PRIDE 2023: GLITTER ON THE HIGHWAY


Julia and I don’t go out dancing much anymore, but when we first met and fell in love, it was amid a flurry of house parties blasting homemade mixtapes, and we were known to throw down.

“Love Shack,” by The B-52’s, among the most durable party anthems of the time, has been a perennial of our dancefloor sorties. Ever recurrent, it remains a utopian dream of inclusivity—entreating gay, straight, Black, white, Southern, Northern and Midwestern to shake whatever shack they can find.

We recently heard “Love Shack” in the supermarket, where our fellow produce-aisle shoppers grooved along. And not long ago, we attended the 30th anniversary of Dragstrip 66 and boogied down to it once more.

Dragstrip originated in the ’90s with an eclectic musical playlist and even more eclectic guest list; it was a wild, funny amalgam of old-school leather daddies, punk-rock twinks, butches, femmes, sexual omnivores, arty pranksters, former high-school jocks, straight weirdos like us—including women who wanted to go out and dance without being harassed—but most of all, magnificent, gorgeous, hilarious, feathered, gowned, taloned, bewigged, sardonic, silly, soulful drag queens.

Providing an alternative to the homo-homogenous, EDM-heavy WeHo scene that is traditionally the face of Los Angeles’ gay culture, a more diverse and playful vision raged in the eastside creative mecca of Silver Lake.

Admission was heavily discounted for those who turned up in drag but, truly, all were welcome.

The dancing was broken up by hysterical drag sketches not so different from those that have enlivened the world’s stages since there have been stages.

Hosted by Dragstrip creators DJ Paul V. and Mr. Dan, the packed 30th anniversary celebration was both a delightful reunion of old friends and an introduction to the Dragstrip experience for a younger generation.

It was also a declaration of solidarity in a troubling era of reaction and repression.

We couldn’t help but think of the collective strife, discrimination, abuse and violence many of the attendees had experienced—and consider that the more youthful revelers had grown up thinking such nightmares were in the rearview mirror.

But we find ourselves living in an era of “Don’t say gay” and other drag-bashing, trans-excluding, hair-on-fire heteronormative horrors. In a number of states, fascism is on the rise and fired up by anti-LGBTQ+ fervor. Drag in particular has drawn the irrational ire of the ultra-right. With just a few strokes of the pen, RuPaul has gone from G.O.A.T. to scapegoat.

It’s ironic, in a way, because I recall conversations only a decade ago about how drag had become somewhat quaint, perhaps even outmoded; in a time of openness and acceptance, what place did this corny burlesque ritual have?

But as the pendulum has swung ferociously back, we’ve seen clearly that drag remains a threat to the ascendant autocrats and their toadies. Which means that drag has become an opportunity for the rest of us.

The reconvened Dragstrip was, in fact, infused with purpose.

Because drag isn’t just a challenge to the stultifying narrowness of right-wing culture or a rebuke to the arbitrary gender lines dictated by idiot legislators and their cynical handmaidens; it’s a weapon against fascism.

It’s a critique, a merciless satire of the gender constructions we’re told are so solid but are, as we’ve seen, quite malleable.

And it’s a testament to the power of transformation, one that, today at least, presents the possibility of a bold new politics predicated on love, joy, difference, togetherness, compassion and freedom. If it needs a theme song, I’d propose “Love Shack.”

True to form, The B-52’s have been vocal in condemning this vicious legislation and the “toxic culture of hate and intolerance” that drives it, as they tweeted.

We stand with them on behalf of everyone in our community threatened by the current wave of bigotry, suppression and brutality.

It’s up to each of us to determine what form that stance will take. Among other avenues, it could mean overt political action, the “good trouble” of street protests, or putting your money where your mouth is via organizations like GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the good ol’ ACLU, not to mention the countless regional nonprofits working to defeat this tide of prejudice. (Even a modest automatic monthly donation—set it and forget it—can make a difference.)

It’s up to us to support drag as both an art form and a means of resistance. It’s up to us to say gay, because that’s what drag queens are. It’s up to us to turn into reality the beautiful utopia of a vivaciously varied village voguing as one.

May the whole shack shimmy.


The Dragstrip 66 revival continues on 7/23 at Los Globos in L.A. with the "Beach Bondage Barbie Tea Dance." The festivities will kick off at 4pm.

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