“I’m not a photographer,” drag legend Linda Simpson recently told Frontiers magazine, “but by sheer luck I managed to get some really great photos. I was one of the few people taking photos for fun [20 years ago], so I was able to document things that weren’t very well documented.“ Specifically, an era when drag was still part of the seedy underbelly of New York’s East Village.
“I chart how the New york drag scene from the late ’80s to the early ’90s had this remarkable transformation from an underground, purely gay form of entertainment that was discovered by the mass media,“ says Simpson. “It was the first time mainstream America was learning about drag queens en masse. Nowadays, drag is much more familiar to people. Back then, being in the public eye was dependent on mass media portrayal. Now you can create your own website or Youtube channel; you can make yourself a star. Back then, it was the first time the genderbending phenomenon became well-known.”
Simpson’s show, Drag Explosion, at theWest Hollywood Council Chambers tonight, reflects society’s changing attitudes towards the drag community, and, indeed, the LGBT community as a whole.
“During the era I cover in Drag Explosion, it was actually a very homophobic time. The AIDS crisis was still going on, the LGBT community was branded as this perverted diseased outcast. Drag queens were a lot easier for the general public to accept. We were ambassadors in a way. We were the most visible element of gay culture, although I don’t think straight America always put two and two together. It was sort of like Stonewall 2.0, with the drag queens and the freaks on the frontline, making inroads for gay familiarity.“
The Drag Explosion is an evolving multi-media “slideshow extravaganza” created by New York performer and nightlife personality Linda Simpson. From the underground East Village club scene and the birth of Wigstock in the late 1980s, to the AIDS activism and mainstream drag explosion of the early 1990s heralded by Supermodel of the World RuPaul, Simpson’s snapshots document the flamboyant performances and offstage advocacy of the era’s drag community. Simpson’s subjects include RuPaul, Lady Bunny, Tabboo!, Tom Rubnitz, Billy Beyond, Willi Ninja, Page, Hapi Phace, John Kelly, Deee-Lite, Lypsinka and, of course, Ms. Simpson herself. For this performance, the first iteration of The Drag Explosion to be presented outside of New York, Simpson will provide live narration to accompany her photos and host a post-performance Q&A.
Simpson’s performance is held in conjunction with Transgender Hirstory in 99 Objects: Legends and Mythologies, organized by the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art, or MOTHA, at ONE Archives.
TONIGHT– Friday, April 3, 2015, 7:30pm
West Hollywood Council Chambers
625 North San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Admission is free.
Free validated parking for attendees of the screening will be provided for the five-story parking structure located behind the Council Chambers.