Drag racing

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Annual AIDS Benefit entertains and raises funds

Can't Think Straight
Jonathan Petrychyn
A&C Editor

Here’s the thing about drag queens: they’re a blast to watch perform, but don’t sit in the front row.

Let me be more specific: don’t sit in the front row with someone who knows the drag queens, unless you, being the “cute boy in the plaid” (her words, not mine), want to be subjected to nearly three hours of ridicule and harassment, where you will essentially be bullied into drinking way more than you had planned to only to please them.

Drag queens may be bitchy, but boy, do they know how to do a fundraiser.

AIDS Programming South Saskatchewan (APSS) held its annual AIDS benefit show at the Gay and Lesbian Community of Regina (GLCR) on Saturday with the help of the Regal Social Association of Regina (RSAR) and the Prairie Pride Chorus. The show was hosted by Avaughna and Bruce Sanoir, and was, with the exception of two performances by the Prairie Pride Chorus, a regular drag show.

Don’t get me wrong, I love drag shows just as much as the next gay guy. But three hours of drag performances interspersed with bitchy banter from Bruce and Avaughna really does get tiresome if you don’t have enough drinks in you. Maybe that’s why Avaughna wouldn’t leave me alone and kept berating me into buying more gin and tonics.

In any case, drag shows have to be the most successful fundraisers in the queer community purely because the drag kings and queens won’t leave you alone until you donate all of your spare change to the big metal bucket. And if you don’t have any spare change, they’ll force you over to the bar to buy another drink so you can have more spare change.

Moreover, drag shows are successful fundraisers because the vast majority of the kings and queens performing on stage will donate their tips back to the cause. As an audience, you’re expected to tip the drag performers, as the amount of money and time they put into the performance is essentially a part-time job, and costs the kings and queens boatloads of cash. Late in the night, Bruce recounted a story about how Avaughna has a whole floor of their house devoted to gowns and wigs.

Now, before you decry drag performances as contributors to late-stage capitalism – and really, you’re right – it’s useful to note that RSAR is part of the international drag court, which means they’re more or less charities. Drag courts exist essentially as charitable bodies that donate a large portion of their tips back to community organizations. The organization is structured as this weird amalgam of 19th century French monarchy and representational democracy, complete with emperors, empresses, and a parliament.

Whole books could be written just trying to make sense of how the system works, but, as an audience member, all you’re interested in is the performance, and it’s the performance that is key to a good drag show. The problem with a lot of drag shows is that once you’ve seen one, you’ve essentially seen them all, with noted exceptions. The first two hours of this three hour ordeal were overlong and repetitive, essentially just drag queens and kings lip-syncing to the music, and not really doing much of a performance beyond their gender-bending dress.

Generally speaking, the illusion of lip-syncing is hid almost as well as their sexed body behind their performed gender, but sitting in the front row you become particularly aware of the huge disconnect between the music and the performer, because even though you’re close enough to hear their voice, there’s nothing there. It’s almost like bad ventriloquism.

That being said, however, not all performances were particularly jarring, nor were any of the performances really that bad. One couple did a performance to “No Day But Today” from Rent that was absolutely phenomenal, and the lone performer from Saskatoon did a particularly interesting performance of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Am What I Am.”

But there were only two drag queens on Saturday night that really knew how to give a performance: Yada Ya-Oughta-Book-Ahead and Jenny Talia. Yada and Jenny consistently give solid and rousing performances that are more than just lip-syncing and kind of swaying your hips to music. Yada doesn’t really do anything different than other drag queens, but she gets right into her performance and could, if there was the floor space, get everyone to their feet.

And Jenny always amazes with the effort she puts into her costumes and into the elements of the performance itself. Jenny gave a performance of Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” that was complete with a dress fitted with coloured lights, and a handful of drag queens in the background holding birthday sparklers. Sure, it’s super campy and a bit too obvious, but that’s exactly what makes it so much fun.

9 comments

  1. Jenny Talia 2 December, 2011 at 13:06

    While I appreciate the right to an opinion and anything positive stated here in this article about myself, I am insulted to read this.  The Carillon might want to consider having someone writing for them that has checked his facts, as a lot of the information presented here that wasn't opinion, was incorrect.  The fact that a non-profit organization (the Gay and Lesbian Community of Regina) organizes this benefit annually, and with volunteers contributing their personal time to make that happen, and then make a donation of thousands of dollars TO APSS to help fund their programs, was underplayed.  This spits in the face of the MANY MANY hours contributed to this cause.  I can't help but notice you have another article in your paper about the high rate of AIDS and HIV in Saskatchewan.  Perhaps, despite opinions on the quality of the show, or the performers,  some more respect should be shown to the people making an effort to contribute to this problem in a positive way.  At least enough respect could be shown to publish an article that acknowledges who put the benefit on (it wasn't APSS or the RSAR as stated) or what amount of money was raised, or for what the money was raised.
    As a note to Jonathan: The column is called "Can't Think Straight".  I assume, this means that you're the token "gay interest" or "queer perspective" writer for the Carillon.  I view that type of position as an opportunity to show mainstream society the positive side of gay and lesbian culture.  You do the opposite and make drag shows (something that is pretty unique to gay and lesbian culture) sound like something no one would be interested in.   I'm disappointed in the person at the Carillon that is the voice of the gay community for this paper.  I wish this opportunity had been available to me when I was a student at the U of R, completing my degree.

  2. Mitchell 2 December, 2011 at 13:21

    Although I am semi-proud of the Carillon for sending out their token 'gay' to do an article on the recent AIDS Benefit held at the GLCR, I am taken a back at Jonathan Petrychyn's take on it.  I do however see this as an opportunity, like any other dealings with ignorant people. 
    You had an opportunity to raise awareness to an incredible cause in much need of support.  In my 13 plus years as a GLCR member, 10 plus years as an RSAR member and having been actively involved in the Gay community promoting awareness and raising funds for a multitude of events and charities, I do not recognize you from your photo seen above.  This lends me to believe that your experiences in this community have been limited, correct me if I'm wrong and perhaps you are going into this blindly?
    You refer to the event as "repetitive" and "pushy".  We are no more repetitive than Telemiracle and certainly no more pushy than your average 'door-to-door'.  You went on to say we are campy, well of course we can be, it's part of our shtick.  I don't expect you to like every drag number or every host or every show for that matter, but as a gay man and a 'journalist' you had an opportunity here to help promote awareness, never mind promote the work that we do for this cause and so many others.  Instead, like a true stereotype, you were negatively vocal, materialistic and with seemingly little attention to detail.   
    The event itself raised over $2,400.00 that was given to APSS. The RSAR this year has selected the same organization as one of their charities this year.  Both the GLCR and RSAR have members that spend countless hours volunteering, decorating, supporting, promoting and what have you, all with the same end; to raise awareness for the Gay Community and funds for so many charities.  I guess it was just more important to your readers to hear about your plaid shirt, gin and tonic and opinions on a few local drag performers than it was on real issues or work being done. 
    I am surprised that a journalist would not have wanted to get the facts for an article versus offering an opinion, but I guess in these times anyone is permitted to go online and share their evening's events.  I guess I just thought that a personal diatribe of this nature would be limited to that of a 15 year old child’s face book page rant after coming home having not been asked to dance, rather than an article written under the helm of a legitimate media. 
               ~ Mitchell van Seters ~

  3. Brandy from Regina 2 December, 2011 at 15:50

    Jenny and Yada are always a pleasure… Jenny is definitely the best thing to happen to the stage in a long, long time!

  4. Michael 2 December, 2011 at 17:05

    I liked your article very much and I happen to agree fully with a lot of your comments. I wish I could say more but I would like to keep my identity private. I am not using my real name or anything.
    Thanks for your opinion, but most involved will instantly think you are hating on the drag kings and queens but I know you are providing your honest view. Hopefully some points are taken a little into consideration (the long winded talks about wardrobe among others? No thanks)
    I do hope that like myself, you did think that Bruce's heart-wrenching speech to the younger generation why really and truly inspiring because I know I felt that way.

    Thanks again 🙂

  5. Lily S 2 December, 2011 at 23:03

    While I respect the honest opinions in this article, I can't help but feel like this was a missed opportunity to educate the public about the real reason this drag show happened.
    I know it's easy to get blinded by the rhinestones and glitter but between Bruce and Avaughna's "bitchy banter", they were pretty committed to reminding us all about the seriousness of this cause and how much time actually went into planning this event.
    None of us are actually so full of ourselves that we do this stuff because we like pretty dresses and heels, we do it because we care about the causes and giving back to our communities.
    Also, it wasn't just the performers tips that were donated, it was the door fare, alcohol money, bar tips, and audience donations.

  6. Rhiannon 3 December, 2011 at 13:02

    I am sad about a few comments on this piece. Jonathan isn't the "token gay" writer for the paper. Just in case this needs pointing out, there is not some kind of checklist for staff or contributors. Regardless, Jon does this column as an opinion-based glimpse into queer culture, in Regina and otherwise, and I happen to think it's fantastic. This isn't a news article – it's an editorial. This means that its entire purpose is to provide a perspective. He gives background facts to frame it. I don't think he should have to apologize for not outlining every person's involvement – what he did add provided a basis for the reader to understand the piece.
    I think what is even worse is that your outrage about his opinion of the event makes it seem like this imagined dissent sets him against the cause. It's either a complete misread of Jonathan's intentions, or an unfortunate indication of the attitude surrounding this otherwise amazing event. I truly hope that it's the former.

  7. Laurie Sampson, Executive Director, APSS 5 December, 2011 at 18:46

    The annual AIDS Benefit is a huge fundraiser for AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan. I attended and had fun and I am sorry that Johathan didn't. APSS truly appreciates the time and effort that the organizers, the GLCR and the RSAR put into the event.   We also appreciate the fact that all of the volunteers, including performers, bar tenders, and door attendants donate their time and all of their tips.  All of the money raised goes to the Jerome Nagel/Ric Ranger Wellness Fund of APSS. This fund provides support for people infected with HIV/AIDS by helping to finance medications, trips to medical appointments and holistic therapies.  This event plays a key role in ensuring that HIV-positive individuals get the support that they require.  We also appreciate the public support of the event by making donations during the event and simply by attending. I am extremely proud and touched by the support the entire gay and lesbian community have shown our organization and I very much hope that events like this will continue to inform and entertain not only the gay community but the broader public for many years to come.
    Laurie Sampson, Executive Director, AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan (APSS)

  8. M 8 December, 2011 at 15:45

     

    As a reply to Rhiannon,
    I agree  this article can be a personal opinion piece, that is completely acceptable. The only thing wrong with this article was the fact that all the "background facts used to frame this peice" was all incorrect. If he would have properly stated his facts and researched the information he gives then there would not be as big of a "slap in the face". Everyone is entitled to an oppinion, but when facts are stated they need to be stated correctly to give the audience a correct view.

  9. James 16 December, 2011 at 14:34

    I do agree that there are aspects of this article that may bring down the spirit of the community or not give enough positive attention. However, it is just an opinion article. Despite a few of the "facts" in it being completely wrong, talk to anyone who has been to even a few drag shows and you know they would agree with all of Jonathan's statements. Most shows are a complete bore nowadays, mostly due to the obvious lack of effort from a large majority of the drag kings and queens. It takes more to entertain a crowd than throwing on an ill fitting dress, miniscule amounts of eyes shadow and lip gloss, hobbling up on stage full of alcohol and other illegal white powder substances we all KNOW are in the drag room and manager's office, and struggling through half the words of the latest Gaga or Britney song. Heck, even Jenny's performance of "Firework" that Jonathan praised in his article was nothing more than an EXACT repeat of the first time she performed that song only a few months earlier. I do support more attention being given to the positive efforts of the LGBT community, but I also support the view of disappointment presented by Jonathan.

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