[To celebrate achieving 50,000 photos on my Flickr stream since 2006, I'm posting my top 20 favorite photographic themes. Check out Top 20 Flickr Photo Themes and 50,000 Photos for more. To see the best restricted photos on Flickr, you will need to create an account and then turn off SafeSearch in your account settings.]
San Francisco is home to an amazing diversity of drag styles. It was the birthplace of the Widow Norton's Imperial Court, now an international drag fundraising phenomenon. We have gender illusionists such as the sadly missed Finochio's and the still-extant Asia SF and Donna Sachet's Sunday's a Drag at Harry Denton's Starlight Room. On the other end of the spectrum from the gender illusionists are the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, another fundraising phenomenon of drag nuns who often decline to shave. More gender-fuck than gender-illusion.
And our drag performances vary dramatically, too. Many performers in the Imperial Court are traditionalists, lip-synching standards from Judy, Barba, or Patsy. But we also have many drag performers who sing live, like the Martuni's cabaret crowd. And then there are shows that are more like performance art, where the performance often tells a story, sometimes with an unexpected twist, with the primary intent to shock the audience. Trannyshack and The Monster Show, I'm looking at you!
Of course, although I have taken many, many photos of drag queens and drag shows, photos cannot capture the music and performance the way video can. So rather than showing you event-related photos, let me introduce you to some of the queens who've been a big influence on the BGFH. It should be noted that these are just a fraction of the photos I have of these drag queens, as it is very painstaking to tag each person's name in each individual photo, or even "drag queens" for the a chunk of photos within a larger batch. Cruise through my Flickr photos for more.
|Trauma Flintstone||Katya Smirnoff-Skyy|
|Trauma Flintstone, née Anderthal, is a longtime friend whom I've known since the late 80s before she ever performed publicly in drag. She's among our very talented drag friends who sing live, hosting the live drag show Bijou every second Sunday at Martuni's, and has been in numerous drag shows included the revival of Jungle Redthat we helped produce. At the BGFH, she performed at the Epiphany Party, did the music for the Midsummer Night's Dream fundraiser, and was the hostess and Artistic Director of our Girl Drink Drunk series of fundraisers.||It's so hard to pick a favorite photo of Katya, as there are so many -- she's probably my most photographed drag star -- and she's so damn photogenic. And sings like a nightingale. She is the Russian Opera Diva, singing her own brand of popera: pop songs sung in an operatic style. With a Russian accent. I interviewed Katya when she was first getting started (in my office at the BGFH before there was a stick of furniture!) and am so pleased to see how she's triumphed in this city where new queens emerge every week. She's performed at many of our fundraisers, and has come to many others as a boy guest.|
|Ethel Merman||Janet Fly|
|Imagine the songs Ethel Merman might have sung had she lived longer. Especially if she had discovered AC/DC and Steppenwolf. That's the shtick of our dear friend Ethel Merman, who belts out rock-and-rolls songs live, sometimes with her backup band, the Ethel Merman Experience. (You can learn about her experiences recruiting the band in the documentary 24 Hours on Craigslist, for which she is the only friend to win a Cosmique Movie Award.) Ethel has performed at many of our events, as has her drag twin, Janet Fly. She's performed at many, many of our events and fundraisers, and was our second Miss Big Gay Frat House for the Desperate Divas calendar, a fundraiser for the AIDS Housing Alliance.||Janet Fly of Acid Housewives, a longtime friend and Ethel Merman's alter, has also performed at many of our events, including the Epiphany Party and our very first Girl Drink Drunk. We've traveled to New Orleans and Palm Springs together, gotten drunk together (I love drag queens who drink!), and have become great friends. I'm very fond of her Donna Summers medley with the rest of Acid Housewives, but my very favorite song of hers is her rendition of "River Deep, Mountain High." Janet's husband, Richard, has staged-managed every single one of the events at the BGFH.|
|Artemis Chase||Charisma Glitterati|
|Tim and I first saw Artemis Chase perform in New York City, albeit under a different name and it was several years after knowing her in San Francisco before we made the connection. I first met her as a boy in San Francisco; my first exposure to her drag persona was when she arrived for a Cosmique Movie Awards party at the BGFH. I first saw her perform in San Francisco at the Monster Show, where she did her classic "99 Red Balloons" number. At her only performance at the BGFH, she did her infamous "Whitney on Crack" number which helped her claim the title as our very first Miss Big Gay Frat House for the Desperate Divas calendar. Sadly, she has subsequently moved to Portland, giving their drag scene quite the kick in the pants!||We first met Charisma through Artemis, and though she never had a chance to perform at the BGFH, I've taken so many photos of her that I couldn't notinclude her. Charisma is like San Francisco's version of a drag Paris Hilton, appearing everywhere with her entourage and posing for the paparazzi. Well, that is if Paris Hilton gets black-out drunk in seedy bars. When Charisma's home burned down, destroying much of her drag couture, we helped sponsor her All Fired Up fundraiser for the Red Cross. She's gone on to become a Miss Gay San Francisco and was one of my favorite guest hostesses of the sadly missed Lucky Pierre at The Stud.|
|Donna Sachet||Landa Lakes|
|In a town filled with queens, Donna Sachet is a genuine Empress. Not the only empress, mind you; she was the thirtieth empress in the San Francisco Imperial Court whose current title-holder is the 45th. But she may well be the best known due to her tireless philanthropic work throughout the City. Donna was the co-emcee of our very first fundraiser, the Balls Out Ball, but my favorite performance of hers was at our third Girl Drink Drunk where she composed an original song (to the tune of "Le Jazz Hot") about the BGFH. I cannot express how touched I was, nor how frustrated I am that it was not videotaped.||Landa first performed at the BGFH at our very first Girl Drink Drunk. When Trauma Flintstone couldn't host our sixth Girl Drink Drunk, Landa was Trauma's first choice to step in to be the guest hostess. When Tim and I first met her as a boy, she was across the bar and we didn't recognize her -- but as soon as we heard her laugh, we knew instantly who it was. She was the original strip poker dealer at the lamented Lucky Pierre, a role that Artemis Chase later took over, and is a former Grand Empress of San Francisco.|
|Garza Peru||BeBe Sweetbriar|
|Garza, the cover girl of the very first Desperate Divas calendar, performed at three of our seven Girl Drink Drunk fundraisers, including the very first one (as well as the third and the seventh). She's a prodigious fundraiser and a tireless advocate for AIDS prevention, both in and out of drag. You can often see her performing and hosting fundraisers at Cafe Flore.||In addition to performing at our fourth Girl Drink Drunk, BeBe has attended and promoted many of our other fundraisers as a guest. As Miss Gay San Francisco (as well as Miss Desperate Diva, Desperate Diva Cover Girl, and Desperate Diva Ambassador, all the same year), she probably appeared at dozens of events and fundraisers a week. She's a tireless promoter now hosting a different event almost every night of the week. It's hard to know which bar she calls home because she's hosted events at so many: LookOut, Trigger, The Mix, Harvey's, Trigger, all the way down to the Triple Crown -- and even once at The Cafe, a tough venue to crack into!|
If course, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the wonderful drag queens we've had the privilege to work with or see perform. Cookie Dough. Foxy Cotton. Heklina. Holy McGrail. Juanita Fajita. Juanita MORE. Mercedez Munro. Monistat. Raya Light. Pollo DelMar. Starr Monroe. Suppositori Spelling. Varla Jean Merman. And so many more drag performers.