In the Closet: Gender Outlaw

Heather Coutts goes where femme and butch collide

Photos by Kelly Burkhardt

Heather Coutts walks the line as far as gender goes, proving that it’s not always what meets the eye. As the founder and artistic director of Liberty City Kings (LiCK), a drag and burlesque troupe that turns six this year, she’s slipped into everything from a schoolgirl’s uniform to a trucker hat (not to mention taken off her fair share during politically infused stripteases).

Armed with a theater background and plenty to say about the sexes, Coutts has amassed quite a costume wardrobe. But what she really wants is a 50-inch white ostrich feather fan.

Home: “I live in a 100-year-old house in Germantown with a 650-square-foot garden, four cats and my partner.”

Big Break: “Being (mostly) naked on stage at Pousse Café.”

Favorite Stage Getup: “A sequined sailor hat, blue sailor wrap dress and red glitter shoes with gold hot pants, a two-layer shimmy skirt and bejeweled gold bra – with American flag pasties.” Otherwise, she lives in her pajamas.

Most Bizarre Accessory: “Reginald and Reginald, my two-fox-collar stole.”

Costume Inspiration: “I love vintage pinup and American male stereotypes. One burlesque character is very glamorous and reminiscent of Louise Brooks, and the other is very all-American. My drag king characters range from working-class trucker types to a cowboy to a saucy twink.”

Count: More than 50 wigs, 20 boas and 80 pairs of shoes.

Most Memorable Performance: Last year’s Pride Parade. “This was our first time performing in the parade, and our truck decorations didn’t work and our sound system blew out. But we were still able to perform our group number, ‘Raise Your Glass’ from Glee, and stole the show.” LiCK even walked away with two awards: “Gayest in the Parade” and the coveted grand-prize Fruit Bowl.

Best Lesson Learned From a Drag King: “Invest in your craft and rehearse in costume. There is nothing worse than finding you’ve lost your moustache in the middle of a number, realizing that you can’t actually do the splits without splitting your pants or fumbling and getting stuck trying to take off a key article of clothing.”

Biggest Surprise: A NASA flight suit. “But really most people who know me would not be surprised by anything in there!”

LiCK regularly performs at the Vixens & Vagabonds Queer & Kinky Cabaret at Tabu (200 South 12th Street, 215-964-9675). “In the Closet” is a regular series that appears in the pages of G Philly magazine. Think you have a closet of note? Please tell us about it: [email protected]