A herstory lesson for the young and ill-informed.
Recently I was on everybody’s favorite source for irritating news — Facebook — and came across the most irritating news story. It a was some little young millennial from some millennial online zine who put out the top 10 greatest drag queens of all time. I could not have been more irritated, except for when Kylie Jenner said she started the wig thing, uggggggg!
In the author’s list there were nine drag queens, seven of whom didn’t even come close to the honor of being graced with such a title and one well-respected transsexual. As a person who was once a drag queen that now identifies trans, this was highly offensive, but we’ll get into that later.
In this column, for the sake of space, I will talk about queens who I think you should know with some brief information that, in my humble opinion, you should know. There are literally hundreds to note, so please don’t hate if there is someone you think I missed but I will cover much ground in my attempt to give a list of the All Time Greatest Drag Personalities Ever!
Let’s start with a brief history, shall we?
Let’s time-twerk back 8–10 thousand years ago to the father of the glamorous King Tut, Akhenaten. Was she a drag queen? Who can say, even I’m not that old, but Tut had to get it from somewhere! Akhenaten certainly acted like one, causing lots of controversy and being declared one of the most notable of history. Case-in-point: she had all of her statues made to have all the appearances of a woman, including breasts. I mean, come on girl, if someone was making your statue, wouldn’t you be like, “Less nose more bewbs!”
Joan of Arc: yas King. We don’t segregate here at Q-mag, oh no! When I say drag I include the boi-ladies with the lady-boys. Yes, the fearless defender of the Catholic Church and its right to hate everyone equally donned the armor of her male counterparts in the fight for said rights, but in that sad Brokeback Mountain scenario, it didn’t end too well for her.
Of course I’m being trite but when we use phrases such as “all time,” one would need to think past the girls on RuPaul’s Drag Race. On the aforementioned author’s article is seven RPDR stars and “greatest of all time” they ain’t, although Sharon Needles is quite amazing. The fact that didn’t she didn’t have Raja leads me to believe that she wrote her article purely off her young gay BFFs telling her, “you know who’s totally amazing?!” The other three are spot on, sort of.
Number one was Ru hermself, I mean the bitch just won an Emmy, BOKAY—tongue-pop! RuPaul has been a leader in this genre and there is no denying that, breaking down the barriers the way she has is … well, pretty great.
Last on the list was Jackie Beat, a singer, songwriter and actually a voice over artist from Los Angeles. She said she was last on the list cuz she’s, like, 250 years old and deserves better than that!
Somewhere in the middle of this child’s top 10 was Candis Cayne who, yes, was once a drag queen, but is now more of a chanteuse who performs her magic in front of hundreds of gays in West Hollywood. So I guess, technically, she should be recognized, but then we have to mention the trans girls that once were pretty fucking great like; Vicky Marlene (joined the circus sideshow to escape her small town in the ’40s to dance the hoochie and now has a street named after her in SF), Martha P Washington (started Stonewall riots), Holly Woodlawn, Veronica Klaus, Justin Bond (Short Bus) and the dearly departed Alexis Arquette.
From here on out, I will give names and maybe a bit of info for some queens, but it’s up to you, the reader, to do your own research and find your beloved favorites.
Let’s head back 100 years. Locally, we had Brigham Young’s eldest and namesake son (he founded Mutual) the great Madam Paterini. Julian Eltinge was one of the first of drag kings and starred in many a film with the likes of Mae West and Rudolph Valentino. Flash to the 1930s and there was Barbett, an absolutely stunning drag performer/aerialist/force/toast of Europe (think Victor/Victoria amazing Jean Harlow Impersonator).
The great Charles Pierce is who your parents will think of when they think drag. Her career in the 70s was the stereotypical ‘female impersonator’ role. She did all the old greats like Betty Davis, Joan Crawford, Mae West, Talula Bankhead, etc.
As we flash thru time we get to Leigh Bowery and Divine who came in and changed the game. I swear to god, if one one more child with disturbing, abstract makeup on says to me, “who’s Leigh Bowery?” I will beat them with the ugly stick they painted that fucked-up face with.
I could fill this entire issue with the who’s and why’s and what’s they did, but alas, in no particular order are queens you should know who da fuq they are because they are great and talented and without them there would be no Ru Paul Drag Stars!
Lady Bunny, Heklina, Juanita Moore, Glamamore, The Steve Lady, Pippi Lovestocking, Uta Hagen, Lipsynka, Joey Arias, Flotilla Debarge, Jayne County, Jer Ber Jones, Beverly Lasalle, Rachel Harlow, Miss Guy, Vinsantos, Peaches Christ, Ms Ana Matronic, Fauxnique, Tootsie, Flloyd, Squeaky Blonde, Bea Dazzler, Mistress Formika, Miss Coco Peru (drop this and go watch her play grand theft auto on YouTube), Crystal Waters, Wendy Wild, Taboo, Dini Martini, Girlina, and many X100 more.
RuPaul did not invent this wheel, and for every queen I just mentioned there are five or more in every city that was or is the greatest drag queen ever!