Losing My Drag Cherry
“Purple best color for you.”
As soon as Miss Kay placed the teased out purple wig on my head, I knew she was correct in her assessment. It was much more flattering than the cotton candy pink wig and way more fun than the big white bouffant I’d just tried on.
Actually, I can’t believe I just used the words “teased and “bouffant” in relation to anything on my head.
Truthfully, I can’t believe I was sitting in a chair in a small basement shop on Capitol Hill on a Wednesday night being fitted for a wig by a little Korean woman who listens to religious music. Miss Kay, though, outfits many a Washington drag queen so it was only right that I should put myself in her capable hands (and hair) for my first foray into drag.
In all my 52 years I’d neither donned a women’s wig nor applied a lipstick. I guess I just didn’t get the drag gene. Sequins have always scared me. Yes, I was a drag virgin and the occasion for which I had decided to give it up was the Rehoboth Art League Beaux Arts Ball. I desired to do something a tad outrageous, with a nod to the cross-dressing, costumed history of the Beaux Arts Ball. Not quite ready to go all the way with dress, spanks, and heels, I’d decided to pair my best navy Brooks Brothers suit with wig and make up and go ostensibly as a classic hermaphrodite, which felt sort of Beaux Artsy to me.
Recognizing a need for advice, I called upon the “Pie Ladies,” an ad hoc, secret troupe of drag aficionados best known for their outrageous Independence Day pie deliveries around Rehoboth. Always ready to spread the drag gospel, they snapped into action, and that my friends is how I came to be sitting in a basement wig shop. Stone cold sober, I should add, or else I might not have turned down Miss Kay’s suggestion of a beaded purple clutch to accompany my look.
The “Pie Ladies,” bless their hearts, also arranged for a couple of professionals to come do makeup and complete my transformation from man to glam on the day of the Ball. Imagine my delight when two of the stars from the Blue Moon Spotlight Show showed up on Saturday afternoon lugging silver makeup cases the size of industrial-sized toolboxes from the Home Depot.
For ninety minutes, I was the beneficiary of their talented
tag team treatment, which started off slowly as they spackled on gobs of foundation—the good stuff because Cover Girl does not cover boy—followed by brow penciling, eye lining, champagne drinking, eye shadowing, and, finally, the application of the eyelashes. We decided to do tops and bottoms, because, frankly, lashes can never be too bold. The hardest part of the whole makeover was peering through falsies to catch a glimpse of the Florida-Tennessee football game on the nearby telly.
A lot of time was spent drawing on lips because mine, it seems, are non-existent. Perhaps that explains my aversion to kissing? A little contouring to create a more definitive jawline and cheekbones, bobby pins to keep the wig in place, and voila, I was now some sort of 6’3” cross between Paula Deen and Divine, with a little Dame Edna thrown in for good measure. An innocent no more.
After more champagne and celebratory toasts to a job well done, this glamazon was ready to roll. My partner, behind a feathered chicken mask, drove us to the Beaux Arts Ball in an aqua Thunderbird convertible, which I have to say complemented my purple wig quite well. Of course we took a quick joyride down Baltimore Avenue first. Thank goodness for the bobby pins.
You should know my look garnered copious attention at the Ball, a little too much from some of the hetero husbands in the crowd. Here’s a tip: If you want to pick up a married man simply put on a wig and some lipstick. I swear it’s some sort of aphrodisiac.
I have to say, the Blue Moon divas know their craft. Over the course of the evening, the makeup held. The wig, however, began slipping. And after several stiff cocktails, my lips had receded and I’d lost my very red tube of lipstick. Perhaps I should have purchased that beaded clutch after all.
Returning home drunk and a bit disheveled, I went about removing the makeup, which wasn’t as tough as I’d expected. I first very carefully peeled off the eyelashes. Then I used some duck tape to blot off the glitter and heavy mascara—another use for the product that seemingly holds the universe together—before heading into the shower with a bottle of liquid dish soap. Several rinses followed by a Jojoba face scrub and a couple splashes of toner, and I was makeup free. I finished things off with a little moisturizer, a cold glass of club soda, and a sleeping pill.
Dozing off in bed and thinking about whether or not I’d ever wear that purple wig again, I couldn’t help but wonder if indeed I had truly lost my drag cherry. Was “drag head” the way I did it really considered “doing drag?” Or did I also need to be in a dress and heels in order to “go all the way?” It’s an intriguing question and one for which I have no definitive answer.
I know what Bill Clinton would say. But since he’s not on my speed dial when I need drag advice, I’ll just have to text the “Pie Ladies” and get their spin on it. I better do this sober or who knows what’ll happen come fourth of July!
Rich Barnett is the author of The Discreet Charms of a Bourgeois Beach Town. Rich Barnett's Blog