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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Drag kings are the ladies' men
By Dalia Wheatt
Published June 29, 2007
Tariq Banks loves to wear sunglasses, but that’s not all: "Just anything that I look sexy in," Tariq says.
[Times photo: Luis Santana]
[Times photo: Luis Santana]
Teddy D may not be able to rap but hip-hop isn’t a problem. "I’m too white. I can’t pull (rap) off."
Drag queens, okay. But drag kings? This was a new one for us. In honor of the fifth annual St. Pete Pride festival, we checked out a drag show at ChiQ Bar, which touts itself as "Florida's premier lesbian nightclub." Then after their performance, we chatted with two of the kings.
Tariq (pronounced Ta-REEK) Banks, 26, lives in St. Pete. He identifies as male and has been performing as a drag king for eight months.
First time on stage: "I was here, and I did Naked by Marques Houston. That was my tryout. It went good. I didn't practice. I just got up there. I don't ever practice. I just go up there and go with the music."
On-stage persona: "I'm more open on-stage than I am off-stage. I'm pretty quiet off-stage."
Favorite costumes: Hats and sunglasses. "Just anything I look sexy in."
Day job: Accountant. "A lot of people don't believe that."
To me Pride weekend means ... : "A celebration of having pride in who you are and what you go through in life - just pride and celebration for me. Party."
Catch me: Weekend nights at ChiQ Bar; and on the ASAP float as Mr. ASAP 2007 in the St. Pete Pride Promenade.
Teddy D, whose legal name is Alyssa Wright, identifies as male socially but is still transitioning at work. The 21-year-old lives in Clearwater and has been performing as a drag king for 1 1/2 years.
Genre: "I do rock, pop, hip-hop. I suck at rap. I can't do that. I'm too white. I can't pull it off."
First time on stage: "My first time on stage was the good old Sports Page (Pub) over in Largo, and J - which is the bar manager at ChiQ Bar - she told us, 'We want some drag kings. Could you make a group happen for us?' ... So we came up with the Band of Brothers drag kings, and we had all kinds of different tastes to it. We had everything from country, hip-hop, rock, everything. ... And then the group broke up in like a week!"
On-stage persona: "I'm an absolute ham." Teddy D sometimes performs as his alter ego, Queen Laugh-tifah - a busty, stilletto-wearing queen with facial hair.
Favorite costumes: "I love suits. I love ties. I love the button-down. It makes me feel very sophisticated. It doesn't matter what I'm doing. Otherwise, chains."
To me Pride weekend means ... : "A celebration of everything that we are. It's our one day in the year that we can say, 'We're here, we're queer, and all the rest of y'all are just gonna have to deal with it because we're in masses.' "
Day job: Medical warehouse employee.
Catch me: Weekend nights at ChiQ Bar; as a member of Thee VaudeVillains Burlesque Company (www.myspace.com/vaudevillainsfla); and on a float in the St. Pete Pride Promenade as Mr. Pride of Florida, dressed as the cowboy from the Village People.
What you really want to know
During our sit-down with Tariq and Teddy D, no topic was off-limits.
How do you apply facial hair?
Both performers cut up tracks of synthetic facial hair. Tariq attaches them with spirit gum, an adhesive available at costume shops. Teddy D prefers false eyelash adhesive.
What about your breasts?
"I use a full-frontal binder. I'm really endowed, " Teddy D said. "I've already had a reduction, and they grew back." Tariq had a double mastectomy in April.
How much do drag kings make? Unlike drag queens, who often earn a base pay plus tips, many kings work for gratuity only. On Teddy D's best night, he earned $120 in tips for two songs. On his worst night, he performed one song and made $4 in tips.
Besides the obvious, what's the difference between drag kings and drag queens?
"I say mentally, queens and kings are the same, " Tariq said. But on stage, female impersonators tend to be over-the-top, while drag kings are more laid-back. Teddy D added that people aren't as familiar with drag kings and therefore are more critical of them; a bad drag queen would still be invited back, whereas one bad king could ruin it for everyone. And while drag queens often have a drag mother to show them the ropes, drag kings fly solo. "I didn't even know how to tape my tits down at first, until I got a big Ace bandage, " Teddy D said.
4900 66th St. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 546-7274; www.chiqbar.com.