Drag Brunch, a Delicious Romp or Torture on the Eyes and Stomach?

Pictured above: Drag Brunch hosted By Countess Luann.

For years, drag brunches have provided a way to combine eats, lip syncs, and banter in an increasingly popular mashup. New York’s Lips drag restaurant has been doing them for decades, and with the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, other restaurants have followed suit, serving you home fries and high heels with aggression and hot sauce.

Many feel that when they hear “Make some noise!” they want to respond, “OK! GIVE ME SOME EGGS AND SOME MORE COFFEE, B**CH!” But others live for the Saturday or Sunday morning experience, finding it the best cure for the fact that they haven’t seen a drag queen perform in seven whole hours. Where else can you get both Kylie and kale? I asked around for some pros and cons of drag brunch, and got an earful from a mouthful.

Ariel Sinclair, drag performer

There are three great things about it: unlimited mimosas, drunk drag queens, and you get to go to bed early because you started drinking early. It’s all about booze, I guess.

Adele Computer, drag performer

For the community, it’s a great way to make money during the day.

Gusty Winds, drag performer

As someone who did drag brunch for 22 years, it’s the best day of the week, as far as I’m concerned. It’s still très gay—not many drunken bachelorette parties. And people may get plastered, but it’s a happy plaster, not a belligerent one.

Merrie Cherry, drag performer

Who doesn’t want to see a man with big fake boobs and eat and get drunk and laugh?

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Merrie Cherry.

Darren Rosenblum, law professor

We went to Svetlana Stoli’s Lucky Cheng’s brunch this summer to see Sherry Vine. It was fine. The whole crowd was unappealing and the free-flowing sugary liquor repulsive, but it was nice to see such hard-working, talented queens at a time of day that doesn’t require extra caffeine.

Stephanie Stone, drag performer

It’s one of the last bastions of gospel music. If you want to hear gospel outside of a church, go to drag brunch.

Jesse Luttrell, singer

The last thing I want when I’m hung over and my friends force me to get up early and do brunch is a drag queen screaming “make some noise” at me while I’m trying to slowly nibble an eggs Benedict so as to prevent dyspepsia.

Bianca Leigh, trans actor

It’s a good time and I like breakfast food. Kenny Dash used to host Drag Brunch at Lips when it was downtown, and I tended bar. It was a lot of fun. That kind of old school drag humor is pretty much gone, and I miss it. I’d open a drag restaurant where the girls wouldn’t be allowed to say “make some noise” or do this [clapping gesture]. Earn it. And they do earn it—there’s no need to do that.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Jasmine Kennedie at Barilla’s Drag Brunch.

Brian Belovitch, star of I’m Gonna Make You Love Me

9 am shadow?

Charles Tomley, actor and drag fan

I’m not a morning person, so I don’t do brunch. For me, drag shows are theatrical productions that are enjoyed in dark clubs or theaters. Stage lights help create the drag illusion. So the daylight coming through the windows would be a buzz kill.

Mattress Fever, blogger

Never look a queen in the eyes before 10 pm without a spotlight and a cosmo or you’ll turn to stone!

Chi Chi Larue, director/drag performer

I just went to a drag brunch in San Francisco, and as far as drag brunches go, it was really, really fun. Now for the down side. It always seems that drag brunches have the worst, most disgusting food, like it’s all sitting in vats and they just scoop it up. The show was amazing and the food was disgusting. Although the avocado toast was good.

Honey Davenport, Drag Race Season 11

I like the coins and the opportunities it has provided to do big shows in the daytime. But why not drag dinner? Who the f*ck wants to see drag queens in daylight? It’s not pretty. Unless you are Shequida and you froze your face in 1902, when you started drag, lol.

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Marty Gould Cummings at Drag Brunch hosted By Countess Luann.

Dennis Bowling, vocalist

Brunch is for eggs, oysters, and champagne. It’s where we attempt to morph back into some semblance of the functioning adult we were the day before. Drag brunches are too much—it’s sensory overload. They’re a hit of ecstasy while having a migraine, as opposed to dimly lit spaces and sympathy.

Doris Dear, drag performer,

Ah, the drag brunch—what every straight person thinks it’s cool to do, and drag queens sell their souls to do.

Michale Tronn, entrepreneur

I’m glad they exist. Don’t go!

Ginger Snap, host of Broadway Brunch at Lips

It’s exciting. It’s mimosas, a show, costumes, and glitz. The MC is hilarious—Ginger Snap! We sell out two seatings on Sunday—170 and 189 people. Drag is more mainstream due to Drag Race, so we get a lot of people from other states who come just for this. The gays we get, to get them to the East Side, it’s like the Middle East—though when they come, it’s a good time. I try to talk to every table. That’s what they like. The food is good—fried chicken and waffles is the most popular choice—but they come for the show. People say, “How do you feel about [Hell’s Kitchen bar] Therapy now doing drag brunch?” Well, I love to see everybody doing well. I’ll send people there. I’d love it if people from Idaho came here and saw what kind of people we are. They’d say, “Those drag queens are sweet!” It would change their minds.

Jeff Hiller Finds His Inner Julia Sugarbaker

 

Forget drag brunches! How’s this for the highest concept of the year? Comic actor Jeff Hiller has immersed himself in revisiting Designing Women, the Linda Bloodworth-Thomason late ‘80s sitcom about four brassy Southern ladies, and decided to dive into the characters’ personas—and wigs—while doing monologues in which he expresses his own feelings about gender, sexuality, and relationships.

“That can’t work,” you might think—and it might indeed have been the same thing people felt when Designing Women itself was first announced. But in The Designing Women Monologues at Joe’s Pub, Hiller managed to navigate a dazzling tightrope in pulling off the premise, and in the process, he tapped into all of our complex feelings on queer issues in hilarious ways.

He started by telling the back story of the sitcom—and how it was up for a slew of Emmys, but only won one for hair design—and also drew comparisons to the four main characters in the Golden Girls, which it obviously was as indebted to as Blanche was to her water mattress. Naturally, he also screened the immortal Julia Sugarbaker monologue known as “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”—about the utter glory of Julia’s sister, an extraordinary beauty queen—and the audience gasped at Dixie Carter’s flawless timing on it. (It’s long been a drag queen’s lip sync delight. And by the way, Hiller says Carter was a Republican who, whenever she had to do a liberal monologue on the show, made them also write in a song for her. Ugh.)

But Hiller was having a hard time tapping into a Julia-type anger of his own, so Ms. Sugarbaker herself (ably portrayed by Amanda Duarte) emerged to throw some serious shade and also instruct Hiller to find something he could get mad about. After monologues as Mary Jo, Charlene, and Suzanne, he found his target: A TV critic who criticized his performance on a sitcom as being basically retrograde and unnecessary. As Julia Sugarbaker, he proceeded to tell her off (she wasn’t there, but she no doubt felt it), and then yanked off his wig and did so as himself, instructing the critic on his importance to the community and the absurdity of her dismissal of what he brings, which is genuine.

It was a remarkable finish to a perfect evening that had me echoing one of Hiller’s own asides: Why isn’t he on SNL?

A Big, Dry Martina for the Holidays

 

Another gem on the verge of the big time, Dina Martina is the wildly original comic who wears a beret and lipstick both tilted about a mile off, sings in an alto only pit bulls can hear, and speaks with a mouthful of mucousy marbles, adding a fetching lisp to expressions like “shitting on Santa” and malaprops like how her mother used to work at Seizure’s Palace in Las Vegas, where Dina was “born and breaded.”

In her Christmas show at Sony Hall, Dina treated us to some delightful holiday classics (“I saw mama tickling Jesus Christ/Underneath his robe last night”) and warm reminiscences, like how as a kid, she’d play with her grandma’s ear, which smelled like warm cheddar, and how Dina’s mama once warned her, “Don’t live in the future, Dina, because the future holds nothing for you.” How wrong mama was!

Dina lit up the room with her wit and wisdom, even giving “jifts” to selected audience members (though Dina kept the bag, of course) and saying that since her accompanist, Chris Jeffries, collects dolls, she got him a George Washington windup doll that says “What happened?”

What’s happened to Dina as she conquers show biz is that I hear she’s on the brink of a theater piece and also a TV show, but mama’s the word. Soon, I’ll get her to shit down over drag brunch and spill everything—and then we’ll get the waiter to clean it all up.

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.

@mikeymusto


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