Drag: The Complete Story Notes (Ella)

Doonan, Simon. Drag: The Complete Story. London, UK: Laurence King Publishing, 2019. Print.


  • “If so much of the energy of drag is generated by its outsider status, what will fuel it if it finds acceptance, even absorption, into the mainstream?” Julian Fleisher in his book The Drag Queens of New York, 1996 (Doonan 7)
  • “And none of us foresaw the impending gender revolution. We could not possibly have guessed that by 2019 there would be more than a dozen official gender pronouns – ze, zim, sie, ey, vey, ver, tey, per, xe, etc. – and that many of these zirs and theys would be adopted by persons who would become increasingly intrigued by all aspects of drag.” (Doonan 9)
  • “We could not have known, back in the 1990s, that by the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century gender would have become so gloriously fluid, and drag so popular, that there would be heterosexual, biologically intact females – ‘cisgender’ to use the new terminology – who would be identifying as drag queens, and could be found waiting online at the DragCon convention in order to purchase an autographed photo of a drag queen named, for example, Sharon Needles, or simply to watch a political panel discussion about transgender rights.” (Doonan 9)
  • “A new generation of creative souls, propelled by lightning-quick developments in social media and technology, is rewriting the drag rulebook, merging genres and obliterating preconceived notions.” (Doonan 10)

Chapter 1: Glamour Drag

  • “…drag is, first and foremost, a visual assault. Drag queens are not drag queens unless they can deliver some kind of retina-scorching, taboo-busting spectacle.” (Doonan 13)
  • “Drag performs the same function as Perseus’ shield. It allows us to stare down our darkest, most irrational misogynist fears, safe in the knowledge that we’re looking at a parody.” (Doonan 16)
  • “Small wonder phrases like ‘killing it’, ‘death drop’, and ‘slay’ are part of the drag lingua franca, and small wonder that so many women take delight in the vibrant, assertive femininity of drag.” (Doonan 16)
    • “Drag is profoundly therapeutic.” (Doonan 16)
  • 1939- The Jewel Box Revue- gay ‘cross-dressers’- founded in Miami by two gay men: Doc Brenner and Danny Brown. (Doonan 23)
    • Target audience was straight
    • Performers were “feminine impressionists/femme mimics”
    • Racial diversity
    • Sexual allure
  • 1950s – Playboy magazine- culture shifted very rapidly- this is where the boomers came from- “culture was getting sexier, and so was drag.” (Doonan 23)
  • “Balls, pageants and parades gave drag queens opportunity to preen and to hone their feminine wiles.” (Doonan 24)
  • “The previously unknown Harlem voguing ball culture added gasoline to the flames… No longer seen as a déclassé, drag queens were welcomed – and hired! – for their ability to make an event or party seem even more au courant.” (Doonan 35)
  • RuPaul’s song “Supermodel (You Better Work)”– “Sashay! Shantay!”– “Models became drag queens and drag queens became models.” (Doonan 37)
    • RuPaul “VIVA GLAM” MAC Cosmetics collection
  • 1999– Girlfriend by Holly Brubach- book about drag at the end of 21st century (Doonan 40)
  • “The gender pay gap is real, but the power of beauty is alive and well,and it is overwhelmingly female.” (Doonan 41)
  • “As we will see in Comedy Drag and Radical Drag, this visual feminine realm is now infused with a political empowerment that puts tucking and contouring cheek by jowl with #resist and #metoo.” (Doonan 43)

Chapter 2: Art Drag

  • Andy Warhol, Self-portrait in drag, 1981 (Doonan 48-49)
  • “For a while we were casting a lot of drag queens in our movies because the real girls we knew couldn’t seem to get excited about anything, and the drag queens could get excited about anything.” – Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and back again), 1975 (Doonan 50)
  • 1950s Place Blanche- Paris (59)

Chapter 3: Women Drag

  • “Women get treated bad. They get beat. They get robbed. They get dogged.” – Pepper LaBeija in Paris is Burning (Doonan 65)
  • “There is a considerable difference between those women who cross-dress for fun and maintain a stable relation to femininity, and those kings whose performances and costumes are part of their lives as gender ambiguous people.” – Judith “Jack” Halberstam in The Drag Queen Book (Doonan 65)

Chapter 4: Black Drag

  • Lists figures: Avis Pendavis, Kennedy Davenport, Jasmine Masters, Angie Xtravaganza, Mona Foot, Nina Bo’Nina Brown, Connie Girl, The Vixen, Chi Chi DeVayne (just passed away), Peppermint (Doonan 85)
  • “The Medusan ferocity that characterizes glamour drag queens is amplified in the black drag queen, and augmented with a unique black irony and wit. The black drag queen is both comedic and glamorous. The black drag queen is fierce. This fierceness is not a new thing.” (Doonan 85)
  • “Citizens with marginal status have always contributed disproportionately to the culture. Jews, with their Yiddish, gave us chutzpah, schlepping, schmatta, kvetching. And so it is with black drag, only more so. Black drag goes way beyond a list of words. That fierce attitude has not only come to define contemporary drag, but has also infected pop culture and fashion and style. It is the great gift of the black drag queen.” (Doonan 86)
  • Pepper LaBeija, Marsha P. Johnson, Jackie Shane, Dorian Corey, Vaginal Davis, Bob the Drag Queen, Big Freedia, Shangela, Latrice Royale (Doonan 88-99)

Chapter 5: Historical Drag

  • “Slaying”- a term in mythology, Athena wore men’s armor, Achilles wore drag to not be recruited by Odysseus in the Iliad, Aphrodite- “Venus barbata”/bearded on Cyprus (Doonan 104)
  • Ancient Egypt- Mascara, eyeliner, headdresses, masks, long dresses- in men and women (Doonan 105)
  • GREEK/ROMAN THEATER- male actors crossdressed if a character was a woman- this happened w Shakespeare too. (Doonan 106-7)
  • “Shakespeare knew what he was about when he worked so much sexual ambiguity into his characters, but too often it has been lost with women in the roles that he’d  envisaged being played by young men in drag.” – Tim Walker, reviewing Twelfth Night in The Telegraph in 2012 (Doonan 114)
  • “…drag has a maturing effect on the wearer: after maquillage and hai and feminine artifice, the scrappy youths of RuPaul’s Drag Race transform into femmes du monde.” (Doonan 116)
  • Drag in Asian History- Peking opera, Chinese theater. Also Kabuki theatre in Japan- the onnagata  (Doonan 126-8)
  • “To study the arc of civilization is to be drenched in blood, madness and brutality. Drag and trans, always vulnerable to shifts in politics, have often felt the cat-o’-nine-tails. We are currently living in an era of relative tolerance where the acceptance and visibility of drag and trans have surged dramatically. Masculinity is in retreat and gender nonconformity is on the march.” (Doonan 133)

Chapter 6: Comedy Drag

  • Bianca del Rio
  • “When you’re in drag, it’s your license to kill, because you are the butt of the joke.” – Trixie Mattel (Doonan 138)
  • Lady Bunny, Divine (1950s), Taboo! (1980s)

Chapter 7: Popstar Drag

  • Queen- “I Want to Break Free” Music Video- they’re all in drag (Doonan 163)
  • “Elvis wore gold lamé suits and caked his lashes with mascara. Little Richard sang “Tutti Frutti” under a towering pompadour and face-full of pancake makeup, and James Brown sported midriff-baring chiffon blouses.” (Doonan 163)
  • 1960s/1970s -male pop star clothes turned feminine (Doonan 166)
    • David Bowie
    • Glam-rock drag
  • Boy Georgie- New Romantics (Doonan 176)

Chapter 8: Movie Drag

  • “All About Eve” (Doonan 187)
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”- man in drag stabs woman in shower to death (188)
    • Why were there so many horror movies that villainized cross-dressers?
  • John Waters and Divine – Pink Flamingos, hairspray (Doonan 193)
  • Tangerine 2015- (Doonan 204)

Chapter 9: Radical Drag

  • 1870 Ernest Boulton, gay man with drag name Stella, London’s Royal Strand Theatre. Got arrested for peeing in the women’s bathroom (Doonan 207)
  • MARSHA P JOHNSON- drag queen, trans icon, leading figure of Stonewall 1969 (Doonan 207)
  • “‘Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned.’ – Sylvia Rivera in 1986, responding to an early draft of the New York Gay Rights Bill, which overlooked the transgender community” (Doonan 208)
  • 1960s black power, gay lib, women’s lib- drag followed (Doonan 210)
  • Three radical drag groups: The Cockettes, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and the Radical Faeries (Doonan 210)
  • Storme DeLarverie (1920-2014) (Doonan 218)
  • Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (1928-2002) (Doonan 220)
  • Jose Julio Sarria (1922-2013) (Doonan 221)
  • Rollerena (Doonan 223)
  • Joan Jett Blakk DRAG QUEEN WHO RAN FOR PRESIDENT IN 1992 (Doonan 223)
  • Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002) known iconically for Stonewall alongside Johnson, co-founded STAR in 1970 (Doonan 224)
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch- musical (Doonan 225)
  • Panti Bliss (Doonan 227)
  • Taylor Mac- “judy” (Doonan 228)
  • Drag queens against Trump- so many famous women have dragged as Trump (MERYL STREEP I LOVE HER) (Doonan 231)

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