DRAGS (Photo courtesy of the Ali Forney Center.)
By Winnie McCroy
Today marks National Coming Out Day, and the opportunity for LGBTQ people (regardless of age!) to be their truest selves. But many in the queer community face discrimination from family and economic challenges. The Ali Forney Center provides a safe haven along with resources for LGBTQ homeless youth. Last month, drag queens strutted their stuff to raise funds for their vital work.
For the tony West Side nightclub Marquee NYC on 10th Avenue, the long line of party people patiently waiting for admission on Thursday, September 27 was nothing unusual. But for the community, the 2nd Annual DRAGS event provided a one-of-a-kind opportunity to watch top talent from New York City’s drag scene perform while raising money for services provided to homeless LGBTQ youth.
As VIP guests drifted into the club, a mélange of queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race and New York City drag royalty gathered onstage for an outré group shot. At 7 p.m., the doors opened and the hoi polloi rushed in ready to party and support gay youth, crowding 450 attendees into the split-level nightclub.
DJ Hannah Lou played a mix of Kelis’ Milkshake that really did bring all the boys to the yard. An open Chopin Vodka bar got guests primed for showtime.
“Live from New York, it’s Thursday night,” teased host Linda Simpson, asking, “Who’s ready to see a drag show?” She launched a streamlined evening benefitting the Ali Forney Center and providing much-needed services to LGBTQ youth.
Kicking things off was grey-haired Mrs. Smith, a “woman on the verge of a nervous breakthrough” on her electric guitar singing about her cat Carlyle, missing since 2009. She was followed by “pillar of the community” Marti Gould Cummings, who slayed with her performance of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
“We are all donating our time to Ali Forney Center, the largest center for homeless youth in the country,” said Cummings. “They have 150 beds a night; we can do better! We are here to raise money for 70,000 meals; we can do better! As our country tries to roll back our rights, we will show them that we are warriors — it is up to us! So visit aliforneycenter.org and donate!”
Sherry Vine took the stage in a chic black sequin dress to perform a lampoon of the opening number from Hairspray, which she playfully dubbed “Good Morning, I’m a Whore,” singing, “I woke up with the man from next door…” Vine was followed by drag queen Ragamuffin in a full-length cat dashiki performing a spoken word piece from “The Great Dictator.”
Then Simpson introduced Empress at Large Flotilla DeBarge, an old-school queen in sequin watermelon couture, who tore up the stage with her rendition of Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.”
Clad in a shiny yellow robe, drag queen Emi Grate (a self-proclaimed “social justice warrior”) said, “I haven’t been in my home country since 2012 because of the anti-gay laws there, but I am wearing the traditional Burmese outfit to sing this song of love,” launching into Don’t Cry for Me Argentina from Evita.
She was followed by Princess Bytch, who said, “You all know that I only do one charity event a year, so you better believe this motherfucker is legit!” She had the dance floor hopping as she performed to Nicki Minaj.
NYC’s Brita Filter was the pot of gold sequins at the end of the rainbow as she charmed the crowd singing Judy Garland’s hit, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 Miss Congeniality Monét X Change urged guests to donate with “cash, card or Venmo,” launching into Dionne Warwick’s “I Got Love.” Cummings closed the show with a live rendition of “Proud Mary” that brought the house down, leaving guests smiling.
The event raised $39,000 toward their $50,000 goal. To donate, click here.