Drag Queens, men who dress in women’s clothing and perform, have been around for ages. It’s only in recent years that they’ve become more popular in mainstream audiences. Thanks to such documentaries as “Paris is Burning”a 1990’s film about Harlem’s African-American Drag Queen ball culture. Portland’s drag scene includes Darcelle XV, who’s been running drag shows here since the 1970’s. Also, the ever so popular RuPaul’s Drag Race, a series about Americas next Superstar Drag Queen. Even the most conventional, heterosexual suburbanite would most likely be able to recognize the name RuPaul or Darcelle when asked about Drag Queens.
But what about the Drag King? Here in Portland we used to have Drag King troupes such as the River City Riders and DKPDX. We still have fantastic individual performers such as Vanna Pecoraro aka Emilio – the Latin Drag King and Jaclyn McNeill aka Beau Jangles. But overall Drag King ensembles seem to have all but disappeared here in Portland and are hard to find even on a national level. Some people have speculated that the decline in lesbian orientated bars and clubs have negatively affected the gender-bending Drag King scene as historically those were venues where numerous Drag King shows were held.
But on Thursday, Sept 24th the Drag Kings are coming back again – in numbers. Team Portland, a conglomeration of softball players from the Rose City Softball Association, is holding a PDX Drag King show. This is a fundraiser for their trip to the World Series softball tournament in Orlando this year. The goal of this event is to not only raise money for traveling expenses but also to revive and give the Drag King scene the much-needed boost.
Sara Dryden, co-manager of Team Portland and organizer of this event commented, “I personally never had experienced Drag King shows prior to moving to Portland. So when I did see a drag show here (a long time ago), it was a pretty novel idea to me. We have a few local performers in Portland, who do individual shows and special events and in the past I have seen drag troupes, organized by a particular group of women working together succeed for a while. So to have an open, community-based show that anyone can sign up to participate in we’re hoping will be a good step in creating a new ‘scene’ for Drag Kings.”
“I think Drag Kings are underrated. Not many people are aware we even exist, but I have high hopes that we will soon become as visible as the Queens. So the more Kings, the better. There are so many people that have never heard or seen a Drag King even in our community,” – shared Emilio, who’s been performing since 2008.
Jaclyn McNeill aka Beau Jangles had been performing drag since 1996 and joined the Drag King Troupe Rose City Riders in 2004 when she moved to Portland. She’s performing in the PDX Drag King event and also is hoping it will kick start Portland’s lackluster Drag King scene.
“It helped when we had the support of the Egyptian Room, the only lesbian owned and supported bar. Not that we didn’t perform at other venues, but our main community support seems to come from exclusively women s bars and clubs. When the Egyptian Room closed five years ago, the community separated into privately owned dance parties that want a venue that will support a more diverse crowd instead of being at an exclusively run bar. It shouldn’t make a difference, but it does,” – commented McNeill adding, “Making allies with Drag Queens helps bring the community together and opens up more options for combined shows also. I’ve done backup dancing for some of the Drag Queens in national competitions, of which they also have Drag King national competitions. That combination can help to get things started sometimes.”
“Teams often use traditional methods of fundraising such as bingo nights, silent auctions and raffles, and this seemed like a new and fun event to get the community excited. This event sparked in part, by a need to raise money for a hotel, rental car, and registration costs but also because some players have a long-standing desire to revitalize Drag King performances in Portland. Performances will include a variety of musical genres from hip-hop, country, R&B, and rock. This event is open to the whole community, and all women are encouraged to perform.” – Dryden added.
The PDX Drag King show promises to provide a long list of Drag King entertainers including Maverick, Justin D Licious, Macaulay Cockin, Phil Oliver, Beau Jangles and many more.
For information about PDX Drag King go to Facebook.