By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
After a raucous closing bit involving fake blood, military outfits and lots of simulated shooting, I join the Dukes on the Buddies back porch. Exhausted and elated, they hug each other and take long swigs of light beer.
But there's no time for carousing and celebratory Jaeger bombs (well, maybe one) right now; I've got just one burning question on my mind: How do they make the facial hair happen?
"It's our own hair," Nate explains. When they shave their heads or trim their hair, they cut tiny pieces and attach them to their faces with hair spray. Nate sticks out his jaw so I can feel for myself. It's like real stubble. I'm mesmerized. Next time I get my bangs trimmed, beware the bearded woman.
Less enticing are the duct-taped chests of the Dukes, who paste down their breasts for a manly silhouette. When I ask to see how it's done, Ian and Nate bare their chests and put their black and silver duct tape on display. The skin is taut, and I cringe to think at how painful it must be. Christina Love, one of the two distinctly femme Dukes, pats Ian and says, "And these aren't small-chested girls, either." Strapping down one's C-cups is just another part of being a drag king, and the suffering is worth it.
"We love being women," says Ian, "but we love dressing up as boys." None of the Dukes live as men, they just like to get their guy on every once in a while. Sure, some drag kings identify as male or are transgendered, but for the Dukes, it's about being a lesbian most of the time and a drag king some of the time. When they're Dukes, they're men, and they use pronouns such as "he" and "him." Otherwise, it's "she" and "her," or, if they're feeling frisky, maybe "shim."
That's probably the best thing about the Dukes and, by extension, Buddies. Anything goes. But as out-there as "shim" may seem to the mainstream folk, one thing remains constant: It's freezing outside, and I know one thing that warms everybody up.
"Let's go back inside where the booze is!"
Everyone cheers, and we file in the back door: ponytail, faux hawk, buzz cut, crop, Mohawk and pixie-bob. Ah, alcohol, the great uniter of the sexes, no matter which pronoun you're using today.