Monday, June 23, 2008

am i a lesbian or are the dresses really just that fabulous? : Miss Pride of Iowa 2008

The first question: what to wear to a drag show.

If you wear a dress, is that like wearing white to a wedding? I wondered. But all of my jeans were dirty, so, dress it was.

The second question: who to take to a drag show.

Inevitably, groups are more fun, but, as inevitably nearly everyone was out of town, at work, or doing something more interesting, my date for the evening ended up being just one friend, a girl.

"I wonder if people will think we're on a date," said my girl date as we headed toward the gay bar. "If they do, I'm pretty sure I'm dressed more butch."

As far as gay bars go, Studio 13 is pretty gay. On a regular night you'll see dudes swapping spit and gogo dancers in tighty whiteys. Studio is, however, not too gay for a couple of straight people to have a good time. My date and I have both been there a few times before and each of us has a story, which we swap as we round the corner of her block where I have chivalrously picked her up-- my date's story involves kereoke; mine arriving home with a no-one-ask-any-questions hickey that had me wearing my scarves indoors for a week.

Studio 13 is packed full but, at least for the first half of the show, we get decent spots facing upstage and standing next to the walkway that leads to the stage-- not really a stage, but on another night just a dance floor, with mirrors on the back wall marred with hand prints.

The show begins with 2007's Miss Pride of Iowa, a willowy drag queen with honey brown skin and a beautiful flowing caramel-colored wig. She is in an evening gown and roller skates. Immediately crowd members begin sticking out their dollars to have the former Miss Pride skate over to them with a kiss. Often, the patron and the queen exchange whispers. All of the kissing of cheeks makes it seem like everyone knows each other.

When the contestants are announced, Contestant #1 seems like a shoe-in. She, firstly, looks the most like Miss Pride 2007, with her long hair and long body, heavily highlighted cheekbones, and sequined evening gown. Contestant #2 is smaller with red blonde hair. Her dress is of evening gown length, but considerably less formality than Contestant #1's. Contestant #3's first outfit of the evening is loud, involving large floral prints, fuschia, and boots. She has pretty curls and a bouncy volumptious figure.

Immediately upon seeing the tell-tale pageant walk about, I feel nostalgia for my own little-known experience in a "scholarship program." (I can still walk in heels with a dictionary on my head-- AND turn.) Maybe I can run for Miss Pride of Iowa 2009? How gay does one have to be to run for such a thing?

Between acts of the pageant, the professional queens perform in elaborate costumes involving huge feather headdresses, leopard print, sequins, boas, even Victorian gowns. One of the performers has come from as far as Kansas City. At one point, I see someone slip a queen a ten dollar bill.

"This kind of makes me wish I was a guy so I could dress up as a girl and make some money," my date says.

I was just thinking the same thing.

The pageant, after the initial presentation of the candidates, involves two other presentations for evening gown and talent. Of course everyone's talent is the same dancing and lip-synching. Contestant #1 brings back-up dancers. Contestant #3 has an extremely frilly robe which she removes, after much anticipation, to reveal something like a cheerleader's outfit. Contestant #2, while still performing as much as the others, doesn't have the wardrobe to compete.

"Do you think she's new to drag?" my date asks me.

"I don't think she's in drag," I say. "I think she's a girl."

It is pretty hard to tell. Considering the pageant is taking place during the regular drag show time, it seems like any drag contestants would have the advantage in this venue. I have to admit, this pageant, with its drag performances, is far more fun than the Miss USA pageants I used to watch on TV with my mom.

As the evening progresses, however, people who are inevitably more gay than me find their way to the front and I lose my spot. For a while my date and I balance on stools in the back and peer over the crowd, but after awhile she wants to go into the less crowded front room where the pageant is screened above the bar.

I can't help but think that this wouldn't have happened if I'd brought a guy.

At the end of the night, Contestant #1 is crowned--and the crown is huge, by the way--, with little surprise from me.

"I hope there are flowers," I say.

There are not.

As I walk home for the night, I contemplate what I would have performed in. I realize that what I really want to do is just put on a huge dress and spin around on a stage. Which is what all little girls dream of, right? Whether they fill the dress naturally or use girdles and falsies.


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