Written on a plane, which is a first…
Life as a Drag queen – Artiste – in Bradford wasn’t easy. It was hard enough for seasoned pros, those rare creatures that trod the boards in clubs and bars and disreputable halls, but for those taking their first steps in statuesque heels and dresses to die for, it could be hell
Anthony was seventeen years old.
He always knew he was different from the other boys, from about the time that he could be really said to know anything, but he really wasn’t like them, and he didn’t really want to be like them, either. He didn’t really want to be like the girls, either, although he envied the dresses they wore at the few parties he was unfortunate enough to be invited to, the parties he was forced to attend as a part of ‘everyone else’, even if he was at the odd end of that particular spectrum.
All Anthony really wanted to be was his own version of himself, but as he grew older, this seemed to be becoming increasingly difficult. He wanted to dress up, he wanted to be what he was always keeping pressed down deep inside, but on the Bradford estate he grew up on, that sort of thing was not encouraged.
It was a chance encounter with a returning uncle who told him stories of his own life as a failed comic in the working men’s clubs of the early eighties, and the stories of the drag artists on some nights that competed, and performed, and who sang and told jokes and were, in his uncle’s words,”loved, though they be mad bastards,” that fired his imagination. He knew, for some reason that he could never explain, what he wanted to be.
His father would never understand, but his father had never understood anything, and hadn’t been around to understand anything since Anthony was four. His mother was confused, she didn’t really get it either, but if Anthony was happy then she was, and she’d sit up with him sewing sequins onto second-hand dresses and taking in waists in her second hand machine. She stopped short at actually wanting to see him perform, but she’d support him up to a point, and Anthony was happy for this, as much as it was.
So that evening, Anthony had parked his bike around the back of the club, chained it to the lamppost, and taken his bag into the toilets that doubled as the artistes’ dressing room.
A monthly drag night, still running. In his black dress, pinching heels and blonde wig, Anthony took a deep breath and dabbed gently at his lipstick with a tissue that he left on the windowsill. It was time.
“Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time, so give her a special warm welcome… Blushing Brilliance!”