbed throughout, though we found another group of gals having more mindless fun out front, posing for pics with the winos from the ranchero bar next door. We got in on that shutterbugging, of course, especially when our favorite superfreaks Squeaky Blonde and Fade-dra Phey brought their masked mayhem to the sidewalk.
NEW ZOO REVUE
When it comes to tweaking typical cross-dress aesthetics, nobody in L.A. does it quite like Squeaky and her “drag-daughter” Fade-dra. The pair’s enigmatic personas and mind-blowing ensembles (signature looks consist of face-concealing head stockings, fright-wigs, creepy eye makeup and refashioned goth gear) have been featured in this column many times, but we’ve always wondered what was under the flamboyant facades. So it was like finally seeing the great Oz behind the wizard’s curtain last Monday night when Young presented a special Ultra-Fab preview event featuring “Tranimal Makeovers” from the pair at Machine Project’s space on Alvarado. On display and undone, the duo was looking boyish, if not quite bearish as they transformed several dozen brave — and for the most part boring looking — subjects into cartoonish club-kid creatures in their likeness. Young took before and after shots (which were projected at the screening days later). “We’re not your typical drag queens,” said Squeaky (who shockingly rocks a beard when not in war paint). “We’re trashy gutter girls.”
A glance around made that obvious. One side of the room was plastered with past looks and pieces worn by the pair after countless eves of excess, a wall of shame of sorts covered with blush and booze smudged facial stockings, broken heels, scuffed platform boots, crusty girdles, matted wigs, dirty bras and even a big plastic faux butt. The last was surprising considering a scheduled “tucking” tutorial was scrapped after it came to light that Squeak and Fade are “philosophically opposed” to the penis-concealing practice. Guess when it comes to drag, whatever floats your boat goes.
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WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
Getting tranimalized in Echo Park is one thing, but participants looked so good, they just couldn’t let it go to waste amid the American Apparel set. So off they herded to Mustache Mondays at La Cita, where Phey often hosts the midnight show, and none other than Peaches was buzzed to be doing a surprise performance. Though a bit drag-drained (for once), we were all set to join, when we got a text tip that Mz. P (whose beau was set to DJ but got sick) would be a no-show. Her tour opener, Amanda Blank, did end up making an appearance that eve, though not on the mic. The Mustache boys have been busier than ever these days, it seems. Mondays are still madness, but the guys also have a new party called Weave (which semi-regularly sprouts up at various spots around downtown such as the Alexandria Hotel, and more recently — and riotously — the new fashion/music/artspace Freak City in Hollywood). There’s also a new weekly called Taste at M House (a.k.a. Asian eatery Dinner House M). With semihidden locales, underground vibes and, of course, plenty of tranimals and S/heenas trolling about, this is one party pack making sure it’s still a jungle out there.