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Dragging two ways

July 5, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

With the recent Celebrate Your Awesome in June, the Drag Show at the Opera House, and the upcoming TroyBoy burlesque at Broadway Music this Saturday, I have a story about a drag show I went to as a youth, quite some years ago. 

A friend of mine, Bert, who was trying to find his way, as it were, was telling myself and one of our friends, Robert, about this club he had gone to a couple of times, a cabaret of Drag Queens. He related how they sang and joked and, if there were any girls in the audience, they gave those girls a teasing from the stage because the club was actually understood to be, really, for men.

Nevertheless, Bert thought we would find the place interesting and rather amazing for how talented and attractive the performers were.

“However,” says he to me, “we have to dress you up – so you look like a boy in drag, so no one will be offended by you actually being a girl.”

My mother was ready to help. So, we planned the trip to Toronto. She may have had the design of the dress she made for me even as we talked about the venture, for my mother went and purchased a length of dark green satiny material and beautiful black fringe. She made a simple garment of a sleeveless, slim fitting dress with a plain scoop neckline. What made it jazzy were the rows of fringe she sewed around the body of the dress from the hips down. They were so much fun, it was hard not to walk with a swing just to make them dance.

Into a bra that was a little bigger than I was, she stuffed cloth to give the front of the dress a bit of padding, enhancing the illusion we were trying to create. She put my long straight, untidy hair up into an exaggerated bun, pulling some hair forward to give it shape. Then she sprayed it and sprayed it to make it look like a wig, For makeup, which I never wore, were a pair of false eyelashes, shadow on my lids and really red lipstick on my lips. A pair of spiky black shoes and I was ready for the show, my two escorts, perhaps a little protective, on either side of me.

Bert drove us into the city. The club was a darkened front, an unobtrusive door on Yonge Street and a staircase to the entertainment upstairs. The entrance was barred by a heavy-set chap, looking for the cover fee for each of us. Bert dug out the money to pay for us all and we were invited to join the crowd, though the man looked me over curiously but without comment.

The arrangement was cabaret-style, tables and chairs. A wonderful person was on, singing a jazz piece with a big fine voice and she was amazing. She was very tall and had added to her height with terrifyingly high heels. 

Her low-cut dress was all sparkles and rich colour and she carried a feather boa, which she used as emphasis to what she was singing. On her head was a wig, or so I presumed, that was coiffed to be full but there was nothing silly about it. 

Yet, she carried it all off with complete confidence. A lesser person would have trembled on those heels but she moved about the stage on them as if they were running shoes. 

Nor was she the exception in her confidence and delivery. The others who followed her were dressed in startlingly gorgeous attire, each of them, elegant and flamboyant, long lashes, big lips – plenty of attitude. 

Between singers, there was music and Bert took me up to dance, jiving to and fro, swinging those fun fringes, feeling pretty different from myself but enjoying it all.

When we returned to our table, Ben commented quietly, “You got some curious looks up there. It seems as if they’re not too sure what you are.”

A couple arrived and sat down at a table, closer to the stage. They were a man and a young woman. She was a pale person, with longish blond hair. She was wearing a pink dress and sat with her legs crossed neatly at her ankles.

The performer, a full-fleshed beauty, whose dress had slits up the sides exposing perfect legs, and was gorgeous in every other way, at that moment finished her song with a flourish. As her bows and the applause calmed, she looked down at the blond lady. She pointed at her with a brightly polished fingernail and gave her a big wink and a big laugh. 

A comical sigh of relief went around the silenced crowd and the music began again as another grand singer came on to the stage.

Ben was quiet on the drive home, until he finally said, “Some of those queens were damned attractive…”



         

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