One of the great joys of a summer in Xanadu-on-Sea is the opportunity to catch up on what's been going on in the Great Wide World of Drag. On any given night, there are upwards of a dozen choices, ranging from almost embalmed traditional evenings of more-or-less straightforward impersonation* to performances that take makeup and heels as a springboard for something much, much more ambitious/transcendant/surreal.
Of these, I don't think there can be anything better than the creature pictured above, the incredible Dina Martina. It's actually rather hard to describe an evening in her presence, except that it is raucous, mindbending, and, most surprisingly, startingly cosy. She reminds me of one of my favorite Susan Sontag lines: "Camp is a tender feeling."
Who else could make an audience vie fiercely for the privilege of winning what are billed as "the world's largest underpants" (emblazoned, live on stage, with the star's own makeup faceprint)? Who could create a mash-up on "Fever" and "No Scrubs"? Most of all, who else could take an act made up of just about equal parts malapropisms, mispronunciations (g frequently becoming j -Ms. M. is very pleased with her "jifts"), hoary jokes, show-biz lore, and a healthy dose of the very difficult art of singing just badly enough (it really is tough, kids - just ask Jo Stafford)? I can think of no one but Dina.
Each of the acts we've seen these past few weeks have been pretty fab - the tight, Vegas-style evening of cabaret with Cher-extraordinaire Randy Roberts (whose own character, a diva poised somewhere between Ann Margret and Rita Hayworth, is even better than his star takes), the trip into Varla Jean Merman's glamorously demented song-stylings, nights with Miss Richfield and Miss Burlington and more, and of course the truly awe-inspiring trainwrecks that are each week's edition of the town's legendary "talent" contest/revue Show Girls. Still, it's Dina I'll take away as someone I'd not only like to see again, but maybe have a cocktail with, in character or out. I know nothing about the man behind the legend, but it must take a fascinating brain to go so far out and still feel so very much at home.
* Although no one, alas, seems to be doing Bette Davis this year. I have a hunch that you can guess who this year's sensation is, done in tributes ranging from respectful to disembowelling. If you were to guess that her initials are L.G., you wouldn't be far off (and no, it's not Linda Gray).