De­tails

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

Global cli­mate change af­fects us all — even those se­quin-clad mar­su­pi­als called the East Point Pos­sums. Ris­ing sum­mer tem­per­a­tures is the main rea­son found­ing Pos­sum Rick West­brook said 2017 marks the end of the road for the South’s largest out­door ben­e­fit drag show.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. … I think it will be missed,” West­brook said. “Ev­ery­body has a good time, but when it’s out­doors in June, it could be 80 or 90 de­grees. Even if you’re in shorts on an open field, it can wear on you pretty quick.”

Bobby Dukes of Tucker, Ge­or­gia only found out about it last year and said he was heart­bro­ken over the de­ci­sion to end the East Point show.

“There needs to be more. Move it to a dif­fer­ent venue or some­thing,” he said. “I’m hop­ing that it’s not the last one and it’s just been put on a shelf for a cou­ple years un­til they can find a new place.”

20 years of drag af­ter dark

The sto­ried his­tory of the East Point Pos­sums be­gan in 1998, when West­brook, Chuck Jenk­ins, Ch­es­ley Thur­man and John Jef­frey each re­ceived an invitation.

“A friend of ours threw a Fourth of July party and he wanted ev­ery­body to do drag. He wasn’t a drag queen at all, but this was 20 years ago. It was a big thing to put on a dress and walk around and per­form,” West­brook said. “He set up a lit­tle wooden stage in the back­yard and his hus­band put out lights.”

That kicked off a yearly tra­di­tion that quickly grew in crowd size — and also quickly moved a month ear­lier to avoid swel­ter­ing In­de­pen­dence Day tem­per­a­tures for the South’s largest out­door ben­e­fit drag show.

“Af­ter the fourth year it, lit­er­ally, you could not park on the street. There was not room to Af­ter 20 years tak­ing the stage to ben­e­fit LGBT non­prof­its, this will be the fi­nal year of the East Point Pos­sums show — the South’s largest out­door drag ex­trav­a­ganza. (File photo) “It was not like any type of Pride pa­rade or gath­er­ing or meet­ing. It was a com­mu­nity. It was fam­ily show­ing up for one an­other in a re­union to cel­e­brate what­ever they de­cided to cel­e­brate.” stand in his back­yard,” West­brook said. “I re­mem­ber the first time I had to go get a per­mit from the city of East Point. I had to bill it as a ‘Shake­spear­ian va­ri­ety show’ be­cause I was afraid they wouldn’t like it as a drag show.”

The show’s come a long way in help­ing ed­u­cate At­lanta about the LGBT com­mu­nity. For in­stance, the East Point po­lice quickly learned that “drag show” and “drag race” are not the same. As for the show’s name, it came from the way West­brook and Jef­frey were in­tro­duced the first time they per­formed to­gether: they’re not real pretty, so they only come out af­ter dark.

Though not the orig­i­nal in­ten­tion, the Pos­sums re­al­ized the fundrais­ing power of their glit­tery prow­ess, and added a char­i­ta­ble arm to the show.

“Peo­ple just started throw­ing money at the stage no mat­ter how good or bad the per­son was,” West­brook said. “We would take the money back that peo­ple do­nated, and do­nate it anony­mously … but then it grew to $1,000, $5,000 and we couldn’t do that anony­mously. It’s hard to just drop that in a bucket.”

Now, pro­ceeds ben­e­fit Lost-n-Found Youth, a non­profit West­brook founded that as­sists home­less LGBT chil­dren and young adults get set­tled. Last year, the do­na­tion to­taled $23,000.

‘An ex­pe­ri­ence like none other’

The Pos­sums host 20 back-to-back per­for­mances on stage, many “do­ing good work through bad drag.” West­brook said oc­ca­sion­ally straight women even of­fer their hus­bands as drag acts for the char­ity bill.

“It kind of gives you the full monty,” said Michael How­ell, who per­forms as Ginny

20th An­nual – and fi­nal – East Point Pos­sums show

Satur­day, June 3, 7-11 p.m. 2727 E Point Street, East Point www.face­book.com/ events/427701814276892 Tonic. “We have some, shall we say, pseudo-pro­fes­sion­als, and then we have peo­ple who just do it for the fun of it.”

How­ell said his per­for­mance at this fi­nal East Point Pos­sums event will be Ginny Tonic’s sig­na­ture ren­di­tion of “Look­ing for a City.” He got in­volved with the show about 15 years ago.

“I was one of the orig­i­nal Ar­morettes at the Ar­mory Bar and it just kind of flowed from that,” he said. “It was a great point to come to­gether, the main thing be­ing that we were help­ing peo­ple whose abil­ity to help them­selves was ex­tremely lim­ited.”

There are “cute boys in biki­nis,” “girls with big boo­bies,” plenty of booze and guest em­cee Rowan, son of At­lanta Pride’s Jamie Ferg­er­son, West­brook said. His fond­est mem­o­ries of the show in­clude watch­ing kids drag their fa­thers up to the stage so they can hand money to a queen, and elderly women be­ing pulled on stage for lap dances.

“It was not like any type of Pride pa­rade or gath­er­ing or meet­ing. It was a com­mu­nity. It was fam­ily show­ing up for one an­other in a re­union to cel­e­brate what­ever they de­cided to cel­e­brate,” Dukes said. “The Pos­sum Show isn’t just a show. The com­mu­nity comes to­gether and they love one an­other, so they sup­port one an­other.”

West­brook prom­ises a big sur­prise at the end of the 2017 show, but like Dukes, How­ell was sad­dened to hear this was the fi­nal year for the East Point rev­elry.

“It brings straight and gay, black and white, the whole ram­part of peo­ple in the city to­gether for one night,” How­ell said. “It just gives ev­ery­body a chance to laugh at them­selves, to laugh at each other, and to do good. The fact that it’s an LGBT char­ity is im­ma­te­rial. It’s the fact that we all come to­gether to just en­joy our sim­i­lar­i­ties and not dwell on our dif­fer­ences.”

May 26, 2017

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