All Photography by James Hosking
Unlike glitzier drag clubs in New York or Los Angeles, Aunt Charlie’s in San Francisco's Tenderloin district looks like a basement at the edge of the world.
"I’m home at Aunt Charlie’s. For the most part, the girls are good girls. Every once in a while, you get a crabby old bitch in there. And after the show people tell you you’re the greatest. A few minutes later, you hear them tell another girl the same thing."
Collette LeGrande's cracked soprano bawls out drink orders and insults with blunt conviction. She is one of the show’s oldest and longest-performing queens and a seasoned crowd-pleaser.
"I like that it’s more intimate than most bars. Some bars, you’re on a stage and the crowd is way out there. At Aunt Charlie’s, they’re practically on you. And you can get drunk there for $20."
"I don’t really think of myself as an entertainer. It just comes with the territory. I tend to gravitate to numbers I think I can do. When I started doing Kesha, I was only going to do it once or twice and call it a day. But then the crowd liked it, and 99% of the time they don’t realize I’m drinking Coke in that shot glass."
"I feel powerful [performing]. But I don’t want to be in control of anything. When I’m interpreting a song, I’m not doing it to the lampshade. I’m always singing it to someone. I like being close to the audience. I like that Aunt Charlie’s is dark and has a spotlight. I’m less effective when I see too much."
On being almost 70: "I’m odd in that when I don’t have an assignment, a little voice inside says, 'You’re worthless. You have no purpose.' That comes with anxiety. To relieve that anxiety, I have to have a purpose in the world. I feel like I’m serving a great purpose — I feel so alive — when I’m performing.READ THE INTERVIEW
On the first time doing drag: "Oh my God, such shame! It was difficult to leave the building. But I always want to do things that scare me because then I’m in a heightened state of being alive. I feel more alive during drag. And that’s our struggle in life: To stay engaged."READ THE INTERVIEW
"My thing is not being a female illusionist where I look dead-on like a woman. I’m a man in a dress, and I’m not afraid to show that. I just use a little bit of shading. Olivia and I are pretty much one and the same. It’s not a total transformation. I’d need to see a psychiatrist if that happened."
"A lot of straight guys are fascinated with my cleavage. They all want to touch it. Well go ahead, honey, I’ll touch you while you touch me. There’s a group of Hispanic boys in front of the Carl’s Jr. that are always whistling at me. In the Tenderloin sometimes I get picked up by somebody who wants to pleasure me."