While writing parts one and two of this series, I learned that Chester Street Bar has weekly drag shows, and I hadn’t seen any of them! Well, this could not stand. So, immediately following our long, winter break, I contacted Tommy Williams — the assistant manager and organizer of drag shows at C-Street — and asked to attend a show. He responded with not just a friendly “yes,” but also an offer to comp. my ticket and set me up with a table right on the floor. And, he also offered to introduce me to the performers. My first evening at C-Street was proving to be a pleasant one and I’d not even arrived yet.
And just look at these gorgeous lights
The show that I attended (billed “Indy Invades Champaign”) took place on January 15. All of the performers were from Indianapolis, including Marci Dupree (the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies), who performs in Champaign at least once a month. Marci’s shows are as diverse as they are prolific — she brings a different group of performers every time she comes. She told me that Tommy Williams gives her carte blanche on the shows that she hosts: “Tommy is really great to work with. He’s generous with his time, and he allows me to bring in the performers of my choosing. We love working here.”
For that night’s show, Marci brought six women and one man. These people are top performers of drag; they’ve been at it for years (Marci and Brandi Ice both started performing in their teens), and they travel all over the country. Most of them have won titles: Marci Dupree is Ms. Illinois of North America; Brandi Ice is Ms. Terre Haute; Sizzlin Sondra Royale is Miss. Indiana Continental Plus 2010; and Prince of Entertainment is Mr. Gay Illinois 2011.
Their show was fantastic. I loved every second. And I filmed as many performances as my batteries allowed. And I took lots of photos. And … I had technical difficulties. The memory card in my camera didn’t keep any of the pictures. It kept the videos, but none of the pictures. But the sound in the videos isn’t there. Just buzzing and deep, pounding bass. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know.
I was crushed. I’ve got a stomachache just typing this out. These women all talked about how nice Tommy is (and he is), but they were as nice and as welcoming to me as he was. They graciously allowed me into their dressing room while they were trying to get ready for the show, and talked with me as long as I wanted.
And I fucked up getting any decent footage of their performances.
With sincere apologies to these wonderful performers, here is what little I have.
I have a video of Marci Dupree, and when you hear it, you’ll be able to see what I mean about the buzzing bass. The sound quality is horrid. But you can still see Marci in all her glory.
I also have a brief clip of Brandi Ice performing a hilarious interpretation of “You Light Up My Life.” Dear Readers, I’m old enough to remember when Debby Boone’s song was #1 on the charts for what seemed like ten years. I remember when she said that she recorded the song for God. I like to think that God enjoys Brandi’s version better. The sound quality is much better for this video as well, and I’m sure that God has something to do with that too.
I regret that this is all the video that I have from that night. Here is the rest of the roster. When the Indy Invasion returns to C-U, I highly recommend that you catch their show. You’ll have a blast.
Stevie Alexander performed as Reba that night, so I’m happy to have found this photo (below left). The resemblance is amazing. I’ve never seen Reba McEntire perform, and now I don’t feel cheated. Check out more about Stevie here.
One of Veronica Storme‘s performances was of ABBA, and she was fun, engaging, and damn cute. She’s pictured above right.
Sizzlin Sondra Royale. Wow. This woman lives up to her name, to which the picture above right will attest. Sondra performs Beyonce better than Beyonce does.
I got to briefly speak with Ceduxion Carrington that night, and she told me that she’s from Decatur and has been performing drag for 14 years. She said that almost every drag performer in C-U has gotten her start at C-Street. Ceduxion is practically a legend in East Central Illinois (at least). Even if you don’t attend drag shows, chances are you’ve heard the name Ceduxion Carrington. I asked her what she considers key to being a good drag performer. She said that it bothers her to see some drag queens allowing their performances to be affected by whether or not the tips are good on a particular night: “I have a job to do. Tip me or don’t, my job stays the same. I consider myself ‘tipped’ when they pay the cover to come and see me. Drag is escapism and I have a job to do.”
It’s disappointing that the video I took of Ceduxion’s performance has such bad sound quality, because it was beautiful. You can check it out here. And you can also see a video of Ceduxion performing with the Emerald City Divas in part one of this series.
Ceduxion was Mistress of Ceremonies at last Sunday’s show, and that’s her workin’ it in the picture at the right.
My thanks to all of the performers from Indianapolis, and especially the fabulous Marci Dupree, for being so welcoming and for putting on such a great show.
So it was that, with heavy heart and searing embarrassment, I wrote to Tommy to confess that I suck. Again, he couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. He not only told me that they were having another show that very week, but said that he’d set up another table for me. And then … get this: he offered to comp. my ticket again. I couldn’t believe it. But it gets better! He offered to loan me one of his own cameras from the DJ booth. Yes. He did do that.
So it was that, on Jan. 22, I found myself at another Chester Street Bar Drag Show. After paying my own way this time, I met up with Tommy and he introduced me to this week’s performers. Most of them were from Chicago; the show was billed “Chicago Extravaganzaa.” This time, I didn’t stay long in the dressing room. Everyone was extremely nice and polite, but clearly also extremely busy. I introduced myself, told them I’d be taking video, and hurried off.
I found my table (next to another table filled with a group of the friendliest group of kids that I’ve had to deal with in a bar in a long time) and bought a Jell-O shot. Again, this was offered to me “on the house,” but I still paid (I was raised Catholic; atonement is in my DNA). Please allow me to pause and compliment the Jell-O shots at Chester Street Bar. Look at the size of these things. And they’re strong, but not that burning type of strong. And they have raspberry and peach flavors. Heaven.
But enough about me! I had bought a new camera by this time, and I’d practiced, and I was ready, and everything turned out great. Except the sound. Honestly, I think the problem lies in where my table was placed. It’s the only reason I can think of that we get so much pounding bass in my videos.*
Evah Envy opened the show with a perfect choice: Lady Gaga’s “Judas.” I’d actually seen Evah perform a few years ago at the C-U Pridefest, so I knew I’d enjoy whatever she did, but this was a delight. Evah is gorgeous and puts a lot of energy into her routine.
And then, later in the show, she came out and did this. I think I might have dreamed about her that night.
Isys Deleon has a beauty and grace that greatly impressed me. She’s simply elegant. Unfortunately, I only managed to get a short video of Isys, but it’s a good one, in that it shows her professionalism during a brief glitch where the song she’s performing to inexplicably slows way down. But she just slows her own moves and lip synching down and carries on until things correct themselves. She was great.†
Venus Carangi is enormously sexy. She’s tall and expressive and a good dancer. But what is most enjoyable about her performances is that she’s aware of the entire room. She ensures that everyone, no matter where he or she is standing, gets some face time with her. I loved her performances. Below is a video with my typical bad sound quality. But I’m most happy with my photos of Venus because they have so much movement to them, with the added bonus of her smoking hotness.
Serena Fiierce. Oh my goodness, this woman. She is glorious. She’s an Amazon. That’s her on the front page! And she moved so fast on the dance floor that I couldn’t get but one good shot. All of the others are too blurry. By the time I finally gave up and started filming, it was late in the song. But it captures what the woman brings to the stage.
Calexus Carrington is luminous. That’s the first word that comes to my mind when I see her. She’s … well, luminous. If this was high school, Calexus would the girl that I’d want to ask to the prom, but wouldn’t have the nerve. If you’d like to see more, I also have a clip of Calexus performing to Rihanna.
Finally, Sienna Mann performed. I enjoy Sienna so much because she just looks wicked. She has this look in her eye that says she loves what she’s doing and she’ll eat you up if you let her.
And that’s it! I didn’t stay for the entire show because it was getting more and more crowded, and thus, much harder to get good photos. People were getting tired of being polite about my table, and boldly began setting up chairs — or literally standing — in front of me. My bar fighting days are over, so I called it a night around 12:30.
But I can’t recommend the drag shows at Chester Street Bar enough. They happen every Sunday. And the first Sunday of every month is Open Talent Night, hosted by Ceduxion, so anyone who wants to sing, dance, or give drag a try can compete for a cash prize. Check it out and don’t be shy!
*Yes, I’ve been to many a gay bar, and yes, the bass is constantly pounding in them, but that isn’t the issue here!
†This is only the second time I’ve ever heard this song, so maybe it’s supposed to do that, but I doubt it.