Men dressed as Audrey Hepburn, Pocahontas and other famous females were on full display Tuesday night at the annual high heel race in Dupont Circle.
Hundreds of spectators – including D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty – gathered to see men dressed in drag sporting high heels running through the streets. More than 100 drag queens hurled the short stretch between JR’s Bar and Grille and Trio Restaurant, vying for the grand prize of a $50 bar tab at JR’s, the de facto organizer of the race.
The event is a famed pre-Halloween social gathering that unites the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups, along with anyone else who cares to join.
“I think every neighborhood needs something like this,” said Mike Wilson, 30, a first time volunteer at the event. “You get thousands of people out on the street having fun in the middle of the week. It’s just one of those events that can bring the community together.”
The first onlookers arrived around 6 p.m., quickly crowding bars and sidewalks and then competing for spots in the front row. Meanwhile, contestants – headed by a mixed-gender team of cheerleaders – flaunted their costumes under flashing cameras.
“The High Heel Race makes absolutely no money,” said David Perruzza, the general manager of JR’s. “We buy a tent, we pay to clean up the street, and we buy the volunteer T-shirts. We end up in the hole because we pay for all the stuff.”
At 9 p.m., police cautioned everybody “who is not wearing heels” to get out of the way. Then the race began, covering 100 yards and lasting roughly 90 seconds. While the front 50 or so sprinted, the latter half merely paraded in front of the cheering crowds.
The race was won by a contestant under the alias “Chlamydia Parker, Duchess of Gloryhole,” dressed in a yellow wig flowery dress and sunglasses. Her costume was relatively tame compared to many of her compatriots.
“They really enjoy it,” said Pina Perruzza, volunteer and mother of David Perruzza. “Some of them start making their costumes as early as a year in advance. Nobody has been hurt since my son took it over, 12 years ago. Nobody has ever been hurt, actually.”
The intricate and gaudy costumes included Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), pants down, being pushed on a mobile toilet; a walking Obelisk; and an authentic looking Lady Diana complete with bodyguards.
What started out two decades ago as a friendly challenge between a few drag queens drinking at JR’s to run down the street, down a shot, and return, is now a tradition.
“I’ve been here in D.C. for 12 years and my first year I came to the High Heel Race and thought it was really fun,” said Lorraine, an onlooker who did not want to disclose her last name. She has she has returned multiple times since.
Fenty, who also attended last year’s race, joined the jovial festivities shaking hands and bowing to the queens.
“The reason I like it,” Lorraine said, “is because it’s something that going on in D.C. that is not repressed and boring.”