Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Drag Queens and Me
David and me; David as "Barbra" (December 1975)
In about 1975, I was waiting for the upstairs elevator in the hallway of my building and the door to apartment 5G opened. I watched as Barbra Streisand, Cher, Bette Midler, Shirley Bassey, and Diana Ross exited and walked towards me. They were laughing, calling each other "Mary," and having huge fun. We all got into the elevator and Barbra invited me to come to their "drag show" at a club located on Seventh Avenue and Bleeker Street. Well, I couldn't go that night because I had plans... but I was curious and intrigued.
The next day, a gorgeous guy named Frank knocked on my door. He invited me to visit David. "Who is David," I asked. "David Miller is the greatest drag queen in New York," he replied. "You are living across the hall from Barbra," he said.
So off I went to apartment 5G. As I entered, my mouth dropped open when I was immediately surrounded by the most expensive and ornate gowns I had ever seen. The hundreds of fancy colorful gowns and costumes hung on racks all over the apartment. There were wigs, false eyelashes, and pancake makeup stacked on trays. There were black satin heels and jewelry and real and fake furs. Many gowns looked like clothes I had seen in recent films. One was an exact copy of the Bob Mackie bugle beaded gown worn by Barbra Streisand in "Funny Lady." It hung in a place of honor on a door. A few were copies of gowns Cher had worn on her TV show. There was even the Barbra "sailor suit" from "Funny Girl." It was like a drag museum in there. And guests arrived all day. Bette, Shirley, and Cher arrived almost daily. David's bell was constantly ringing. The stereo music was loud and inspiring. I was euphoric. I had never had so much fun in my life. Gay guys were out, drag queens were in. It was all drag 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I inhaled drag and left when they started doing poppers, which always smelled to me like dirty feet.
I began to take photos of all the good times in David's apartment. And they took photos of me. Freddie took the picture that now hangs at my blog. I started going to all the drag shows. I went during the week to Les Mouches, The Ice Palace, and The Limelight. I always stayed at Les Mouches until 4 AM because that was when they rolled out the donut table. I was a chow hound even back then.
Out of so many guys, who at times actually lived or stayed for a while in apartment 5G, only a few are still alive. Frank went with me to see Adam Sank's show at Comix last spring. Oh, and in the 30 years since those great and happy and fun years of my life, Frank has not aged. He is still hot and sexy. And he is still designing bugle beaded gowns... at his own showroom like a true "Garmento."
addendum, January 2015: I reconnected with Fred on facebook, and Bobby lives in my neighborhood so we meet every now and then, and I spoke with Gaspar on the phone a while back. The memories of those glorious and fun days will live inside of me forever.
Rest in Peace David Miller.