Remember that drag queen bingo event in Howell? The one Meghan Reckling, a 36-year-old Michigan Senate aide and chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, tried to ban from the Howell Melon Festival? Well, it didn't happen. A drag show did occur, but not with the original company.
"BB Drag did end up pulling out because I was concerned for the safety of our entertainers," says Bradley Haas, the owner and co-director of Beauty Beyond Drag. "After we pulled out, Boylesque Drag … stepped in, and they ended up putting on a show at Aubree's."
Haas says the lack of safety support from the city and Howell Area Parks and Recreation (HAPRA) made the decision easy to make.
Jadein Black, co-owner and director of Boylesque Drag, organized a drag show in solidarity with the backlash that Beyond Beauty Drag was receiving throughout the city of Howell. Before Haas canceled his event, Black contacted Aubree's Pizzeria and Grill's owner and decided to put on a show on Friday evening to kick off the weekend.
"It was an amazing turnout, and we raised $1,236 for Fair Michigan," says Black. "The bar staff was completely friendly."
Black says he was very nervous about having the show, but Aubree's owner, Haas and the community were helpful.
Unfortunately, Haas didn't have the same experience leading up to his event.
"After a couple months of what I would consider hell, we finally chose to step away without being compensated a drop of money for our time for the past three months," he says.
Beyond Beauty Drag didn't know anything about Howell's political climate, and had no desire to perform in Howell before HAPRA approached them months ago, says Haas.
"The day that I canceled I was told by a HAPRA representative that if we wanted to come down and do a show at a sponsor's house then they would pay, but otherwise they wouldn't pay up," Hass says. "I'm pretty upset we're not getting our original payment. But, the community of Howell — the ones in support of drag queen bingo — ended up putting in enough money to cover my entertainers for their time for the weekend. And they were compensated for their original booking fee."
He says the company is willing to perform in Howell again in the future — as long as he plans the event.
"I'm not going to go down to a stranger's house just to get paid," he says. "We will be back in Howell, but it will be under different circumstances that don't include city officials, parks and rec, and a government."