Illustration of the actors dancing on stage

Bawdy Divas and Bad Drag Queens

March 9, 2008 was a milestone birthday for El Franco. It was 40 years ago to the day that he sprang forth from his mother’s loins to tell the citizens of the world how they should act, dress, and wear their hair. To help celebrate his birthday, his long time friend Melanie visited us from Ottawa for the weekend. She’s a great girl, although she has a tendency to exhibit sociopathic behaviour but who, in the main, tries to be nice to people and give them the impression that she enjoys their company.

So because we had a guest in town that weekend, we decided to go see the musical Menopause Out Loud–partly because the content seemed relevant to the type of birthday we were celebrating and partly because I knew one of the ushers at the theatre, who’d managed to get us free tickets for the show. Having arrived early to pick up our tickets at the box office, we sat down in the empty theatre waiting for the show to begin. Pretty soon, the room started filling with women of all ages–and I mean women. The males in the audience were few and far between and any that could be spotted in the estrogen-charged audience had a beaten down look on their faces, as if they really, really, didn’t want to be there but thought better of going against their other half’s wishes.

Some of the women were dressed similarly, making a statement with lots of red hats and purple coats. Most were wearing regular outfits, but there were two older ladies who passed by our seats dressed in fur coats. These people hold a very special place in the Seventh Circle of Hell that is Melanie’s heart, and pretty soon most others in our vicinity found themselves listening to a pre-show soliloquy that went something like: “Look at these people in fur coats! How many animals died so they could go around wearing their skins, eh? Do these fuckers know how disgusting they look? These people are fucking idiots! Hey, fuckers – how’d you like to be skinned?” At this point the ladies had moved on and probably couldn’t hear the tirade anyway, and I had just squirmed as far down into my seat as possible–wishing the ground would open up–when the lights started to dim for the show to begin.

All in all, the show wasn’t bad although it was so obviously targeted towards a specific audience who hooted and screeched and screamed with laughter throughout each and every number. The cast was quite good and there was a real sense of camaraderie amongst all the women in the theatre, with a sketch involving an energetic dildo drawing the most laughs. There was also a cute part at the end, where the four divas came down into the crowd and encouraged women of all ages to get up on stage for a final song and dance routine before wrapping up the show.

After exiting the theatre, we decided to go to the Gay Village where the usher I’d mentioned earlier was set to appear onstage in one of the pubs. The friend I’m referring to works in the same office as me during the day, then at the theatre in the evenings, as well as performing at some of the local bars as a chanteuse and a bit of a comedian. She’s quite versatile.

Anyway, we arrived at the bar where she was doing a very short routine, only to find that there are also some drag queens making an appearance onstage. Well, if these weren’t two of the oldest queens I’d ever seen! They had to be older than the Queen Mum just before she passed away, bless her, and one of them even got up onto the stage with an oxygen bottle and tubes attached to her nose. And neither one of them had the wherewithal to do a good lip-sync anymore–the first one on stage (Miss Michelle De Berry) looked like she was being dragged down by the weight of her make-up (which had been slapped on with a trowel, by the looks of it) and had this confused look on her face as if she’d just woken up from a sleepwalking episode only to find herself on stage in front of a (not so large) audience.

It was all quite sad, really, and my friend actually made a joke about the bad miming during her own stint onstage. As we were sat at the bar later, Miss De Berry stumbled over and started mumbling and bitching at my friend for denigrating her performance (she didn’t actually use those words!). Miss De Berry wasn’t happy and accused my friend of insulting her–which she had, of course; but, come on, we’re in a gay bar and those types of bitchy comments are the bread and butter of most of the patrons of such places, never mind the entertainers who get up in front of everyone to give a performance, no matter how bad that may be. If they can’t take comments like that, then maybe they should stay at home and apply a bit more formaldehyde.

At the end of the day, El Franco admitted to me that this had to be the most depressing birthday he’d ever had.

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