Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Rolling Sober Crowd

Because nothing says Christmas quite like men in women's clothes.

The holiday drag brunch at Laura Lee's was as good an excuse as any to assemble the manse crew to drink Christmas libations, gorge on a southern-fried brunch menu and watch grown men cavort in skirts.

Settling into our curved soft blue banquette at Laura Lee's with a fine view of the "runway," Pru noted that the vibe was pure Copa. All we needed was one of those little lamps that used to provide appropriately flattering low light to finish the effect.

Unlike the others who immediately determined their poison of choice - Pru's eggnog, Beau and Queen B's brunch punches - I was distracted when a writer friend dropped by the table to say hello. After she warned me to stay until the end so I could catch her in performance as Elvis, we talked about how the brunch was going.

"The earlier crowd was pure sit and quit," she shared. "We expected people to stay and get drunk, but it's been more of a rolling sober crowd." The problem for her was that she'd only signed on to play Elvis because she presumed the crowd would be trashed.

Looking around at tables of women clutching dollar bills, I felt safe reassuring her that they'd get there.

By the time I sat down, it was to finally order a Poinsettia to sip on and catch up with my tablemates. Meanwhile, fat, sweet blueberry muffins with vanilla buttercream had arrived and my posse was digging in like it was their first meal of the day. Not so for me.

That said, it was a bit like starting with dessert and that's not a complaint.

Miss Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside kicked things off with a lecture on drugs - "Stay away from the Booger Sugar" - but also didn't hesitate to toss out packets of pseudo-cocaine to the eager crowd.

I saw one guy pocket his, just in case.

The second performer arrived in a red sequined dress and Liza (with a "Z") haircut, belting out that holiday classic, "Christmas in Rehab" and leaving a generous lip print on one of the sole men in the room's ample forehead. Not long after, Beau, the drag brunch virgin, noted that the guy had already wiped it off, a rookie mistake if ever there was one.

Like the occupants of the other tables, we kept folded dollar bills at the ready to gift our entertainers, though Beau took some time learning the right methods to get his bills noticed. At one point, it felt almost like the performers were intentionally avoiding him, but eventually even his money was good enough (along with a comment about the panties he was presumed to be wearing).

Trying to defend himself as okay with being weird, Pru piped up, saying, "If we are together, I am not okay with weird." No need to mince words during mince pie season.

Today's host was Michael, the manager and organizer of today's frivolities. He also has a bushy red beard worthy of Yukon Cornelius, a fact he knew. Turns out he'd considered coming in today dressed as Yukon, "Lickin' the pick and everything!" he boasted, a remark meaningful only to fans of that classic "Rudolph" special.

Watching the fun didn't stop us from eating. Pru and Beau both went for the fried oatmeal with bacon and a fried egg under syrup, while Queen B opted for fried chicken with biscuit and hushpuppies, all of which I managed to wrangle bites of. My smoked fish over greens, onions and matchstick carrots was a tad overdressed in cumin lime vinaigrette, but tasty nonetheless, the hunks of fish smokey and meaty.

As more drinks arrived, the repartee got livelier, with Pru telling me that she'd been voted "Wittiest in Class" at age 17, a difficult standard to maintain over a lifetime. It made me glad no one had singled me out young and set a bar I may not have been able to maintain.

Far better to start low.

For Magnolia's next number, she arrived attired in a short Santa suit with cute white knitted tights and a white Afro wig with a giant, glittery poinsettia pinned in it, the ideal togs to lip-sync and dance to a Christmas conga song.

"Who likes Cher?" she asked of the room and the table behind us showed their Cher love. "Oh, just the table of homosexuals right here," Magnolia joked of the five young women. Pru and I had already noted the quintet's shared physical qualities - tall, straight blond hair, vacant look - and sure, they could easily have been pretty boys dressed as young hipster women of a certain ilk.

As she bent over to thank a table for cash, Beau got a glimpse of Cher 's derriere, noting, "She's got a butt like I do, which is to say, not at all." Ba dum bum.

Statements like that are given wide berth to lay on the table without commentary.

Afterward, Magnolia said it was her last song. "That took everything I have to skip," she explained. "Cher does two things - punches the air and skips and I figured if Cher could do it, so could I!"

Not sure I've ever seen Cher quite so beet red or winded, though 'tis not the season to judge.

Next came Cookie Pants, a performer in a gingerbread suit she used as an excuse to do a striptease down to an elf costume complete with striped leggings.

Magnolia's Grandma was in the house and he talked about how accepting she and his family had been of his proclivities. He wanted us to know that she insists there is no Christmas without Elvis, which is why we got a cross-dressing woman as the King, complete with pompadour.

That it was my friend from earlier meant I had plenty of bills folded between my knuckles when she approached our table singing "Blue Christmas."

Between the cash and our long-standing friendship, I was treated to a full-on extended breast nuzzle through her white polyester jumpsuit, enough to elicit cheers from the crowd. And, yes, we could see her black panties underneath, but we liked it.

By the time Elvis got back to Grandma and began hugging/dancing with her, Yukon Cornelius was tearing up, saying, "They're gonna make me cry!" and dabbing at his eyes. And he wasn't the only one.

At the front, Magnolia was in full waterworks mode. "This is making me cry!" she said watching her Grandma, smiling happily and wiping away the heavy makeup running down her face. "Ooh, it burns!"

Said no one ever at the Copa.

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