Paris Is Burning (Film) Notes (Ella)

MLA Citation: Paris Is Burning. United States: Fox Lorber Home Video, 1992.

  • Crystal LaBeija was the creator of the House of LaBeija but in 1987 Pepper LaBeija was the mother of the house (Paris 2:56)
  • LaBeija compares drag balls to the Oscars (Paris 6:03)
  • LaBeija describes how lots of kids that would attend these balls would steal to create an outfit, sleep at the venue or at the nearby piers, and not be able to eat anything until the day of the ball (they use the ball to live out their fantasies of safe self expression) (Paris 6:14)
  • KIM PENDAVIS. “It’s not just the winning- it’s the giving too… I get a lot of enjoyment and they enjoy to see it.” (Paris 7:32)
  • The ball status of “legendary” is the equivalent of being an Oscar winner (Paris 7:57)
  • PEPPER LABEIJA. “When I first started going to balls it was all about drag queens who were interested in looking like Las Vegas showgirls, back pieces, tail pieces, feathers, beads and all that. But As the seventies rolled around the things started changing, it started coming down to just wanting to look like a gorgeous movie star like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor. And now they’re went from that to trying to look like models; like Iman and Christie Brinkley and Maud Adams and all those children.” (Paris 11:29)
  • DORIAN COREY. “In real life you can’t get a job as an executive unless you have the educational background and the opportunity. Now, the fact that you are not an executive is merely because of the social standing of life. Black people have a hard time getting anywhere and those that do are usually straight. In a ballroom you can be anything you want. You’re not really an executive but you’re looking like an executive. You’re showing the straight world that I can be an executive if I had the opportunity because can look like one, and that is like a fulfillment.” (Paris 14:42)
  • JUNIOR LABEIJA. “Come on now, it is a known fact that a woman do carry an evening bag at dinner time. There’s no getting around that! You see it on channel seven, between “All My Children” and “Jeopardy”,”Another World”, “Dallas”, and the whole bit. An evening bag is a must! You have to carry something! No lady is sure at night.” (Paris 16:09)
  • VENUS XTRAVAGANZA. “I don’t feel like there’s anything mannish about me, except maybe what I might have between me down there, which is my little personal thing, so…” (Paris 22:42)
  • VENUS XTRAVAGANZA. “And um, he’s taking me out for dinner later this evening, or for cocktails after midnight. I know he’ll give me some money just for me to maybe buy some shoes and a nice dress, so that the next time he sees me, he’ll see me looking more and more beautiful, the way he wants to see me. But I don’t have to go to bed with him, or anything like that. At times they do expect sexual favors, but that is between myself and them, so I don’t want to talk about that any further. At most times, 99 percent of the time they don’t. 95 percent of the time they don’t. I feel like, if you’re married? A woman, in the suburbs, a regular woman, if you want your husband to buy a washer and dryer set, I’m sure she’d have to go to bed with him, to give him something he wants, to get what she wants. So, in the long run, it all ends up the same way.” (Paris 55:38)
  • Pepper LaBeija was a butch queen and would rather biologically stay the same (not have a sex change) but liked to dress up in drag. (Paris 58:48)
    • I feel most/many drag queens now are butch queens in the sense that they see themselves as gay men in costume, however there are still many exceptions. In the 1980s/90s, sex reassignment surgery was more of a bizarre thing, so many women with masculine bodies/biologically male used drag as a form of showing who they truly are. (I guess seeing how sex reassignment surgery is now a much more common thing gives me some hope with my thesis). Pretty much, I see that butch queens are in costume but femme queens are expressing their gender identities. I need to do a bit more research on the terms “femme queen” and “butch queen” before I can have confidence about this though.

DORIAN COREY. “I always had hopes of being a big star. But as you get older, you aim a little lower. Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think, you’ve made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name. Then you’ve left a mark. You don’t have to bend the whole world. I think it’s better to just enjoy it. Pay your dues, and just enjoy it. If you shoot a arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you.” (Paris 1:09:39)

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