If you wanted to see drag in Salt Lake City at the start of the new millennium, chances are you typically sought out the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire. Then, as now, every detail of the Court’s productions — from lavish sets and outfits to fabulous performances — screamed elegance. But Rand Bodily didn’t want glamour and polish; he wanted polyester and paisley. He wanted obvious foam bust lines and middle-aged men in bouffants and glittery goatees.
He wanted funny.
“The RCSGE shows were great, but I thought people weren’t having fun at them,” he remembers. “So we needed something different.”
For Bodily, that something different came in the guise of the Denver Cycle Sluts, a Colorado-based camp drag troupe whose thrift store dresses and over-the-top mascara never concealed their masculine figures and who regularly performed to benefit local charities. Inspired by the Cycle Sluts’ antics and generosity, Bodily took the name Lucky Charms and teamed up with friends Chris Trujillo (Andromeda Strange) and Clark Monk (Beneatha Serta) to form the Utah Cyber Sluts.
“The Cycle Sluts really mothered us,” Bodily remembers. “They showed us how to run a group like this, and even gave us a farcical ‘passing of the crown’ ceremony.” After learning all they could at their “mother’s” feet, the Cyber Sluts exploded onto the Utah drag scene — and out of their girdles — with Kaboom! their first-ever show held at the now-defunct club Bricks.
According to Bodily, a lot of things were different for the Sluts in those first days. Today, a roster of 17 Sluts routinely delight Salt Lake City audiences at a number of performances and events throughout the year, including private parties and the now (in)famous monthly bingo nights. In 2000, the Sluts boasted only half that number and today’s standing-room-only bingo nights weren’t even specks of glitter in a drag queen’s eye.
“In our first year, we did a show every month, every holiday and every reason to have one,” says Bodily, adding that those reasons included celebrations like Pride and the Court’s annual Coronation. “We’d pull something out of our hats to make people say, ‘wow, look how crazy they are!’”
By now, some of the ‘crazy’ things the sluts pulled out of their ridiculously-lacy hats are the stuff of local legend and travel guide wonder, like the “Fat Cher” number and “UFO Fifth Element,” which features a four-breasted alien performer. And who can forget the more recent bingo nights where audience participation — including Sen. Larry Craig-style foot-tapping — rivals the likes of a midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show screening?
But while the Sluts’ antics sometimes come with a PG-13 rating, Bodily says the girls have always sought to entertain their audience, not alienate them.
“The idea from the beginning was, don’t offend your audience,” he says. “Do things they’d find funny, but not offensive. We’ve never used dildos on stage, for example. That kind of thing wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Now, holding a raffle to dress up an audience member like a Slut and force him to sing “Santa Baby?” Just part of the routine.
Charitable work has also been routine for the Sluts since their first performance.
“When we first started it was important to me and the other six Sluts that all the charities be non-exclusive [to the gay community],” Bodily says. “It needed to be a charity to help everybody.”
In the past seven years, the ‘ladies’ have raised thousands of dollars for a number of worthy causes including Lupus research, the annual MS Walk, animal sanctuaries and Amigos of Honduras. Currently, half of the proceeds raised each month at bingo go to the Utah Pride Center and the other half to a charity of an individual Slut’s choice (each Slut gets one month per year) such as the South Valley Domestic Violence Shelter (Ruby Ridge) and Therapy Animals (Chevy Suburban).
Hotel Monaco’s Red Hot Party
The Sluts’ next charitable endeavor will be helping to raise money for the Utah AIDS Foundation at Hotel Monaco’s third annual Red Hot Party on Thursday, Nov. 29. One of many such Red Ribbon Parties Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants (Monaco’s parent company) hold annually at their 40 properties across the country before World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. In October, the San Francisco-based hotel chain also launched a two-month initiative to educate guests and employees about the importance of continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS, which includes displaying literature about the pandemic in all Kimpton lobbies, elevators and hotel rooms.
According to Hotel Monaco’s Conference Services Manager Shawn Jackson (whom the Sluts often dress up as ‘Monaco Lewinsky’ during their shows), last year’s Red Party raised just under $10,000 for UAF’s client services and HIV/AIDS prevention education programs. Collectively, the Red Ribbon Parties held in each Kimpton region raised $57,000 in 2006. The company has assisted HIV service organizations across North America for 20 years.
“We love Salt Lake City and were amazed at how generous people are and how much they support us,” said Jackson.
According to Jackson, this year’s Red Party will be much like it has been in the past two years. Once again, the Monaco’s living room will be draped in red, the food (courtesy of on-site restaurant Bambara) served will be red and prizes will be awarded to the best dressed guest in … well … red. But there will be some exciting new things to watch for this year, too. In keeping with the party’s theme of Red Hot Nights, fire dancers from Incendiary Circus and projections of crackling flames on the hotel’s walls will accompany the usual festivities.
“We decided to run with the fire theme, so it’ll be like the hotel is on fire,” said Jackson.
Presumably, the Sluts will be weaving through the flames to run the prize raffle and strut through the lobby looking fabulous. But Anthony Dever (Ida Slapter) won’t give any more details than that.
“Be prepared to see big, beautiful Cyber Sluts flaming it up!” is all he will say.
Of course, a Slut’s work is never done, not even after the Red Party’s balloon drop. On Nov. 30, the Sluts will hold their Christmas performance “Cyber Night, Slutty Night, What’s in Your Stocking?” at the Paper Moon.
And then there’s bingo night over at the First Baptist Church. Since leaving its home at the Utah Pride Center, the monthly event has grown beyond Dever’s wildest dreams. So far they have raised $30,000 this year for charity. And this month, not a single bingo card or empty chair in the church’s social hall was left as the Sluts raised $2,200 in one night for UAF.
Bodily, who describes himself as “retired” from the Sluts, remembers being amazed when he attended this month’s game.
“It was bigger!” he says. “I remember when you took turns winning because there were only seven people there. I remember $300 months.”
Of course, there is no such thing as too big when it comes to the Utah Cyber Sluts. When asked what adventures he hopes the Sluts will have in 2008, Dever hopes that the group’s new Madame will make sure they’re as wacky as this year’s have been.
And he also hopes the Sluts will keep bridging the gap between the gay and straight communities in their own special way.
“When we did bingo at Southern Utah Pride at Zion this year, there was a kid who had come out recently there. After bingo, his parents came up to us and said, ‘It’s nice too see that it’s not so serious all the time in this community [with things like AIDS and homophobia] and that there is a lighter side,” he remembers.
The third annual Red Party will be held at Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City (15 West Second South) on Thursday, Nov. 29 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. The public is welcome and a $25 donation at the door is suggested. RSVPs are necessary and can be made by calling Reline Sombrero at 990-9729 or via email to [email protected]