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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hell's Kitchen Journal: Doing Drag

By David Mixner -
KatesmithsmOver the years I have been tempted to do full-fledged, all-out drag. My inspirations have ranged from the 1940's torch singer Kate Smith who made popular Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" to Mama on "Mama's Family" with Vicki Lawrence. In my more svelte days, there was an outside chance of a good Mae West or Jayne Mansfield. Always I pulled back out of fear that it would make me less effective in my work. The image of me appearing before a Congressional committee on some matter of great importance and possibly having the video of my "Kate" singing "God Bless America" in circulation made me a coward!
Drag is as critical a part of LGBT culture and history. In the extremely repressive attitudes of the 1950's and 1960's the drag show not only entertained us in secret bars but inspired us with their songs of liberation, freedom and man-to-man love. Never can forget the times in some piano bar down some dark alley listening to a perfectly-done drag queen sing "There Is A Place For Us" or the Edith Piaf coming down the runway singing "No Regrets Have I" and tears streaming down my cheeks. Or the times in those shows when I was feeling dark and down on myself for being a gay man that they would bring humor, joy, color and fun back into my life.

A LGBT person would have to be awfully dense not to realize that the impetus for the famous Stonewall Rebellion and Riots in 1969 were our proud and not-to-be-beaten drag queens. In 1978 when few thought we could beat the California Brigg Initiative (No on 6 ), I remember the Imperial Courts along with the MCC church bringing us our first money to get us off the ground. They had done shows and collections all over the state in seedy bars to make sure we had the money. As statewide coordinator I know we could have never, ever gotten off the ground and go on to defeat Briggs at the polls if it hadn't been for their early money.
Often young people coming out of the closet deal with issues of masculinity and attempt to distance themselves from this community. If I am honest, in my early struggle coming to terms with my homosexuality I did the same thing. The fact of the matter is if you define masculinity as strong, warrior-like and courageous then the most masculine person you can be is a drag queen. Each of us should celebrate them as an integral part of our community, thank them for their bravery and leadership and most importantly document their history as a crucial part of our culture.
This March 26th the Imperial Court of New York will celebrate their 25 year anniversary of "The Night Of A Thousand Gowns" and community service. They will use the funds to benefit the Trevor Project and Ali Forney Center and the struggle to save our youth. Once again they are there for our community and our young. I will be there honoring them and their courage. I shall always be grateful for their courage, their inspiration, making me smile in dark times and saving our community at crucial times. Thank you.
Now, who knows a good make-up artist who can do a good "Mama" from "Mama's Family"?

for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.


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