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GATORADE, Ariz.: I’m a skeptic concerning things supernatural; but the wonder-working weekend I spend reporting for BTL on the Drag Queens for Jesus confab is, well, miraculous – awe-inspiring.
It’s also ecumenical, as the three-day drama-queen pageant coincides with the 40th-anniversary departure to Greater Graceland in the Sky of Elvis Presley, king of kings (as in rock & roll, sideburns, sunglasses, pelvic-articulated gyrations and exit-cue peristalsis go).
With 100 drag queens, two-dozen Elvis look-alikes, a DQ4J Passion Play non-equity cast of Jesus, Mary, Pontius Pilate, John the Baptist, Salome, ‘Madonna,’ Judy Garland, Mae West, Pope Donald Trump, VP Pence, Pat Robertson, assorted flagellants and semi-naked line-dance slaves, gathered, Gatorade (pop. 1776) is transformed into Vatican City Meets Mel Gibson’s S/M – sandals and mascara – Hollywood West at High Noon.
As usual, Rainbow America flight attendant Chance Ankleman’s posing early at poolside our last day, and, after giving me his trademark wink, flexing his biceps, triceps, abs, glutes, toes, suggests I join him for lunch at the town’s No Spic, No Spam (Show You Green Card) Cafe.
“Two years ago I bought one of your hypnotic pictures,” begins Chance, looking me reasonably straight in the eye. “And discovered your hidden ‘for a good time call the artist’ message and phone number.
“I called several times, but never got an answer. Frankly, I was disappointed. Do I get some sort of discount?”
(I must say Chance looks splendid in rainbow-colored Speedo with hidden uplift testicular support, and much more physically articulate than I do in my passion play, sequin-stitched, sag-crotch, WWJD-embroidered loincloth.)
“I’m sorry, Chance, but I quickly grew out of my blue period. Now that I’ve gone exclusively sexting, my subliminal art messages have changed. An artist has to keep pace with his audience. Tell you what, Chance. I’ll pop you for lunch.”
It’s reassuring to find proven once more – thousands of miles from home – and in a small hamlet like Gatorade – that the profession of choice among good-looking gay men is waiter.
(The Guinness Book of Records list the count for gay waiters at 1, 795, 320.)
“Goodness, what abs,” our gay waiter greets us.
“Goodness had nothing to do with it,” replies Chance, off on another bout of winking.
Over our meal of tacos, chili, tortillas, we earful big-time gossip making the Gatorade rounds.
“You may be out-of-towners,” says Hunkers Jones, our waiter, “but three weeks ago, Rev. Dowler P. Sparks had lotsa explaining to do.
“He was caught by a Greyhound bus attendant baptizing someone in a stall in the men’s room.
“Things quieted down a bit ’til the ACLU got involved. Rev. Sparks says he’s got a right to baptize anybody he wants, anywhere he wants, as the spirit leads. Immigration and Mitch McConnell should mind their own business, he says.
“Baptism’s a matter of separation of church and State. I paid my 25 cents to use that damned stall …”
DQ4J THE CLIMAX: “I’m on stage at the Los Alamos A-Bomb Memorial Theater. The auditorium’s packed. Not a vacant seat. The mayor’s here. Rev. Sparks, front-row center, with what appears to be a recently baptized person. (Unfortunately, still wet behind his ears.)
“The gilded curtain rises. The overture to ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ blares into high-kick tempo and 100 Draq Queens for Jesus take center stage, blowing kisses everywhere, making signs of the cross, genuflecting – one by one joining a gigantic line dance of sheer mind-blowing jubilation. (You know how drag queens can mind blow. Or jubilate.)
Miracle of miracles, the audience rises and applauds wildly. One or two begin to speak in tongues. (Or, maybe Spanish.) Suddenly, out of nowhere a banner waves, “Have a blessed day. Get in drag for heaven’s sake!” Everybody hugs.
I look adoringly at Chance. He winks lovingly at me. I wink back at him. He winks back at me. Life is good, even if it’s occasionally a drag. Happily — and for a small deposit — we find a private corner to genuflect in.