Video may have killed the radio star, but according to the Queen of East Vancouver it was the internet that killed the drag star.
“With the internet, we don’t need to go to a bar to meet people anymore,” says Cameron Mackenzie whose alter-ego Isolde N Barron appears alongside his husband Dave Deveau (aka Peach Cobblah) in the upcoming production of Tucked & Plucked: Vancouver’s Drag Herstory Live Onstage.
“The bar was intrinsic for drag queens and the better the bar did the more they could invest in the queens. That kind of investment is not around as much because the bars are all struggling to pull a crowd.”
But rather than standby and watch drag die off and be forgotten, Mackenzie and Deveau are taking to the stage to spread the word of Vancouver’s colourful drag past and to help cultivate the new generation of drag artists for the future.
Part of the rEvolver Theatre Festival of new work by emerging companies and artists, Tucked & Plucked is a self-described “glamorous and outrageous” talk show hosted by these real-life drag husbands and a guest list that includes long-time Vancouver drag star Joan-E and Mona Regina Lee, Empress II of Vancouver who was crowned in 1973.
Originally developed with a grant for the City of Vancouver’s 125th anniversary in 2011, the show comes from the couple’s curiosity about Vancouver’s drag past, one that is largely told through its oral history.
“Unless you befriend a queen you won’t hear what their story is. There was no Youtube, no cellphones back in the 70s,” says Mackenzie. “Drag is such a fleeting thing. If we can’t have people telling us these moments in drag history there is no other way to track it. If you dig through the archives of Xtra! you can find references, but there is no real records that encapsulates who these queens were.”
Describing Tucked & Plucked as The Rosie O’Donnell Show meets Jerry Springer, Mackenzie and Deveau are promising an insightful evening with not a little irreverence.
“It is playful and upbeat like Rosie and is celebratory of our guests, but it very much Jerry Springer in our interactions” explains Deveau.
“It’s going to be a bit coarse, a bit vulgar,” interjects Mackenzie with a sly smile.
“And when you put a microphone in front of a drag queen there is bound to be at least one reference to cocaine,” laughs Deveau.
The funnier side of drag aside, Mackenzie and Deveau see the future of drag in its past, recognizing that the politics of drag are not the same today as they were years ago.
“The majority of our community is satisfied with the rights that they we obtained, with the exception of trans rights of course, and the queen’s power to rally and protest and push boundaries is diminished by people like Gaga that are in now part of pop culture,” says Mackenzie.
Deveau agrees, admitting that the drag queen community has lost some of its political edge, although the drag king community is still very much about politics.
“There is a definite political edge in the drag king community that I really respect and I would like to see both communities even out; I’d like to see a balance between politics and entertainment,” says Deveau.
Tucked & Plucked is also a bridge between the older drag community and the next generation of drag stars that the couple are helping to cultivate with the help of East Vancouver’s The Cobalt, which has opened its doors to the LGBTQ community and is the home to the Mr and Mrs Cobalt competition.
“This year we were able to find an amazing new crop of mostly East Van based queens and kings with 14 competitors,” says Deveau. “By the time we hit our top five any one of them could have been the winner. They all brought such an amazing level of professionalism, excitement and imagination that had us excited by the possibilities of drag on stage. It gives me a lot of hope for the future of drag because, let’s face facts, at some point we’re going to be done and want to retire and raise babies.”
“And we know how much of a problem finding a babysitter for an all-nighter is,” laughs Mackenzie.
Along with the stories in their show that the duo says will help the new generation understand their role, there also comes the practical advice to those looking to take over the drag stage, including one problem that seems to dog every generation of drag wannabes.
“Learn your lyrics,” admonishes Deveau. “Do not go on stage until you know your lyrics. It doesn’t matter how perfect you look, if you don’t know your lyrics you’re not ready to go on stage.”
“Be sassy, but don’t be a c#nt,” concludes Mackenzie with a wry smile.
Tucked & Plucked: Vancouver’s Drag Herstory Live Onstage
Part of the rEvolver Theatre Festival
18-19 & 25-26 May 2013
The Rosie OʼDonnell Show meets Jerry Springer in this glamorous and outrageous talk show co-hosted by The Queen of East Van, Isolde N. Barron (Cameron Mackenzie) and The Baddest Bitch Peach Cobblah (Dave Deveau). And if these real-life drag husbands weren’t enough, their star-studded lineup of Vancouver’s greatest and most influential queens will bedazzle parts of Vancouver’s history that you’ve never heard. Visit http://www.revolverfestival.ca for more details.