- Steve Conlin Photo
- "Video editing will help, lots of filters," Cody Horrocks, aka Rose Nylon, jokes.
Along with bartenders, security staff and a battery of displaced musicians, recent bar and other venue closures have left drag entertainers without a space to showcase their art. Armed with beaucoup wit and sassy one-liners, drag queens are often thought of as the clowns of the LGBTQ+ community due to their ability to make people laugh. They're also the community's first responders of sorts, stepping up across the frontlines with valiant fundraising and activism efforts.
- Via Facebook
Recognizing a need for glamour during these dire times, two local queens, Ben Morgan, aka Ivory LaRue, and Cody Horrocks, aka Rose Nylon, have herded a who's who of made-in-Utah talent for "8-B!tch"—a digital drag show the duo will be streaming on Twitch on Saturday, April 4 at 8 p.m.
"I've seen multiple queens talking about doing a digital show. This one queen named Bitch Puddin' put on hers and it was very, very good," Morgan says via video chat. "I thought, 'I can do that, I have cameras.' I talked to Cody about it, and he was very open to the idea. I involved some other friends, and it just ... kept growing." As of press time, the lineup includes some 20 queens (and kings) combined.
"Mastermind" Morgan and co-organizer Horrocks are applying their face as they talk. Between wig caps, corsets, pantyhoes and setting powder, the team is a vision in beige. Their rapidfire answers are accompanied by moments of sheer excitement, like when Horrocks shows off a pair of work-in-progress ruby slippers he's stoning for the stream's opening number, during which he'll be singing live.
Horrocks will also be playing emcee, with the casts' prerecorded numbers looped in between. It's the day of the deadline for submission, and so far only two performers have sent in their videos. "We'll see if it all shows up at once," an optimistic Horrocks says. "Everything we've seen so far has been pretty good," Morgan adds.
The impressive cast is composed by the likes of Poison Grace, The Whore of '94, M'lady Wood, Eva Chanel Stephens, Izzy Lovely, Ava ZaWhore, Aphrodeity, Marrlo Suzzanne, Heifervescence, Kay Bye and more. All top-billers in their own right, several of them regularly stage their own nights at competing venues. Bye, for example, is the host of weekly RuPaul's Drag Race screenings at Sun Trapp. During the last edition before Gov. Gary Herbert's congregation directive, one of the night's guest performers lip-synced Jess Glynne's "Hold My Hand"—complete with hand sanitizer pumps to attendees, and what ended up turning into a boa made out of Clorox disinfecting wipes.
The two organizers hope viewers can look past the lack of professional lighting and focus instead in each performance's spirit. "It's all going to be, like, in people's houses," Horrocks says, with Morgan adding that it'll be "very stripped-down. It's a lot of drag queens in their living rooms—it's very silly."
Lack of tech crew notwithstanding, the pair is still out to put on a show. "Video editing will help, lots of filters," Horrocks says. Performers' social media handles will be displayed during their performances, along with Venmo and Cash App info to encourage cyber tipping. "It's a little bit more organized than some of the other digital shows, 'cause a lot of those have just been on Instagram live or Facebook live and they kind of just jump in and do their thing," Horrocks continues.
Asked about their performance, drag king Madazon Can-Can leads with, "Jesus Christ!"—a fitting response, given the also burlesque performer was inspired by post-earthquake memes and devised an Angel Moroni-inspired act. "The ex-Mormon in me couldn't resist an opportunity to create a drag piece off of that," Can-Can says.
- Courtesy Madazon Can-Can
During the number, trumpetless Moroni will be mashed with The Breakfast Club's Bender. The song choice? Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)."
"I don't know why I have these ideas. I claim no ownership, other than some fucked up muse got in my brain," they add. "And it is the Apocalypse, so if I'm gonna do fucked up shit, it might as well be now."
SLC-based glamazon Gia Bianca Stephens plans on serving a full unicorn illusion she hopes will cast an escapist spell on viewers.
“Lately, I’ve just felt trapped by the social and economic effects of the virus," the former Miss Gay Utah says. "Like, I just want to hop on a unicorn and fly away.”
"As far as the bar closures go, the most negative impact has been to my mental health," Stephens says. "Drag is my escape, my social outlet, my playground. To have that all ripped away overnight has been a real struggle."
That pain is shared by fellow cast member Sister Molly Mormon.
"With all of the things that have been going down, I've kind of just receded and tried not to do anything and got weirdly depressed," she says. "I not only do drag, but I work as a server, so my entire world got shut down very quickly."
- Steve Conlin Photo
- Sister Molly Mormon
Receiving the invitation was a much-needed boost. Following the recommended preventative measures currently in place, she "just stopped doing things." The invite helped the entertainer "get out of my funk and hopefully produce something that is very much reminiscent of what I always used to do onstage—and now I can do it from the comfort of my own home."
The digital aspect brought with it its own set of hurdles. "So much of drag, I think, is going out and being social and interacting with people," the current reigning Miss City Weekly says. "That's something that in my personal life I don't do as much as I do in my work life. It's just me and my partner and my roommate hunkering down, so we'll see how Molly comes into play here, with just the three of us."
Jitters aside, doom and gloom is out the window. "I'm trying to do something like what I usually do, very peppy, very cute and fun and not super serious," Molly says. "I don't want it to be too depressing."
Virtual performance co-organizer Morgan recognizes the boost this will give participants.
"For a lot of queens, [performing] is at least a significant part of their income," he says. "For me personally, it's been my main source of income for the past couple of months—and with everything being shut down, it's been a little rough." The creative drought goes hand-in-hand with the financial one, he points out. "We're used to having multiple rehearsals a week; we're used to putting our time into creating something. When we had this idea, I was, like, finally we have something to do again, because it had been kind of miserable sitting around and doing nothing."
For Molly, the digital option provides a much-needed creative release. "Honestly, if this continues much longer, we'll see a huge uprise in it. I think it's going to be something we all kind of need to start doing for our artistic selves," she says. "Also, I think we're all going a little stir-crazy, so [streaming represents] getting back to something that's a little bit more normal, which for some of us, is putting on a dress and lip-syncing to somebody else's music."