Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Other Royalty

Conchita Wurst's Eurovision win at the weekend brought to mind two very entertaining movies about drag queens: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), and the later American version of a similar story, the oddly titled To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar(1995). Both films follow a group of drag queens, their disasters and triumphs, on cross country trips, in Australia and USA respectively. Great fun! La Cage Au Folles came along in the 1970s, on stage and in film, with a less mobile drag queen theme.

There are some interesting tidbits on the subject of drag generally at Wikipedia HERE.

In the UK we were quite used to being entertained on TV by artists in drag, not necessarily musically. Irish entertainer the late Danny La Rue OBE was a household name, and Paul O'Grady's Lily Savage with that inborn humour of Liverpool, was a regular on TV. He's now an engaging radio presenter, un-dragged. Australian Barry Humphries AO CBE with Dame Edna Everage was a well-known face on British TV and is known in the USA too, I think.

 Danny La Rue
Lily Savage (Paul O'Grady)

 Dame Edna (Barry Humphries)
I doubt that I've ever knowingly met a drag queen in person, though there was a brief period of my life in the early 1960s, when I might have done so unknowingly. Soon after my first marriage I took a job as cashier in a coffee bar/restaurant called "The Mogambo", in the centre of Manchester. It's long gone. I worked the day shift along with a few waiters, a barman and chef, we were a pretty ordinary lot, apart from one charismatic Irish lad who absconded with the week's takings and was never seen again. It was the customers who brought in the fascinating multi-cultural atmosphere. We daily served people of several nationalities, occupations and orientations who all seemed to find a comfortable spot in which to feel at home at The Mogambo. In particular, in the afternoons, a group of trans-gender young men were regular customers. They were super nice people, all of them. They'd occasionally ask my opinion on their outfits or makeup. I did my best to advise, but mostly their tastes and my own were far apart. In the attempt to emphasise femininity they felt the need to exaggerate everything: frills, nets, multi-colours, sequins, eyelashes, etc. I loved the way they unfailingly supported one another, always.

Out of curiosity, I entered Mogambo, Manchester into Google search and found a couple of references, one where commenters had mistaken the address, the other had it right:
"Does anyone remember the Mogambo? It was a weird restaurant cum cafe bar on Mosley Street; you hung out, smoked a weird woodbine or two and got invited to some great parties..."
(Blogger chuckles and exits left).


mike said...

Mogambo...thought I'd heard the word prior. It's an old movie from 1953. Urban dictionary says it's "Regarded as 'passion' in Swahili but plain old sexual congress everywhere else." Interesting name for a restaurant.

Cross-dressing is an interesting phenomenon. Hetero and homo women have done it for ages with nary a concern. Hetero men don't seem to approve of feminine attire or makeup on other guys...unless it's done in privacy...LOL. There are many "straight" men that are attracted to transvestites. Likewise, hetero males are VERY attracted to the idea of sex (a threesome) with two lesbians...go figure.

This is from salon.com:

"A transwoman wants to know what kind of men watch "T-girl" porn. Are they the same ones who bash her in real life?
[By] Tracy Clark-Flory

I’m gender queer and was told by a friend that the porn shop she worked in carried a wide selection of magazines and films catering to an interest in transwomen. That sort of implies it’s popular enough to support that much material on it — which is really interesting when you think of the way many straight males react to any other “male” behaving in a “female” way. I really wouldn’t be surprised to find out the guys who try to bash me are secretly turned on by my existence — although, I’d prefer they just send flowers or something. Is this becoming a more common attraction?"

I'm not sure what prompts the stigma of a feminized male or a masculine male utilizing feminine camouflage, but it's particularly fierce here in the USA. Drag is acceptable if it's performed by male comedians, for a laugh, of course. I liked the "American Beauty" scene of the older, retired military neighbor that was a complete homophobe, yet eventually developed "unnatural" desire for Kevin Spacey's character.

I haven't seen the movies in your post, except for "The Birdcage" with Robin Williams.

Twilight said...

mike ~ I remember an old film "Mogambo", yes, and that's probably where the coffee bar's name came from. The bar was owned by the wives of two wealthy Manchester businessmen - for their "pin money" I guess. One or both would make an appearance once in a while.

I suppose there are different levels of cross-gender dressing, cross-gender feeling, cross-gender being; just another set within the many different shades of being human.
Sadly, too many people are simply unwilling to accept that we humans are not all the same, that our DNA has potential for more variation than some would like to think.

The USA does seem more strait-laced about drag than the UK and most of Europe. A wee bit of the Puritan mindset must have erm... dragged on.

Trying to remember "American Beauty" -I know I've seen it twice. I remember husband telling me I'd already seen it when I bought a DVD of it in a thrift store. For some reason I can't recall anything about it, even though I'm a Spacey fan. I've just read the Wiki page and still only barely remember the story. It must not have had much resonance for me - perhaps it was somehow too American, in a way with which I'm unfamilar, and I just didn't get it.

♥ Sonny ♥ said...

I used to do make up for drag events when I was 18 to 22.worked for at n t daytime.
I got to go to some amazing parties and contests and look back on that as a great time in my life.
They were great folks and we stayed pals long after I changed careers.
I cried and grieved for many years as I would hear loss after loss to aids...I cant forgive the government for turning a blind eye and silence when they knew early on how to help contol it and even now it doesnt get the effort it deserves.
anyway-live and let live, andbe grateful for the love you find along the way regardless of the package it arrives in..

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Oh, that must have been such a fascinating job! :-)

Regarding Aids - we've just been watching Letterman and Fallon (switching between them during commercials) and they each had an actor from a new HBO movie (due to air 25 May) about Aids in the 1980s - I think the title is "The Normal Heart". Jim Parsons (of "Big Bang Theory") was Letterman's guest and I didn't catch the name of Fallon's guest. Wiki page on the film


anyjazz said...

Don't forget the CD we saw at a shopping mall in Texas a few years back. You didn't believe it at first.

Twilight said...

anyjazz~ Having established with you that by CD you didn't mean compact disc -I always believe those ;-)-
but someone wearing cross-gender clothes, sometimes referred to as cross-dressing.....Yes I do remember that. It was early on a Sunday morning, no stores open, nobody around except you, me and the rather elegant woman, somewhat overdressed for the occasion, who seemed to be simply walking around and around the mall just for the hell of it....as we were too, I guess, as we waited for some store or other to open.