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The Stardust Lounge: A Gay Bar Moment

For most of my gay life, the Sunday Night drag show was a gay bar staple. Whether it was Feather Boa at the Odyssey in Vancouver, where I saw my first ever performances, or the Sunday shows at Boystown or Detours in Calgary, or Edmonton’s Betty Ford Hangover Clinic at The Roost, the weekend ended with drag.

In the spring of 2005, Twiggy and Kitten Kaboodle had been dominating Edmonton drag for years. Every Sunday, the area around the stage would be filled with people screaming for Kitten to do Tina, or for Twiggy to do a signature number like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or These Boots Are Made For Walking (Fun fact, Twiggy, wanting to avoid doing Boots, got rid of her boots entirely, but that just forced the audience to start wearing boots so she could borrow them when they demanded it as an encore). I was among that crowd for the longest time, but that spring, I was managing Buddys, direct competition to The Roost, and Sunday Night was the night I wanted. We already had Monday, Thursday, Friday on lock, but couldn’t crack into the Roost’s Saturday or Sunday. Who could I possibly find though, that could remotely compete against the drag juggernauts of Twiggy and Kitten?

Then I saw her, walking down the street in front of Buddys on her way to work at the nearby Rexall Drugs. Binki. I’d worked with Binki before. She’d played Dorothy in our drag production of the Wizard of Oz, and then the Sandy to my Danny in the ISCWR production of Grease. As she walked by, I yelled out, “Hey Binki! Wanna host a drag show?” She laughed, I laughed, and I thought no more about it.

Until a few weeks later when she showed up at the bar, proposal and co-host in tow. The co-host was Vanity Fair, who I knew, but not well. They were both talented, and of the same drag generation as Kitten. That was good. Buddys was the gay bar of the next generation, and our queens and shows needed to represent that. The show they proposed was called The Stardust Lounge. They pictured it as a glamourous night out, candles on the tables around the stage kind of glamour. I got the approval to try it, bi-weekly alternating with the already existing GoDonna Show, and we aimed for a June launch.

Just a couple weeks before the first show, Binki and Vanity got to host a set at Coronation, which was maybe the first time the city got to see the two of them in action together. And every performance they introduced, they managed to remind people that The Stardust Lounge was coming.

It came, and it was glorious. I mean, maybe not the curtains those first shows, but the shows? So glorious. And the reviews spoke for themselves, as did the Peanut Gallery of loyal fans the show soon gathered. The Stardust Lounge rang the death knell of the Twiggy/Kitten Sundays, because Twiggy and Kitten soon wanted to be guests in Binki and Vanity’s new gig, with group numbers every show and a wonderfully fresh hosting dynamic.

The Stardust Lounge ran at Buddys for six months. Then, my brand new addiction derailed their first show of 2006, and they quit, until I got fired, then they went back. But when negotiations with Buddys failed to meet their needs, they moved the show to The Roost. There, they operated as Flashback Sunday for 2007, The Roost’s last year, and then they and their casts, feeling the burnout, changed the show into a long weekend special event at Boots.

Soon though, the show suffered a schism. One spotlight was maybe not big enough for two stars like Binki and Vanity. The show had catapulted them to the top echeleon of Edmonton drag, leading Pride Parades, hosting the main stage at our festivals, but they splintered. Binki and some of her girls relocated to Play, as the Playgirls (which became the EVOgirls and then Les Girls); Vanity stayed on at Boots with a new group of girls, starting shows called the Queen of Hearts Cabaret (which eventually led to this becoming an ISCWR event) featuring the Pleasure Dolls. They reunited occasionally though, some gigs at Junction, and then eventually, a stupendous ten-year reunion tour in 2005 at EVO. But it was never the same.

The success of the show was all them, I know that. I was merely fan and historian and stalker, but when I look back, I can’t help but think that without me yelling out at Binki that spring day, this sequin-clad chapter of Edmonton drag may never have happened. To this day, they’re two of the most talented entertainers, hosts, and artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

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