I can remember being fascinated by Danny LaRue. I was a child of six and sat transfixed in front of the TV at this strange looking lady who was actually a man.
I accepted it as a commonplace, ordinary thing and a totally acceptable lifestyle choice. It was on the TV after all. My main ambition was to grow up to be Wonder Woman but growing up to be a drag queen seemed a close second. Of course, I now realise that I could have combined the two options, although my knees are a bit knobbly for satin tights.
I experimented with my mother’s make-up as a teenager and quite liked how strangely androgynous I looked in a full face of badly applied slap. I didn’t graduate any further and resisted trying on her clothes. This was for no other reason apart from the fact that she had terrible taste in frocks. It was the 80s; everyone had terrible taste in everything. As I grew older I became seduced by the Goth culture and by androgynous gender defying singers. It was the perfect excuse for black nail polish and the odd touch of ghostly pale make-up to make me look like a resurrected corpse. I never considered dragging up though. My drag queen ambitions of early childhood went out of the window and with the advent of puberty and the masses of body hair that accompanied this, i just couldn’t have afforded the razors anyway.
As I got older and ventured onto the gay scene, I grew to love a bit of classy drag. I adored David Dale, Lily Savage and Lizzy Drip with their witty repartee and clever routines. I even liked the tacky acts with their cheap innuendo and their caterwauling along to ‘It Should Have Been Me’ whilst wearing an ill fitting yellowing wedding dress and swinging a dildo. I’d watch the drag queens and think: ‘I could do that!’ This ill placed confidence in my abilities surfaces whenever I watch any kind of show, whether its a trapeze artist, frenetic tap dancer, ballet or a heartfelt Shakespearean performance; I always think that given a couple of hours tuition I could master that too. I suppose that’s the mark of a skilled performer; making it look easy.
I didn’t drag up until I was in my late 30s that is very late for a gay, I suspect. Straight men drag up even earlier. They grab every chance they can to pull on a bra and wriggle into a frock, whether it’s pub-crawls, stag nights or just the night the wife is out. My first outing in drag was not at all glamorous. I decided to go as Barbara Woodhouse. For those too young to recall, she was a famous dog breeder who appeared on TV being brusque in tweeds and yanking on poor little pooches leads. I thought it would be absolutely hilarious to tweed up and have a toy dog on elastic that I could vigorously yank around whilst shouting ‘Walkies!’
Finding the clothes was a nightmare. I trawled the charity shops and eventually found a tweed two-piece in one shop. I asked to try it on, explaining it was for fancy dress. The woman shouted down the shop: “Enid! Can you get the changing room key? This man wants to try a skirt on. He’s going to dress as a transvestite.’
It didn’t fit. All I could find in my size was an array of foul frumpy dresses. I thought laterally. Which celebrity looked frumpy? I went as Susan Boyle. There was no depilation involved. One cheap wig, sturdy court shoes and a nylon dress plus a pair of stick on eyebrows and a handlebar moustache and I was SuBo.
My next attempt was a little bit more glamorous. I went to an 80s themed party. As you may have guessed, I loathe the 80s and call it the decade that taste forgot. I really did not want to wear the hideous fashions that make me shudder and recall my unhappy childhood. Again I thought laterally. I wanted a cheap outfit and wanted to go as someone or something I liked. I fired up YouTube and watched Debbie Harry singing along to Atomic in a bin bag. My outfit was born.
The bin bag proved a bit sweaty and the huge blonde wig was heavy. Worst of all was the heels. I almost broke my neck in the heels. I think I may stick to my brogues for now and leave the dragging up to those who have the gene of utter fabulousness. I seem to only have half of that gene.
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.
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