Elephants, Hula Hoops and Drag Queens.

Circus showgirls ride the same elephant until one of them dies or retires to Sarasota.  Or until one of them puts together a hula hoop act and moves to Vegas.  In this case the showgirl was my step-mother.  She landed a spicy gig at The Desert Inn and she and my dad left the circus.  I spent the next summer with them as usual, but this time I didn’t have cotton candy for breakfast.  I played keno at the local diner.  And won – hooray!

The show also featured a vaudevillian comedian and a handsome contortionist named Rudy, but the real stars of the show were two fabulous six-foot tall drag queens flawlessly impersonating Liza MinnelliBarbra Streisand and Marilyn Monroe.  You know who can compete with that?  File under:  no one.

Those guys were ah may zing.  When I wasn’t gambling at breakfast or floating around the pool in a bright yellow bikini daydreaming about Rudy, I was backstage at the casino clocking every move they made.  Like you do at 13.

I studied their impeccable eye-shadow and marveled at their enormous acrylic high heels.  The 40-pound ball gowns and slinky costumes were stunning works of art.  They hit every mark and nailed every wink and perfectly timed air kiss.  I loved the glamor and over-the-topness of it all.  Right there in the epicenter of cheap sirloin and regret I was introduced to the magic of musicals.  I’ve been a card-carrying gay-boy fan ever since.

I memorized the lyrics and dance moves of each performance.  My favorites were “Willkommen” and “The Money Song” from Cabaret, “Kiss Today Good-bye” and “One” from A Chorus Line, “People” and “Don’t Rain on my Parade” from Funny Girl, and of course “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  The following school year I spent hours dancing around my room wearing a face full of drag queen make-up singing along with the shitty cassette I’d made backstage.

I only spent that one summer with those two masters of illusion, but the impression they made on my world is everlasting.  Thanks to them I can still sing every word to the Broadway show tunes they performed, and yes I belt that shit out in the car because I have it all downloaded, trust.  I also have a passionate appreciation for production, costume and make-up design, and fashion.  I no longer remember their names, but they are two of my greatest childhood treasures.

Who else but a couple of giant drag queens will teach you what you really need to know?  Frosted pink lipstick is always genius, glitter is more important than a driver’s license, and feather boas are always a yes yes yes, honey.

Comments

  1. Amazing as always. Your life as a 12 year old is the life I’d like to have right now.

  2. This may be my favorite yet. I see you writing a YA memoir with the voice of your saucy 13 year old. It will be a best seller.

  3. Growing up with the circus and Vegas… What in the name of all that is good and right ever led you into the world of finance? LOL! I love these little glimpses into your colourful life.

    • It was totally an accident! I was working as a production assistant on a TV show and the assistant production accountant got fired or quit (can’t remember), and I begged for the job for two reasons: hours were shorter and pay was better. Done and done. I kept moving up because I’m not dumb, and now it’s been 15 years in production finance. Que en el mundo?

  4. Haha love the last lines!

  5. I’m so entertained by your time in the circus. Are your parents still involved.?

    • My dad passed away many years ago and my step-mother is now a nurse. My mother was never technically in the circus, but we had some clown show moments throughout my childhood for sure haha : )

  6. moneymoneymoney… MoneyMoneyMoney… MONEYMONEYMONEY!!!

    This was a really happy read. Perfect for a Thursday afternoon!

  7. ‘Glitter is more important than a drivers license’ = my new motto

  8. “Cheap Sirloin and regret…” Those might have been the drag names?

  9. I love this so much that I can’t even come up with a witty comment. I just want to be you and I want to be there. And I really wish I was wearing a boa right now.

  10. Fan-tastic! I have the biggest smile on my face right now. Thank you so very much!!! I remember the days when my Mom would wear frosted pink lipstick, especially in the summer. 🙂

  11. Amazing…:)

  12. “Right there in the epicenter of cheap sirloin and regret I was introduced to the magic of musicals.” That is the best line I’ve read all week!

    I loved this, as usual. xo

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