This weekend Tobi and I took the train to Portland, Oregon. The occasion was the Portland Rose Festival, possibly the only summer festival gayer than gay pride. The rose parade was a perfectly preserved slice of 1950s Americana. (Rodeo queens! Marching bands! Elderly 'rosarians' in cream colored suits!)
Portland is a great city; I could easily imagine living there someday. It's friendly, clean and has great public transportation. I like it a lot. Tobi and I did some of the usual touristy things there, including visiting Portland's beautiful Japanese garden.
On Saturday night we happened to walk by a drag show and on a lark decided to go in.
Little did we realize that we had run across a Portland institution that has been going on for more than 40 years. And we also didn't realize at first that we were there on "straight night" when the theater is filled with young women out for bachelorette parties prior to getting married.
It took me a while to figure out what was going on. Tobi and I were just about the only men in the theater when the show started. (Isn't drag a gay thing?) The missing piece of information was that the drag show was to be followed by a male strip show. The women were mostly there for the strippers. Mystery solved.
I have to say, the enthusiasm of the brides-to-be and their friends was fun to watch. The crowd was extremely boisterous and giggly. The show itself was a slightly naughty Las Vegas-style revue with male performers dressed as glamorous women. Overall the show was quite 'gay' in sensibility. I thought the drag queens were almost tender in interacting with the audience, teasing them gently about getting married and about being straight. There was really a good connection between the performers and the girls in the audience. (My favorite performer was Poison Waters, a warm and funny and glamorous diva if there ever was one.)
About halfway through the show I had a small revelation: the theater was filled with women in their early and mid twenties watching over-the-top camp and loving it. All of a sudden I thought: These girls would have no trouble at all with legalizing gay marriage. They're on our side. It was one of those moments when you realize you've seen the future.
Even the strip show was wholesome, in a silly, raunchy kind of way. Tobi and I stayed on afterwards for part of it but left halfway through because it was getting late. (Yes, we needed to sleep more than watch 'firemen' take off their gear. Pathetic, I know.)