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Saturday 10 October 2009


The Gay Blade

8th April 2008

Such a Drag

Posted by: Michael Stevens

A message from a guy I don’t recognise on nzdating - “So, do you still paint your fingernails black?” How long ago was that? 1981? Did I ever paint them black?Maybe in my late-70s wannabe punk days.  I remember whore red, sometimes with turquoise glitter laid over the top when the varnish was still wet (cosmetics were more limited in those days). Not sure about black though. I did have black hair with pink stripes. And then lime green hair with a big pink triangle that came down over my forehead to the tip of my nose. I can’t remember all the rest of the stuff I put through my hair. It changed colour regularly. I used to have a beautiful white angora mini-dress, from Streetlife I think. I wore it to my first anti-Springbok tour protest outside Air NZ house, complete with the lime green and pink hair, and tights, one leg pink, one, you got it, lime-green with, I think, red boots. After getting baton-charged I started to wear more protection to protests.

I remember having a pair of black stilettos that fitted (I have big feet). I used to like to put on a pair of tight, torn Levis, a white T shirt, leather jacket, early 80s clone outfit, big glittery earrings and  the stilettos, and wander along Jervois Rd, stoned, and watch the people watching me. It was fun.

I remember buying a length of cerise silk from Wah Lee’s on Hobson Street, and standing on the back porch of our house in Albany Rd, , draped only in that silk. Glen Morris, my flatmate standing with me, both of us shouting “Cerise!” as loudly as we could, disturbing the suburban calm. We liked the word. I think we were on acid.

We called ourselves “The Empresses in Exile of Sodom and Gomorrah”. Glen’s been dead 15 years now.

I can remember being upstairs at the old Aquarius (I think, or maybe it had changed to “Staircase” by then) in Fort St one night, when around midnight, there was a sudden pause in the music, a sort of throne was put on the stage, and what I believe I was told was one of New Zealand’s first transsexuals came up and enthroned herself, and then a procession of young men in drag, I think all  in white, came out from the back bar, each with a male escort, and were presented to the queen on her throne. A mockery of the old custom of debutantes being presented to the monarch. It was funny, and fun, and tongue-in-cheek.

Although I used to do drag occasionally, I wasn’t a drag queen.  It’s been a long time ago now, but I remember it as fun. I did it more to shock than for any other reason. Drag in the middle of the day on a busy street is a lot more subversive than drag in a gay club at 1 am.

And now, look around Auckland’s gay scene, and the rest of the country, and you can’t go out to a venue without tripping over a boa belonging to a professional “drag artiste”. It seems the same in Australia too. Less so elsewhere. Drag is big in this part of the world. I’m not sure why.

The professionalisation of drag is yet another instance of our mainstreaming. What used to be a marginal, witty, cutting-edge, in-joke sort of thing, has now become an object of academic theory and capitalist commodification. Drag queens can now make good money performing at conferences, acting as MCs for various groups, and somehow we’re supposed to think they’re all “fabulous”.

I don’t. I’m bored with drag.

It has lost its danger, its edge. Today it’s just one of the tame acceptable faces of being gay. There is nothing subversive about it, and all too often, nothing very interesting or talented either. Lip-synching to divas? I’d rather listen to the song without the visual pollution. 

Tags: General

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tanu // Apr 9, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    You have some interesting views, clearly dressed in nostalgia.. so they must originate from a place of authenicity (so I imagine). Is it not the purpose of expressing your marginal state to a society in order to instigate change or at least an understanding.

    I thought the reason marginal movements within society intergrated into mainstream conciousness was because there was an awareness that these groups and movements were finally begining to gain credibility, integrity and validation as a “normal” facit of modern life, gaining indifference to other culturally accepted beliefs.

    I may be wrong.

  • 2 Boforsboy // Apr 9, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Drag is boring. But the Glamazons are bringing it back in my view. Maybe you need to get to wellington?

  • 3 MUSHaBELLY // Apr 9, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    The Glamazons are fierce on YouTube, but have you ever seen them live? Yikes.

  • 4 t0rc hw00d // Apr 10, 2008 at 9:39 am

    This blog entry is a prime example of why blogs are (for the most part) a waste of space on the information superhighway - a lost soul venting his boredom via a blog in the vain hope that some may find the content of interest. The subject matter is actually quite interesting. Your boring little treatise, however, is not. Yawn…

  • 5 Grr.south // Apr 10, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Blogs are inexpensive content for websites, generating pageviews and comments (like yours) and attracting revenue from advertisers (like the ones on this page). Since you read the entry and then commented, you’ve nicely justified this blog’s existence. and their paid advertisers would like to thank you for your patronage.

  • 6 Calum // Apr 10, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    The glamagones, bringing it back? you’ve got to be kidding. Str8 bois do it better. The glamagones don’t even know *about* drag, let alone about performance. They are nowhere near the likes of Polly, nowhere near as edgy as De Za Star, nowehere near as polished as Melissa, or Jessica, or Doris Night. Very few of the current crop of Wellington drag-queen-wannabes are. Wave their hands about, look as if they are miming the words. Tragic at it’s worst, really. Won’t watch them for free, let alone pay for the torture of doing so. Even if they are trying to do comedy, instead of drag, they are still way off the mark.

  • 7 blacktee // Apr 10, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Hear hear Michael! When did drag become compulsory? Give it a rest guys! (girls?)

  • 8 Steve Gray // Apr 10, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    I hope you are coming to the Bambi tribute concert on friday at the Crest, Michael…..

  • 9 Jennifer // Apr 11, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I agree! Drags a drag, there is a show everywhere all the time, it’s always a drag queen hosting this or that. Sure some of them are fantastic, do a great job and are entertaining. But i’d like to see some more variety on the scene.

  • 10 irish lad // Apr 15, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    drag is drag but at the end of the day if you got to family anynight there is a drag show on people want to see it!! it is a proformance and if it wasnt for the established drag queens would there be any new drag quees coming alone to are goin to bring a more modern age to it???drag doesnt have to be about the glitz and glammer but its about how 1 interputs what they percieve from a song r act!

    perosnally i live in auckland and i know several of the drags as their persona aswell as the males person they are. they are ‘percieved’ as stars by some people but if you make the effort ot get to know them they are real people!! make-up a dress and a wig can come off at the end of the night but its whats under neath that counts in my book!!

    with teh support of the establish artistes were are slowly getttin a new small influx of drags on the scene!! BRING IT ON ! is what i say!!!

  • 11 the Duchess // Apr 15, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    The Duchess is alive and well at the Bluenote on a monday between 9 and 12 pm so please come and insult provided you sing.

  • 12 juju // Apr 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    The Duchess is alive?!?!?! i always thought she was reanimated or undead or something. maybe there is hope for drag in Wellington after all. some drag queens are still edgy - and some are definitely dangerous!

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