By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It's about midnight on a Saturday night at the Monkey Bar, and I find myself rather confused.
It's a few beers into the evening, so colors are blurring and edges are bending at odd angles, but, though my wits are softened, they are still about me. It is not the crisp Stella Artois in plastic cups that has me bewildered, nor the toxic waft of mosquito spray that Monkey Bar kindly supplies to customers at their outside tables. It's not even that strange, dreamlike haze that permeates Expo Park.
No, what's happening doesn't have any sort of chemical or environmental explanation. What's happening is I've found myself attracted to a guy.
Only, the guy looks like a girl. The guy, in fact, is the lead singer of She-Dick, a band of drag queens who have, during their short tenure as new figures on the music scene, used their stilettoed heels to kick down a couple of social and musical boundaries.
The group has done so by grabbing bits and pieces of various subcultures related to both music and sexuality: A touch of the dirty fagginess of German electronica, the kind that might have been played at some horrible, drug-saturated after-party in Berlin circa 1986; a smattering of un-ironic bubblegum pop, the kind you might hear at some gym in Oak Lawn; a helping of the subversive surrealism of a John Waters film, his early work especially, when Divine proved you don't have to be conventionally pretty to be a spectacular drag queen.
The members of She-Dick—stage names Annie Rex, Gloria Hole and Princess Persia—are in fact pretty, but they eschew the usual motifs of traditional drag queens who actually want to pass as much as possible as women. The She-Dick members don short dresses and fishnet stockings, but they are also fond of subverting their own hotness with awesomely bizarre twists. Like this night, when their sleeveless dresses reveal giant, bulging biceps the size of softballs and triceps that crest like a mountain ridge—gorgeous arms to be sure, but jarringly juxtaposed against a scarlet red dress. Or when, riffing on hip-hop fashion, they take diamond bling to an extreme, donning fake-gem-encrusted, giant necklaces that spell out their names; G-L-O-R-I-A-H-O-L-E spelled out in zircon may be funny, but it sure ain't pretty.
And it's smart: She-Dick has taken gay culture, which often uses parody as a tool, and re-parodied it, using yet another parody of pop culture to do so. That's so hot.
Clever, yes, but not as neat a trick as the second feat they manage to pull off. Still riding on a cloud of Stella buzz, I look around the room as She-Dick works through their set and I realize the conglomeration of fans they have assembled is shockingly diverse. There are jaded hipsters in John Deere caps, miniskirted mods, frat boys and a couple gay folks here and there. A few people of color, even. And they are all grooving on She-Dick's scene without any recognizable irony. There's a palpable lack of twatty attitude and the definite feeling that people get it.
Not that any of this is an intentional, cerebral exercise—there would be no quicker way to suck the life out of the thing than to fucking think about it. This is just a concert, after all, somebody's birthday party, actually; the deconstruction can come later, in the light of day, after the colors and edges sharpen. Until then, I'll just gaze into the stunningly blue, bright eyes of Annie Rex, aka Dan Paul, and think, Damn, she's hot. And so is he.She-Dick's Annie Rex and Gloria Hole are enough to turn a girl straight...kinda.