“Sometimes I feel like Martha’s more well-known than I am — she’s eclipsed me.” Photograph by Chris Crisman
Hard to say what Martha Graham Cracker noticed a few seconds ago as she left the band and the stage and slinked through the crowd. Hard to say why she picked out from the 100 people packed into this blackened room a certain middle-aged white guy in a white button-up shirt, but right now Martha has her legs wrapped around this guy’s neck.
The guy is standing next to a rectangular bar at the back of L’Étage, a nightclub and cabaret off South Street. Martha’s sitting on the bar and leaning back into the bartenders’ space, legs up in the air so that her calves are balanced on the guy’s shoulders, wireless microphone in her right hand. She’s singing Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” — like, really singing it, powerfully, seriously, an emotionally naked song about desperation and fear, singing it in her strong, lovely voice, a spotlight piercing the dark and illuminating her face.
And part of the comedy here, part of the reason that all 100 people are laughing and clapping in surprise and delight, is that Martha’s not even looking at the guy who is struggling between her legs. Smiling but struggling as a friend or partner films it on her smartphone. Almost certainly a new experience for the guy, being this close to a drag queen, much less a drag queen like Martha: six-foot-two and hairy-chested, hairy-armed, hairy-legged; not a man trying to pass as a woman but a defiantly unmown lawn of a man in a blond pixie wig and a blue dress and six-inch heels that are now crossed behind the dude’s neck in a hammerlock as Martha’s guitarist and bassist and keyboardist and drummer play the Whitney Houston song and Martha sings:
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Three years ago, if you’d told me that I would spend every weekend being called “Fat Butt” by the local drag queens, I would have said, “Uh, no way. I’m afraid of drag queens.”
It wasn’t the “guy in a dress” thing. It was the clown thing. I’m terrified of them. The bright makeup, the colorful costumes, being able to fit seven or eight of them in a single cab—you know, the typical clown fear. And I had a hard time disassociating the two.
However, in the nearly two years I’ve been hanging out in the Gayborhood, I’ve lost my clown-based fear of queens, only to have it replaced by an appreciation for the art. Lately, though, there’s a boredom creeping in. I’m tired of seeing essentially the same show week after week. Similar costumes. The same songs. Between Top 40 radio and weekly drag shows, I’m getting a double dose of the already-repetitive songs the music industry pushes on us.
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Maddox Madison at Tabu last August. Photo by Garrett Matthew.
Maddöx Madison, a drag queen staple of the New York nightlife scene, passed away yesterday after a two-month battle with skin cancer. The performer and makeup connoisseur performed here in Philadelphia frequently. While I didn’t know her very well (when I did meet her, she was so sweet), many queens from Philadelphia did. Here are some of their reactions via social media.
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Mimi Imfurst is hanging up her wig…for now.
The legendary Dollhouse Revue, a staple of the Philadelphia drag community, is coming to a close after an over five-year run.
“We’ve enjoyed a very successful long run and I felt as though we had achieved so much and that it was time to move onto creating something new and different,” creator and RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Mimi Imfurst told me. “I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done over the last five years and I’m really thankful for that experience.”
The Dollstars are prepping for their last show this Thursday, May 29 at Voyeur Nightclub. The evening will feature over twenty of Philly’s best drag performers, including Porcelain, The Goddess Isis, Ann Artist, Satine Harlow, and more. DJ Carl Michaels will be spinning, and there are $3 drinks until midnight.
“The show is going to feature some favorite performances from years’ past, as well as some new surprises,” said Mimi. “This will be one last chance to see several iconic group numbers created by the Dollstars over the years.”
When I asked Mimi what we could expect from her in the future, she answered pretty plainly: “I have some new things up my sleeve. When the time is right, you’ll be hearing about them.”
Doors open at 10PM; show starts at 11:30PM. $10 Cover. For more information on Voyeur Nightclub, visit their webpage.
Photos of by Magnus Hastings
Australian dynamo Courtney Act (aka Shane Jenek) comes to Philly this week to perform with fellow Drag Race contestants in the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 Cast Party at Voyeur. I caught up with the living Barbie doll on the phone this week to see how life’s been treating her post-Drag Race, her thoughts on the “she-male” controversy, and why she’s so damn mean to Joslyn Fox.
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New York Magazine has a great story this week about a Kansas City artist who stumbled upon a slide carousel of photos from a drag party in the 1960s.
“The first image I looked at was this picture of a man in a kimono that was incredibly colorful — it was just a stunning image to behold,” Heishman told the Cut. “There were family photos, and then I hit this line of images that were all people dressed in drag, predominantly standing in front of this beautiful mosaic outside a bar.” Intrigued, Heishman purchased the slides — for $2. “I didn’t really know what I was purchasing, but I wanted to have time to sit with them a little longer,” he explains.
See more photos after the jump
New York City critics — and Bill Murray — raved when Martha Graham Cracker made her Big Apple debut last year at Joe’s Pub, but that was kind of easy. New York loves its drag queens — even the ultra tall, very hairy variety. Martha likes a challenge, and that’s why she’s accepted an offer to head [way] below the Mason Dixon to put on her first-ever show in the South.
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In partnership with Philadelphia Black Gay Pride, every day throughout the month of February we will spotlight an influential black mover and shaker in the city.
Fittingly, we end our monthlong series of highlighting local black, gay icons with a literal Icon: Drag artist and rapper Icon Ebony-Fierce. Ms. Ebony-Fierce has been featured numerous times on G Philly. We love her as a game-changing local drag queen with a, well, fierce, social-political mission to promote individuality and equality. One of her most impressive moves, if you ask us, is organizing the Freak Boutique, a party that benefits a different non-profit each month by generating funds through drink sales. She also hosts the monthly, all-inclusive Neon GNDRFCK Ball for the ”afroFuturist, raver, burner, space gal, queer alien” inside all of us.
7 questions with Icon Ebony-Fierce after the jump