We’ve heard of poet laureates. What is a drag laureate? And why has drag performance, although increasingly popular, become a political football in our culture wars?

While many states are restricting drag, D’Arcy Drollinger is spreading the humor and “sparkle” of drag to make positive change. Through performance clips, conversation and a visit to Sexitude dance class, Drollinger shares with us the joy of drag and explains how it can help us all.

Drollinger owns and operates San Francisco’s OASIS nightclub. She’s pictured here playing Diana Midnight in Bitch Slap, one of many D’Arcy Drollinger orginal shows. She was appointed San Francisco Drag Laureate in May 2023 to celebrate drag as an art form and enhance the city’s tarnished tourism draw. Already, Drollinger has initiated a yearly Day of Drag and taken steps toward creating a drag mall in one of the city’s many vacant retail spaces.

Meanwhile, at least three states have severely restricted drag performance and 15 more have similar bills advancing. Under Arizona’s proposed law, for example, a drag performer just reading a book in front of a child could be imprisoned for more than 10 years and registered as a sex offender.

But don’t let that bum you out! On this edition of Out in the Bay – first posted May 22, 2024, Drollinger shares the joy of drag – and Sexitude dance class – much more than we talk politics.

And on this update, more music! We’ve added Detroit queer musician James Taylor, Jr.’s “Boy In A Dress,” a ballad Taylor calls a “heartfelt homage to the beloved cult classic film To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.” It’s a poignant reflection on drag culture, queerness, and the struggle for validation in today’s sociopolitical landscape. Hear it in the last four minutes.

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Photo of D’Arcy Drollinger as Diana Midnight in Bitch Slap by Gooch.

We thank Mary Gauthier and Crit Harmon for their permission to use part of their song “Drag Queens in Limousines.” Hear more of Gauthier’s music and learn about her book Saved by A Song and her 2024 tour on her website. And we thank James Taylor, Jr., for his sending us his May 2024 song “Boy In A Dress.”

Thanks also to the good folks at OASIS for helping schedule our recording with D’Arcy and providing audio clips and music from OASIS shows, including the song “Lady Champagne” (by Henri Belolo, Jacques Morali and Allen Whitehead, with lead vocals by Zelda Koznofski backed up by Angel Adedokun, Melinda Campero and Carissa “Snaxx” Hatchel) from the Shit & Champagne Original Soundtrack From the Motion Picture.

This edition of Out in the Bay was produced by Eric Jansen and Porfirio Rangel. Our conversation was recorded April 29, 2024 at San Francisco Public Press radio station KSFP by studio engineer Mel Baker. Audio editing and sweetening by David Kwan of KALW. Production support was provided in part by KALW‘s Queer Story Fund.

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