By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"Pistol-whipping" dick jokes, littered with chingas and pinches, spill from the glossy lips of an eye-poppingly beautiful woman in a rat-a-tat rhythm that keeps time with her hips as they shake to the beat of a Selena Gomez song. Colored lights above the corner stage whir back and forth, accentuating her dance moves at a taquería in East Dallas.
The restaurant, one-room Los Altos de Jalisco on Abrams Road, is decorated with beer flags and framed pastoral scenes leading back to a galley kitchen, where the cook is better at flirting with the waitress than reheating tortillas. It's a sleepy place during lunch hours, when, if more than one table is occupied, it's a rush. But that's not uncommon among the scores of tiny taco shops across the city. The only thing that makes Los Altos stand out from other taco joints is the white delivery van parked outside. Pasted on its sides are colorful ads for weekend drag shows.
Somehow, the brightly made-up images of women who were once men don't attract much of a lunchtime clientele. At night, it's a different world.
The woman on stage this night is Gaby Duarte, one of the most acclaimed acts in the small DFW transgender and drag show (called travesty shows) circuit, who can pack a restaurant from wall to wall.
The short, olive-skinned 35-year-old Salvadoran native, born Gabriel Duarte, claims her popularity is born from her true audience. "I perform for the babies," says Duarte before she dons a wig and takes the stage. "It's very family friendly." Two transsexuals—Duarte and the bulbous, grizzled-trucker-voiced Chantal—join drag queen Cesar Martinez (aka Karina Duarte) to lip sync hits of Latin American female pop sensations and chug beer given to them by mustachioed men in denim and cowboy hats.
Offstage, Duarte, who has been featured on Spanish-language TV network Univision, chats frankly about how donning her first dress at age 16 led to her stage career—and a garage filled with $150,000 worth of outfits. Duarte says travesty (or sometimes "tranvesty") shows became her calling when, more than 15 years ago, she was asked if she wanted to perform at a Hollywood gay club's amateur night.
"It felt right and was fun," she says. "So I did it again."
The same frankness fills her act. Within minutes of taking the small elevated stage, she is peppering her jokes and anecdotes with foul language. A toddler dances near the stage, clutching a dollar bill for Gaby. It's 10 p.m. on a Sunday. Duarte works her way to the girl, picks up the tyke and gives her a peck on the cheek as the little one stuffs the wrinkled note into Duarte's cleavage. Hefty Chantal also homes in on the babe.
The irony here is as ample as the fake breasts Duarte got in 1993: Latin American culture is stereotypically homophobic, so chock full of machismo that any perceived threat to masculinity is often met with violence.
Or that's how it used to be.
"Our culture is changing," Carlos Cortez, the DJ and master of ceremonies of the show at Los Altos, says nonchalantly before displaying a photo of his son born the previous week.
Latin American culture is indeed experiencing a paradigm shift. In Mexico City, the city council in 2009 voted to legalize gay marriage. The Holy See and many conservative Catholics bristled at this decision, but it's too late. Businesses have already dug in their claws. As one local restaurant manager told me, "It's a way to promote ourselves. It doesn't matter if it's through women who were once men. Things are slow during the day."
Not all the shows at local taquerías feature transvestites and transsexuals; there are the usual mariachis, but musicians don't bring in the revenue sexy performers do.
Some of the jokes at Duarte's Los Altos performance might stretch the boundaries of what's considered family friendly, but at El Parral in Carrollton, another establishment where Duarte shimmies and shakes and mouths lines into a microphone, that isn't an issue. There are no kids at a recent show there, which features Vegas-showgirl headdresses and PG-13 wit.
Sandra Cavalli, headliner of the La Catharaita show on Thursday nights at El Parral, struts across the floor. Her shtick involves direct interaction with the audience, such as caressing a shoulder and begging a married father-to-be to be gay for her. Cavalli walks the line between grotesque humor and vaudevillian zinger. Equally risque is her onstage "sister" Camilla Cavalli, a young male performer transitioning into womanhood, a 5-o'clock shadow juxtaposed with nascent breasts and long black hair, who hikes up her skirt to reveal a cleanly shaven thigh and gyrates to the cumbia blasting over the sound system.
A man in the audience, sitting with an attractive female date, whistles and catcalls during the numbers. He even bends over and digs his butt into a performer's crotch and is ignored as if he were part of the bedazzling act pushed along by the DJ at the back of the stage, ready to add a prerecorded rim shot to a cheesy punchline. As Duarte and Cavalli both said on separate occasions, "What we do is comedy."
That helps explain the mass appeal. "I like the show," says El Parral's manager, a gentleman who would not share his name. "It's humorous."
Throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, these shows are a popular form of entertainment, advertised by cheaply printed and photocopied fliers posted on restaurant doors and walls and word of mouth. It's not life on the down low, but neither is it promiscuously open.
Some female fans bring their husbands. A Chilean man with a salt-and-pepper mane and sporting a white T-shirt, who is more interested in tortilla chips than thigh-high 6-inch heeled boots and sequins, says he tolerates the shows for the sake of marital concord. "It's fine. I come here because my wife likes the acts. To me, it's just OK. I don't really care for it."
"I love the costumes, the music," his wife pipes in.
Duarte earnestly strives for consummate professionalism, making her own wigs at a cost of $500 with 70 percent human hair. She rehearses for long hours on her two days off, an ethic that has earned her accolades from her peers. Trophies and tiaras awarded by nightclub competitions and pageants going as far back as 1991 are displayed behind a glass case in her living room. That dedication and celebrity has, in turn, earned her a four-bedroom house with a manicured lawn in southern Dallas.
Her home is decorated with family photos, mementos, a religious altar with a framed photo of the Sacred Heart on a heavy wood dining table. Oprah was on the flat-screen television. It's an almost unremarkable place. The garage, repurposed into a commodious wardrobe, is the only distinguishing feature. Some of the dresses were custom-made by Duarte and her mother. The latter, whom Duarte calls her best friend, owns Gaby's Illusions, a beauty salon bearing the name of Duarte's show. Duarte's goal is to become a beautician once she retires from performing in her mid-40s.
She relates this while sitting at poolside at her house during a weekend party. While she speaks, a toddler runs past. His mother, Gallo, a butch lesbian in sagging jean shorts and an extra-large polo shirt, urges the child to slow down lest he slip and fall. Camilla Cavalli and Duarte's roommate, her cousin Luis, splashes about in the pool. A young, shirtless man lifts weights. Two young ladies in painted-on polo shirts and hot pants are attempting to push one another into the pool. The adults are drinking beer and eating overcooked, rubbery shrimp. It's a typical weekend scene of food and family.
Food, family, music—perhaps that explains why shows like Duarte's are so popular in Dallas' taquerías. Food is a cultural touchstone for Latinos. Food and family go together like chips and salsa, and where there's food, there's music.
And where there's food and music, there's a chance for a small restaurant to make a profit, even if draw isn't always what's on the plate. While the dishes at Los Altos de Jalisco are excellent, El Parral's fare is oily and overpriced—four tacos are $12. But food is not why people come to El Parral. It's the nightly acts that draw the crowds.
Despite the gaudy jokes, nothing particularly seamy appears to be at play at these sleepy restaurants, places where waitresses spend more time watching soap operas than refilling water glasses or running combo platters to tables, most of which sit empty until show time. Once the shows start, what rakes in more money than the food is the beer—beer that is freely given to the performers by working-class men wearing wedding rings.
These shows, raucous as they are, smothered with colorful language and sexual innuendo, are captivating spectacles, made more so when juxtaposed with the banality of the performers' lives.
OMG! If it isn't pimpy cars up on blocks and sponge bob sheets hanging in the window, it's freaks on display Satuday night...right after mass! I become more and more ashamed of my heritage every day....I just want people out there reading this to know, there ARE Hispanics out there that DO NOT live like this. We DO have values and we DO have class!
Awesome! Can't wait to see someone interesting and new!! Tired of hanging with bigots and bible liars..
y'all are some sad, sad people. And it's King James Bible moron.
I guarantee homosexuality and transvestites will be around long after your dead. :-)
Cultures might change, But Praise God!!! His law never changes. Why not pick up James King Bible and read it?
"I perform for the babies." "It's very family friendly."
Wow, and I thought June Cleaver asking Ward "Don't you think you were a little hard on the Beaver last night?" was risque family entertainment! My, how times have changed.
Can't wait to rush down there and check it out...not.
Now that's scary. A counterfeit "female" is out to trick a straight man by definition. That goes beyond being a flamer. Give credit to the butch gays for not playing like that.
This is sheer garbage. Another great bequest of Mexican culture, right up there with the little ice cream hand carts that make it look like we are living in the Third World, and the sudden appearance of tip jars at cash registers everywhere, as we absorb their beggar culture.
These people have to right to express themselves, as long as they aren't hurting anyone else. And they look damn fabulous.
this is just another crazy story to get readers. this is the glenn beck way of a getting viewers and readers. Shock Value! its worth 2 cents.
Thanks Observer for a new low in reporting the news ........... even my grandchildren noticed how bad it is. In the Last Days Evil will be Good and Good Will be Evil. Thinks again for pointing this out.
"I perform for the babies," says Duarte before she dons a wig and takes the stage. "It's very family friendly."
"Within minutes of taking the small elevated stage, she is peppering her jokes and anecdotes with foul language. A toddler dances near the stage, clutching a dollar bill for Gaby. It's 10 p.m. on a Sunday. Duarte works her way to the girl, picks up the tyke and gives her a peck on the cheek as the little one stuffs the wrinkled note into Duarte's cleavage. Hefty Chantal also homes in on the babe."
"Despite the gaudy jokes, nothing particularly seamy appears to be at play at these sleepy restaurants, places where waitresses spend more time watching soap operas than refilling water glasses or running combo platters to tables, most of which sit empty until show time. Once the shows start, what rakes in more money than the food is the beer—beer that is freely given to the performers by working-class men wearing wedding rings."
INTERESTING... If this was a story about GRINGO TRANNIES doing all that IN A GAY BAR, there'd be whole pages of editorial opinions about how awfully seamy it is, but since it's just a bunch of WETBACKS getting drunk in a taqueria, there's nothing seamy about it to report until all the COCKFIGHTING going on there ON THE DOWN LOW is exposed in another story! LOL
how gross! I will stay far from that restaurant. Someone call the Health Department!!!! Nasty queers need to go back in the closet. Where are all the morals?? Sex crazed freaks will have to answer to a higher power.
I GUESS WE GO TO CHURCH BECAUSE OF HIM AND FOR HIM WHO GAVE HIS SON FOR US....WE ARE NOT BIG ON CASSEROLES OR BUSINESS BASKETS, SORRY IF THE CHURCH YOU USED TO GO TO HURT YOU AND TAUGHT YOU WRONG. IT'S ABOUT US SERVING HIM,AND WORSHIPING HIM FOR WHO HE IS OUT OF GRATITUDE.
church is not a spiritual hospital.....Its a .."all about me place". A place that appeals to your narcissism....my pain, my suffering. A place where you is just another word for me....did You Know that if YOU was the only person on earth..god would have thrown his son under the bus to save You.......little ol you..lonly all alone you. and the Preacher man says..."Come join our family of whinners...sway back and forth with your hands..maybe speak in tongue...get pep rallied up and pass the family business basket around
Let trannies make tacos.....stick to your cassaroles and church
My dear KaiXan, a Christian is a person who should be acting as Jesus Christ himself would have acted. That said I agree that Jesus was and is the purest fountain of love that mankind will ever know however while Jesus would love the trannys he would not love their sin as sin is what separates us from God. BELIEVE IT OR NOT. I WOULD GLADLY WELCOME TRANNYS IN MY CHURCH SINCE CHURCH IS ALSO A SPIRITUAL HOSPITAL FOR ALL OF US.
Why is it that many Christians (not all) are so full of hate? I though Jesus preached love and tolerance. Did he not say, turn the other cheek? Did he not preach that God judges and Man should not? I hope these 'gals' have fun and lift the spirits of those who go to watch them. Shame on those who just feel the need to drag others down, and not have the intelligence to say, I don't agree, but this is America, so I will go my own way and they will go theirs.
There are few things in the universe more creepy than drawn-on eyebrows. Do people really think they look good like that?
sanitorium..you say god and jesus are gay but you think these vile,filthy perverted sodomite beasts are cool,i guess?..faggots now have infested america to its breaking point..soon,God will hit america when you least expect it..praise the Lord for filthy sodomite beasts,it just means we ae getting closer to the end of america..
swallow it, you're not welcome... and, by the way, you have to actually migrate to this html to "keep viewing it". It was comfortably and well written; you don't belong to that readership. Go back to First Baptist. Hope you commented on Herr Jeffress in the other articles; I'd like to know why his filth is being given so much presstime myself.
The same people who read intellect in your responses. I puke reading most of these replies. Intellectual freaks and demons like you should be put in a boat and sent out into... oh, wait, I'm sounding like you.
If you, and your eight 'likers', could even type Saturday (what're you, some sorta freak?), you'd still mean Sabado because your sad 1st-generation response ('oooh, they look sooo Mexican!") does not show good values and it definitely shows your lack of class. I bet your parents are ashamed of you, gringo. Only a self-hating migre would take offense at a simple, lower-middle-income entertainment described in this article. You should move to Iowa, you're not good enough to be a Texan.
Raven301, You don't seem educated at all. FYI, God doesn't make people like LGTB'S,you dummy!! Read your Bible and know your own history, before you start running your mouth!
If they want to be a freak that is their business. But don't tell me I HAVE to accept it and don't tell me I have to apologize for being normal.
You are obviously a 'true' Christian. While I agree you might not love the sin, it is nice to see that some people (like yourself) would still love the sinner. While not a Christian myself, it is people like you that give me hope that we all might be able to get along. Thank you for the perk up for my soul!
It's no different than a lot of things that "real women" think looks good on them but in reality doesn't. For instance, that same hairstyle since high school, the too tight clothes that shows every roll, the foundation that clearly doesn't match their own skin tone.However there is something a female impersonator puts on everytime they walk out onto a stage that looks good on EVERYONE...Self confidence and the courage to express ones self regardless of what others may think. And the best part of that is that the people that are there to see them, appreciate that and walk away a little better for it.
I am with you Tubby123 this freak show is just a sewer full of filth and arrogance as they seem shocked wheneveryone does not like it or applaud this vile repugnant garbage.
Spoken like a true christian ( a christian who uses the bible to justify ones own beliefs in hate). You are without question ignorant of these things. I pray that God does forgive you for using HIS beautiful name in your vile hate-filled rants. I pray that you let God into your heart. I also pray that IF that happens, you will be able to forgive yourself for the hate that you have tried to spread. May you truly see the truth in all that God represents.
sherry, that has to be one of the most ignorant post i have seen in a while. FYI, if you believe in god you cant say he didnt create this or that just because you feel its wrong. If you believe in a god than you know he created everything, no matter if its right or wrong. Poeple just love to pick and choose what they read and take from that POS book called the bible.
For your information, there are times, when for whatever HIS reasons are, GOD does some unuaual things. I was born a Hermaphrodite. That's a "big" word, so I will explain it to you, that is a baby that is born with BOTH sets of genitailia. I did not find out how I was born untill I was 29 years old, and it was discovered by MEDICAL TESTS, not "gender shrinks". In 1950, when I was born, "mommy and daddy" were given the right to choose the apparent gender oof the child. I was first born, and "daddy" was a Navy attack pilot, care to guess what he chose? Too bad he guessed wrong. The times that I was beaten into unconciosness thinking that I was going to die were MANY, all for expressing an opinion at 4 or 5 years of age that he concidered effeminate. Make a long story short, the first time that I was stabbed was NOT in VietNam, (yes I spent two tours there), he did it at the dinner table. The condition was discovered during ultrasound tests of my gallbaldder when they found my partially devlloped OVERIES and FALLOPIAN TUBES. Yes I had the surgeries, and am I one of those "transies" that you consign to Hell? " I don't think so, I hold multiple black belts, am a CRACK combat pistol shot, and aerobatic pilot. And GOD MADE ME THE WAY THAT I WAS PHYSYCALLY BORN. Brie
I don't think anyone asked you to apologize, but if they did, it would be for being a self-important dickhead. You don't have to like it, but that doesn't mean it's going to stop.
If you want to live your life the way you want, you can at least afford the same respect to other adults. How boring would the world be if we were all sticks in the mud like you?
God does NOT make mistakes and He does Love you TC just the way you are! Now that you have survived your childhood and adolesence...surround yourself with the people who Love you and ignore the rest.
Evidently you never heard of vaudeville, did you sweetie?
And how to you *know* Uncle Milty wasn't gay? You a relative?