Categories
Nightlife The Mixer Timeline

The Cake Boys: Return Of The Drag Kings

THE MIXER | NIGHTLIFE

The Cake Boys:

Return Of The Drag Kings

A bourgeoning queer scene hailed the drag kings and queens taking to the stages of lower Manhattan in the early nineties. Kings were on the rise – the likes of Buster Hymen, Justin Kase, Mo B. Dick, Labio, Dred, and Murray Hill were just a few performing regularly and with a strong following. They ruled the night, offering up weekly dance parties, drag king competitions, and performances at venues like the Pyramid Club, Her-She Bar, and Club Casanova, which held a weekly drag king party up until the city’s crackdown on nightlife and clubs. This crackdown seems to have, in part, brought a halt to the momentum of drag king performances and what surely would have been the continuous rise of a drag king scene.

The Bachelorex Show. Richard, DJ Gay Panic & Jack Rabbit Slims

Fast-forward to now and drag queens have persevered and are even the belles of all the balls, while their royal counterparts have seen little to no representation, support, or notoriety. The question then is, why have drag queens moved into the mainstream but drag kings seem to have been left out?

An article in GQ magazine from this past summer talked about just this subject in conjunction with the MET Gala and it’s theme of “Camp.” Interviewed, within the article, is renowned drag star Sasha Velour.

She states, in response to going to the Gala in drag … as a king, that this is

“who I think are just as responsible for the camp sensibility as us queens!”

And also points out

“… masculinity is so inherently ridiculous and over the top camp … I think about facial hair, which is a kind of decorative adornment, or the tuxedo, which is one of the most complicated and status-shifting garments in the world. Drag kings taught me to see the construction of the male image … I think it’s a lesson the world needs right now, but we are lacking an appreciation for the artists pursuing it.” 

Enter The Cake Boys, a new drag king collective in Brooklyn, NY.

They explained to me that they were

“born out of frustration. There was a huge lack of representation of drag kings on the NYC drag scene. At one point we could count all the drag kings there are on one hand. On top of being so few and far in between we were also excluded in many events, paid less than half of what queens do for gigs, we were tipped less, and our voices have been drowned out by drag queens.”

Artists and performers needed to have a voice that is heard, and to be recognized and supported within their creative community. I am truly inspired by people who not only create a space of their own, but then open it up to support others. The Cake Boys do just that and do it with so much love and encouragement. This collective not only supports each other but they open up their arms and stage – by opening up their collective space they are creating a much-needed platform for new kings and nonbinary performers to have a safe, positive space to come out and express themselves. I am so grateful to have connected and collaborated with them! 

Benoit Dubois

Skid Caesar

Richard

The Cake Boys have put on two scripted shows that I was able to photograph. Each show has been made up of their core collective with guest drag kings and nonbinary performers to round out the show. The first was The Bachelorex and took place at The Vault in Brooklyn. In classic reality TV style, it was a show full of drama, potential love connections, lust connections, the love of a mother, an impromptu proposal and wedding, and a surprise ending that elicited gasps aplenty from the audience. All roses aside, love was felt by everyone. It was sultry, sassy, sexy, a little camp, and a lot of fun! Technically speaking I was shooting with 35mm Cinestill film, a still type of cinematographer’s film, which lent a very saturated color story to the photographs. I really love the moody, blue velvet, cabaret feel to the shots, while the show itself was light and comedic. 

Sweaty Eddie

dismas!

Sam Bam Thankyoumaam

Desmond Doo Doo

The second show, The Dood Network, took place at The Footlight Bar in Queens and was an equally light and comedic show. A take on The Food Network with two of its most infamous chefs as hosts, Gay Fageri and Emril LaGassy. They took us on a fantastical culinary tour. It was a plentiful feast of flagellation, self-love, fresh juice, an epic French fry off, salad tossing, hot, savory, sausages, ornery chef rants, and eggs, eggs, eggs galore! All for the love of good food and friends. The performances were incredibly creative, campy, and wildly entertaining. I shot this show on classic 35mm Kodak Portra film. The results were warm tones and soft lines which I feel fit with the performances and the space. 

At the end of each show the stage opened up for new artists, even some first-time performers to the stage, to strut their stuff. These artists were incredibly talented, passionate, and brave. One of my favorite things about this collective is the care and support they show the community.

”We wanted to provide a platform to drag kings and nonbinary performers … We’ve also loved that more and more kings have been coming out of the woodwork. Each open set we have, we get a bunch of new performers that always blow our minds.”

It is that sense of paying it forward and lifting each other up that makes The Cake Boys so wonderful, making a space where new drag performers feel supported and encouraged. The energy at a Cake Boys show is nothing short of the best, warm, supportive, hilarious hug.

When I asked them how it felt to be part of such an amazing creative community, they said,

”Being part of this community now and seeing all the folks who come out to our shows is incredible. Each show I’m surprised by the excitement in the audience and the compliments we receive after the shows.”

A Cake Boys show is an experience. I always leave feeling lighter, more positive, and hopeful for the quirky, the creative, and the sensitive, the brazen, and the shy.

For me the most amazing part of being a photographer is the ability to shoot subjects I am attracted to. I feel a strong pull towards performers due to their creativity, bravery, vulnerability, and how that translates to photographs. I am forever in awe of people that can be so fearless in their expression. I truly love the fluidity of gender, and character roles and the freedom with which individuals express their identities. I would say that I feel a connection to drag kings because, while I am not brave enough to be a performer, in my everyday life I feel a strength and confidence dressing in a more traditionally masculine style.

Juniper Juicy

As simple as always preferring pants to skirts and dresses, sneakers to heels, and continuously searching for the perfect suit. 

As Murray Hill would say,

“For me it’s all about the suit, professionally and personally. A suit has always been armor, a shield, and a superhero cape.” And who doesn’t want to feel like being comfortable in their own skin makes them a superhero? 

And who doesn’t want to feel like being comfortable in their own skin makes them a superhero? 

NOTE: Photo library below is a mix between The Bachelorex at The Vault (blue photos) and The Dood Network at The Footlight (warm tone photos). Both venues have been permanently closed post-pandemic.

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Erin Teresa

Photographer

Categories
Bushwig Nightlife

Bushwig Throws Intergalactic NYE Party After a 7-Year Hiatus

EVENTS | NIGHTLIFE


Bushwig Throws Intergalactic NYE Party After a 7-Year Hiatus

It’s been 7 whole years since Bushwig celebrated New Year’s Eve. The last one was so epic, people were trying to bum rush through security to get themselves into the venue. One of Bushwig’s co-founders, Babes Trust, says that there was no major reason why another NYE party hasn’t been thrown since 2012.

This year’s event took over the entire multi-floor complex The Sultan Room, The Turks Inn & The Roof, providing plenty of room to play hide-and-seek or awaken your inner Dora the Explorer. The idea of hosting the party at the venue came when Babes was visiting The Sultan Room and found out that they were free on NYE. “So I just thought, I’m in town, Horrochata is in town, so let’s just fucking do it.” Horrochata is the second founding half of Bushwig.

With the EXTRAterrestrial theme, many came dressed in interplanetary attire, but no one felt alienated – Bushwig has always been known for creating safe space for queer creatives, letting them explore their sometimes unidentified identities.

“I think after this NYE we should definitely do it more. Also we are kind of into making it a super affordable, dope, fun Brooklyn party, which is just easy. I think that everyone is always super dramatic over New Year’s and it’s always this expensive anti-climax and we just want to keep it cute,” says Babes.

Peep a few moments below, starring Bushwig muses: Miz Jade, Baby Love as sexy baby Yoda, Juku, Thee Suburbia, and The PoC Collective, Sweaty Eddie, Charlene, Neon Calypso, and more.

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Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Activisim EDITORIAL Events Nightlife Timeline

Opinion: What Is Your Responsibility When Representing Your Community?

EVENTS | ACTIVISM


Opinion: What Is Your Responsibility When Representing Your Community?

A non-binary drag fixture in the Brooklyn queer community, Thee Suburbia, held a fundraiser for the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC), a nonprofit organization based out of Washington, DC, and helmed by black trans activist Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter. What was meant to be a supportive and uplifting event took a sudden turn due to unexpected hostility and verbal abuse directed towards the attendees by Dr. Hunter throughout most of the night. 

Thee Suburbia living for one of the performers

The fundraiser’s lineup included over 30 performers, most of whom were trans women of color. Thee Suburbia had the idea of starting The PoC Drag Art Collective for a while, and it took  physical shape in Suburbia’s home, during Thanksgiving dinner, when she invited fellow queer creatives and announced her intention of holding the first PoC Drag Art Collective. “She just kind of posted up a sign-up sheet and told us to sign our names if we wanted to perform,” one of the night’s performers J Rosa reminisced about that evening. 

Before we even figured out who we wanted to give money to, we were already creating awareness to support trans women of color, hence why the event’s lineup was mostly comprised of trans women,” Thee Suburbia stated in explaining the importance of creating this project. “We wanted to show how much we cared about people who might need more help; we also wanted people to experience the connection we are creating for each other.”

The event was held at a DIY space called Hartstop, located in the Bed-Stuy (short for Bedford-Stuyvesant) neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn queer community is not new in creating DIY spaces to hold events – those are the spaces where everyone feels the safest, it seems: the Casa Diva party that used to be held at Charlene Incarnate’s industrial loft has achieved almost legendary status, while the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards 2019 winner for “Best Party,” Oops!, takes over The Rosemont bar every Wednesday to do whatever the creators Juku, West Dakota, and Magenta desire. 

Thee Suburbia reached out a week prior to the event, asking me to attend her first fundraiser she worked so hard to arrange. It took me over an hour to get to Bed-Stuy from Harlem, but I didn’t dare miss an event with such an amazing lineup that also was supporting a good cause. The performances were scheduled to start at 6 pm and go on until 12 am. 

I was about an hour late, but I got there just in time to catch a few performers from the earlier lineup. Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter showed up just a few moments after me, wearing a yellow African print dress. Soon after that, Suburbia invited Dr. Hunter to the microphone to introduce herself. Dr. Hunter started off her speech by advertising a book that was made for her by “a white woman” who wanted all of the proceeds from the book’s sales to benefit the TWOCC. “I got books for sale and I am not taking any of them home with me, so all of you hoes will purchase a book tonight…” Dr. Hunter proclaimed to the crowd’s cheers and laughter. She wrapped up her speech by noting that a black trans woman was murdered in DC “three days ago,” and that on the way to New York she learned that another trans woman had been murdered two days ago “three miles away from here.” “And it’s a bit much,” she continued, “so we are here to celebrate black trans women.”

During the first break between the performances, I wandered over to the side of the room where Dr. Hunter had set up a poster with photos and a quote that read, “I don’t want to be visible because I am trans. I want to be seen, affirmed and celebrated as a whole damn person… I want to wake up without a threat of violence! I want to fall in love, raise a family and pass down traditions my grandma and mom passed to me. I want to thrive without fear! I don’t want to have to tell you all about my pain for you to then journey towards an understanding that trans folk deserve to breathe, to live and thrive in a world that celebrates all of who we are… Humans.”

Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter

Moved by the inspiring quote, I turned around to find Dr. Hunter standing right in front of me. “Are you buying the book?” she inquired, to which I replied: “Sure, but I will get it a little bit later.” 

Dr. Hunter looked me dead in the eye and said, “So you are not buying the book?

I will, but I wanted to ask you a couple of questions first about the work that you do.” I perceived an immediate shift in her attitude the moment I said I wasn’t going to buy the book on the spot.

Why are you asking me this, do you wanna date me?” – which she didn’t say in a funny way; it felt like I had asked someone a question that I had no business asking. 

No… I just wanted to find out a bit more about your work,” I proceeded cautiously. 

She made a frustrated puffing sound, simultaneously flipping up her hair and pointing both of her upper extremities to the poster behind me: “Well, go to my website and you can read what you need to know there.”

I prefer to hear it directly from the source…,” I continued, even though I could feel the ground was getting shaky.

Well then, you should have already known what this event was about before coming here, this event is for me!” she said, starting to lose her cool. 

I made a mental check that she emphasized that the event was for her and not for her non-profit, but I went on: “Well, I am writing an article about this, so I thought…” 

I don’t give a fuck what you do! This event is about raising money! I don’t have time to explain! Black trans women are dying! We don’t have time to explain shit!” – she went berzerk.

I started shaking. This was so unexpected and the exchange was making me feel uneasy and unwelcome, all at once.

Junior Mintt

I withdrew myself from the argument and stood to the side. One of the performers of the night, Junior Mintt, a Black trans woman known for her funny yet politically charged performances, approached Dr. Hunter at that moment to chat, only to be met with: “Tell him sis! We ain’t got time to explain shit! Black trans women are dying!” At that moment I just got really pissed off and couldn’t stay quiet. I turned to Dr. Hunter and asked her if she really thought it was wise to shut someone down when they come to her with a question about her cause, to which she became even more unravelled, screaming: “You are a cis gay man! Don’t start with me! I’m a Black trans woman!

With that statement I felt like she had just invalidated my entire existence. It made me feel small and unimportant, almost like an outsider that dared to invade a space that wasn’t built for me. At that moment I was ready to leave. I had gone to the event with the aim of uplifting the work that Suburbia and TWOCC were doing together. What was I supposed to write about the event now?

I went up to the rooftop to catch some fresh air. Thee Suburbia was standing there talking to a couple of other performers. She turned to me and asked me how I was doing. I told her what had just transpired. She showed instant concern and a flicker of a shadow appeared on her face. “I’m so sorry that happened,” she said. “It’s not your fault, maybe she is just drunk,” I responded.

After staying up on the roof for a bit, I decided to stay for the rest of the talent that was slated to perform later in the evening.

Zenobia, Charlene, Islaya, MTHR TRSA, Dai Burger

Throughout the night, over 30 queer PoC performers have taken the stage: Jayse Vegas, Dezi5, Showdolliana, Junior Mint, Robert Garcia, Xtain, La Candelaria, J Rosa, John Mateo, Zenobia, Charlene, IslayaMTHR TRSA, Senerio, Foxy Belle Afriq, Sir Charles, Juniper Juicy, Kenzi Coulee, Denime The Queen, Xunami Muse, Paris L’Hommie, Caribu Vague, DJ Hard Candy, Thee Suburba herself, Dancer On Probation, Tina Twirler, Glow Job, Onyma, Skittlez, J’Royce Jata, Dévo Monique, Jypsy Jeyfree, Marcel, B Hawk Snipes, Mojo Disco, and the headliner of the night Dai Burger.

Even though Dr. Hunter was living for everyone’s performances, she kept on sprinkling the crowd with violent verbal outbursts. At one point she snatched the mic from MTHR TRSA, the second host of the night, and asked for a chair. When the person manning the mix board moved a stool towards her, she commanded: “Bring its height up, white person!” The audience responded with uncomfortable laughter. At another point of the night, she snatched the mic from MTHR TRSA again while she was in the middle of introducing the next performer, responding to the host’s polite protest: “I don’t give a fuck about the next performance! Listen to me!

Several times throughout the night she grabbed the tip bucket and ran around the room demanding that people put money into it: “I know you got coins, cuz I see you buying drinks at the bar!,” “Come on you white motherfuckers, I know you got money!,” “If you are not donating money, then why the fuck are you here!?” The barrage of verbal abuse towards the crowd went on incessantly. Right before Charlene was about to perform, Dr. Hunter misgendered her: “You are a white cis woman, what are you doing here?” By this point, no one was trying to cover up the uncomfortable situation with laughter any more, and many people were leaving. Finally, during one of Dr. Hunter’s attempts to extort the crowd, in a sign of defeat she rested her elbow on MTHR TRSA’s shoulder and pronounced: “You know what, I don’t need this.”

Eventually Suburbia came up to me and told me that she and a group of other people staged an intervention and asked Dr. Hunter to leave. The atmosphere significantly lightened up after that, and the people who showed up after this point were clueless about the night’s earlier episode.

Suburbia said: ”We just told her that this is the party we are putting together, we don’t know how many people were going to come or what it was going to look like, we just knew that we wanted to give her something and quickly it turned into her saying that we agreed to pay her.” I asked why the PoC Drag Art Collective chose this specific organization as a beneficiary. “I looked her up,” Suburbia responded, “I read about things she was doing, I read a lot about her collective. That night, a lot of people came because of her workshops. It really looked great on paper. In the beginning a part of me wanted to give to the Ali Forney Center, The Trevor Project, Audre Lorde, something like that, but I wanted to do something for someone that’s smaller, someone who could actually appreciate that we do something for them.”

It didn’t feel like Dr. Hunter was appreciative of anything. She treated the entire event with a palpable sense of entitlement, like everyone in attendance owed her something and was supposed to shower her with money at the ready. For her, if you were not a trans woman of color, you didn’t exist.

The insensitive and hurtful approach exhibited by Dr. Lourdes Hunter, regarded as a representative of Black trans women, raises many questions and concerns. Should we be more mindful of people that we invite into the safety of our communities? Should people that represent a certain group be accountable for their actions? Just because someone is passionate about an issue, does that mean they are properly equipped with the right tools to represent their community?

Glow Job

As one of the night’s performers Glow Job perfectly summed it up: “I was giving Suburbia a pep talk upstairs cause she was pretty devastated. But we all still showed up, and we were all there because we wanted to be a part of this and do some good, so that when we do it again and then again, it’ll get bigger and better and we’ll look back on this first one that started it all, and reflect on its craziness. It’s epicness in a way. There is an opportunity to grow and to come together stronger as a group that really drives that conversation even within the community. There was a lot of energy, attention, and time that people put into this night, and I personally hope it could keep going and should only be bigger and better from this point on. If anything, there is more drive to protect this group and make it something worth fighting for for next time.

It’s almost impossible not to compare the two completely opposite approaches taken by Dr. Hunter and by Thee Suburbia. At the end of the day, we have to be accountable for our actions when we take on the responsibility of representing a group or a community, and we must make sure that our approach doesn’t hurt the message. The wrong delivery can push people further away or tune them off completely, even possibly perpetuating stigmas about your community.

No one wants to be belittled or made to feel bad based on ignorant assumptions that you’ve had it so much better based on your race, sexual preference, experience, or gender. Love, kindness, openness, and willingness to educate will always be the only right approach to getting your message across and drawing people in to care about it. Thee Suburbia exhibited all these qualities masterfully, and I cannot wait for the next PoC Drag Art Collective gathering and to support her in her incredible work. 

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Alexey Kim

Founder