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Dina’s Diner July 29, 2019

| Jul 29, 2019
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DOWNSTAIRS DRAG

The New York Times Sunday Styles section had a long article about Mr. Dan, an impresario of drag shows at his own nightclub in East L.A. The feature appeared on June 16, 2019. The Times sub-headed the article with this snippet: “For 25 years, Mr. Dan has run a Los Angeles hotbed of silly and subversive performances.”

In last month’s Diner, I mentioned that perhaps grittier drag performers would rescue drag and female impersonation from it being co-opted by mass pop culture. Maybe Mr. Dan’s drag theater has been doing that all along. And fittingly, Dan’s Cavern Club Celebrity Theater is tucked away under a noisy Mexican restaurant. And yes, The Cavern Club in another part of the world is also famous because of a group called The Beatles.

Mr. Dan co-ran the well-known Dragstripp 66 under a different Mexican restaurant in the 1990s and 2000s. “The Los Angeles Times described the monthly festivities there as falling “somewhere between a John Waters film, a Bob Mackie fashion show, and a drunken punk dance party.” Dragstrip attracted slumming celebrities of the era like Marilyn Manson, Traci Lords and RuPaul him/herself.

The Cavern Club features full-blown stage productions (albeit on a tiny stage) like Golden Girlz, a drag version of the popular sitcom, an evening with a Carol Channing impersonator, a pair of Dueling Drag Divas, Chico’s Angels a Latina troika of gorgeous drag detectives, you get the idea. Some of the featured performers are drag legends like Sherry Vine, Jackie Beat and Varla Jean Merman. This is old school drag without national cosmetic company sponsorships or a network cable deal.

The Times wraps up the profile with a few interesting thoughts. “And in a town where fame sometimes seems to be the universal goal, Mr. Dan is pleased that he has made his mark, if not in all of Los Angeles, then at least one corner of it. “People have referred to me as the gay Barnum of Silver Lake,” he said. “But I’m just leading a quiet life booking one tiny theater the best way I know how, trying to make it a success every night we’re open.” Mr. Dan remains committed to keeping the Cavern Club on the artistic down low. He is not programming for the mainstream, not even for those who prefer their drag of the VH1 variety, but for his own bewigged tribe of fringe-loving (and sometimes fringe-wearing) misfits. “Everyone’s welcome,” he said. “But really this is just for us.”

CHINESE IDOLS

The New York Times carried an opinion piece headlined “Young Men in Makeup Scare the Party.” The piece ran in the June 14, 2019 edition. I assumed from the headline that the essay would be about an influx of drag queens upsetting some social gathering. I was way off.

The piece reported that the Chinese governmental authorities are concerned that a new breed of millennial pop idols threaten the “social order” and their influence is “pathological.” Pop idol hysteria seems to be common in South Korea and Japan and it has migrated to the Asian mainland. According to the Times, in China, the young male pop stars are referred to as “little fresh meat” which I hope is a translation issue because it certainly seems deviant.

Cai Xukun

The Chinese Communist Party and its offshoots are feeling threatened by the idols and their non-traditional feminized gender presentations. The article said, “Innocent as they may seem, the little fresh meat have powerful critics. The state news agency Xinhua denounces what it calls “niangpao,” or “sissy pants,” culture.” No matter, one popular Chinese idol, Cai Xukun, is followed by 800 million people on social media.

Chinese culture is historically patriarchal with traditionally defined roles for men and women. As in many other parts of the world, young people today are open to fluid gender roles and presentations. The central authorities want to make sure traditional male roles are honored as the country strengthens it economic power and fights the trade war with the United States.

Feminists in China “have joined in supporting the shifting ideal of masculinity. Many of these feminists are successful women with large disposable incomes; their tastes and purchasing power have contributed to the rise of the young idols. In their eyes, the appeal of those idols is defined primarily in the negative, by their lack of the attitudes and behaviors symptomatic of entrenched male privilege.”

Business realities prompted China’s huge electronics firm Konka Group (currently embroiled in the trade war) to use one of the Chinese idol pretty-boys, Lu Han, in their advertising campaign. Young people buy electronic gadgets and an idol gets attention and eyeballs for their products. The business of making money doesn’t give a damn about traditional gender roles and if a young guy in mascara and lip gloss sells product he’s their “little fresh meat.”

Others taking a longer view propose that the idol culture and less traditional gender roles “rather than a sign of national weakness, may signal the foundation of its strength.”

THE SEXLESS SEX GODDESS

Doris in Love Me or Leave Me.

Doris Day passed away back in May at the good old age of 97. The New York Times (and every other news source) had long tributes to her career and her place in post-war American culture. The Times had a great photo of Doris from a 1955 film (Love Me or Leave Me) in which she was exhibiting some rare sex appeal to match her wholesome beauty.

I could never quite figure how I felt about Doris Day when I was growing up. All those old movies were a decade or older by then and were viewed as hokey rom-coms in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Doris as the always virginal thirty-something career girl and Rock Hudson as her love interest. To the extent she was usually cast as a successful single woman in that era, she was a positive figure for women. The conceit that her beautiful unmarried careerist would still be a virgin was laughable but that was the “see-no-evil” America in those days. Doris, despite her natural good looks and trim figure, was (to me, anyway) a sexless creature. The publicity machine worked too well and it was hard to imagine such a perfect female ideal ever getting it on between the sheets. It would be another 25 years before everyone found out that Rock Hudson had been a closeted gay man while playing the quintessential eligible bachelor. An inadvertent perfect match: Doris the pure could remain so forever with the man who didn’t go for the ladies.

As I was thinking about Doris — trying to figure out what to say about her — it occurred to me that she made a pretty good role model for crossdressers of a certain age. She was beautiful but not exotically so. She had a good figure but was always modestly clothed and photographed. No garter belts and fishnets or pushed up cleavage. Her champagne colored hair was always firmly lacquered in place, sometimes cut in almost a mannish coif. Doris Day was always about “look but don’t touch.”

After taking the hour (give or take) for the serious crossdresser to get made up, wigged, carefully dressed in something that hides what needs to be hidden and shows only what we want others to see, “look but don’t touch” could be the crossdresser mantra.

TWENTY YEARS IN FISHNETS

Donna Marie Asbury

The New York Times Arts section had an interesting article about a retiring Broadway performer in the June 6, 2019 edition. The headline was “A Merry Murderess Hangs Up Her Vinyl Bra.” The subject of the profile was Donna Marie Asbury who has been in the Broadway production of Chicago for twenty years. Ms. Asbury, 56 years old now, joined a road company of the show in 1997 and has been in the Broadway cast since 1999. She played a few different supporting roles over the years as more famous lead actresses took the Roxie Hart lead role. After twenty years with the show, she decided to give up her part and pursue other entertainment projects. She already has a gig booked for a cabaret engagement in Manhattan.

I’ve never seen the theater or movie versions of Chicago but I liked the headline of the Times story. In the play, Donna Marie wears a vinyl bra and fishnet tights. The idea of going to work for eight performances a week in fishnets and a sexy bra seems like a dream come true for a crossdresser. And Donna Marie says that, even after two decades, she was still excited when the curtain goes up each time. But she also told the Times that new members of the cast kept getting younger and she said “They hired a 23 year old boy and I could be his mother.” The photo from the production shows that Ms. Asbury still has a smokin’ body, 56 years old or not.

On her closing night a few days before the Times article appeared, the show’s Director told her “You made putting on fishnets look like a class act.” Who wouldn’t want that in their retirement tribute?

I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY

Melania Trump July Fourth.

After the Fourth of July celebration in Washington DC, many news sources ran articles about First Lady Melania Trump’s fashion for the event. Some commenters said that Mrs. Trump’s white dress with multi-colored stripes on the midi-length skirt was a subtle nod to the rainbow LGBTQ flag and the recently completed gay pride events in June. Some people are always hoping that Melania, the former fashion model and cosmopolitan citizen of the world, has more liberal beliefs than her husband. One twitter user posted, “Interesting. Melania has on a white dress with multicolored stripes. Gay pride? She’s a rebel.” Myself, I’m skeptical.

The other reports about Melania that came from the July Fourth celebration was that her white dress, dampened by the rain that day, had given a glimpse of FLOTUS nipples. One website headlined their coverage of the rainy revelation, “Melania Trump Wins the Fourth of July Wet T-shirt Contest.” Perhaps she was trying to balance out her fashion messaging. A little rainbow flag for the gay audience and a titillating flash of nipple for the heteros.

Damian Hurley

On July 18, 2019, photos of Damian Hurley hit the internet. Damian Hurley is the 17-year-old son of actress Elizabeth Hurley, she of Austin Powers fame, and the famous safety pin dress in 1994 (25 years ago, wow). Young Damian is hailed as a spitting image of his mother despite the opposite gender thing. And they may have something there. The young man is pretty — there’s no other way to put it.

Speaking of Elizabeth Hurley’s safety pin dress, there are some images of Damian doing an homage to his mother’s famous quarter-century-old dress. But wait, he’s not in drag. He wore a black suit with gold safety pins up the side as his Mom’s daring dress made famous.

The more recent photos were from a modeling gig for celebrity makeup artist Pat McGrath. There are a lot of photos of Damian and his mom and the successful beauty gene passage has been remarked upon many times in the media. Fear not, if you’re worried about Damian being forced to trade on mere physical beauty to make his way in the world. Other news items reported he won a multi-million dollar inheritance suit from his late grandfather’s estate. It’s a hard knock life — if you’re not Damian Hurley.

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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment, Transgender Opinion

dina

About the Author ()

I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

Comments (1)

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  1. Linda Jensen Linda Jensen says:

    Doris Day: loved the tribute Dina.
    But I wish that more crossdressers of the day emulated the Doris Day style of dressing rather than wobbling on stiletto heels wearing the leatherette mini-skirt with their belly bulge sticking out through a fishnet (another great post) top.
    Or if the Doris Day look doesn’t work then they should just dress for what makes their body looks attractive to others, not sexy for themselves. Save that latter for when they are home alone, eh?
    (Hope we meet up again some day)

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