George Washington U. drag show challenges concepts of gender, sexuality

By Jane Smith
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
April 16, 2001

GW Pride — George Washington University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender student organization — proved to hundreds of college students Friday night that looks can be deceiving.

The organization sponsored a performance of spectacular drag queens and kings Friday evening, all of whom sparked the interest of curious audience members willing to challenge their concepts of gender, sexuality and fun.

“You can come because you are supporting sexual freedom, or you can come just for a good show,” said Bethany Goldenberg, a freshman at American University. “American University doesn’t have this stuff, or I’m just not aware of it if it is there.”

Goldenberg said she was much impressed with the quality and attendance of the show.

Seven performers flaunted their stunning looks to blood-pumping rhythms and beats on the disco-lit runway. Sporting stage names like “Sparkle Martinez,” “Jimmy James” and “Simone Blue,” the models dazzled the audience with exquisite, sequin gowns and sensual dance moves. Their antics won both uproars of hysterics and a flood of dollar bills from the crowd.

“This is a big part of our culture,” GW senior and performer Andrea Cerbin said. “It’s like going to a football game if you are straight — everybody’s done it.”

Cerbin, a “virgin” drag king, danced under the name of “Abe Froman — The Sausage King from Chicago,” and prompted many to empty their pockets.

Behind the scene was GW Pride’s financial chair Matthew Robbins, who organized this year’s event. The sophomore brought together efforts from campus Pride members and outside production groups in order to have the show run “very smooth.”

“I think the crowd reacted really well,” Robbins said. “My personal goal is that within 10 years it will be a huge campus event.”

Robbins said he hoped he and other GW Pride members will someday be remembered as campus legends for breaking through sexual stereotypes. Emcee “Baby Michaels” from the production company Puss N’ Boots bolstered high spirits throughout the evening with her candid, sexual humor. She assured the drag show attendees that they would be “seeing something different at the GW Hippodrome” and smoothed over intervals of “testicle” (technical) difficulties that persisted throughout the show.

Crowd participation played a key role in the success of the night. Dancers such as event co-founder “Peter Dickson” pulled members out of the audience and demonstrated his masculinity by jokingly “taking” them from behind.

Michaels conducted a drag-gait contest by inviting three “virgin” drag show attendees onto stage to offer their best impressions of true transgender walk. The contest climaxed in a show-off between the two male contestants as they rigorously thumb-wrestled their way for prizes. The prizes, ranging from “dirty girl” soap to gay porn, elicited embarrassed smirks from their heterosexual winners. “Drag shows are the last true political bashings and it’s a good way to make fun of sexuality,” Cerbin said. “It’s humor and I love to do humor.”

Accompanying the platform go-go boots, evening gowns, and heavy make-up were familiar tunes like Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like A Woman” and Bloodhound Gang’s “The Bad Touch.”

The songs addressed and twisted the sexual themes of the evening and led the way to rolling, crawling and screaming of both dancers and spectators.

Underlying the side-splitting acts was the more commendable effort of bringing together an extremely diverse group of individuals. Friday evening, gays, straights and bisexuals focused on the fake boobies, crazy gestures and wild hair, rather than on their differences in sexual orientation — exactly what GW Pride hoped to achieve.

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