Drag kings: trending!
by Sari Staver
By day, she's a 30-year-old gender queer third-year law student, but at the 21st annual Drag King Contest, she'll be competing as "Pussy Diet." Pussy is one of eight contestants competing at the annual gala, held at the Oasis on Sept. 29. Billed as the "largest drag king event in the world," this year's theme is "A flashback to the 1970s."
In an interview with the B.A.R., Pussy said he talked a handful of other law students into joining a drag king quartet to perform at the event. "We're still putting the finishing touches on our act, the story of a 1970s boy band trying to make a comeback in the 1980s. It's my first time performing with a group," he explained, "but the stage [at the Oasis] is so large that I thought it would be just perfect for a group."
A Brooklyn transplant who arrived in San Francisco two years ago, Pussy had performed in the drag collective Switch N Play for several years. Here in San Francisco, he's been performing occasionally at the Edge. "I'm busy looking for a job," he explained, asking that the B.A.R. withhold his legal name.
Competitions like this "give a lot more visibility to drag kings," he said. "It's the one time of the year we can meet and connect with old and new faces. It's all about community."
According to a flyer for the event, the contest will again be co-hosted by Sister Roma ("the most photographed nun in the world") and Fudgie Frottage ("the man with the biggest balls in show business"). In an interview with the B.A.R., Fudgie said his first drag show was 40 years ago, at the Parliament House in Orlando, FL. Twenty years later, Fudgie hosted his first drag king contest, a benefit for Stone Butch Blues author Les Feinberg called Give More for Les.
Fudgie, aka Lu Read, arrived in San Francisco in 1977, for work that "wasn't exactly legal," he said. Over the years, he's had a variety of jobs, including law firm messenger and restaurant server, but is now semi-retired, following a back injury. "You don't see me out and about that much," he said.
This year's contest may be the largest to date, said Fudgie. "Drag kings are trending now," he said, despite the dwindling number of performance spaces in San Francisco. At this year's show, there are eight contestants, and another half-a-dozen or more "on the waiting list." Recently, noted Fudgie, RuPaul sparked a controversy about drag kings during an interview with the Advocate when the host of the television show Drag Race said that drag kings would probably not appear as contestants on the popular program.
RuPaul's comments were "a bit disappointing," said Fudgie, "but let's face it, drag queens are better-known than drag kings." Recently, when he went to an acupuncture college for treatment, a student asked, "What's a drag king?"
"I think everyone in the gay community knows what a drag king is, but the rest of the world, probably not. If someone like RuPaul put us on his show, that would go a long way to introducing ourselves to the public."
This year's event is expected to attract at least 300 people, he said, noting that the demographics of the city are "changing rapidly. A lot of dykes who lived in the Mission and Bernal Heights are now in Vallejo. We hope they'll make it back to the city" for this year's event.
This year's event has four judges, including drag king Arty Fishal, aka Leslie Einhorn, the 45-year-old founder and executive director of Children's After School Arts (CASA), a nonprofit creative arts after-school program located at Rooftop School in San Francisco, which her nine-year-old daughter attends. Arty, who won the contest in 1998, has appeared on daytime talk shows and radio shock-jock programs and has taught drag at Good Vibrations and at an all-women's Shakespeare company.
For many years, Arty has been a judge at the annual contest. "I guess you could say I like being judgey," Arty said in an interview with the B.A.R. As far as drag appearances go, Arty says the annual contest "is absolutely the highlight of my year." Although "being a mom and having a more-than-full-time job" has limited Arty's ability to make too many public appearances, "I was delighted to see that my daughter loves Arty, too.
"If you've never been to this event, you should come. There are so few queer venues left, especially for dykes and transgender folks. This is an affordable and fabulous event, and we could really use the support."