The drag show must go on

The drag show must go on

By Marissa Novel

A spotlight follows a drag queen covered in iridescent sequins as she graces the stage. Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” plays, as people form a line to slip dollar bills between her breasts.

Carbondale’s most famous drag queen, Blanche Du Bois, hosted her birthday party and drag show Sunday night at The Wedding Garden.

Seven drag queens and kings performed at the show, the first of its kind since the official closing of Carbondale’s only gay bar, Club Traz, also known as Club 213, in May. She said the closing of Traz impacted many people, including herself, because she originally wanted to host her birthday party there.


Du Bois, who has been involved in drag for 37 years, said the Internet and online dating have affected the popularity of gay bars in the area.

“You can get on the Internet and get a date; you don’t have to go to the gay bar to pick up a man,” she said.

Du Bois said she has also seen a difference in clients at gay bars and drag shows in recent years.

“I think that doing a drag show is more intriguing to the straight community than the gay community because the gay community is expecting it,” she said.

Dirk Borgsmiller, owner of The Wedding Garden, said Carbondale had a consistent gay bar scene since the late 1970s. He said gay bars are less popular now since gay people experience less stigma in social settings.

“Nowadays gays can go anywhere, do anything and hangout anywhere they like,” Borgsmiller said.

He said now it is easier for gay people to be employed and accepted in workplaces that are not primarily gay, such as his own.


“I hire the best people. That’s it,” Borgsmiller said. “I don’t care who you are, gay or not. And I have the best crew there is.”

Karen Beck, a supervisor for The Wedding Garden and former Club Traz doorkeeper, said she was 34 years old when she had her first experience at Club Traz.

“There were a lot of memories there, being in the gay community and being with the kids,” she said. “I really miss the kids.”

Beck said media and the push for gay marriage affected gays being accepted in the community. She said after working there for 12 years, the drag shows, while still entertaining, have become less taboo.

“I’m not saying its not a fun thing anymore, it is,” she said. “It’s just different.”

Melissa Ray, director of events and operations at The Wedding Garden and former Club Traz manager, said drag shows became more mainstream around the mid-2000s.

“It’s like going to a movie or seeing a play,” she said. “It’s just a form of entertainment.”

Ray said it is often easier for event venue businesses, such as The Wedding Garden, to be successful by holding special rented-out events, rather than being a primarily gay business.

“I think that it’s nice to have a gay bar where people can go and feel like they are themselves,” she said. “But I know it is hard to sustain, especially in a small town.”

Marissa Novel can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @marissanovelDE or at 536-3311 ext. 268.