Back to school..Drag 101



Hello dears. How are we? It's been a while.
I'm currently hosting the Official English screening of Season 6 of RuPaul's Drag Race and last night, I decided to play a little game of Drag Family Fortunes. One of the questions was "Name a film by John Waters". Neither of the contestants knew ANY films by John Waters. Shocked? I should co-co.


Drag culture does not begin and end with Drag Race and Beyonce darlings. Every drag starlet should be schooled in the basics and know their herstory. You could study gender and be academic about it but this is a lesson in the basics of drag in media and popular culture (all references can be easily found on the internet).

This isn't a definitive guide but an introduction to western drag heritage.
Let's go to school...

This is a given. If you want to know the origins of "shade", "reading" and "realness" you need to watch this 80s documentary about the origins of the Black and Latino New York ball scene (and where Madonna pinched Voguing from).


John Waters
Waters brought the goddess Divine to the big screen. Enough said. Watch Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester, Desperate Living, Serial Mom, Hairspray...


Drag related films
Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Cockettes, Stonewall, The Queen, Wigstock, Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, Kinky Boots, Before Stonewall, Squeezebox, Tootsie, Party Monster, Shortbus, Some Like It Hot, The Birdcage, Bent, Flawless, Mirror Mirror, Pageant, The British Guide To Showing Off, Velvet Goldmine, Yentl, The Naked Civil Servant, Lust in the Dust...

Camp films
Grey Gardens, Valley Of The Dolls, Mommie Dearest, Sunset Boulevard, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Witches Of Eastwick, In Bed With Madonna, Showgirls, Heathers, Mean Girls, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Barbarella, Strictly Ballroom, Abigail's Party...

Musicals
There's a lot of ridiculous cheese in musicals but a hell of a lot of fabulousness and over exaggerated expressions to be learnt, whether in film or onstage.
Victor/Victoria (my ultimate inspiration, obviously), Cabaret, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Gypsy, Rocky Horror Picture Show, A Star is Born, West Side Story, Singing in the Rain, La Cage Aux Folles, Dreamgirls, Chicago, Sound of Music, Grease 1 and 2, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Oliver!, A Chorus Line, Mary Poppins, Sweet Charity, Thoroughly Modern Millie, My Fair Lady, The Wizard of Oz...

Trans Stars
I'm horrified when I hear queens being transphobic. Stop it, it's vile. Transgendered people deserve more respect than any ignorant drag queen. Their gender isn't performative and face the world every day. Respect them.

Justin Vivian Bond, April Ashley, Our Lady J,  Buck Angel,  Genesis P-Orridge, Marsha P. Johnson, Amanda Lepore, Paris Lees, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox...


Divas
Rihanna, Kylie and Britney are not divas. They are pop stars crafted for our entertainment. A real diva is someone who embodies something ethereal. They are bold, full of talent, confidence and embody genuine fierceness, not something appropriated for sales.

Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Bette Midler, Grace Jones, Barbra Streisand, Marlene Dietrich, Aretha Franklin, Maria Callas, Florence Foster Jenkins, Joan Collins, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle, Chaka Khan, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Mae West, Debbie Harry, Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Lena Horne, Nina Hagen, Madonna, Carmen Miranda, Bjork, Donna Summer, Josephine Baker, Bettie Page, Tempest Storm, Helena Bonham Carter, Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, Liza Minnelli, Miss Piggy, Shirley Bassey, Eartha Kitt, Dolly Parton, Edith Piaf, Janis Joplin, Courtney Love, Tina Turner, Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, Adele, even  Beyonce...

TV
Comedy is brilliant for drag inspiration. Not Miranda and certainly not Mrs Brown's Boys.
Watch the Lucky Bitches sketch by French and Saunders to get going. Most of these aren't drag related but all have glorious performative elements of camp.

Victoria Wood, The Golden Girls, Kenny Everett, Absolutely Fabulous, Queer as Folk, Nighty Night, Girls On Top, Tales of the City, Are You Being Served? Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, Ja'mie Private School Girl, Keeping Up Appearances, Birds Of A Feather, Fawlty Towers, The Good Life, Father Ted, 'Allo 'Allo, Hi-De-Hi, The League Of Gentlemen...

Music and Clubs
As I mention in my hit show 'Sorry I'm A Lady' (that is going to Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014!!), Britain in the 80s was awash with gender benders. Have a look at the history of London clubs Blitz, Taboo, Kinky Gerlinky and Kashpoint.
For New York drag and club kid history, go and watch the videos by Nelson Sullivan.


Boy George, Steve Strange, Marilyn, Pete Burns, CHRISTEENE, Amanda Lear, Jayne County, Hard Ton, Jobriath, RuPaul, Sylvester, Divine, David Bowie, Prince, Liberace....

People
I tend to lean towards the alternative end of drag but it's important to be aware of other styles and innovating gender benders.

Queer
Leigh Bowery, David Hoyle, Klaus Nomi, Joey Arias, Vaginal Davis, The Bloo Lips, Lindsay Kemp,  Jackie Beat, Peaches Christ,  James St James...

Classic Drag/Female Impersonators
Danny La Rue, Regina Fong, Lily Savage, Dick Emery, Dame Edna Everage, Hinge and Bracket, Lady Bunny, Charles Pierce, Bugs Bunny...

Notes

Stonewall
Not just the name of an LGB charity who have excluded the trans community (cough) but a bar in New York. In 1969, on the day of Judy Garland's funeral, it was the drag queens and trans people of the Stonewall  Inn who had enough of police persecution and kicked off modern American gay liberation. More.

Polari
It was illegal to be gay in the UK until 1967 and many "theatrical" men adopted a private language known as polari to communicate in public places. Get the basics here so you can greet your chums with "How bona to vada your eek!" (How lovely to see your face).

British drag
Drag comes from Shakespeare. Women weren't allowed to act onstage so in the margins of the script, men were prompted to be D.R.A.G. (Dressed As A Girl). We also popularised men dressing as ladies in pantomime and ladies as boys in vaudeville.

Other cultures
Gender bending and transexualism isn't a western phenomenon. People have been cross dressing and transitioning since we climbed out of our caves. Many cultures recognise the third gender. In South Asia; Hijra, Thailand; Katoey, Native American Indian; Two-spirit or berdaches.
In India there's a fabulous type of drag called 
Kathakali and Japan, Kabuki. 

So there you go. Not an extensive list but a starter package. If there's something missing, don't pout, share it out.
She you down at Madame Jojos over the next eight weeks for RuPaul's Drag Race and if you want to perform in my open drag competition, all the details are over on the event page.
x


2 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:22 pm

    Informative and fun read. Thanks!

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