The relatively new conservative agenda to quash drag shows and performers is dumbfounding to anyone who understands the ethos behind it. Drag is about joy, laughter, beauty, imagination and a bodacious celebration of life. Far from harming children or family values, it actually promotes them, specifically the unconditional love that is their essence. “Drag” families usually exist precisely because performers’ own relatives banished them simply for being different. It promotes the kind of positive energy any parent would want their kids to experience. Yes, sometimes it gets bawdy and risque, but so do straight and gender-conforming performers — that’s what adult environments and 21+ nightclubs are for.
We’ll just call the current war against drag what it is: bigotry. And bigotry is about fear. Legislators trying to kill it are scared of what they don’t understand and, in some cases, in denial about what they actually might be interested or attracted to.
Thankfully, here in California and more so, Los Angeles, we love our drag performers. We are the capital of drag and we always have been (alongside our sisters in New York who, arguably, come in a close second these days). RuPaul’s Drag Race is, of course, a huge part of this. Based in Hollywood, the popular reality competition illustrates the ferocity and the humanity behind the wigs and makeup. Many of the queens come to our city to compete and stay here afterward, which means you can see drag most nights of the week in L.A.
HBO’s award-winning We’re Here, starring former contestants Eureka O’Hara, Bob the Drag Queen and Shangela, has also had an impact on spreading awareness and acceptance. Film and TV in general has made major strides in this regard, but it’s also made those who hate push back with discrimination and legislation.
“Drag representation is not only the community but is also about expressing who you want to be as loud as you possibly can in the ways that we never were allowed to as we were growing up. When you’re constricted by society, it completely makes you feel as if you don’t belong. However, when you decide to celebrate that and show up proudly, it brings people together. Bringing people together is what drag is all about.” – Eureka O’Hara
Dragstrip 66, one of the first clubs to promote an inclusive mix of gender blenders and alternative, punk rock vibes, just had a wild 30th anniversary reunion bash to raise awareness and money for its upcoming “frockumentary” — they also raised the roof off Los Globos nightclub.
The triumphant return of Dragstrip was just the beginning. From Hamburger Mary’s to Heart WeHo to the Cavern Club Theater, to countless bars and clubs, queens rule Los Angeles nightlife, and Spring is bringing some special events to highlight the culture at these locales and more (most with a necessary activist component due to the current climate).
Here’s your guide to the wonderful world of L.A. drag in May and beyond…
If you’re reading this before Wed., May 3, you still have a chance to score a seat for The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula: Titans, the live stage show version of the ghoulish super-monster competition from L.A.’s own horror queens, Swanthula and Dracmorda. Our 2019 cover models got their start throwing pan-sexy dance clubs like Miss Kitty’s Parlour and Black Unicorn, but turning the delightfully dark Dragula party into a full blown TV show took them to a whole other hellscape. The Shudder TV hit, which sees contestants vie for spooky drag supremacy with an eye-popping stage show battle, comes to life (well, death) on stage. If you miss the Titans tour, the BB’s just debuted a brand new nightmare to enjoy: The Boulet Brothers Halfway To Halloween Special, on Shudder now. Stream the screamer if you dare.
“Drag is an art form, and art should never be policed. Art is essential to an evolved, free thinking and democratic society, and any attempt to restrict it is a sign of a declining culture. We feel it’s important to resist and fight laws like this immediately.” – The Boulet Brothers
Speaking of streaming, Drag Race comedy queen and trans activist Peppermint stars in the hilarious new special, Peppermint’s SO-SIGH-ETY Effects available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and other online services. She also can be seen in the new A Transparent Musical at the Mark Taper Forum opening on May 20. But her most significant gig, at least in terms of fighting for drag rights, is coming up on May 7.
Producer Matt Weaver (Rock of Ages, Chef’s Table) and local firm Producer Entertainment Group (PEG) Management have joined forces with writer/comedian Justin Martindale for Drag Isn’t Dangerous, “the biggest fundraising effort to combat recent anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation to date,” with Peppermint as hostess along with dragdom’s biggest names.
The Drag Isn’t Dangerous initiative and telethon, created by PEG, known for working with the biggest queens and LGBTQIA+ talent in the business, has gathered an impressive group of media and industry support including UTA, Concord, GLAAD, HeadCount.org, Q.Digital, OUTtv, and many more, contributing money and resources to make it happen.
The one-night-only telethon also will include non-drag celebrities in solidarity, including Amy Schumer, Jesse Eisenberg, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Amber Tamblyn, Charlize Theron, David Cross, Kelly Osbourne, Isaac Mizrahi, Leslie Jones, Whitney Cummings and more, with a mix of live and pre-taped performances and testimonials, plus a celebrity phone bank accepting callers’ donations in real time just like the ol’ Jerry Lewis days.
Drag royalty will include Ada Vox, Alaska, BeBe Zahara Benet, Bob The Drag Queen, Elektra Fence, Eureka O’Hara, Ginger Minj, Glass Battles, Heidi N Closet, JAX, Jiggly Caliente, Jinkx Monsoon, Jujubee, Katya, Kelly Mantle, Kerri Colby, Lala Ri, Laganja Estranja, Manila Luzon, Miz Cracker, Monét X Change, Nika King, Nina West, Sherry Vine, Tammie Brown, Trinity the Tuck, Trixie Mattel and many, many, many more.
All net proceeds from the event will be divided among approved charities that support LGBTQIA+ causes and drag performers in need, with focus on states where they face discrimination and bans. None of the performers or organizers are taking fees for their work on the campaign and all donations are tax deductible and 501c3 verification will be available on request.
“Since drag entertainers are renaissance people, often times utilizing skills from many different fields, punishing or criminalizing drag entertainers will not only have an impact on the art form of drag, but also wider industries since many drag entertainers careers span across multiple industries. Many drag entertainers identify within the LGBTQ+ community, but since the art form of drag is more closely associated to someone’s career or profession rather than their identity, attacking drag entertainers is an easy way to target and punish LGBTQ+ individuals specifically transgender individuals and make them pay the price for the impact that Progressive conversation around gender has had.” – Peppermint
Alaska Thunderfuck, who will be part of the telethon, is one of the busiest drag babes in the business. She just released a new docuseries for OUTtv called “Behind the Drag Queen of the Year Pageant Competition Award Contest Competition” with Lola LeCroix, and a new pageant takes place at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood on May 14.
Maybe even more significant, Alaska’s brainchild with local drag bad girl Willam is making waves in the podcast space: MOM Podcasts, based in L.A., features all drag-related content from the biggest wigged ones with something to say. Launched in March 2016 via Forever Dog Podcasts, MOM, which stands for Moguls of Media, brings together queen creators for important conversations about the community, but it’s also about having a good time, spilling the tea and shading the shade-worthy. It’s a must-listen for fans of drag with shows hosted by the likes of Delta Work, Priyanka, Meatball, Latrice Royale and Manilla Luzon, Raja Gemini, Heidi N Closet and Jaida Essence Hall, Jinkx Monsoon and many more. The crown jewel of the network is the infamous Race Chasers show, which skewers the Ru-niverse like only Alaska and Willam can.
Alaska and Willam will also be seen together on Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka’s new Hulu show with Bianca Del Rio and Haneefah Wood called Drag Me To Dinner. Host Murray Hill and 40 of the most watchable drag queens out there compete in the 10-episode series focused on dinner party kiki creation, from food and drink to design and decor. At the end of each episode, the winning team gets “the grandest prize in the history of television– The Glorious Golden Grater.” Other queens participating in the L.A. based show include Alexis Mateo, BeBe Zahara Benet, BenDeLaCreme, Biqtch Puddin’, Chelsea Piers, Detox, Gigi Goode, Ginger Minj, Jasmine Rice LaBeija, Kim Chi, Mayhem Miller, Morgan McMichaels, Mrs. Kasha Davis, Naomi Smalls, Peachez Iman Cummings, Pixie Aventura, Rhea Litré, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Peaches Christ (with recently departed San Francisco legend Heklina in her last TV appearance), plus many more. The show debuts Wednesday, May 31st on Hulu.com.
“Drag is an art form that provides inspiration and empowerment. As soon as you try to define what Drag is, it changes forms and becomes something new. It’s an unstoppable force that cannot be silenced.” – Alaska
Shea Couleé (Drag Race All Stars S5 Winner) also has a MOM podcast called Wanna be On Top, breaking down the critically beloved/maligned early aughts TV sensation America’s Next Top Model, and she’s painting the town red with The Lipstick Ball — a high-energy, extended-set live drag concert experience at the Belasco theater in Downtown L.A. Friday, May 12.
Couleé is just one of many entertainers from Drag Race who went on to do exciting things. A successful 15th season of the show just ended, and it was the highest rated in years with the largest cast in its history. A new edition of its RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars show debuts on Paramount+ on May 12, which is perfectly timed for RuPaul and World of Wonder Productions’ biggest in-person venture, happening right here in L.A., of course.
The queen of con culture is back, and it’s more focused and fiercer than ever. RuPaul’s DragCon LA returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13, with more “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent” for fans of the hit TV show to experience in the flesh. Signings, meet-and-greets, main stage performances, vendors and immersive activations will be glittering about for two dragalicious days, and that’s not even counting the parties and shows that are still being announced. Laganja Estranga’s hosting an un-official bash at the Silver Lake Lounge called Snatched that looks tight and many more drag haps are sure to be announced as May moves on.
For all the scoop on DragCon, the line-up (it’s pretty much every queen in town) and surprises to come go to rupaulsdragrace.com and worldofwonder.com/bfc).
“Ru says a lot of things, but one thing that he says that has a lot of meaning is, ‘every time I bat my eyelashes, it’s a political act.’ It’s actually true, because we all have an identity and being seen for who we are is what society is actually made of. And so the counter desire to prevent certain people from being seen or being visible or trying to prevent some people from even existing; that is something that is unfortunately in the ascendant right now. DragCon represents a resistance to the strong man, fascist, bigoted, fear-based mentality.” –Fenton Bailey to LA Weekly at last year’s DragCon
Drag Race has nurtured many big drag stars, but it’s not a must for every performer. Jackie Beat has earned legendary status without it and the figure we here at LA Weekly dubbed the “Queen of Queens” years ago (and it’s still true) has some glam goodness to look forward to. In addition to appearing on Drag Me to Dinner and the Drag Isnt Dangerous telethon, she’ll be starring in Who’s ‘Da Boss Live!— a musical version of the hit TV show co-starring Sherry Vine, Mario Diaz, Nadya Ginsburg, Russell Erik Kohlmann and the original “Jonathan” Danny Pintauro at The Lyric Hyperion, May 12-14. (Tickets here.)
Looking ahead to the Summer, mark your calendars (with eyeliner for a festive touch) for the comic, singer, writer (she worked with Joan Rivers!) and “doctor” who even gave our readers free advice via a guest column last year. Beat turns SEXTY years young in July and is celebrating with guests Vine and Alaska in a brand new show. If you’ve never seen a JB show, prepare for song parodies and stand-up that’ll make you laugh so hard your guts hurt. Fun birthday videos from famous friends are promised and it must be said: Beat’s shows are uncensored and audacious adult entertainment (not for kids or easily offended) and we wouldn’t have it any other way! Sunday, July 23 and Monday, July 24. More info at catalinajazzclub.com.
Disclaimer: This guide is by no means every awesome drag artist or event in L.A. It is meant as an overview. The best way to learn more about drag is to follow the performers’ social media accounts and take note of their projects and the places where they make appearances. There is always more to discover and support. We’ll continue to do our part here. Check out trailers for some of the shows and events mentioned here, below:
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