I must write about the most hysterical, over-the-top brilliant benefit I have seen in a long, long time--perhaps ever. It is the annual "Best in Drag Show" to benefit Aid for Aids in Los Angeles. Formerly called "Battle for the Tiara", this pagaent boasts seven competitors from seven states, each building and paying for their own costumes and drag. And what drag it was. I will be getting pictures from a friend, and I will be sure to post some.
The seven contestants were:
Lu Ow (Raphael Ganchegui), Miss Hawaii, who came out in a volcano dress for evening wear, and whose talent was swinging flags and balls while lip-syncing Bette Midler's "If you're crackin up from having lack of shacking up..." song, then sacrificing herself into a volcano from a mini trampoline.
Wanda Joy Sparks (Rusty Hamrick), Miss Nevada, who carried a live chicken named Carol, tap danced, sang, and twirled baton for talent, and worked Carol in her dress for the evening gown.
Carrie Okie (Aron Ross), Miss Oklahoma, who sang a medley of the whole score of Oklahoma in two and a half minutes for talent, entering on a horse and then singing to him.
Heleyna Haanbasquette (Jason Krich), Miss Illinois the nine year old lollipop fanatic, who when asked what her definition of possible was responded "It's when you're in the shower, and you start at your head and wash as far as possible, then you start at your feet and you wash up as far as possible, and then you (giggle) wash your possible."
Rita Morongo (Wagner Soares), Miss California, who had a dress that was backed by a glittery deck of cards, an evening gown with 200 yards of fabric and as many peacock feathers, and a truly inscrutable talent, which involved arranging flowers on a cabinet while lip-syncing "I am what I am", then poopping behind the cabinet to emerge with the pot of flowers on her head.
The night, though belonged to two contestants, Sandy Crab (Eric Yake), MIss Louisiana, and Patrola DeBorder (Antonio Martinez), Miss New Mexico. I will have to describe each separately, as both were brilliant in their own way. I am biased, but I think Miss New Mexico would have won for camp value (as fair New Mexico is my homestate, as well as Stinky Lulu's and countless other great peoples'), but Miss Louisiana brought it out in the end on costume construction and sheer hilarity.
Miss Louisiana provided the first big laugh and standing O of the night by emerging in a giant pink oyster for the bathing suit competition. That would have been hysterical enough, but she pushed a bouncing pearl through her legs at the top of the stairs, which bounced downstage and shocked everyone, who promptly jumped to their feet. And then the oyster opened. Her talent was somewhat wonderful as well, a badly played Gershwin medley, including parts of "Rhapsody in Blue". And she was able to put her candelabra in her hair while playing. Fabulous. But the thing that put her over the top (literally), was the evening gown. She was wearing a red, white and blue dress with an arch that looked like something from the French Quarter. She pulled a string and it turned into a MIssisippi Steam boat that spewed real steam. Another standing ovation, much deserved.
Miss New Mexico, Patrola de Border, won my heart, though, while running from the MinuteMen, who were patrolling the crowd. Her opening dress was a mess of chicken wire and desert plants, with a "keep out" sign on the back. Her swimsuit included a wrap that looked like a tortilla, and she was dressed like the innards of a taco, which defies description. Her talent, though, was the best thing of the night. She emerged looking like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, albeit with an antebellum hoop skirt. The strains of "Over the Rainbow" began. She started talking to her dog, Cholo, a stuffed black puppy she had under her arm. A moment after she began singing, a mustachioed man wearing a wife beater and covered with grease stains emerged from under her dress, and ran off the stage. By this time the audience is dying. She continued to sing alternate lyrics and the refrain "Over the Border". Each time a verse ended there was a gunshot, which she moved to avoid. The man running kept coming on and off stage, at one point to take the trumpet from Patrola, which she had managed to play during the instrumental. The second to last gunshot killed her dog, and she collapsed on the last one at the end of the song. The entire crowd jumped to its feet. It ranks as one of the most hysterical offensive and perfect drag acts I have ever seen. This is why we love drag. For her evening gown, she wore what looked like a wedding cake, and tricked the host into marrying her for abig glittery green card. So Louisiana may have pulled it out on the construction and talent end, but for camp, Miss New Mexico has my heart.
The winner was crowned by last year's winner, Breedem Young, who emerged on stilts, pregnant, and in a wedding dress. She gave birth to multi racial twins (one black and one white), between the opening and closing.
The most wonderful thing, though, is that 90% of the money raised in this benefit goes directly to services. The majority of the services for the event are donated, except for theatre rental etc. There is also no corporate support, which leaves people free to say whatever they'd like. A great majority of the people involved and performing I believe are part of the recovery community as well, and there is much talk of being of service--it's powerful to see that mandate in action. There are, of course, cleberity judges. Each year is opened by Kathy Griffin, and judges were Marcia Cross, Joanne Worley, Loni Anderson, Tori Spelling, Caroline Rhea, and Melinda Clarke. One hysterical moment (of many) was provided by color commentator Ida Dunham (Todd Sherry). He told a cautionary tale to Tori Spelling. It seems he had waited on her years ago at the Hard Rock Cafe, and asked her how he would like her meat cooked. She apparently thought he said "How would you like your meat? Cooked?" To which she snappily said something like "Yes! Duh!" He gave a warning to Hollywood--you never know who's waiting on you. The other color commentator , Lotta Slots (Jeffrey Drew), was hysterical as always. And opened the show with his customary back flip that someone pledged $1500 for him to do. IN previous years he has entered on a camel. Brilliant. And such a sweetheart.
The evening was punctuated during downtime with reading of pledges and checks, one that should be noted is Kathy Kinney. She is usually there every year, but this year work kept her away. She sent a note saying how sorry she couldn't be there, and a check for $10,000. It made the MC cry, which is also one of the best parts. And what an amazing gesture from a wonderful woman.
Sorry to go on and on, but for camp, laughs, talent, and heart, you just can't beat this thing. Hopefully some pictures will follow.