Pride season brings out hordes of people experimenting with costuming and drag. With days to go, specialty stores and flea markets are robbed of all giant shoes and manuals on how to tuck yer junk. But long after the Pride festivities are over and you’re off your aching feet, the pros still carry on Church St’s tradition of female impersonation and illusion.
The history of Canadian drag is world renowned for its pioneering genderbending talents like Craig Russell and Anne Murray. The astounding forces in today’s drag community shoulder that mantle with more celebrity impersonations than a drunk aunt at Christmas and tucking more times than Cher’s face.
Dorothy’s iconic ruby red slippers shimmer like our mighty Canadian flag as these drag stars shine on — actors, personas, gender illusionists dedicated to their craft, charming us all year ’round, tirelessly and enthusiastically.
Whether five or 500 years in drag, our queens are as pioneering as ever. Tip your hats and weaves to some of Church St’s most wondrous and charming ladies of the stage.
Ladies and gentlemen…
The supremely talented Ms Ross is a true Canadian drag legend. Like her namesake Diana, Ms Ross is The Boss. After 35 years and hundreds (thousands?) of shows, her presence is true drag royalty. Worldwide stints and weekly gigs on Church St have garnered her a huge cult following of loving fans who can’t get enough of that huge fabulous hair. There just ain’t no mountain high enough.
Age: 39 (ahem)
Drag artiste for: 35 years
Work: “Professional diva”
Highlights: “Travelling the world is the greatest experience — Japan, Vegas, even performing for the Duchess of York in England”
Lowlights: “The worst is getting stiffed and not paid for a show though it’s a rare enough occasion. We’re lucky because we have so many prime examples of those that do love us and want us to have hairspray and nail glue”
Coming up: Michelle Ross performs at Crews/Tango (508 Church St) Sundays at 7pm, George’s Play (504 Church St) on Tuesdays at 8pm, and the Pride Week Kick-Off at Woody’s (467 Church St) on Mon, Jun 22 at 10pm, and Pride’s Blockorama Stage on Sun, Jun 28 at 5pm.
The wise-cracking genius and creator of unbelievably funny character parodies of Madonna and Dame Edna still has the hottest lips and hips on the strip. Her humour is as legendary, infamous and as cutting edge as anything out there. She’s also the original and first-ever Bailey’s Girl to boot.
Age: 747, “I have a Carpathian background”
Drag artiste for: 25 years
Work: “Career criminal”
Highlights: “I haven’t reached that one yet”
Lowlights: “Going through a car windshield. We were hit by a snowstorm and slid on black ice on the way to Brockville. We either went for a 25-foot-drop off a cliff into water and rocks or crash. I ended up covered in blood with a huge gash in my head. We had a contract and I still had to do the show. There were blood spots forming on my costumes, pantyhose and rivers of gore were running down my wig. It turned me off of out-of-town shows for a while. And Christmas”
Coming up: Georgie Girl flaps her lips at Gladaman’s Den (502a Yonge St) Fridays at 11pm and Woody’s Sundays at 11pm (10pm on Sun, Jun 21).
She’s Church St’s charismatic off-Broadway sensation and her flair and energy has landed her many sought-after titles and numerous awards. Miss Conception, or Kevin Levesque, graduated from performing arts school and took up drag in a 2002 talent contest and never looked back. Host of Zelda’s Drag Idol and star and creator of her wildly popular live-singing Broadway show at Woody’s, she opened her closet to the public with her store Miss C’s Closet offering up deals for those in need of heels.
Drag artiste for: eight years
Work: “Store owner, drag sensation and super waitress”
Highlights: “Winning my first pageant, The Queen of Halloween, in 2004”
Lowlights: “I recently performed at a gig where a lady hired me for her husband’s surprise birthday party and when I arrived the guests where so rude and horrible to me, they even left the room. It was extremely uncomfortable. It turns out neither the husband nor his guests were impressed to see a drag queen in his house. I heard them yelling at her in the kitchen”
Coming up: Miss C will have you yelling for more at her one-woman Stage to Screen Show Sundays from 6pm to 9pm at Woody’s (where she’s also hosting numerous skin contests over Pride) and The Fierce and Cheap Pride Show at Zelda’s (542 Church St) on Tue, Jun 23 at 9pm.
The “Lady Bear Extraordinaire” is the beloved conductor of some of the zaniest parody songs and outrageous makeup techniques ever to grace a TO stage. Her stints on Queer West at the Beaver (1192 Queen St W), the Gladstone (1214 Queen St W) and appearances at Buddies (12 Alexander St) garnered her the crown as the alternative scenestress.
Age: “As old as dirt and as young as a newborn’s arse”
Drag artiste for: two years
Work: “Alternative scene queen and Grade 4 school teacher”
Highlights: “Being on Xtra’s Canadian top 10 queer artists for 2008”
Lowlights: “Blowing out my ankles and breaking my toe after some fancy footwork on some cobblestones, then landing in a dank wet gutter and being rescued by Brian Hui”
Coming up: Fay Slift’s fancy footwork graces Xtra’s anniversary party at Buddies on Thu, Jun 18 and is part of Funhouse at Buddies on Jun 20 at 8pm with Sasha Van Bon Bon and The Scandelles.
The Fabulous Freaks
The city’s drag super troupe, (pictured, left to right) Amanda, Sylvia and Felicia, otherwise known as Ben, Glen and Mark, is the wacky result of getting together and trying out a few group numbers. Their chemistry led to praise and booking galore. They were individually honoured by The Imperial Court of Toronto, further cementing their royalty status among the drag community.
Age: Sylvia: “What!?” Felicia: “Let me check my birth parchment.” Amanda: “I’m not ashamed… 19”
Grouped for: 15 years
Work: “Stage icons, dancing gypsy women”
Highlights: “The fact we’ve been performing together for 15 years as a group is number one. The places we’ve been, the events we’ve been part of, the people we’ve met…. We’re blessed”
Lowlights: “The fact that we’ve been performing together for 15 years as a group has ruined our livers. The places we’ve been, the events we’ve been part of, the people we’ve met…. We don’t remember any of it”
Coming up: The Freaks are freaky weekly Sundays at 11pm at Crews/Tango.
The hilarious Ms Bitch is all jazz hands and middle fingers, deservedly acclaimed for her spastic stage persona and capacity to emote a thousand facial expressions in a matter of minutes. Dustin Redshaw is actually quite an actor, a welcome addition to the tradition of Danny Love and others who gave us a million comedic stage antics and an equal amount of laughs. Her amazing entrance into the Drag Idol race won her acclaim, as did performing as Hillary Clinton at Jack Layton and Olivia Chow’s NDP halloween bash.
Drag artiste for: two years
Work: “Drag phenomenon, bartender at Crews/Tango and Razzie Award-winning actress”
Highlights: “Nothing compares to the day my dad told me I was prettier than my sister. She is pretty ugly though. Watching kids fall is a good one, that and winning Drag Idol 2008”
Lowlights: “Watching Drag Idol 2009”
Coming up: Daytona Bitch is all that jazz and a bag of chips weekly with Amanda Roberts Fridays at 8pm at Crews/Tango.