Emmy-winning comedian Bruce Vilanch and Erasure singer Andy Bell may be headliners at Sundays Stonewall Summer Pride in Wilton Manors, but the real stars are Whitney Houston, Donna Summer and Bette Midler.
Well, not exactly. South Florida drag queens Champagne Bordeaux, Tiffany Arieagus and Electra will perform as Houston, Summer and Midler.
Its as close as people can get to the real thing, says Electra (real name Jim Buff), who lives in Fort Lauderdale. Im more accessible than Bette Midler or Cher. A lot of the characters I do are dead. And Im cheaper.
Theres no shortage of well-known drag queens in South Florida. Sushi (Gary Marion), who drops from a shoe New Years Eve on CNN, holds court nightly at 801 Bourbon in Key West. Latrice Royale (Timothy Wilcots) of Hollywood recently competed on Logo TVs RuPauls Drag Race. Elaine Lancaster (James Davis) of Miami hangs out with Lea Black and The Real Housewives of Miami.
It opened doors for me I never knew existed, Davis says. Ive met some of the most amazing people on the planet through my character Elaine Lancaster. Shes a bright light. Youre either attracted to it or repelled by it.
Drag has been around since the beginning of entertainment. In ancient Greek theater, young males played female parts until their voices changed. Boys typically played female roles in Shakespeares time. Throughout the 20th century, drag was associated with Western gay culture.
One thing thats been very interesting is that for people of my generation and before my generation if you can conceive of anyone that ancient it was very freeing for gay men in the 70s and 80s to see a queen in drag, says Lady Bunny (Jon Ingle), 49, who founded Wigstock, a New York City drag festival that ran from 1985 to 2005.
Drag became passé, Lady Bunny says, but RuPauls Drag Race has helped make it fun again. It created a firestorm for gay youth not just to see drag, but to want to do it. It made drag relevant again.
Lady Bunny began doing drag in 1982, when cross-dressing was novel, she says.
It became the gay coming-out experience. It was the chosen form of entertainment in every gay bar, says Lady Bunny, who performs about six times a year in South Florida, often in the South Beach gay clubs Twist and Score.
Drag figures prominently in South Florida. Lips, an Oakland Park restaurant, offers the ultimate in drag dining Tuesdays through Sundays. Mova lounge on South Beach hosts drag bingo Tuesday nights to benefit the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Cuban drag queen Adora (Danilo de la Torre) DJs Latin night Thursdays at Twist. On Fridays in Miamis Upper Eastside, Eros Lounge hosts Born to be a Drag starring Tiffany Fantasia (Henry Williams).
Tiffany Fantasia, born and raised in Kendall, estimates there are 40 major drag stars in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. The talented ones will always find work, she says. Im all about the performance. The uniqueness of how they interpret a song. Their dancing ability and comedic timing. Its a combination of all of that.
As many as 20 local drag performers work steady gigs. There is a large clientele for it. Wise entertainers market themselves to get people to come to whatever venue theyre working at, says Tiffany Fantasia, who performs Thursdays at Boom bar in Wilton Manors and three nights a week at Palace South Beach.