I’ve been flown by BTL to Gatorade, Ariz., to attend the first-ever gathering of Drag Queens for Jesus. (No affiliation with Dykes 4 Jesus, 9-Hole Golfing Alliance.)
BTL staff drew straws for the all-expenses-paid trip, courtesy of Rainbow Three-Ways Airlines. I said sure, provided a butch icon like myself didn’t get in drag for the weekend confab, especially during a planned Sunday after-church “Barbie-Q” cookout.
If my head count’s correct (I’m usually off the mark when it comes to counting on drag queens for anything – let alone to counting on them for Jesus), there are 100 attendees – curiously, mostly from Traverse City – in this conservative desert oasis of 832 citizens.
It’s no surprise the queens are stirring up things among townsfolk: cowpokes, soccer moms, four competitive Avon ladies, a 93-year-old postman, gossipy grass widows, tumbleweed divorcees, cranky automotive retirees, laid-off used-car barons, and a half-crazed CIA Madoff look-alike writing his LSD memoirs.
I was told by Rainbow flight attendant Chance Ankleman – who winked at me a lot during the 10-hour flight down – that just about everybody in Gatorade was against hosting “uppity” drags, until the town preacher, Rev. Dowler P. Sparks, christened the gathering a religious event, with lip-sync redemption overtones, and a soul-stirring passion play pageant, suitable for all ages, “temporal, eternal, and hot-weather torpid.”
The trip was uneventful (apart from winky-boi Chance), but it was problematic for our flighty groupies. They got time-consumingly electronically frisked. All chattering. Some voguing. All singing, “Love Lifted Me.” (The Drag Queens for Jesus theme song.)
The bra inspection for explosive materials took one hour, 15 minutes. There was some debate among security as to whether or not spiked heels constitute a weapon. False eyelashes over an inch were also chemically suspect. Compromise: four-inch heels confiscated.
(One arrest: well-known Joan Rivers “sarcasm diva.” Said her heels were orthopedic-prescribed for lectern, 36-D cup uplift visibility. She faints. Decision which restroom to use. Placed on 24-hour prayer vigil watch.)
I was booked into the Nowayjose Mexicana Motor Lodge. (“Nowayjose” is named for Ralph Watson Nowayjose, gringo Gatorade mayor for 30 years.) There are six in my assigned hot/cold-running-bottled-water, bidet available, color TV, free popcorn, poolside suite.
It’s a bit crowded, as each drag queen brought three Dance of the Seven Veils competition gowns and spikey flagellation props for the passion play.
We’re poolside, gaily exhausted. By chance, I wave to Chance. By chance, he winkies back; swimming butterfly splash-and-flash strokes, looking gleamingly wet and bronze-body wonderful in the hotter-than-August torrid Arizona sun, as I interview Lady-Love Mary Magdelana Bi-Faith (aka Mark-Luke Browner), president elect of Drag Queens for Jesus.
“I was 12 when I first did drag. Our Sunday School class put on a play about John the Baptist and Salome getting head on a platter. I was Salome’s hand maiden. Even then I knew there was something exciting about Johns. And Baptists. Blew my little mind! I’ve been collecting silver platters – and Baptist Johns – ever since.”
“Were you influenced as a teen by the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?” I ask, as Chance mounts the diving board, ripples his articulated abs to contrapuntal perfection and winks each ab one by one in my direction. (I unclasp a sandal seductively.)
“Oh, Honey! I love anything perpetual! And what, pray tell, is more in-your-face, ongoing, per-pet-you-all! than Mother Church when everybody gets in Sunday drag? Ecclesiastical showbiz. Lights! Camera! Action! Kiss! Turn! Applause!
“If heaven’s blessed you with tonsured balls, use ’em or lose ’em, that’s our motto. Drag Queens for Jesus. Kick one. Pray two. Over and out! Gender bender. Genuflect! And DO it again!”