Thursday, April 10, 2014
I suppose you won't be surprised to learn she's more than just a pretty face...
No, it's true - this vision in pink velveteen and dyed-to-not-quite-match kitten heels is part of a very special community, one about whom a newly unveiled collection allows us to learn a great deal. If you have not yet experienced the wonder that is Private Birthday Party, I think you'll want to do so as quickly as possible. But do come back.
As a collection of images, I think the impact comes both from the individual (who can engender reactions ranging from "Wow - she's good!" to "Oh, dear...") and from experiencing them as a group, as a record of their time and place: the drag scene in, of all places, Kansas City in the 1950s and '60s. The pictures are touching, hilarious, fascinating; most of all, they are marvelously, rewardingly real. This isn't the po-mo, hyper-airbrushed, hysteria-tinged drag queenery purveyed by RuPaul for a television audience; it's these people's lives, for better or worse (and one imagines, in some, a little more of the latter) in a mid-sized American city as the Eisenhower era gave way to Kennedy days, Stonewall still years away and always, one senses, a vice cop just around the corner. A society as vanished as Byzantium..
But still, the images survive, and I can only believe that it would thrill and amuse the girls - the towering cutie in the black cocktail dress, caught in a candid on the dance floor, or glamourous G.G. Allen channeling Anna Maria Alberghetti and surrounded by tweedy admirers - to know that here we sit, with drag as wholesome as, well, Anna Maria Alberghetti and gay marriage (and the ever rising poll numbers in support of it) filling the newspapers. Ours is a world they couldn't have imagined, which is as good a reason as I can think of that it's important that we try to understand theirs.
Go check out that birthday party, and if you see Pinkie here, strutting her bad stuff, tell her I say "hi."