My Grandpa was a drag queen. I love starting a conversation with that sentence because not many people can. Today, it’s not rare for gay couples (in Canada) to have children, but this is, unfortunately, a new normal. There are very few (openly) gay Grandparents out there in 2016. I am lucky to have had one of them.
My Grandpa (Poppa) was best friends with my maternal Grandmother and sometimes stepped in as a parent during my mother’s childhood. When she was 30 years old, he adopted her. Poppa died of AIDS over ten years ago, but he remains a hugely influential part of who I am. He always dressed me in the most obscure outfits and gave me an early appreciation of disco… and drag queens! Blame him for my fashion.
I never knew my Poppa as an active drag queen. It was just something he did. Didn’t all grandpas do drag? After he passed away, we became more fascinated in his drag life. I even wore one of his dresses to my high school convocation. His name was Hydrangea Monroe Bovine, part of the Bovine ensemble. They were a part of the genderfuck movement in Vancouver (and really Canada) in the 80’s. In other words- these Queens didn’t pass. Their hairy chests, tattoos, and moustaches may not have made for the fishiest ladies, but they were nevertheless hilarious, talented, and influential to drag today. My fabulous mother made a Radio Documentary for CBC’s Ideas if you’re interested in learning more about him and the Bovines. If you’re in town, some of his gowns are on display in the Museum of Vancouver’s “All Together Now” show until the end of January 2017.
As much as I thought I loved drag, I didn’t really become hip to the RuPaul scene until about six months ago. I’m slightly ashamed, but mostly happy that I have had hundreds of episodes to binge on, not to mention podcasts! I quickly fell in love with Drag Race. It’s everything I love, all bundled up in a sparkling pink package! Yes, it’s mostly shady bitches being shallow and dramatic (which I love) but the realness also shines through. Every episode, Ru reminds us that “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else.” As mean as some of the ladies can be- they are also probably the most accepting group of people you could be around. I dreamed of seeing them in person.
Last night, my dreams came true. I got to see RuPaul Royalty perform their Christmas show at the Tramshed in Cardiff. And I brought Poppa along with me.
Alaska Thunderfuck, Katya Petrovna Zamolodchikova (and Trish!), Ginger Minj, Manilla Luzon, and Phi Phi O’Hara took the stage, MC’d by none other than Michelle Visage, who introduced herself as “Michelle Visage, and here are my tits.”
During introductions, some of the audience booed Phi Phi. Hot off the September meltdown and drama, I was excited to see how she would act, and I can say the booing did not help. She was pretty sour about it the entire show and I don’t blame her. During Michelle’s opening remarks, she brought a bit of that realness that I love about this community. She reminded us what a terrible year (politically) it has been, and how we need to teach the next generation to stop being so hateful (ie don’t boo Phi Phi!).
Alaska then mediated this uncomfortable atmosphere and message against hate by opening her number by decapitating Donald Trump. It was a fabulous comedic relief.
Detox was supposed to come but couldn’t make it. Fortunately, Ginger was able to come instead! Iconically introducing herself as an “obese crossdressing homosexual,” she snatched my heart away on screen, but in person, she was so much better! During an audience participation part, she literally licked the face of a girl for a minute during a lip sync battle. It was great.
Manilla was fishy as hell, and her eyes were so incredibly fierce on stage- they were unbelievable! And Katya, oh Katya. She is one funny lady. Her other persona, Trish, even made a few appearances.
If you’ve ever gone to a concert and been up close to someone you’ve only ever listened to or seen on the screen… you know that feeling. Seeing someone in flesh and blood that you idolize can be a beautiful moment, and last night was! They say “don’t meet your idols”- and I didn’t (the photo op was £££) but seeing them from three meters away is the way to go! I definitely have a girl crush on Alaska, and seeing her (and all the queens) warmed my heart. I’ll never forget it- or at least not until I get dementia. I’d love to see them again.
Thanks for reading this weirdly specific post about my experience at a drag show.
And remember… If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else!?