Kittens, one of the first things our editor asked us to do after we completed the manuscript for our book was to come up with a list of items culled from our research to be added as an addendum called “Suggestions for Further Exploration.” On that list, you’ll find articles, treatises, archives, books, and even YouTube videos. There’s also a list of films and documentaries, some of which are extensively explored in the book. At or near the top of that list is the seminal 1968 documentary on drag queens in the pre-Stonewall era, The Queen.
To say we watched this repeatedly during the writing of this book is to understate matters considerably. We’ll only say this: Once you hear that queen singing “A Hundred and One Pounds of Fun” it will be stuck in your head for days. After the 20th or so viewing, we think it’s permanently imprinted on our brains.
More than 40 years before RuPaul’s Drag Race, this ground-breaking documentary about the 1967 Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant introduced audiences to the world of competitive drag. The film takes us backstage to kiki with the contestants as they rehearse, throw shade, and transform into their drag personas in the lead-up to the big event. Organized by LGBTQ icon and activist Flawless Sabrina, the competition boasted a star-studded panel of judges including Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, and Terry Southern.. But perhaps most memorable is an epic diatribe calling out the pageant’s bias delivered by Crystal LaBeija, who would go on to form the influential House of LaBeija, heavily featured in Paris Is Burning (1990). A vibrant piece of queer history, The Queen can now be seen in full resplendence thanks to a new restoration from the original camera negative.
The good news for you (and us, because the timing could not be better for our book release) is that this formerly hard-to-find document of an era is now easily available for viewing on your phone if you want. A newly remastered version from Kino Lorber is on Netflix now and at just over an hour it’s no more of a commitment than sitting down to watch an episode of Drag Race – and yet so much more illuminating than an average episode of the show, no tea no shade to Drag Race. A good deal of our book is turned over to discussing what this documentary shows us about the history of drag and how it’s changed in the years since, as well as offering profiles of several of its more notable personalities, the most important being Crystal LaBeija, who we profiled this past summer.
Original Invitation to the 1967 Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant
New York Newspaper Ads from the 1968 Theatrical Release of ‘The Queen’
60s Grove Press Films Catalog Entry for ‘The Queen’
Uncredited 1967 Photo of Pageant Judges Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Larry Rivers, and Terry Southern [from Left to Right]
You’ll learn more about pre-Stonewall gay and drag life in that one hour than a hundred articles could convey to you. Take some time to watch it soon, not just because we’ll have much to say about it in Legendary Children, but because it’s a fascinating document in its own right.
Say, have you pre-ordered this lovely thing yet?
[Photo Credit: Kino Lorber – Video Credit: Kino Lorber via YouTube.com]
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