Drag Kings Take Over Sue Ellen's Tonight.
On the first Friday of every other month, Mustache Envy takes over Sue Ellen's in the gayborhood. And — let me tell you — it's one hell of a party.
About two years ago, I was standing outside the now-defunct 2826 Arnetic on the corner of Elm and Malcolm X, taking with my new friend Frankie Klee. In the course of one cigarette break, I find out she's a Houston transplant,a devoted wife, a booking fairy for local bands and clubs and a retired Dukes of Dallas Drag King.
It was a lot to take in.
A few months later, I again find myself at Arnetic, this time for a charity event that Frankie booked and stuffed full of spoken word artists, a couple of rock musicians and a whole passel of Kings. Aside from boasting one of the most interesting public restroom situations I've personally been a part of, the evening also sparked a fire in Frankie.
She took off her big-girl booking agent panties and busted out the artificial facial hair necessary to reclaim her King persona of Frankie 4Play. She was the dirtiest, nastiest, raunchiest King of them all.
She puts a ton of effort into it, too. She calls herself as a “male illusionist,” even.
“Drag has a different meaning to all of us in the cast,” she says with a shrug. Though she herself is not trans and lives life as a woman — with lots of dark eye make up, always — some of the other members in her troupe do indeed live transgender lifestyles.
“It's really helped some of these guys transition into where they're going,” Frankie says. “I just like to push the boundaries of what gender is.”
And now she's organized the only cohesive Drag King cast with a running gig in the city. But it's more than that, too. Her shows also feature burlesque girls (including sumptuous host Lilith Grey) running around topless and in pasties, a DJ, games, prizes, tons of audience participation, a cheap cover and a boatload of drink specials.
So, yeah, it's a party. But it's more than that, too.
“Drag used to be a hot-button issue in the lesbian community,” says Mustache Envy fan and avid leather community member Rhon Drinkwater. “It's always challenged the trans stuff and the feminist perspective. But this troupe deals with the fluidity really nicely.”
Rhon attends Mustache Envy shows regularly and describes their shows as having lots of “stripping and tipping.”
Another apt description? Growing. At first, the shows took place in Sue Ellen's upstairs Vixen Lounge. They've become so popular now that they've moved downstairs to the main floor.
Frankie, for one, is proud of that growth.
“I'm just a person who loves local entertainment,” she says. “I shouldn't have to only go to Lakewood to see burlesque or only go to The Boiler Room to hear my favorite band play. I should be able to go to my local lesbian bar and see that. Entertainment doesn't have boundaries. Our shows are crossing those boundaries.”
The reverse, she asserts, is also true. In Frankie's observation, the gay community has a tendency to live in somewhat of a bubble, too. And she really believes that bringing in quality performers — who may not frequent the gayborhood circuit — facilitates more out-and-about options for denizens of places like Sue Ellenâ€™s.
“People will see something good and then go out — maybe to somewhere they've never been — and catch that again,” she says.
Catch Mustache Envy tonight (December 7) at Sue Ellen's starting at 9:30 p.m.