After 10 years, 11 seasons and more than 140 performers, some "RuPaul’s Drag Race" viewers are now reporting "drag fatigue" with the reality series that brought drag into mainstream culture in an unprecedented way. But here in Milwaukee, we just can’t seem to get enough!
For over a century, drag has been an unstoppable force in Milwaukee nightlife. On June 7, 1884, "The Only Leon" brought the fine art of female impersonation to Milwaukee’s Grand Opera Hall, launching a proud local legacy that continues today at D.I.X., LVL, This Is It, Cactus Club and innumerable other venues.
On Saturday, May 11, the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project honors that legacy with "Remember When: Drag History Party" at Hamburger Mary’s, 730 S. 5th St. Hosted by the bedazzling Miss B.J. Daniels, the event will include a history presentation, drag performances, open mic storytelling, video interviewing and photo scanning opportunities.
"We recognize that today’s pride movement was born from the resilience and resistance of yesterday’s gender non-conforming pioneers," said Michail Takach, project curator.
"This year, the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project is especially committed to exploring, documenting and celebrating the hidden histories of our transgender, gender non-conforming and drag family members. Their stories are long overdue to be heard."
The Project will honor unsung heroes throughout Milwaukee history, including:
Frank Blunt, high-rolling hustler of the Fourth Ward "Badlands"
Millie Brown, arrested in 1899 for "masquerading as a woman"
Ralph Kerwineo, "Woman-Man of Milwaukee" who made international headlines
Billy Herrero, the "Brazilian Gypsy Rose Lee" who was sued for impersonation
Sophie Uzelac, whose Nut House Revue nearly caused drag to be banned
Tom Terris, who transformed Club Terris into the drag destination of the 1950s
Albert Tusa, owner of Tic Toc Club and Pink Pony and king of nightlife
Adrian Ames, fiery nightlife personality and flamboyant drag superstar
Misty Day, trans stripper who took City Hall to court – and won
Storme DeLarverie, drag king extraordinaire, Stonewall survivor and superhero
Presenters will also discuss the national influence of early drag experiences, including the Jewel Box Revue, Seattle’s Garden of Allah, San Francisco’s Finocchio’s and New York’s Club 82.
The event is free with a $1 donation to the PrideFest Plus One campaign, supporting the UWM LGBT Resource Center and the UWM Annual Drag Show. Hamburger Mary’s will offer a $10 beer bust, as well as a full-service bar and grill. The first 30 guests will receive two free PrideFest Milwaukee tickets as well as one free drink ticket. Ample street and off-street parking is available.
About the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project
Founded in 1995 as a PrideFest booth exhibit, the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project has become the state’s largest digital collection of local LGBTQ history. Through digital and social outreach, the Project seeks to discover, explore, document and preserve hidden histories that might otherwise be silenced. Since 2018, the Project has been proudly presented as a community education program of Milwaukee Pride, Inc.
All photo and story submissions support the ongoing efforts of the Wisconsin LGBT History Project to document, preserve and celebrate our shared heritage. For more information, visit our website.