I just returned, with my at-gunpoint cameraman José, from the 25th annual Night of a Thousand Gowns, a benefit thrown by the Imperial Court of New York to honor LGBT activist David Mixner and Princess Boy author Cheryl Kilodavis that raises cash for the Trevor Project and the Ali Forney Center.
As you know, I have done drag—I made a right camp Sam Fox. However, the Imperial Court is not bullshitting around when it comes to drag. They're a serious (and seriously regimented) org; camp was in short supply even if half the sequins on the East Coast were in the Marriott with me.
We arrived to find a larger-than-expected area for the press line. However, as guests began arriving—I'm not sure why some queens did the photo call and others didn't—it was apparent that NO print press showed up and very few online outlets, leaving me as the first person on the line. It was awkward, so we just began grabbing interviews where we could, either as attendees arrived or after they'd posed for the photographers. I was especially interested in (my new pal) Ally Sheedy, Honeymooners legend Joyce Randolph (who later received an award for which she was asked to kneel—not cool to ask of someone cruising toward 90, girls) and Carson Kressley...so of course not one of them did the carpet. Still, the people who did were quite diverse and easy to grab and I was able to chat with Joe of Joe.My.God. and more formally meet Mr. Broadway, Michael Cusumano.
I was most excited to meet and chat briefly with Bill Cunningham, the legendary octogenarian fashion shooter for The New York Times. A new documentary on him (Bill Cunningham New York) is getting lots of good press, something he seemed a bit shy about when I mentioned it. "I haven't seen it," he told me, "but I understand the filmmakers deserve a lot of praise." He remembered my name when thanking me. It was fascinating to watch him work the line; so many of the queens had no idea who he was and seemed bemused when he would hand them a pad to write down their names. (This old-school method is fail-safe, though, if you want to avoid being Miss Identified.)
Mike Ruiz of The A-List: New York and his partner Martin Berusch are supernice and supersexy each time I meet them. Ruiz noted that two more A-Listers are on the way for season two—and that the show was seeking supervillains. Super!
I grabbed Dan Choi—with a new friend, as in, a drag queen he met at the elevator, on his arm—and asked him a bit about marriage equality. He's a nice guy to talk to always. I feel like he has his regular personality—a little shy, nervously joking around—and then when he speaks about serious subjects he kicks into his activist persona. It's nice that he has a sense of humor; he needs one considering the schism in the community over whether he is our new Harvey Milk or is just milking every opportunity for attention. I don't think he's a messiah (and I don't think he thinks he is, either), and I occasionally disagree with him, but I like him and there's no denying he's had a major, grassroots impact on DADT and other gay issues. And he's hot in a suit.
As a bonus, I finally got to meet LGBT activist David Mixner, a gracious dude with a righteous sense of conviction about getting 'er done, rights-wise.
Amanda LePore walked right past me as I asked to take her picture. It felt like there was no way she didn't hear me, but she was as methodical as a glacier if a bit faster about it. It was...odd.
Ari Gold—who released his new single as "Sir Ari Gold" thanks to being knighted by this group last year—made an entrance that would have had Lady Gaga gagging with jealousy: He waltzed in clad in a gold Arabian number with two boyslaves on leashes. I hope he curbed them. I wish I'd seen the reaction of the gorgeous hospice dog that was in the house! (Dude brought his parents. He's one of the lucky ones who could do such a thing.)
He looked sexy in his version of drag, but it was soon back to the more traditional, can-I-pass-as-a-flamboyant-chick style of drag.
The RuPaul's Drag Race girls—Manila Luzon & BF Sahara Davenport, Delta Work and Alexis Mateo—made quite a splash and I would say outdid the drag royalty around them. Maybe it's not fair, these being showgirls, but they definitely had that extra spark of je ne sais quWTF about them. Ms. Work was someone I didn't love on the show, yet I found her to be charming and likable in person. I couldn't resist asking her if she saw any boogers about, and she couldn't resist saying yes—but instead of calling anyone out, she turned it into a self-deprecating joke, which was classy. She also looked the best I've ever seen her. Loved her hair and gown. Mateo was a doll and happily posed with José, who is in full support of anyone (or anything—he lights up at tourism commercials) having to do with his native Puerto Rico. We think Mateo won the show...there was just something extra-regal about her.
Both Wilsons—Rent boys Wilson Jermaine Heredia and Wilson Cruz—were dreamy and dreams to speak with. The former told me he's always available for charity and the latter's BFF is in the Imperial system as extra incentive to attend.
Skinny bitch Chi Chi LaRue claimed to have dressed down so as not to compete with the Imperials, yet looked pretty sparkly to me. Speaking of which, I remembered a brief exchange between her and Black Spark and wanted to see what was up with that, but she wasn't interested in speaking about him. To her credit and perhaps to my discredit, considering my stance on it in general, she told me off-camera she disapproves of the barebacking. She might seem harsh in my video, but was actually quite nice.
Finally, the Real Housewives reps were Dina Manzo of the New Jersey syndicate franchise and Alex McCord and hubby Simon van Kemper from New York, the latter another pair of people I strongly disliked on their show at first then later liked about the best, and who are really sweet and unpretentious in person.
I never watched Jersey at all, but understood Manzo to be one of the nicest ones. In person, she was totally stunning and perfectly willing to do press. In fact, she was trailed by an imposing camera crew. She told me loved producing My Big Gay Italian Wedding Off-Broadway and to look for her name on some other projects—it seems very likely this would include some kind of Dina-centric TV series.
The carpet wrapped (and I have no doubt a couple of the attendees might have been eyeing swatches of it for future outfits) and we went in to see a bit of the show. I have to admit, it's just not up my alley. Not drag in general, which for me can be fun, funny (Varla Jean Merman) and sometimes moving or inspiring (Jimmy James), but the more regimented Imperial Court vibe. For example, the national anthem was sung by a drag queen with a definite Christina Aguilera look, but her performance was in no way intended to be a hoot, nor was the bizarre invocation that referenced an all-powerful being. We took off right after a lengthy baton-twirling act.
It was a fun night, not a drag in the end, but I'm probably no closer to—and am perhaps a bit further away from—getting back into a dress.