Queens Lose Their Virginity
Copyright 1998 by Christine Beatty
(Originally published in Spectator Magazine on October 30, 1998)
They came, they saw, they coiffured. Sunday night, September 20th saw the fourth annual Virgin Queen contest at City Nights (715 Harrison St.) in San Francisco, an event produced by KLUBSTiTUTE, a collective of queer performance artists, to benefit the Larkin Street Youth Center and C.H.A.M.P., the San Francisco medical marijuana club.
Eight studly and not-so-studly men were transformed into, using the words of the press release, “a vast variety of vile and vainglorious vixens and vivacious virgin queens of questionable virtue.” Assisting in this formidable task were eight patient, nurturing and splendidly skilled “drag mothers” who primped, preened, powdered and painted these brave young swains into the luscious ladies (or tramps) trapped within.
So what is a virgin queen, you ask? As emcee and contest organizer Ruby Toosday explained to me, the contest is open to all who have not done public drag before. The few exceptions are Halloween (the oldest crossdresser’s alibi in the world), Gay Day and “tacky anonymous drag.” Beyond a fundraiser and a party, this contest was also about coming out, about exploring the feminine side of one’s personality. The formal ushering in of a new generation of drag queens into the world, carrying on the legacy of lace, lamé and L’Oreal. These were some of the sentiments expressed by contestants and drag mothers I interviewed before they made their first appearance on stage. (In all of the interviews I’ve used the virgin contestants’ drag names.)
When I asked “Melodie Grooves” what prompted her to enter the Virgin Queen contest, she replied “A lot of my close friends are members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. And since I’ve been hanging around them for the past two years, it’s an aspect of my personality that they have supported me in expressing. So it’s just a way for me to say, ‘Hey world, here I am! Check me out!’”
I moved to Alina Malletti, a statuesque vision in ebony, and asked her about the benefits of being a drag mom.
“[Melodie and I] have a really good friendship,” she told me. “She’s ready to come into the drag community and she needs assistance, and I’m the one she chose to do it. So I feel honored that she asked me.”
“I want to hug her now,” Melodie bubbled.
The next contestant I visited, a cute Latino who adopted the handle “Brenda Soleil,” explained his entry: “It’s always been a fascination of mine, to do drag, because I’ve done it on Halloween before, and it gives me an exhilaration, a high that I really cannot get any other way. And [the contest] is a good way to meet other drag queens and learn their secrets.”
Brenda’s drag mother Jordan L’Moore, a blonde, willowy Susan Dey lookalike told me “I think the thrill is helping to keep the spirit of Klubstitute alive. It’s events like this that help new, talented people make it in the world and get a break. A place to first perform on a stage.”
Not all of the Moms were en femme. Maurice described the big thrill of being a "drag dad" as "watching a son grow up to put on shoes and a wig and go out and spread the gift of love." Veteran queen Amanda Love was dressed male as he worked on his creation, "Masquerade" and extolled the virtues of drag motherhood: "Creating new drag. Putting another drag queen out there. Securing the future generations of drag. Giving something back."
Photo by Christine Beatty
The main interviews completed, I alternated between the dancefloor and the dressingroom, snapping photos, making notes, and enjoying the production.
The contest, which consisted of three main portions — Before, After and Talent — was overseen by a panel of celebrity judges, most notably San Francisco legend Carol Doda, medical marijuana proponent and Republican primary gubernatorial candidate Dennis Peron, punkrock legend and “cultural terrorist” Jello Biafra, and Miss ETVC, Dianna. Musically overseeing the evening, DJ Robeena Diet-Biscuit’s madcap turntable antics between serious vinyl spins supplemented the evening’s already stellar spirits.
Sometime near 10PM the virgins, accompanied by their drag mothers, were paraded out one by one in “boy drag” for introduction to the judges and audience. After responding to a question from the panel, each contestant was immortalized in Polaroid for the judges. Then all of them were marched upstairs for their metamorphosis under their mother’s loving care.
Photo by Christine Beatty
In between contest segments, we were entertained by a spectacular succession of talent, including Ruby Toosday, La Lupe Sativa (the first Virgin Queen), Nikki Star (Miss Trannyshack), and Acting Faux Queen 1997 Allthata and Her Thangs. All in all, a fourstar lineup of pantomime and choreography talent befitting the San Francisco drag tradition.
When they had a spare moment, I asked several judges what embodied their ideal Virgin Queen.
ETVC’s Dianna stated “Poise. Confidence. Beauty, not only skin-deep but also on the inside. I look for something inside that shows they’re having a lot of fun. Because being in drag and being glamorous is fun. So I look for that.”
Carol Doda shared this perspective: “What I look for is originality, glamour, sexiness. The most that He can try to be a She.”
The second phase brought back the transformed contestants, individually introduced by their drag mothers, who struck becoming and not-so-becoming poses before answering the judge’s queries. The best question came from Jello Biafra who asked virgin Brenda what she would do with a dress with President Clinton’s cumstain on it? Ms. Soleil delighted the audience and panel, answering that she’d keep it forever.
The final and most deciding segment of the contest was the Talent exhibition following a costume change, dancing and lip-synching to a tune of their choice. Just as important as presentation, choreography and pantomiming precision were the tips they collected for their performance. The Ones, Fives and bigger bills extended to them or cast upon the stage, money tagged for charity, were tacked onto their scores. It was this consideration that tipped the scales in favor of the contest winner, “Demanda Mann,” whose friends tossed more than a hundred dollars on the stage, besting the tips earned by the runners-up who tied at $28 each.
The heartbreaking award of Last Place was to virgin “Masquerade,” deemed “too butch to be queen” by the panel. Perhaps the most amazing if largely unknown effort came from First Runner Up Brenda, an eleventh hour entry whose performance was a fetching cross between Selina and Gloria Estefan. With only three days to prepare, helped by her adopted drag mother Jordan L’Moore, she rose above the odds to take the next to top slot. (If only she’d brought along more $upport.) When it came time to crown the most glamorous drag mother, the judges awarded the honor to grande dame Nikki Star, explaining they’d made a difficult choice between Nikki, Jordan and Second Runner Up drag mother, Alina. But as judge Dianna said of the entirety of participants, “you’re all winners just for being up there.”
The Virgin Queen Contest was a night well spent by the audience and the participants of the production, an evening of fun that raised money for worthy charities and brought out a little of the drag queen in us all. As one attendee confided in me, “Honey, everybody should try dressing up at least once. You might discover a side of yourself you never knew existed. It can only make you a better person to know who you are, fully.”
Words of wisdom, I’m certain.