So You Want To Do Drag?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Drag queens and kings have had a long, important, and hilarious history in New York City. On this week’s Please Explain we’ll look at drag performance as an art form, political statement, and popular entertainment with legendary performers Lady Bunny and Murray Hill, and with Joe Jeffreys, drag historian and the organizer of Drag Show Video Verite

Lady Bunny explained that we’re all in some form of drag: “We all create who we are, using accoutrements or haircuts or tattoos…”

Drag in New York goes back to the Dutch settlers, says historian Joe Jeffreys. “The first governor of New York, Cornbury, was politically smeared for being a supposed cross-dresser.”

Murray Hill


  Murray Hill (Clay Patrick McBride)

Drag can be interpreted in many, many different ways. “There’s no right way to do drag,” Murray Hill explains. “The great thing about drag and the queer community is that we’ve always been on the fringe. We make up our own rules.”  

Within New York, there’s the more polished, West Village look and the East Village look which has migrated to Brooklyn, which Murray Hill summed up as: “They look like hot messes, but on purpose.”

Murray Hill discussed why there aren’t as many drag kings as queens: “There’s just as not as many drag kings as part of history…There isn’t the same economic support as drag queens. There’s not the same visibility and culture.”

As for the acts themselves, Lady Bunny explains: “A lot of us are bawdy because we work in clubs and when your audience is drunk and it’s 1 am, they don’t want to see a Laura Ashley bonnet, yodeling for Jesus.”


Lady Bunny, Murray Hill and Joe Jeffreys

Comments [11]

John A

Wow, stuff is getting real....
What is divisiveness? Is it dividing society in to so many subpockets as to make it completely unworkable? Gay was one thing but L-G-B-T-Q-A is too much load to have to accept IMHO..

Apr. 25 2014 01:59 PM
Linda Lobdell from Newark NJ

I am a female who took a Drag Queen class with Hedda Lettuce some years back. It was clear the class was open to everyone, but I was in fact the only girl there. I felt as a somewhat non-glam woman, I could learn a lot from a drag queen, and I did. I was selected to do the lip-synching demo. AND a male classmate gave me his business card, like, he was available for a date. (He was a carpenter from a small town in Jersey who liked to dress up on the weekends.) Proving once again that there's someone for everyone. Personally my favorite man is a man in a dress. And EVERYone looks better in heels.

Apr. 25 2014 01:56 PM
Robert from NYC

One of my drag names if from a pre-famous play by Harvey Fierstein called Bertha Vanation. I think that was from Flatbush Tosca but not sure. It goes back to the 70s La Mama days.

Apr. 25 2014 01:53 PM

Can any of the guests speak to the history of the term DRAG. I was researching the history of Drag Queens with the intention of doing a news story when i learned that the term came from vaudeville, where stage managers didn't know how to describe an act of a man dressed as a woman (and apparently there were many), so they were put on the show list as Dressed As A Girl - which eventually became shortened to DRAG. Cool right? Thought listeners would find this interesting.
Mermaid D

Apr. 25 2014 01:44 PM
Heather from NYC

Are there stratight drag queens? I saw Kinky Boots on Broadway and the fact that she was into women was a revelation to me. Can drag queens be straight?

Apr. 25 2014 01:43 PM
Melody from Park Slope

For Murray Hill: How has drag effected your sense of self/identity on and off stage? What was you first drag experience like?

Apr. 25 2014 01:42 PM
Victoria Roberts from New York City

So great to hear you. Ethyl Eichelberger was a genius! Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln...
I do like the innovation of extraordinary drag artists who "don't just lip sync" like Dina Martina.

Apr. 25 2014 01:40 PM
Elizabeth from Women's Health Facilities that Offer Abortions

Hey, Lady Bunny, the Church Ladies for Choice wear floral-print polyester frocks, sensible shoes, and earrings that pinch. Facial hair -- Fuhgedaboudit!

Apr. 25 2014 01:38 PM
Elizabeth from Women's Health Facilities that Offer Abortions

Hey, Lady Bunny, the Church Ladies for Choice wear floral-print polyester frocks, sensible shoes, and earrings that pinch. Facial hair -- Fuhgedaboudit!

Apr. 25 2014 01:37 PM
Talcott from NYC

Doesn't drag in NY pre-date the Dutch? What about native folks?

Apr. 25 2014 01:33 PM
Maude from Windsor Terrace

This is so exciting!!! I have a few technical questions for Lady Bunny if she might entertain them.
#1: how do you put on eyelashes without getting them bloodshot? My eyes get so irritated and bloodshot when I glue on eyelashes, even with visine. I know it's mostly practice practice practice. But just curious if she has any tips.
#2: Drag performers are masters of contouring. Do you have any websites that demonstrate proper technique or any tips?
#3: how do you get your wig to stay on/stay put??! And, do you make your own wigs? They are magnificent.

I LOVE YOU BOTH! Murray Hill, and Lady Bunny, you are both inspirations.

Apr. 25 2014 01:08 PM

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