From Some Like It Hot and Tootsie to Boo, A Madea Halloween, Hollywood has long been fascinated by the concept of drag. But when it comes the art of gender illusion, the fierceest and funniest performances in Los Angeles don't occur on the big screen or the myriad film sets across the city but on modest stages in gay bars peppering West Hollywood, DTLA and various points in between. For Angelenos looking to initiate themselves into the wonderful world of wigs and genital tucking, here are the top 10 drag parties in L.A.
Both a primary tenet of drag and the moniker of DTLA's most irreverent monthly drag show, Camp never takes itself too seriously. Hosted by the unholy trinity of Ruebella Spreads, Meatball and Pickle at downtown's most devious drag venue, Precinct, this variety revue values laughs over elegance. This trashy trio does occasionally muster up a smidgen of respect, like back in February, when they dedicated an entire show to lip-synching classics from the oeuvre of the late, great king of gender fluidity himself, David Bowie. Precinct, 357 S. Broadway, downtown. (213) 628-3112, precinctdtla.com.
While most drag parties tend toward glam, Dragula's focus is on the ghastly. Hosted by twincestuous power couple the Boulet Brothers, this party is the goth chick of L.A.'s drag scene. The cornerstone of the event is the midnight pageant, where literal party monsters compete over who serves the most macabre looks. The success of this shindig has spun off into a reality web series, Dragula: The Search for the World's First Drag Supermonster, so lazy Angelenos itching for a drag demon fix need look no further than their own laptops. Precinct, 357 S. Broadway, downtown. (213) 628-3112, precinctdtla.com.
3. Dreamgirls Revue
For a more traditional drag experience, hit up WeHo's Hamburger Mary's every Tuesday for this cavalcade of lip-synched loveliness. For those unfamiliar with Boystown, Hamburger Mary's is a kitschy bar and grill chain with franchises in nearly every major gayborhood across the country (think T.G.I. Friday's, but interior designed by John Waters and Divine), making it an ideal venue for what has been described as “Southern California’s finest Female Impersonation Spectacular.” Flaunting three decades of experience under its bedazzled belt, this troupe features the talents of RuPaul's Drag Race alum Kandy Ho and Delta Work. Hamburger Mary's, 8288 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 654-3800, hamburgermarys.com/weho.
4. Legendary Bingo
If you're itching for a more interactive drag night, Hamburger Mary's serves up bingo with a fake-titties twist. Named “Best Bingo” by both Los Angeles magazine and L.A. Weekly, this weekly Wednesday event has featured a revolving cast of hunty hostesses over the years, most notably local personality Ingenue and Drag Race diva Willam Belli. Proceeds from every Legendary Bingo go to various charities, so think of it as power drinking for a good cause. Hamburger Mary's, 8288 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 654-3800, hamburgermarys.com/weho.
5. Lip Service
Lip synching to show tunes and pop hits has been as much a part of drag tradition as lace-front wigs and 6-inch heels. Every Monday night, WeHo's iconic gay watering hole the Abbey showcases the crème de la crossdressers such as Vicki Vox, Rhea Litre and Allusia, faux-belting the greatest ditties of divadom. And if you're hungry for fresh meat, the Lip Service Look Out competition pits L.A.'s drag up-and-comers against one another for glory and a $1,000 cash prize. The Abbey, 692 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 289-8410, theabbeyweho.com.
The farther east one travels from WeHo, the grittier the drag parties become, as evidenced by East Hollywood's monthly house-electro-blacklight drag dance bacchanal Neon. Recently celebrating its second anniversary at scruff club house Faultline, this experiment in edgy extravagance features a revolving cast of drag personalities, such as Vivian Vicious and Burley Chassis, as well as drag allies like DJ Mateo Segade and performance artist Tito Soto. Faultline, 4216 Melrose Ave., East Hollywood. (323) 660-0889, faultlinebar.com.
7. Queen Kong
Arguably L.A.'s strongest drag party, if not the best gay party in general, every Friday Queen Kong transforms DTLA's Precinct into the cuntiest cabaret in town. The flagship party in the Boulet Brothers' burgeoning nightlife empire, its revues feature performances from SoCal's most talented gender-fluid singers, dancers, contortionists and comedians. Plus, fans of Drag Race are sure to see at least one or two of their favorite drama queens grazing about in their natural habitat. Precinct, 357 S. Broadway, downtown. (213) 628-3112, precinctdtla.com.
8. Salad Saturday
The benefit of the rise in gay bars popping up downtown is that it provides fresh venues for new drag performances, such as DTLA's premier queer cocktail lounge Bar Mattachine, which hosts Salad Saturdays. The brainchild of Ambrosia Salad, this weekly revue's rotating cast features the talents of Love Connie, Strawberry and Moni Stat. Bar Mattachine, 221 W. Seventh St., downtown. (213) 278-0471, facebook.com/barmattachine.
Every Monday night, Micky's hosts this evening of traditional drag performances, featuring the hottest drag talent not just in West Hollywood but across the country. Showcasing performers such as Courtney Act, Shangela and Pandora Boxx, this show is practically a live version of Drag Race. Micky's, 8857 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 657-1176, mickys.com.
Downtown drag darling Pickle prides herself on her eccentric personality. So if you are looking for a somewhat different drag adventure, then test your brain power at Bar Mattachine's queer quiz show. Every Wednesday, Pickle pits your gray matter against her knowledge of state capitals and celebrity pregnancy scandals. Prizes for the winners are Andrew Christian underwear, which, in gay circles, is the gift that keeps on giving. Bar Mattachine, 221 W. Seventh St., downtown. (213) 278-0471, facebook.com/barmattachine.