25 years of din­ing with drag queens

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

When I was 20, I mar­ried a woman. Five years later, we di­vorced, and I be­gan ex­plor­ing At­lanta’s gay drag scene. I was to­tally in­trigued with the Sweet Gum Head, lo­cated on Cheshire Bridge. Af­ter I be­came edi­tor of the At­lanta Gazette, an al­ter­na­tive (not gay) weekly news­pa­per, I de­cided to write a cover story about drag in the city and I fo­cused on Lavita Allen, a Sweet Gum cast mem­ber.

Lavita was the son of a wealthy At­lanta fam­ily and some­how was still in the closet with them. I loved her per­for­mances. She was a lip-sync­ing co­me­dian who now and then per­formed coun­try-western tunes. We be­came friends. Af­ter the club closed, we’d go across the street to the Dunk ‘n Dine. The place was crazy – filled with drag queens and late-night drunk party boys. As far as I know, there’s no sim­i­lar scene in At­lanta now. Scram­bled eggs at dawn were a de­cent hang­over cure – es­pe­cially when some­one throws them in your face, as hap­pened to us one night.

My great­est mo­ment in a restau­rant with a drag queen oc­curred 20-plus years ago. I was a huge fan of DeAun­dra Peek, the to­tally lu­natic drag queen on pub­lic-ac­cess TV’s “Amer­i­can Mu­sic Show.” I thought it would be fun to take the clown­ishly madeup DeAun­dra, nee Roger Shy­man­ski, to din­ner at Part­ners Restau­rant (R.I.P.), for a col­umn. My naïve thought was that the main­stream din­ers would get a kick out of her. Nope. Peo­ple looked hor­ri­fied. Even Alix Ke­nagy, my long­time friend who owned the restau­rant, was to­tally dis­ori­ented. She didn’t know what to say. In fact, she later asked me some­thing I’ve never for­got­ten: “Do you think it’s best for you to be openly gay in your col­umn?” Hell yes.

An­other ed­i­ble in­ter­ac­tion oc­curred well be­fore that when I hosted a party for staff mem­bers of the Gazette. One of my neigh­bors was the su­per-cor­pu­lent Mickey Day. My part­ner had dec­o­rated a plate of hors d’oeu­vres with a few flow­ers, in­clud­ing a thick chunk of a just-bloom­ing glad­i­o­lus. Mickey grabbed the glad­i­olous, popped it in her mouth, and said, “Tasty.”

Per­haps my fa­vorite food-re­lated in­ci­dent oc­curred when I took Lisa King, an­other Sweet Gum per­former, to my par­ents’ huge an­niver­sary party. We spent most of the time stand­ing over a ta­ble and eating my mother’s fa­vorite shrimp dish. The next day, my mother called me. “I can’t be­lieve you did that.” Huh? “You know, I’m no racist but you re­ally should not be bring­ing black girl­friends to our par­ties.” She didn’t get that Lisa wasn’t a woman.

One of the sad­dest ex­pe­ri­ences was with Di­a­mond Lil, one of the first drag queens to bring the art to At­lanta. Four years ago, I started at­tend­ing the At­lanta Death Café, a monthly event at Oak­land Ceme­tery. It was not hospice ther­apy; it was a dis­cus­sion group, re­plete with end­less pas­tries and fruit, de­voted to ex­plor­ing the sub­ject of death. Ev­ery time I went, I ran into Lil, usu­ally sit­ting at a ta­ble alone. We had known one an­other for years and she was not look­ing her best. I never asked what brought her there, but less than two years later, she died of can­cer.

Fi­nally, I’ll men­tion the in­com­pa­ra­ble Vi­o­let Chachki, a “Drag Race” win­ner. I saw her or­der­ing food at La Fonda on Ponce not long ago. It was kinda like see­ing Bey­oncé at Burger King.

Cliff Bostock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­stock@gmail.com.

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