R.I.P. The Black Cap - Thank you George Antony

Sunday 12th April 2015, the iconic Black Cap closed its doors for the last time. Social media has been awash with opinions and theories but as someone who has performed, promoted, directed and DJed there over the past eighteen months, here's an insiders view.

The Black Cap eighteen months ago was a very different place. Numbers were down, it hadn't been turning a profit for years, the manager was caught with his fingers in the till and it was starting to be seen as a bit naff. But assistant manager George Antony saw potential in the old girl and gave her the boost and revamp she deserved. With an enthusiastic knowledge of past and present scenes, he brought in new promoters, DJs, performers and in those past eighteen months, the Cap exceeded its targets and reclaimed it's reputation as a destination for a wide variety of fantastic queer club and cabaret nights. 
But she desperately needed a new frock. The toilets were a mess, the sound system and tech was a source of constant frustration, the dressing room was a dump. The only way for to raise capital for said frock was to redevelop. Plans were designed to destroy the first floor Shufflewick Bar and Regina Fong beer garden to become flats. The ground floor would have been widened and restored to how it was over 20 years ago (when both the bar and club were on the ground floor) and given an entire revamp. The money from the proposed flats would have been enough to secure the loan needed for the makeover.
There were previous planning proposals put forward to build flats on it's sacred ground and I wrote to the council protesting it myself but this was a completely different situation. The venue needed to regenerate to survive at all.
Well meaning but ill informed academics and armchair activists who hadn't done their homework decided no, no, no. How dare they squash yet another LGBT venue? Usually I'd wholeheartedly agree as but this was an all or nothing situation. Redevelop or no Cap. Strong hints were given but ignored. Planning permission denied. It's over. She's gone. Sold. R.I.P. The Black Cap and over 50 years of LGBT and queer heritage.


I've known about this for a while but out of respect for the staff and people whose livelihood depended on working there, I kept my mouth shut. The company that owned the venue, Faucet Inn Limited have done a hideous job with this. They didn't make any public statements until today's official closing announcement. They've kept their lips firmly shut during procedures, not attended planning permission meetings or engaged with those concerned about it's future. This could have been avoided if they'd opened the channels of communication with those who work at, attend and love the place or publicly told people that if she were to get permission to be restored to her former glory she would have survived. Albeit with sound proofed flats above, something that worked for one of their other venues, Comptons.

The old girl's gone but had a cracking send off with the final weekend featuring Myra Dubois night Naff on Friday, my queer disco night POP! on Saturday and Sunday's final event being the ReResurrection hosted by Virgin Xtravaganzah.
The final show was incredible with every performer bringing their A game. It was an honor to be asked to join the lineup and sang something I thought fitting and a nod to London's queer heritage; Soft Cell's Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. It was hard to get through without breaking down as the whole place has become more than a disco, but an incredible family.
As a respectful nod to 50 years of glorious drag heritage, legend of The Black Cap stage, Mrs Moore was invited to close the show, belting out 'I Am, What I Am'. All performers took to the stage to sing Happy Birthday to George, we had a big cry and group hug and a final dance of the bar to Like A Prayer.

To those bitching they weren't asked to perform one last time, this wasn't about you. The night had to go ahead as programmed with only a few knowing the situation (out of respect for the staff and their futures). Mrs Moore respectfully and fantastically represented the heritage of the Cap, so shush.
To the armchair activists who should have read the planning proposals properly, meh.
To Faucet Inn, fuck you.
To gentrification and sanitisation of the LGBT scene and London in general, a massive go fuck yourself.

Black Cap legend HIH Regina Fong (do your homework kids) has haunted the venue for years. The times I've felt her presence was never more clear than over the weekend, she's fucking livid. Whatever generic glass fronted gentrified piece of shit it becomes, I hope she curses your genitals.


To close, there are so many wonderful people to thank in the creative and financial success of The Cap over the past eighteen months but there's one who worked selflessly, enthusiastically and often without sleep. He paid for missing stock from of his own wallet, worked the door, behind the bar, booking events, attending to social media, encouraging new talent, sorting tech, placating stroppy drag queens (cough) and genuinely gave a shit about the very bones and future of the venue and not his ego. George Antony.
She would have faded away without you. You made sure she went out with a fucking bang.
George, thank you. 

x


P.S. For those asking why I didn't release this information sooner, I didn't out of respect for the staff and their futures. They have moved and been given jobs within Faucet Inn. I would suggest going to say hello to them but that would be supporting an underhand and deceitful company, so don't.

P.P.S. Sorry if I've offended anyone other than Faucet Inn.





Misogyny and my definition of queer

I'm a tough broad but I feel like shite right now, rather than wallow, I'm purging to you dear reader.
In the twelve years I've been Holestar the drag artist, I've been the subject of misogyny on numerous occasions. Since winning the London Cabaret Award for Best Drag Act, that misogyny is less passive aggressive, the hate is real.
Last night, after the weekly screening of RuPaul's Drag Race I'm currently hosting, I was called a cunt for being a female drag queen and stealing jobs from gay men. It stung a little but I've been called worse.
What saddens me is that this young gay man clearly has insecurities of his own to deal with. He comes to drag with certain expectations where gender is binary and gender roles and expression of those roles are distinct and final. Rather than have a conversation with me about it, he chose to attack.

He also attacked my sexuality, presuming me to be heterosexual. Not that it should matter either way but I'm not. I'm not a lesbian either, or bisexual but queer. My last partner may have been female but I fancy humans. What I find attractive in someone is not designated by what's in their pants. My gender is queer. I may have female body parts but I have high levels of testosterone coursing through my veins and my ovaries don't function properly. Makeup free, out of drag, I'm frequently mistaken for a man. I don't feel female. I feel  and am human, other, queer.
Academics will give you numerous theories but for me, being queer means sexuality, gender and/or lifestyle, is open and fluid. Nothing is final or black and white on the scale of sexuality, gender or life choices. Queer runs the gauntlet between male, female, gay, straight, heteronormative and anarchic bohemian lifestyles.
I'm not queer for politics, it took me a long time to accept that I don't need to be in the boxes that mainstream society expect of me. Growing up, I had no queer heroes telling me I could be whatever I choose to be. Heteronormative society told me to be a breeder, passive, cute, depend on a man, marry young, 2.4 kids, car, mortgage etc. Lesbian and feminist media told me to be angry and I'd be betraying the sisterhood if I even considered the "dark side". Certain sectors of the entertainment world told me I can't be a woman parading around as a drag queen (as I maintain, drag isn't what exists between your legs but the art form, transcending gender).
It it took me a long time to ignore these negative messages and accept who I am. A big old fabulous queer.

I'm no role model or warrior in a quest to fulfill my ego by standing on stage, screaming at people to change their minds. You fight fire with fire, you get more fire.  My role is to continue to be me and to be visible. If anyone having difficulty dealing with who they are can take strength from me being open about my queerness, showing off, depression or any of the other twaddle I come out with, then that's marvelous. Virtual hugs all round.
Be you. Be nice. That's it.
We all shit out of the same hole. Crude but true.

As for the small minded, misogynist boy. I hope he can get over his hate and misogyny soon but shan't be welcome to the screenings again.  I've a whole room full of people to entertain. Ain't nobody got time for that!

WINNER! Best Drag Act at London Cabaret Awards 2015!!!

Yes me, I won!!! Shit the bed etc... Being long listed was nice, shortlisted an honor but to win the darn thing is incredibly exciting and humbling.
I honestly wasn't expecting to win so my speech at the awards ceremony at the Cafe De Paris was a baffled ramble so here's one in the form of blog.  How very modern.

"First of all I'd like to thank the judges who judged me on my talent, not what's between my legs. My parents who taught me to keep my feet on the floor and take each day at a time. Excess All Areas, my fellow nominees, everyone in the wider performance community and anyone who has got on stage to make an arse of themselves for the entertainment of others.


I'd like to thank me, myself and I for persevering through a minefield of misogyny for the past twelve years. To the small minded promoters and venues who won't book me because of my gender, stop underestimating your audiences. It's 2015. Get with it.

The biggest and huge thank you to anyone who has helped, encouraged or booked me. Bought one of my pop songs, been to one of my shows, sang or danced along, liked or followed me, read my witterings, wrote about me or supported me in any way.
Without you, I'd still be fantasising about larking around onstage instead of living my dreams. Thank you."

I know I'm supposed to be all louche and indifferent about winning but I'm utterly chuffed. There have been some who have tried to rain on my parade ("Holestar shouldn't have won, she's a woman") well let them. I've got a big brolly and the hide of a rhino. I won for BEST DRAG ACT. I'm a Drag Act. So there.

I've a nice little trophy, the title for a year and the biggest smile on my face. Will it lead to other opportunities? We shall see but to be given the nod for what I love to do in a mans world, I'm a very happy girl.

x


Above image (c) Lisa Thomson exclusively for This Is Cabaret

How to be a Female Drag Queen

After twelve years of performing as a female drag queen, I've learned a thing or two. I gratefully receive mail from bio girls who want to branch into it so have written a basic go to. As I've said before, I'm nobodys Drag Mother, but I'll be your Auntie.
There aren't any rules to drag, these just apply to my approach to it. Take from it what you will and have a butchers at my other blogs How To Be A Drag Queen and Back to School..Drag 101

1. Is it hard to get into drag?
Yes. There are plenty of people who will tell you you can't be a drag queen because you're a bio female and that drag is only M2F or F2M (particularly those whose only exposure to drag is watching RuPaul's Drag Race and proclaim themselves to be experts). That's utter crap, drag is in the art, not your gender.. There are women doing it, bearded queens, there are trans people doing drag, now that's progress! Anyone can do drag, just respect it's heritage and make it your own.
Drag is expensive, time consuming and you need to be multi disciplined. I'd advise getting into it properly if you have an insane desire to show off. Or have rich parents. 

2.  How do I get gigs?
It's a cliche but it's not what you know, but who. Go to events and clubs, find a group to knock about with and share ideas with, enter competitions, get seen, do free shows. You will do a lot of free shows. And you always will.
Get yourself a strong look, a thick skin and have something to sell.
When I moved from to London from Vienna (where I was doing pretty well around clubs in central Europe), I had to start all over again, it was tough. I sulked a lot and then realised there's no point. Without a (decent) agent to believe in me, I've relied on determination, a love of performing and a bit of hustle to get gigs. If nobody is booking you, create your own, put on a show. Just don't expect to be rolling in a bed of money. Event promotion is tough, few make profit.

3. How do I (insert makeup related question)?
Doing heavy girl makeup isn't drag, you need to pile it on and exaggerate everything. You are attempting to look like a super, over the top, camp cartoonish idea of a glamourous woman, not a cute glittery version of yourself.  I spend an average 90 minutes, 60 at a push and try to make it neat. The face is the focal point, what humans are instinctively drawn to. Invest in a good base, and good brushes. Youtube is full of tutorials. Practice and use heavily pigmented and stage makeup. High street stuff won't cut it. Always clean your face at the end and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.

4. What about my body?
I don't cinch because women come in a variety of shapes. I'm not a shapely lady (but a big old apple) and can't sing in a corset but it's up to you. One thing I don't do is get my tits out, for me, it defies the whole point. You're asking people to question what they think they know about gender. Drag inhabits a space between masculine and feminine, this should reflect in the whole package. The biggest compliment I get is when people think I'm a fella, even after talking to me.  Keep them guessing. Tickle them with a feather, not the whole chicken.

5. Do I need a talent?
Yes, I think so. If you want longevity, get onstage and perform. If you have a talent for comedy, singing, magic, dance, storytelling, acrobatics, sword swallowing, circus etc all the better. If not, think beyond a straightforward-beginning-to-end lipsynch  and get creative. Chop it up, tell a story, use props, always give it to them hard and commit to what you're doing. Nobody likes a lazy lipsynch.
Don't depend on venues being able to play music from your phone or USB. Burn it to CD (slower the better) and label it with a marker. Buy high res music, stolen stuff from YouTube sounds dreadful on club systems.


6. What should I do about outfits?
Avoid generic high street clothes unless you're going to chop them up, wear them backwards, make them into something else or wear a shit load of accessories. What's the point of looking like any other girl in a generic frock down the disco? You're a queen, stand out.

7. How do I define myself?
 I was once asked how I wanted to be introduced onstage, 'Tranny with a Fanny' fell out of my mouth and it became my strapline. It's mine, it's taken. Thanks.
I sometimes say 'Drag Goddess'. In America, female queens are called Faux Queens, something I'm not personally fond of. Faux means fake and there's nothing fake about me honey. Drag Witch is good. Bio queen, whatever. Hell, you're a human doing drag, call yourself what you want. 


8. Wigs?
I tend to go for unrealistic big wigs these days, I'm also partial to a turban too. I spent the first three years not wearing wigs at all and wrapped a myriad of feather boas around my head, looking like a big feathery microphone. Chuck whatever you want on your head, just wear a damn wig cap. You are creating unrealistic illusion, a fantasy. We don't need to see the daytime you poking out.  

9. Are there problems with misogyny?
Unfortunately yes. You will on occasion get a shady queen trying to tell you you can't do drag. In my experience, these are usually ones without a modicum of talent. Incredibly insecure too.
I recently lost a semi regular gig because of my gender. Despite storming it with the audience, the owners wanted a straightforward  man in a dress.  That glass ceiling is a right bastard, we still live in a world where misogyny is rife and people underestimate the audiences capacity to have an open mind. If I complain, I'm accused of being a bitch, same if I'm tough in business. Sod them. I keep on trucking, not to spite them but because I believe in what I'm doing. 
Suffice to say, I won't be going to Cellar Door again.

10. Is there drag etiquette?
* When a queen has a crown on (usually their wig), address them by their drag name.
* Backstage areas get messy. Keep your shit together, respect those around you and don't steal. Rude.
* Be confident. Confidence is pivotal but there's a fine line between it and arrogance. No need to be an arse. 
* If you're asked not to make mess onstage, don't make mess onstage.
* Never plagiarize another act. It's tacky and you'll be remembered for the wrong reasons.

* Double air kisses is a standard drag greeting (at a bit of a distance to avoid smushing your makeup).
* Don't be noisy or trying to pull focus when another queen is performing, a bit of mutual respect is appreciated.
* Go hard or go home.
* Have fun.
* Be nice.


x

RuPauls Drag Race UK...not happening just yet.

There's been a good year of speculation about a UK version of RuPaul's Drag Race. Queens have been having minor breakdowns and histrionics at the thought of it happening It's not. Well not just yet anyway.

Rumours have been posted on various websites and fanpages but no official conformation has come from RuPaul or World of Wonder (who produce RuPaul's Drag Race). 

Whenever a 'source' revealed information, drag fans of the internet went berserk. Then a Twitter page started tagging every drag queen in the UK. Again, madness. This was followed by rumour that the show was coming to Channel 5 in September including a picture featuring British TV star and drag hag Jonathan Ross flanked by Michelle Visage and RuPaul. It didn't take much detective work to discover this was a load of cobblers.

1. The photo of Michelle is from her Celebrity Big Brother profile shot.
2. There is no way Ru would not be in the middle
3. Ru wears fancy dresses, not fancy dress.

A quick Google search revealed the same fancy dress sequinned union jack frock in the same pose. Someone has clearly been having fun with photoshop.

Again, you could hear the gullible shrieks of drag delight from Dundee. Finally a supposed trailer appeared, more hysteria.

Finally, Jonathan Ross revealed in Attitude (who themselves fell for the rumour) that while he had approached a few channels about doing a UK version, it hadn't been picked up yet.
Calm your shit down dears.

So why all the rumours and speculation? Whoever has been spreading title tattle as gospel, honey, the jig is up. You have successfully managed to make my facebook feed full of insane drag fans. You've done a magnificent job of winding everyone up but it's time to give it up. Do you work in PR or the tabloids? You really should. I commend you for an excellent rouse but maybe channel your talents into something worthwhile?

Why do I care? Well I write for World of Wonder who produces the show (I'm currently on #VisageWatch while Ms Visage, the lady of the big bassoms, is in the Celebrity Big Brother house) and have hosted the official UK screening of RuPaul's Drag Race for the past two years in London (and will be doing so again for season 7, details imminent). I'm also a bit concerned about the hysteria the show causes among rabid fans.

 I recently performed with Latrice Royale, have worked with Bianca Del Rio, Michelle Visage and have met a few of the Drag Race stars. Nice people, hard working queens, great performers. But the way some drag fans react to them is as if they are celestial beings. They all shit out of the same hole as you darling. They are drag queens who have been on TV. That's it.
Yes they're great but do you treat your local queens with such reverence? It saddens me to hear of incredible non Drag Race 
American queens getting zero tips from an audience, followed by Drag Race alumni who make it rain (even if they don't know the words and spend the whole performance begging). Tip the fierceness, not the fame.

And while I'm here, I'm sick of drag bores who “cluck”, “bitch”, “Mamma” and “hunty” themselves silly and profess to know everything about drag after only watching a well crafted and produced TV show. It'd be like saying you know about world politics if you only watched Fox News. No, no you don't.

Support and tip your local queens, they are as talented and incredible as the ones on TV. Most translate better live when you can actually smell them.
Please talk to them like they are real people (we don't need you spouting clich├ęs in our faces) and finally, don't be gullible or
 believe a thing until RuPaul Charles spills the tea himself.

x

P.S. I've been short-listed for Best Drag Act at the London Cabaret Awards!!!
Don't think I'll win but really is nice to be nominated, never mind short-listed!