Drag Show: Lucky Cheng’s

I was bound to end up here sooner or later.

Lucky Cheng’s, the nearly 20-year-old drag cabaret, was not initially on my list of drag shows to see. I don’t, as a rule, come within spitting distance of Jersey Boys if I can help it, and the old-timey geisha gags on Cheng’s advertising didn’t do much to convince me to make the trip. But! It was a friend’s birthday, I am cheap and uncreative when it comes to gifts, and there was a Groupon.

It was a pleasant surprise. The Sunday night dinner & show was laidback, as you might expect on a Sunday. The food was decent and there was a lot of it. The drinks were not skimpy. The performers were also the wait staff, and they walked a thin tightrope of a line between “serviceable enough to get a nice tip” and “snarky enough to give you the full drag queen experience.” The costumes and wigs were simple, nothing over the top. Which makes me wonder where my life went wonky, that a golden beaded bikini top and thong has become weekend loungewear.

IMG_20130826_125203The performances were short and not especially noteworthy. I had already seen two of the four songs (one a Jennifer Hudson lip sync and the other a raunchy R&B sendup) performed by other queens at other clubs, but I cannot say who, if either of them, could claim to have performed it first. Maybe Jennifer Hudson is just in permanent rotation in drag clubs around the country. It would neither surprise me nor upset me to learn that was true.

Audience participation made up more than half of the evening’s entertainment. While most of America was, I assume from seeing my Twitter feed, making faces at the spectacle of the VMA’s, the audience of Lucky Cheng’s was fist pumping to the sight of two complete strangers being goaded into simulating oral sex on each other. I don’t know who this Ms. Cyrus is, but if she would really like to shock middle America, she might want to take lessons from the bachelorette party from Queens and the elderly Dutch tourists in the corner booth.

The gentleman, in particular, was quite spry and his wife was a good sport about the whole thing.

But it’s impossible to talk about the Lucky Cheng’s experience without taking about race. Cheng’s is decorated, in the words of my dinner companion, “like the Tiki Bar at Disney: you know it’s not real but it feels like something out of the ’50s.” The evening’s hostess, one other performer, and a few other staff were Asian. Our hostess, who called herself Japanese Fucking Bitch, maintained an accent throughout that may or may not have been authentic. There were a few Asian audience members, all of whom were included in the audience participation round. Black and Latino men were also plucked from the crowd to be embarrassed, which is not so unusual for a live show. White men were nicknamed Sugar Daddy and Big Boy, I think. I’ve talked and written about how race is used in drag performance before, but I thought this was an unusual venue because it identifies itself (rightly or wrongly) as a space operated by queens of color. The Tiki Bar-kitsch may turn some people off but can you really say no to a giant bowl of vodka punch with a little flaming ceramic volcano in the center? There is something nostalgic about this show.

It was also the first time I’d seen performers who were proud to announce their (seemingly advanced) ages. Our hostess began the night by pointing out the other Asian performer, who was busy serving drinks. “She’s 58 years old,” she said and we all gasped and clapped, because it did seem pretty unbelievable. Older drag queens are not that unusual (RuPaul is 52) but like most performers, they’re held to a pretty high standard of staying fit. At the end of the finale (a frantic gymnastic routine wherein she did several headstands on a gentleman’s thighs) our hostess told us she herself was 50. I had guessed 40 at the beginning of the night, privately and snidely. My dinner companion had lowballed it at 33. There seemed more to this than merely being proud of their youthful appearance (which, I don’t know, may have played into Asian stereotypes?); it was a way to engender a tenderness toward their performance which I might have otherwise not felt. After Miss Bitch finished her plea for generous tipping, I found myself feeling protective of her soft, bared stomach and fleshy bottom (did I mention the beaded thong?) as I would feel protective about my mother or older sister.

This year I will be 30. I cannot do a headstand. I tipped. You would have to be the most heartless yahoo in the world not to.

This was not the most polished drag I’d ever seen, or even the most entertaining. But there was something comforting about the show, like watching a rerun or rubbing a lucky pendant between your fingers. I’m not a superstitious person but it’s hard not to imagine your folded dollars going into the side of a beaded bikini top as alms for a prayer: Dear Jesus, please let me be able to wear rhinestones like that in two decades.

Drag Show: Hot Mess at XL

Alert, cheap babies: Groupon now makes it pretty affordable to see some of the more entrenched drag shows in NYC. For the bargain price of I don’t know, like $25, I was able to treat myself and a friend to the Friday night drag show at XL complete with soggy mozzarella sticks served with ketchup in a small black Chinet bowl and champagne. Because nothing goes with champagne like the food of kings, soggy mozzarella sticks.

Sad “small plates” menu aside, XL was a fun time! The night’s regular emcee, Lady Bunny, was sadly not in attendance but we had a very suitable replacement queen whose initials were HS (as the giant blinking TV screen behind the stage kept reminding me) though I cannot say I caught her name.

Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race recognized Milan from season god I don’t remember, and she was very entertaining with her send-up of Call Tyrone in a bathrobe and curlers. Newcomer Jada Valenciaga was my absolute favorite; her Beyonce-esque dance number was certainly the most technically proficient act of the night and her costumes were just lovely. Less successful, I thought, was the impression of Dolly Parton as performed by Skyla Versai. While she was a good Dolly, I just didn’t think the country number fit with the rest of the show and the crowd seemed to agree in a subdued, “can I get another drink over here?” sort of way. The same could be said for what I called the YouTube Happy Hour, where we were forced to watch a pre-recorded Lady Bunny parody video. Audience participation segments consisted of the usual “birthday girls and awkward straight boy” callouts.

Sugga Pie Koko, however, brought the house down in both her first solo act (a raunchy, bizarre lip-synch in a layered rainbow tutu) and the Lion King-inspired finale. I must say, this is the second Lion King-inspired finale I have seen at a drag show, and although I am not sure what is happening, I must say I always enjoy it.

Maybe the Lion King is just really ripe for drag parody?

Maybe the Lion King is just really ripe for drag parody?

Especially gratifying to see in this performance were the two male dancers, who really gave it their all and, with their rippling torsos (always a plus) managed to bring another level to the queens’ performances. The juxtaposition does wonders for the illusion of femininity that some, though not all, performers strive for.

All in all, I consider it $25 well spent. Regular tickets cost $10 at the door and the show starts at 9:30 pm every Friday. Afterwards, I would suggest further cocktails at the OUT Hotel’s bar next door. The venue is always excellent for people-watching and the drinks are much better than XL’s.

A more expensive yet robust Groupon package is being offered at the longtime drag powerhouse, Lucky Cheng’s. I wonder if this means these clubs are having difficulties in filling the house on a regular basis or if they’re just expanding their marketing plans to reach new Drag Race-loving cheapsters. XL did seem to have every table filled last Friday, though it was not a packed house at the bars. I suppose it’s none of my business how their business is doing, but one must wonder.

Novel news: I have come to terms with the fact that I know nothing of the legal and justice system despite having watched Law & Order since I was ye high and continue to plunge onward despite that. If you are a police officer or an MTA employee, please let me know. Kisses.

Drag Book: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Spoilers first: There are no drag queens in Red Dragon. There’s a messed-up dude who needs to work on his issues regarding sexuality! But sadly, no drag queens.

However! Wait. Stop, rewind, press play. Have you been watching Hannibal?

Watch this muthafuckin show, you guys.

Watch this muthafuckin show, you guys.

Hannibal is pretty great (Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC). And since it’s based on a book series that’s kind of one of the great mystery/crime stories of the latter 20th century, I thought I’d give the novel a shot. I have never read any of Harris’ books, and I’ve only seen parts of Silence of the Lambs through a crack in the bathroom door that looked down into our sunken ’90s living room when I was small and my parents were renting the VHS from Blockbuster. I remember it was scary.

(You wanna see scary, though? Because Hannibal makes Dexter look like Happy Days.)

Anyway, spurred by my new television obsession and feeling like I should learn a thing or two about writing mystery/crime, I picked up Red Dragon.

The book was great, but you probably already know that. What I will share is this little passage from the author’s introduction, where Harris talks about writing the book while in a sad little cottage on the edge of a very sad town under super sad circumstances:

“I could see the investigator Will Graham in the home of the victim family, in the house where they all died, watching the dead family’s home movies. I did not know at the time who was committing these crimes. I pushed to find out, to see what came before and after. I went through the home, the crime scene, in the dark with Will and could see no more or no less than he could see.”

Well, I will tell you darlings I breathed a large fucking sigh of relief. The thing is, and I know this sounds pretty awful, I have no idea who done it yet in my story. It’s something friends have been asking me, and while I coyly tell most that it’s a secret, to my close buds I will collapse against their chests (metaphorically if it’s via text message) and sob, “I don’t knooooooooow!” I thought at first that I didn’t know because I am lazy or insane or maybe both. But it’s good to know (though it’s still possible I’m one, the other, or both) that this is a natural state in which to be.

The writing goes slowly. Did you know weddings require a slice of your attention pie? I did not. But when I do fit some writing in during lunch or the end of a long day, I get a little closer than I had been.

Red Dragon is available basically everywhere in the world; I think linking to Amazon is pretty unnecessary, don’t you?

Drag Book: I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Darlings, I’m getting married! Yes, we’re all very excited. Now onto drag.

I shared with you some months ago how difficult it was to find any books with drag queen characters where they weren’t being carved up by serial killers. Well, I found a drag queen memoir! Which means the author survived all the serial killers, hooray!

This is it. This is the book.

This is it. This is the book.

I Am Not Myself These Days is not a great book, but it IS a better book than the serial killer mystery I gave up slogging through, so that’s saying…something. Each chapter reads like a cocktail party anecdote that always begins with “Hey, remember when I was a drag queen back in the ’90s?” And then the anecdote sort of trails off after a bunch of bad decisions have been outlined.

I was hoping that Kilmer-Purcell’s former drag persona, Aqua, would be useful to me in practical ways. (I have questions about how queens get booked and for how long and such!) But there aren’t a lot of insights into the world of drag here. There are more glimpses into the world of S&M hooking–our narrator dates an escort for a little under a year, you see, although since their relationship is the book, it seems longer.

I am not a memoirist, so it seems unfair to take shots. But this book is boring. It coasts on the keywords “drag queen” and “BDSM hooker boyfriend” like that’s enough to impress me. He paints Aqua as a passive character who floats from situation to situation much like the main character in that Irish movie I made you all slog through with me. Nothing is her fault or her decision. Things happen and that’s that.

The complete lack of self-awareness is pretty staggering, even for a club kid. Aqua retired from the drag scene in 2000 (Kilmer-Purcell envisions it as her suicide) and this book pubbed in 2006, but it doesn’t look like our narrator reflected on the meaning of his cocktail party stories at all in the interim. One example: while bemoaning the push and pull between his good-boy upbringing and current bad-girl lifestyle, Kilmer-Purcell recalls a time at his childhood summer camp when he was excluded from a group of boys who planned to hold a girl underwater and rip her clothes off. I was just too good to hang with them, he sighs, making no mention of any effort on his part to, I don’t know, stop this girl from being assaulted.

[sarcastic clapping & gold star]

“Everybody loved Aqua,” our narrator tells us in the epilogue outlining her demise. Comedic quick cuts to the half dozen or so beatings Aqua underwent during the course of the book at the hands of crazies, drug dealers, and her boyfriend. More flashes to the women in the book: the put-upon coworker who constantly must cover for him at his day job, his worried mother, dance club attendees whom Aqua ridicules or ignores. I wish I could say Kilmer-Purcell was being tongue-in-cheek but I don’t think he is.

So! I couldn’t recommend this book, but what can I recommend besides the QQ Nail Salon on 8th? Darlings, I really do need some better reading material. If you know of any that might come in handy, please tell me.

Drag Show: Brunch at Lips (Again!) & Everyone Knows a Queen

Several things! Keep up, I’m not slowing down:

1. The Draft is up to 5,000 words! My Literary Spanker has promised me quite the caning if I do not clear 10 by the end of May, and that should be at least Chapter One done and squared away, if not more. I think it’s shaping up rather well, but I do keep worrying over all the things I will have to go back and fix–but that kind of thing is boring to talk about so I won’t.

2. I indulged in another brunch at Lips last weekend. I had to, really. I had mismanaged my schedule and missed a show I meant to see at xl. Related note: the attached Out Hotel is a wonderful place to have a cocktail, and they, too, have a drag brunch that I will have to see some Sunday. Anyway! Lips was more hopping this week than it was on Easter. Some highlights:

Mary Poppins is not the worst drag role model.

Mary Poppins is not the worst drag role model.

Wicked is better, though.

Wicked is better, though.

Have I mentioned how excited I am to see performers?

Have I mentioned how excited I am to see performers?

3. Did You Know everyone knows at least one drag queen personally except for me? It’s true. I received the following e-mail from my father last week.

I see a friend from Jr. High School has a friend in the Drag Queen Contest at the Metropolitan Room next Monday. If by chance this is a event you happen to attend, if you could get a picture of Didi Panache and e-mail it or post it…it would be a cool surprise for Margot Knight.

Well, Margot, I was not able to make it to the Metropolitan Room this Monday. My allergies, you understand; spring has finally sprung and taken up residence in my sinus cavity. I also won’t be in town NEXT Monday when the Next Top Drag Queen Contest wraps up, but if any NYC friends would like to see Didi perform that night, it appears she is still in the running. Cheer on that hometown girl! When I return from my vacation (~Costa Rica~ thank you for asking) I will be sure to catch host Hedda Lettuce in her summer series at the same venue.

I am bracing myself for the day my boss, my optometrist, my subway conductor, my super, my childhood swim coach, and my downstairs neighbor all tell me they also know a drag queen or are one themselves. Guys! This is the kind of thing you should be telling me now! I would love to take you/your friend out for drinks and pester you/your friend with silly questions about lashes.

Until I come back from Costa Rica, kittens: kisses!

Learning to be a Lady: Sewing

Sewing! It’s a skill that is supposed to magically supply you with clothes that fit, in the color of your choosing, with just a few hard-won skills. I know this because I took Miss McGee’s sewing class in 3rd grade as part of my school’s extended day program, which was an optional extra hour of school your parents could pay for so that they would have one more precious hour free of your snotty brat self.

Intro to Keyboard was the most popular extended day class. I got stuck with sewing. We did not have sewing machines; that kind of equipment was too expensive. We had fabric scraps that were donated by parents who, I presume, gave up sewing once they saw how fucking difficult it can be. We brought our own needles and thread and pins. Our first project was a pincushion which we’d use for the rest of the year to hold our many pins. Looking back, I wonder if they’d allow 3rd graders to play with needles and pins these days, because we certainly stuck ourselves quite a bit. There was a box of bandaids next to the fabric pile, if I remember.

Anyway, I was not a great sewer as a child. I lacked focus. I made my stitches either too big or too small. I had trouble keeping my seams straight. I was not altogether gifted at selecting fabrics. Embroidery was right out; that project, where I was supposed to outline a rooster on tufted fabric, lasted about four minutes before I gave up in a huff. However, I was able to produce, in addition to my pincushion, a heart-shaped, lace-edged pillow for Valentine’s Day, a stuffed rabbit with button eyes, and a slightly larger lace-edged pillow in the appropriately early-’90s swirly green and blue colors. (Lace, McGee felt, was a very important part of our education.) And besides sewing up rips or tears in my shirts, that was the end of my sewing career.

Then, last year, I got it into my head that I should learn to use a sewing machine. I bullied my aunt into giving me one of her reserves: a Singer Model 501A, circa 1950. It’s completely mechanical, which is something you can’t say about today’s computerized machines. It’s also about 85 pounds. I took a sewing class at Purl in Soho, where I learned to make a reversible tote bag and then promptly forgot all about sewing for a long time.

Good ol' Ironsides

Good ol' Ironsides

This project reminded me that most drag queens have at least some skill with sewing, since they often need strange, oddly sized costumes for their performances. Maybe some are lucky enough to have a friend to sew for them, and maybe more are successful enough to pay for tailored fits, but the rest of us must slog through. If you have never sewn, I will tell you now the process is frustrating, tedious, and really really breakdown-inducing. Last week I sewed these curtains, which are literally just big rectangles! Four straight seams! Nothing more! And yet I still suffered several tearful huffs and pinsticks.

You better be fucking impressed.

You better be fucking impressed.

But now I have beautiful curtains hanging in the sitting room! Just don’t look at them too closely or you’ll see their flaws. An ALLEGORY, perhaps???

I hope for their sanity that queens buy most of their drag off the rack. Sewing is for the birds, if birds can even thread a needle.

Drag movie: Breakfast on Pluto

I guess once you add Kinky Boots to your Netflix queue, Netflix begins suggesting every single other movie where a male actor puts on a dress. That–and a few Cillian Murphy fans–alerted me to the existence of the 2005 film Breakfast on Pluto.


Our hero Patrick/Kitten, played by Cillian, grows up in Ireland in the 1970s and embarks on a search for the mother who abandoned Kitten as a baby. Kitten (her preferred name) begins dressing in her stepmother’s clothes and makeup at an early age, and when she finally leaves her small Irish town, she dresses and lives as a woman. Her adventures take her through a series of relationships ranging from abusive to strange, and in the end she finds her birth mother but chooses not to reveal herself as her child, instead seemingly content to help her best friend raise her own baby and maintain a healthy (ish?) relationship with her once-estranged birth father, also her childhood priest, played by Liam Neeson. Breakfast on Pluto left me often confused; how did the best friend find Kitten when she was working as a magician’s assistant? Why did the best friend insist Kitten leave the magician, who seemed like a strange but harmless and loving old man? Why didn’t Kitten protest or comment on that situation?

That’s what’s so frustrating about this movie, I think. Kitten sort of floats from one crazy or dangerous situation to another and seems to have very little agency. One scene looked like it was going to turn around for her–she discovers her boyfriend’s stash of IRA weapons and throws them in a pond after her childhood friend is killed in an IRA-related explosion. But then, despite knowing that this action will cause the IRA to come after her, she stays in the trailer where the weapons were hidden and waits for the IRA to arrive and nearly kill her. Like, why? She’s picked up by a man in London who thinks she’s a prostitute, and after he nearly strangles her to death, Kitten decides months later she’ll become a prostitute without any comment or apparent fear of the danger she faced in her first encounter. Like, how come? There’s a recurring theme in the movie of people telling Kitten to take things more seriously while she rolls her eyes, frustrated, but I found myself huffing along with her detractors when shit like this went down.

Kitten calls herself a transvestite and alludes to wanting a sex change only once (and only then to get a rise out of the grumpy old priests who run her school, I assume), but as she lives and dresses as a woman (sleeping in a nightgown, for example), it seems pretty clear that she’s transsexual. Maybe “transvestite” was the term most people used in the ’70s?

All in all, I would not recommend it. At least the film doesn’t try to classify Kitten as a drag queen, the way To Wong Foo did for its cast of 24-7-ladieswear ladies.

Drag Show: Brunch at Lips

Our small but feisty band of bachelorette-partygoers had a lovely time at the Sunday brunch show at Lips in midtown east. The food (required with seat) is a bit overpriced, but the drinks are unlimited and the waitresses are the same ladies who give you a great drag performance once you’re done nomming, so all in all, a good time!

The theme of the show is Broadway numbers, and a few classics are sent-up, some more successfully than others. To me, the most interesting part of the performance is the audience participation segment. It’s pretty standard: who’s celebrating a birthday, etc.? Come up on stage for some good-natured ribbing. It’s the part I would be most anxious about as a performer because anything can happen when you drag a boozed-up guy or gal in front of the room. I imagine it takes some practice before the performers can wrangle the audience and shoot off jokes as quickly as they need to.

The space was amazing, definitely the highlight. Glitter and sparkles and chandeliers and mirror balls–can one ever have enough mirror balls? I say thee nay. Red velvet and Warhol send-ups and everything you could possibly want for an unclassy gathering. Unfortunately, none of my pictures came out; the lights are very dark during the show. I will be going back, I’m sure. Maybe for a dinner show next time.

Before I forget, congrats to our bachelorette Izzy, who is marrying the kind and deserving Chris this Friday! I hope your marriage will not be a DRAG, hur hur.

In The Project news, I have started writing! Yes, it’s all very exciting. I don’t want this blog to be about My Process because I think that’s rather boring and there are plenty of people out there willing to expound on that topic (well, Their Process, I guess) but I do want to assure you I’m moving along at a clip, by which I mean, some words have been written. I am hoping to write 500 words a day every weekday, but we’ll see. Maybe there will be more some days, maybe there will be less.

In other Research news, I have downloaded onto my tablet every book I could find with the search term “drag queen” and let me tell you, dear muffins, it is disheartening. My current read is a murder mystery wherein a serial killer is going after queens, and it’s really very awful. Drag queens are the victims in lots of TV shows and books, but the special way in which this book’s hero looks down on them is pretty stomach-churning. I don’t think I will review it here; I would hate to be forced into rudeness.

Learning to be a Lady: Nails

Last week I got my very first manicure.

Miss Vera had a piece of advice in her book that I thought made perfect sense: if you want to dress up like a woman, the best investment you can make is in your nails, since you see them all the time. So I dropped into QQ Nails in Chelsea during last week’s snow storm and received a very serviceable $10 file & polish. The quiet lady who did them did not seem to understand me when I said I’d never gotten my nails done before.

“So square or round?” she asked again.

“I’m not sure. Which is better?”

“They’re both fine. Square or round?”

“Well, which do you like?”

She looked at me, then looked at her nails, which were quite stubby and sadly yellowing. Probably from all the weird polish removers and chemicals she has to use all day. She looked quite unimpressed with me.

“Round,” I said.

I learned how to put on eyeliner just last year, so let’s be honest, I am not an expert on being a lady, let alone an expert on dudes who are sometimes ladies. I am trying, I am. It’s quite fun once you get over how expensive being a woman is. But here it is, a full 7 days later and I am still getting pleasure out of seeing my robin’s egg nails every few seconds. It’s a very cheery, spring color at a time when winter is being just a bitch of a hanger-on. So that was $10 well spent, I think.

Now here is a very helpful video from my friend Megan. Jinkx is obviously better at this hyper-feminine stuff than I am, and it’s fascinating to watch her put on her drag. Stay through the tuck, you will not be disappointed.

As far as The Project is going, I had hoped to start writing a draft by March 1 but that date has come and gone. I am paralyzed by decisions: where shall I set this story? New York or a seedy small town in southern Florida? Who is my main character? What does her drag look like? Where does she come from, what does she do when she’s not dressing up and solving mysteries? What’s my mystery, and who perpetrated it and why? This last one is probably the worst, because I am an armchair forensic investigator and I have solved dozens of poorly written crimes on TV fifteen minutes before the final commercial break and now I see how terrible I really am at it.

June 1 is my new goal. Doesn’t that sound sunnier? A June draft. I feel better already.

Drag movie: Victor/Victoria

Can you believe I’ve never seen Victor/Victoria? I am aghast at myself. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the quintessential “woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman” film.


Set in ’30s Paris, the film follows down-and-out singer Victoria, played by Julie Andrews. Victoria runs into Toddy, a gay middle-aged singer who is also down on his luck. After fleeing a restaurant where they don’t pay their bill, the two end up at Toddy’s apartment, where Victoria is forced to wear some men’s clothes left in Toddy’s closet by his erstwhile lover. She looks pretty mannish, Toddy thinks, and they hatch a scheme whereby Victoria pretends to be Victor, a famous female impersonator from Poland, in order to book some very lucrative gigs on the drag scene.

The plan works and Victoria ends up headlining at a very fancy club, where his show is seen by a fancy club-owner from Chicago, King, his bodyguard, Squash, and ditzy girlfriend, Norma. The Americans do not know when the show starts that it is a drag show, despite the illustrated programs that point it out pretty clearly. Americans! Am I right? King is entranced by Victoria in drag and is shocked at the end of the show when the wig comes off and it’s “revealed” that the performer is a man. King is adamant that Victoria cannot be a man because King found her attractive.

This would all be very offensive. Except that he’s right. Victoria bemoans this back at the hotel room she shares with Toddy, under the guise that they are lovers.

A series of slapsticky shenanigans ends with Victoria revealing her secret to King. They begin sleeping together, but King is worried about being seen in public with Victor and being construed as a homosexual. Victoria admits this is troublesome, but she likes living as a man (because she gets more money and a lot less problems!) and she is enjoying her career, so she tells King either he sucks it up and lets people think he’s gay, or they can’t see each other.

Go girl! Oh my god. Yay! At this point, I am bouncing on the couch with arms akimbo, praising Netflix for sending this gem my way.

King suffers a crisis of faith and identity. His macho bodyguard reveals that he, Squash, is gay. Surprise! Everyone’s gay! Except for maybe King’s ex-girlfriend, Norma.

Norma is problematic, as the kids say. Besides Victoria, she’s the only female character, and she’s everything Victoria is not: sexually promiscuous, erratic, violent, air-headed, and mean. She tries to sleep with Toddy and Victor and pretty much every man in the film, and when she performs her own song-and-dance number, it’s clear we’re supposed to find it raunchy and gauche compared to Victoria’s lavish productions. I know Norma is supposed to be a caricature of Those Kinds of Women, just as Toddy is a caricature sometimes of the aging homosexual, but it still smacks of the kind of sexism Victoria complains of when asserting she’d rather live as a man.

Victoria discovers that King is being blackmailed by his business partner for appearing to be a homosexual. Rather than throw Victoria under the bus and reveal her secret, King decides to just be blackmailed. Victoria swoops in for the rescue, takes Norma aside, and begins to undress. Norma is confused; she still believes Victoria is a man. But she is ready to have sex with him anyway, as that’s what she interprets the undressing to mean. When she sees Victoria is a woman, she announces the truth to everyone and King is saved.

Victoria, though, has to give up her drag career, which she hands off to Toddy. Well, that sucks. But I guess that’s True Love? Ugh.

Although it rubs me the wrong way that Victoria had to give up her career for King and not the other way around, this movie is pretty much perfect. The crux of the movie, really, is that a man’s performance is worth more than a woman’s. If Victoria’s singing and dancing talents had been taken at face value, none of these crazy things would have happened.

Even when that man is dressed as a woman, we the audience give it more heft, more weight. You see it time and again on Drag Race: the transformation from the male to female is what the show wants to present. That’s why they make the contestants “dress down” in men’s clothes between performances, when some, I’m sure, would prefer to wear women’s clothes around the clock. (At least, that’s what one contestant said, when another noticed he was wearing a woman’s shirt while they worked.) These are things I will need to keep in mind, I suppose.