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L.A.'s A Drag: The Reign of Raja, Tranzkuntinental (and Adam Lambert) On Stage and the Dance Floor

Vicky Vox and Willam Belli rock their disco sticks.
Vicky Vox and Willam Belli rock their disco sticks.
Lina Lecaro

"Don't be a drag, just be a queen!" It may be one of Lady Gaga's most popular lyrics, but in 2011, it's more than just a catchy play on words. We've been celebrating the madness and moxie that drives L.A.'s crossdresser and gay club culture for some time and it seems that more than ever, it's permeated the mainstream and music in particular. From Adam Lambert's androgynous hair and makeup (and the legions of straight girls obsessed with them ... yeah, we noticed) to the rising popularity of RuPaul's Drag Race with both gay and straight audiences (the show's season finale last Monday night - which crowned L.A.'s own Raja the "next drag superstar" -- capped off its highest rated & most streamed season ever)

to the (glossed) word of mouth buzz on Tranzkuntinental(a group of straight rock studs fronted by L.A.'s best known drag royalty), queens are ruling entertainment.

Kelly Mantle hits a home run on stage.
Kelly Mantle hits a home run on stage.
Lina Lecaro

Saturday, Tranz K offered a riffed-up tribute to Gaga at Club Bang! in Hollywood, a night that brought out a multi-mix of ages and sexual preferences for a melding and medley of the singer's best known tunes. (Their "Born This Way"/"Express Yourself" mashup may be the best we've heard, arrangement-wise). Though the lead musicians -- guitarists Xander Smith and Charlie Paulson -- were also in the house band of '90s glam slam Club Makeup (same promoters behind Club Bang!), they've definitely modernized the concept both with the mash-up element and with a new host of lady boys: Willam Belli (best known for her compelling stint on Nip/Tuck), Kelly Mantle (gorgeous brunette performer and baseball great Mickey's nephew!) and Detox Icunt (a shapely she-male dynamo seen in countless music videos and clubs about town), to name a few. The band's potential for cross-over success is perhaps most notable at its House of Blues gigs, where they've been opening up regularly for the uber-testosterock metal mania of Steel Panther. Tranz could easily fit in on the tribute circuit that's given Panther a viable touring career as well as sold out L.A. shows.

Detox's hot lix.
Detox's hot lix.
Lina Lecaro

Drag, androgynous dress-up and pan-sexual partying in L.A. is a two degrees of separation situation. Smith plays with Lambert's guitarist Monte Pittman (who also played with Madonna herself), and you'll find all of the above queens performing regularly at Rage's Dreamgirl Revue (where the RDR3 premiere party was held) and at Hamburger Mary's in WeHo. Drag winner Sutan Amrull aka Raja Gemini (a BFF with Lambert) performs at these spots as well. All of the above along with some of our other flamboyant faves (Rhea Litre, Phyliss Navidad, Miss Barbie-Q, "tranimals" Squeaky Blonde and Fade-Dra Phey, Ingenue, and seasoned queens like Momma, who also fronts Tranz) can be seen hanging and/or performing at clubs such as Mr. Black, Mustache Mondays, and FuBar. Many got their first taste of gender blending at clubs such as Makeup and the legendary Dragstrip 66 before that.

Jackie Beat, a fixture at both clubs over the years, has been incorporating robust vocals with biting commentary via parodies and even a bonafide dance band, Dirty Sanchez (with club promoter Mario Diaz and DJ Barbeau). And Alexis Arquette went beyond her family's famous name to become arguably, Los Angeles' most famous transsexual via acting and performing (she's also an occasional singing guest at Tranz K's show). And let's not forget RuPaul herself, whose hit, "Supermodel (You Better Work)" has become the ultimate fierce-on-the-floor dance anthem. She's still making music, too.

Can Raja rule the charts?
Can Raja rule the charts?

And now it looks like Raja (who also has a successful career as a makeup artist, most notably on America's Next Top Model) is parlaying the notoriety gained from winning Drag Race into a music career too, releasing an electro-house single, "Diamond Crowned Queen," this week. L.A. is a huge inspiration, she says. The performer tells us, "All my of my friends, relationships, friendships, alliances have been made thorough L.A. nightlife. It allowed me to meet and work with Josh Peace [Mustache Mondays] who has been a longtime friend, and collaborate with Orlando Puerta [longtime music biz tastemaker and head of Citrusonic Flavor] and Eddie Amador, who I have always loved and admired."

"Being around people like Adam really inspired me to want to work with music more. It peaked my interest and curiosity," adds Raja. "The only advice Adam has given me is how to deal with newfound fame. I look forward to hearing what he has to say after hearing it!"

NEW UPDATE TUES. 5/3/11: We've learned from our friends at Mustache Mondays, that Raja will be performing her new track live at the club for its Memorial Day party on May 30!

UPDATE: Just got word that Raja will be doing a special performance at Metro Mondayz at Fubar TONIGHT (5/2/11) along with aformentioned Detox, Rhea Litre, Vicky and more. FB invite here.

- "Diamond Crowned Queen" will be available on iTunes tomorrow.

- Raja's next L.A. appearance will be opening up for Dita Von Teese at the Roxy, May 17-18. She'll also be on a float at Gay Pride in WeHo in June.

- The RuPaul's Drag Race Reunion Special airs tonight on LOGO TV.

- Tranzkuntinental will playing with Steel Panther at House of Blues, this Monday, May 9.

- Tranz K will also be on our Moheak.com radio show, LinA In LA, this Thursday for a "Cinco De Queeno" party, 6 p.m.

Think you've got the right tuck to compete on RuPaul's Drag Race? World of Wonder is currently casting for season 4. Email dragrace4casting@gmail.com... and may the best wo-man win!

Follow Lina Lecaro on Twitter at @L_in_A.


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