The night I was pimped out on Sunset by the ghost of Liz Taylor's ex
“Hello Tabitha, hissed Kylie Jean Lucille. “I see you’ve done something to your eyebrows.” From where she sat in the back seat of our chauffeured ride, my friend Kylie or Kyle as he was known out of drag could see the wreck I had made of my countenance.
“Hello Tabitha, hissed Kylie Jean Lucille. “I see you’ve done something to your eyebrows.” From where she sat in the back seat of our chauffeured ride, my friend Kylie or Kyle as he was known out of drag could see the wreck I had made of my countenance. Barely 21, I had only just acquired my license to drink which led the way to a new way of life I would be spending in drag. A few months past my long awaited magical graduation to 21, I was already bored with the boozed out patrons of the West Hollywood Boystown bars. Aching for inspiration, I fixed my attention on the splash of color and star quality that came crashing through the doors of the Mother Lode one night. Three of the only drag queens I had ever been in the same room with marched in grandly as the seas of crowds parted. They demanded respect and reverence on the spot as much as their sequins and feathers could sport. The drunk fag hairdresser I had adopted as my bar buddy was wearing my last nerve out. I was tired of the constant stream of self-loathing he projected on to me with critiques of my girlish nature and gender ambiguity. “You are such a flaming trannie,” he screeched the night he noticed my nails had grown out to rival the Lee Press-on length. “Girl, girl, fag, trannie, and woman” he chanted in a caustic tone. I knew full well that I represented the very qualities he loathed within himself. He was one of the biggest swishing lispers I knew, although he claimed not to notice. I longed to be free from his strict standards of masculine deportment. I had been told off and on throughout my life that I could pass for a girl. In high school, it presented a problem when I was asked to leave the men’s locker room of my family’s athletic club. Since my favorite pastime involved positioning myself in front of the showers for ample view of full frontal male nudity, I had to siphon my softness and butch it up for the team. At my 18th birthday dinner, I used the women’s restroom of a fancy restaurant and no one batted an eyelash before applying mascara. Oh, how I wanted to try on mascara. I had once exhausted an entire compact of blush after applying it for my 6th grade Christmas pageant. “Look what they did to me,” I faked to complain to my mom. But then somebody let the cat out of the bag and ratted me out that I had done my own makeup. “You did this?” said my mother. These were the types of sticky situations I would end up in every time I walked the line of blurred gender boundaries. By the time I was 21, I knew the time had come for me to cross over into cross dressing for fun, although I abhorred the term as it implied perversion.
Instantly, one summer evening, I attached myself to the waistband of a drag trio and was never the same. As they sized me up, their eyes looked me up and down like a searchlight as Olga said about the way Steven Haines goggled Crystal Allen in The Women starring Joan Crawford as the siren shop girl. Taking my meager age into consideration for a split second, the leader of the three, a dowdy dowager christened Anne Radcliffe said into my ear, “We will age you”. The following Friday, it was all I could do to prevent myself from nervous exhaustion as I ran around the strip mall across from campus looking for drag attire. The third world shanty town adjacent to the ivory tower of privilege at my alma mater of USC was a prime place to find cheap, tacky affordable drag attire in bright and gaudy spandex blends. A leopard print top with pants to match would serve as my first foray into fishdom. I was told to arrive at a certain time just after dusk at an address in West LA on the following Friday. When the door opened upon my ringing of the bell, I entered a world I knew had been waiting for me. I wasn’t sure I had found the right apartment when the crotchety milquetoast with green mud mask opened the door and ushered me in cautiously. He seemed incredibly nervous and suspicious as he inquired if I had been followed. “Please, you’ll do just fine, come this way,” he chimed as I was led into a great room. A sofa was over run with makeup containers and mish mashed fabric samples as a very homosexual man in a red thong sat upon it applying makeup in a full length mirror he had jury-rigged to the floor. “You’ll have to take your clothes off if you’re going to dress up,” he instructed me. I was shy and timidly undid the buttons of my pink jeans that I prided myself at having bleached and dyed to rival Versace. Peeling off my Wonder Woman baby tee-, I revealed my aerobicized anorexic frame in waxed regalia. “Oh, your body is flawless,” quipped the queen in red on the couch. “This will be fun,” While the milquetoast in mud fretted over the proper shade of foundation for my complexion, I noticed a tall and skinny queen with a hick accent calling for his tits from a bedroom down the hall. “Damn, your labia~, shouted the skinny bitch. “Precious pink folds of flesh, “she chanted. The other queens followed suit with the mantra used to describe the gorgeous womanly curves they all coveted. I was taken aback when I realized the folds of flesh they were describing were that of a pussy. A pussy they probably wanted if not for the advantages inherent in owning a dick, as it was soon described to me. “To be a woman, with superb curves, it is essential to eat and drink in splendor. And hide your candy until it counts, they would say. A tray of bon bons and half eaten buckets of friend chicken littered the drag zone amid falsies and various articles of indiscretion. I knew I had entered another vortex and clung to the railing for support. By the time it was time to go out, I had been adorned with a brunette bobbed wig like Sabrina from Charlie’s Angels. Anne went from milquetoast to sexpot Sally in a peroxide blond wig and summer pantaloons that matched the shade of her blow up doll lips. The other self-described skinny Marie they called Jackie Jones wore a denim short onesie described as the one worn by Sammy Jo in Dynasty. The only thing it seemed Jackie Jones had in common with Heather Locklear’s character was a white trash breeding. How else could she explain having been seen out looking like that last Tuesday evening or so I heard from more than one person?
I wore a pretty pant suit of transparent black organza and had brought my own stilettos just purchased from a discount chain in the ghetto. An established identity had never occurred to me so it was a surprise taken off guard when the question of who I was came up in the taxi. As the light changed from red to green, I flashed on an image of my favorite tattoo, a caricature of the comic cartoon that played in the opening credits of Bewitched. I had Elizabeth Montgomery’s likeness as Samantha Stevens tattooed on my upper right thigh. “You are a fag,” shrieked the first guy who fucked me the weekend after I got the tattoo from an artist at Easy Rider. The camp appeal alone was enough to start a conversation so I blurted out the next logical name. “Call me Tabitha,” I stated. I would be named after the daughter of the fag who married the witch daughter of a drag queen dowager with the shocking red wig. I once saw the words “Agnes Moorhead is God” tagged in spray paint on the side of a bus shelter and I knew it to be true. I could spin a whole theory about my viewpoint concerning the way I hypothesized that Samantha’s social standing as a secret witch mirrored the stigma suffered by queers as they blended with straights i.e. mortals in silent superiority. Faggotry wasn’t something you wore like blackface the way the blacks’ sported pigment. It could be turned up and down according to the degree of fierceness one wanted to flaunt. And so the basis for my tattoo was born.
My turn as Tabitha never really had a last name that seemed to stick so I had printed a mono-moniker on my headshots. That first night out in the community spent as Tabitha garnered me new grace as I learned to saunter in high heels. “When you walk, lead with your hips, whispered Kylie Jean. I could hear murmurs of approval and star-struck bewilderment from the crowd as we walked. They were wondering if I was a real girl amid the drag queens. “They think I’m real,” I realized. “Honey, they don’t because you’re with us,” snapped the milquetoast turned dowdy dowager they called Anne. She liked the name Radcliffe because she thought it sounded like a pedigreed breed of blue blood aristocracy. As a man, Dylan aka Anne worked in a law firm and wouldn’t have been caught dead walking in daylight with the likes of the company he kept in drag. Kylie lived in a trailer with his ailing grandmother and worked days in the produce department of an Alpha Beta somewhere in the slums of what I presumed to be a primarily poor neighborhood. And Jackie or Eric Christie as he was called lived in a one room studio with his hot brother where he had to endure eavesdropping on graphic depictions of deplorable hetero-sex acts his sex starved sibling carried out over the phone while masturbating. “Lucky bitch,” I thought. I wouldn’t have minded being on the other end of his brother’s reach out and touch me kind of pillow talk any day. The bitch didn’t know how could she had it. Incest was best in my summation. I asked about pulling a crying game on the brother whenever I had the chance.
As the piece de resistance to my first evening out as a princess, I was witness to the most melodramatic acts of over the top machinations I had ever seen in person. I had only seen episodes of the like on Dynasty before it all erupted in the bar that night.
After the first round of cocktails, an argument about who would hold a handbag erupted in the ladies’ room as one queen accused another of ruining a new tube of mascara. Before I could grasp the crux of the issue, a cardinal sin had been committed as one queen reached over the head of another and yanked off the wig she had secured with only bobby pins. It is an unwritten law of the most magnitude that one never touches a queen’s wig. Without the wig, the queen is nothing but a balding fag in what might as well be his sister’s girdle. Screaming and shoving soon gave way to the roar of the mostly male crowd who loved the front row exposure they had only seen on television during the days of Dynasty. Krystal and Alexis never did it up as grandly as these queens were chewing up the scenery and tossing insults in glasses filled with tears. From across the bar, a 35 year old broken down alcoholic the queens would adopt and name Kingsley the first time he did drag was busy snapping pictures of the hijinks in between trying to film it for inclusion on the public access television show he hosted in West Hollywood. Paul Kent had graduated UCLA film school 15 years ago and regaled audiences with stories of the way his sexuality was explored in restroom glory holes on and around campus. He had taken a liking to me when we met for the first time in an aerobics class at the West Hollywood fag gym they called Sports Erection Connection. It was a virtual bath house amid a backdrop of hyper masculine camp carried out by muscular God like clones in a locker room that still sported orange carpet from the 1970s before AIDS wiped everyone out. I hadn’t yet come into my own on the sexual marketplace and was still growing used to the notion that wearing red, pink and purple tights was actually celebrated within the geographic boundaries flanked by Santa Monica Blvd at La Cienega. I spent every moment out of class at the gym in pursuit of a weight I could whittle down to double digits on the scale. The day after the episode and drag brouhaha, I spoke to Kingsley or Paul as he liked to be called in pants. “They’ll be friends again before next weekend. It happens all the time,” he said shrugging off the drama as if it was nothing.” They did the same thing last weekend,” he said. I would soon come to learn that that the god-awful cryorama jags of pure unadulterated spectacle were delicious in the right dose. But too much of a good thing can spoil the appetite for anything, as I would soon find out.
Kylie Jean Lucille was my first real friend of the trashy drag trio I first cavorted with. Not satisfied with the way my gal pal Alex tweezed my excessive eyebrows for the first time, I sought to correct her work. I must have been thinking in reverse as my memories had been sullied by the vodka sea breeze because the resulting mess I made of my brows brought joy to Kylie’s cackle. I had reversed the line of the brow, starting to tweeze the bulk from the top as the line thinned. It was an ass-backwards Bizzaro version of beauty as if Superman’s alter ego nemesis had done it himself. It was no secret as to why I had been banned from touching the makeup supply during my high school summers spent in the Bellevue school district youth theatre. The first tube of foundation I ruined soon gave way to the entire set as I squashed the tubes of greasepaint into their lids without retracting the stem. Hundreds of dollars of stage makeup had been ruined at my expense and I was forbidden to practice. Thus, my uncoordinated efforts of upkeep were relegated to professionals. It took me months for my brows to grow back as I was forced to draw them on the way I had read that Lana Turner had done when her eyebrows failed to grow back after being shaved off. Imagine having to draw them on before being able to leave the house, a thought that soon became my reality. I was one cocktail away from having them permanently