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Yet Another Drag Show, This Time in Plano, Receives Threats

The dining room at Ebb & Flow is lively at brunch, especially when there's a drag show.
The dining room at Ebb & Flow is lively at brunch, especially when there's a drag show. Lauren Drewes Daniels
Dallas Hale, owner of the restaurant Ebb & Flow in Plano, is the latest North Texas business owner to draw  fire from far-right protesters for hosting drag shows.

In September, Cool Beans in Denton canceled a Disney-themed drag brunch after receiving aggressive phone calls and threats. A week later, Rubber Gloves, also in Denton was forced to do the same out of safety concerns. Earlier in the summer a family Pride Month event at Mr. Misster was broken up by Dallas police after conservative protesters threatened performers.

Hale, whose restaurant stages a monthly drag brunch, isn’t bothered by people voicing their dislike of drag or exercising their right to protest, but he is angered by claims that performances at his bar in any way sexualize children. Such rhetoric has been espoused by right-wing political candidates and commentators in recent months. Hale questions if people like Sarah Gonzales, the Blaze TV broadcaster responsible for the blowback Ebb & Flow has received, really knows what sexualizing children means.
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Scenes from last weekend's drag show brunch.
Dallas Hale


He says he’s been in talks with his lawyers about opening a defamation suit against Gonzales. Because of her, people have been sending hate mail and death threats and called Hale and his employees pedophiles. Hale said he’d never heard of Gonzales before, but adds, “We’ve gotten just as many positive posts as negative."

The past weekend’s performance was like any other, but Hale had a feeling something might go badly amid the hate following drag shows around the state. He flew back to town from Houston, where he’d been spending time with his son, to keep an eye on the show. As he was taking tickets at the door, a family arrived with a young daughter in tow, and Hale warned them the show would include some adult content. He says the parents brushed off his concerns, saying they had brought their daughter to “’a million drag shows and that’s why we bought tickets for this.’”

He later learned that Gonzales had gone to the show herself, semi-disguised with a pink wig, and filmed video on her cellphone from the bar and posted it to Twitter. The next day she appeared on Fox News for an interview with Tucker Carlson, announcing her intention to launch an initiative to shut down what she calls “drag shows for kids,” adding “Texas is only the beginning.”

Hale is somewhat surprised at the recent campaigns against drag after seeing countless heterosexual fans come through the audience and even participate themselves over his 30 years in the service and entertainment industry. He’s seen several former fans now protesting the shows. He attributes the hate to “small-minded people.”

One of the performers, referred to as the Queen to protect her identity, thinks all the rage at drag can also be attributed to the arrival of midterm elections. The drag community, she says, is an easy target.

“People like me, we’re the boogeyman. People don’t know people like me,” she said on the phone, “so all they know is what they’ve heard or seen in the media. And they don’t really associate that I have a mother that loves me and a family that cares for me and I have a normal job and a really normal life. That just so happens that I have extraordinary talent and different kinds of jobs.”
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Brunchers brought their dollar bills for grandma in drag. She had to use her life alert.
Dallas Hale

For the Queen, drag is an art that combines acting, comedy, dancing and fashion. She’s hired to put on a certain caliber of show, and her audience has paid to see it. She’s mindful of who’s in the room but can’t realistically change her performance on the off chance there’s one minor in a room full of adults who’ve come to see her authentic work.

According to Johnathon Gooch of Equality Texas, an LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group, the art form is older than Shakespeare. Drag as we know it today was spawned by 19th-century ball culture, took off in New York City's Black queer community in the 1960s and became mainstream with the popularity of shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Because it's been embraced by the heterosexual and queer communities alike, Gooch is shocked to see drag come under fire as it has lately.

“They’re taking something beautiful and entertaining and making it ugly,” the Queen says. “That’s on them. That’s the ugliness in their hearts.”

Hale considers himself a patriot, and for him, that means fighting for what’s right, as he was taught in the Coast Guard. “The best way to handle this is to keep moving forward, keep performing," Hale says.
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Darby Murnane is a freelance journalist for the Dallas Observer. She has a master of journalism from the University of North Texas and is a Fulbright Scholar. Darby was born and raised in New Jersey but has no mafia connections that need concern you.
Contact: Darby Murnane

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