Sunday, October 23, 2005
I'd never been to a drag show of any sort before last night, and in the glittery aftermath of the event, it's hard to recall what my expectations were for this year's Miss Adams-Morgan pageant. I can tell you this, though: those expectations were decimated by the screaming glittery pink reality of the night, a raucous, naughty and hilarious costume party that upstaged the actual drag pageant at every turn.
To the uninitiated, the Miss Adams-Morgan pageant is DC's largest private event, a party that began among a handful of close friends in the 80's and has since snowballed into a tremendous, thundering costume party that sells out every year.
It's closed to working media, but apparently there is no such ban on small-time bloggers like yours truly. I spent the night with two drinks in one hand and a camera in the other, and MAN did I get some pictures. Check these out, but you can see the whole set here.
According to the Washington Blade, the pageant is closed to media in order to protect attendees that might be in the closet or uncomfortable with being seen in drag. I respectfully disagree. I think it's fine to have a "no media" policy, but it seems a little ridiculous to say that it's protecting anyone. There were hundreds of people at this event, most of them carrying digital cameras. If you don't want the world to know how you look in drag, it's probably not a good idea to get geared up in front of a thousand people on Halloween. Also, one's presence at the event does not actually connote a certain sexuality. I'm straight, as are some of my friends and coworkers that attended-- and apart from a few well-meant but mistaken passes, there wasn't much mistaken identity there.
Here's the pageant winner, Miss Myrtle Beeyotch from South Carolina:
This guy dressed up as the ultimate all-American closeted hero:
Somehow all of his chest hairs were perfectly painted so that they didn't fuzz out the lines of his chest makeup at all. <--- I never thought I would write that sentence.
Condaleeza Rice was there, humping random butts in the audience all night in an all-too-real reenactment of the political buttfucking she's been helping to give the world for years:
It was incredibly difficult to get these candid photos. Not because the participants were resistant to being photographed...quite the opposite. Everybody was so stoked on being photographed that they kept leaping up to pose as soon as they sensed my camera:
The scene in the bathrooms was just nuts, no pun intended. My friend Danielle reported that the ladies' room was just chaos, people bumping into each other and drunkenly stumbling on their high heels. One queen shouted in a loud, bass voice: "Alright, which of you bitches is real, for God's sake!" The men's room was a total party, crowded and louder than the men's room at a WWF match but really friendly and hilarious. This guy definitely needed his time:
At one point things got a little hairy, though. Again, no puns intended. I was photographing a guy and his partner, in drag, and his rowdy partner started grabbing my package over my pants. I wasn't overly worried about it, because I knew he was just playing...I thought. Then he started yanking my shirt out of the way and jamming his big, calloused hand down the front of my pants! I quickly grabbed his wrist and squeezed it HARD, saying "Dude. I'm friendly, but I'm not on the team." His friends screamed with drink-spitting laughter.
This guy was my favorite queen of the evening, hands-down:
He looks like he's going to go clog up the toilet at the hairdresser's and then fix somebody's carburetor.
As a straight white guy, I am very rarely in the minority. While I was very definitely in the minority at the pageant, it was really no big deal at all...everyone was really welcoming, warm and friendly. The party was one of the most naughty, shocking and over-the top spectacles I've ever seen, and it kind of made me jealous.
I realized halfway through what an honor it was to be invited by my coworker. I'm new, and he doesn't know me that well...I could have showed up with a pistol in one hand and a Bible in the other, for all he knows about me. It's a rare and amazing person that gives some guy from work an all-access pass into their private life and lets the cards fall where they may.
If gay folks DID recruit like Pat Robertson says they do, they could have snapped up a bunch of people last night. The pageant was bound with this electric current of community, like everyone there was part of something special and strangely elegant, as though they got a joke that everyone outside the club could only smile at politely.
When straight people get together for a party, it's just a party. There's just some booze and some lame pretzels or something and everybody just hangs out feeling kind of awkward. Half the time I make up some excuse and check out early to go read at home...I couldn't bear to miss a second last night.
To this outsider at last night's pageant, gay life looked like an laugh-filled adventure, like a golden ticket into a subculture where everybody knows your name. The organizers and the participants put in lot of hard work and passion, and for one liquor-fueled, glitter-soaked night, they made it all look easy...