This will inevitably be a column studded with a lot of asterisks. You see, f*g is a bad word and so is h*g, but put them together and some women don't mind the label because they love gay men so much they want to scream it to the world at any cost. Besides, the other popular choice--"fruit fly"--is fey and icky and compares the gals to an insect. (Eek. Perhaps I should have written "fr**t f*y".)
But New York party promoter Domonique Echeverria can't really be labeled at all, since she breaks the mold. The 26-year-old fashion figure--whom I met at a New York club bash that we both host--always has a bevy of LGBTs swarming around her, but not for any insecure or neurotic reasons. Since she's the human equivalent of an earring holder for scores of young gays, I asked Domonique for some further illumination.
Hello, Domonique. Do you mind the expression "f*g h*g"?
I don't consider myself a f*g h*g. When I hear that, I think of some ugly woman clinging on to her gay friends so she can get male approval because she couldn't get it from some straight men. I'm more someone with gay boys sleeping in my bed--literally. I'm more of a queen--a drag queen!
Why do you love gay men so much?
It's not that I seek out gay men specifically. It's just a very natural connection. I relate to them in the sense that we have to fight harder than the rest of mankind to just exist. We are all fighting against the misogynistic patriarchy. As a free-spirited woman who thinks for herself, I wake up every morning with the world against me. "Why are you dressed like that?" "Why are you not married and having babies?" "Why are you with those people?" I know gay men relate to this oppression.
A few years ago, I watched Eve Ensler on a TED Talk and she spoke about the "girl cell," the inner feminine, and how everyone--even straight men--are born with it, and from birth, society seeks to destroy it. I relate to people who have fought to hold onto their "girl cell," their inner feminine, because they are warriors, in a way. They are brave and they are compassionate. So, I guess, I just feel more comfortable to be free, to dress up, to say and do what I want around gay men. They're my fellow outcasts. As a woman--or as a gay man or a person of color--you wake up and have the world against you. I get along with trans people, gay men: the outcasts. The lost toys come together.
And gay men love you back because they feel you're a kindred spirit?
Because I'm a mother to them; I'm a muse; and I'm a fellow artist. I think they're attracted to my nurturing nature and my fearlessness. I'm also a goddamn drag queen who loves opulence and glamour. A lot of gay men are turned away from their families, and from what they tell me, they seek out maternal and nurturing energy. When I talk to my mom, she asks, "How are the kids?" and I tell her about my gay children and how they're doing. She even sends them Christmas cards and valentines.
You're from San Francisco?
Yes. I moved to New York three years ago. I'm a costume designer and that's how I came into the scene. I was making costumes for people. I knew the promoter Frankie Sharp from San Francisco and he used me as a host. I knew Michael Magnan and Ladyfag, and they hired me for the Family Function party at the Cock. Then I met [party queen] Susanne Bartsch and she liked what I was wearing. She asked me to make some things for her, and I did, and then she said, "You should host parties."
This week, I hosted four parties. Normally it's three, sometimes five. And during the day, I design and style and do avant-garde modeling. When I first moved to New York, a lot of my friends became bartenders and servers and became a slave to the grind. They didn't come here to pursue their art. But during the day, I'd design, go to meetings with Susanne, and so on. I was a live-in nanny for an amazing, cool, open minded family. I had all my trans friends over, and we all had dinner together, and my drag friends came over and we'd dress up.
I quit my nanny job a year and a half ago, and I've been living with my three best friends in Bushwick [a burgeoning artistic neighborhood in Brooklyn]. They are Ryan Burke, Mani Motarjemi, and Alicia Miranda--two gays guys and a straight girl. Plus my friend Joey needs a place to stay, so he's living with us, and Ryan has his friend Justin living with us for two months. Our house is like a halfway house. It's like the LGBT Center. We've hosted 13 artists in a year, and we only have a three-bedroom!
How did Alicia get into the mix?
Alicia is the only girl who would talk to me growing up. I'd always hang out with all boys. I've never been able to relate to the insecurity that women possess. Women are such fragile, beautiful creatures, and whenever I'm with my girlfriends, I constantly have to build them up.
How did your background affect your persona?
I was raised by my mother--I didn't have a dad. Friends say, "Your mom's a tr*nny." I say, "I know!" She's 6-foot-1 and voluptuous, like an exaggeration of a woman. She's a strong woman who raised me with a strong backbone and an awareness. I feel like I'm an interpretation and exaggeration of a woman myself, so it's hard for me to relate to the average woman. Because I'm not average. I'm 6 feet tall, voluptuous, and I love dressing up. It's fun to surround yourself with people who have a cinematic view of life. If you don't, why bother waking up in the morning?
How is your New York City experience different from San Francisco?
It wasn't until I moved to New York that I was like, "Oh, these are gay people and those are straight people." San Francisco is different--you go to a party and there's a rich person and a poor person and a trans person and a raver. It's a real hodgepodge. In New York, it's more separated (though it's getting better and Susanne's parties are mixed).
Do you have any straight boyfriends?
Yeah. I actually have one right now. I've never had a problem meeting them. The kind of person that's attracted to me knows what they're getting into. I don't leave the house without red lipstick. I'm outlandish. I'm an open book and wear my heart on my sleeve. There are no surprises. The ones that approach me tend to be more open minded. When the guy I'm dating comes over, I'll have my gay and trans friends over, we'll play music, and I'll make dinner for everybody. If you put out the energy that everything's OK and you're comfortable and it's all love, people will react to that. It doesn't matter what kind of group you're with.
Do you ever get annoyed with your gay male friends?
All my gay friends are cool people. We all get annoyed with each other, but it has nothing to do with their being gay or not. They don't act like screaming, Gaga-drooling "shitty f*ggots" or anything [laughs]. So, no, I don't get annoyed with them.
You mentioned that some of them land in your bed. Do you ever sleep with them?
I actually don't hook up with gay men. I'm not that bitch, lol. But I have had sexual relations with gay men, women, trans women, and trans men. I'm attracted to energy, not gender.
You're sort of an everything h*g, minus the h*g. Thank you, darling.
THERE SHE IS...
Let me segue from a female drag queen to some drag queens playing females. (God, I've got range!) Drag is hot these days, so--even though pageants aren't--Pageant is back, in a revival at off-Broadway's Davenport Theatre.
It's the 1991 musical spoof of female beauty contests, featuring a cast of six actors in drag as gammy gals vying to be Miss Glamouresse, promoting a dazzling line of terminally superficial beauty products. "We are natural born females," they sing, to lay on the irony, as the host (John Bolton, who's amusingly smarmy) eyes them, taunts them, and brings out their worst.
The contestants go through the obligatory introductions (one was a double major in home economics and cancer research) in-between the expectedly bizarre talents (like ventriloquy and accordion playing), studded with the gals' plugs for Glamouresse products, like a combination applicator/vacuum for when you spill the shit on your dress. The MC hilariously thanks wardrobe manager Dick Tucker (which would have been even funnier if I hadn't already noticed that someone truly named Seth Tucker plays one of the contestants). They bid last year's winner farewell. ("Goodbye, old queen, goodbye"). And then five judges chosen from the audience pick a new winner, audience applause helping to break any ties.
I was selected as a judge, and voted equal top scores for the falsely demure Miss Deep South (Marty Thomas) and the hopped-up Miss Bible Belt (Curtis Wiley), the latter one copping the coveted tiara. The show--by Bill Russell (Side Show), Frank Kelly, Albert Evans, and conceiver RobertLongbottom--is light and entertaining as directed by Matt Lenz. It's an extended sketch without much on it's mind--and a few of the new agey talents need to be tossed out and rethought for more relevance--but it goes by blithely enough to help you ignore the fact that drag isn't intrinsically funny anymore and besides, most pageants tend to spoof themselves.
Men in drag, a Latin stereotype, and dick jokes also populate another off-Broadway exercise in camp, Erasmus Fenn's Drop Dead Perfect, a faux melodrama set in the Florida Keys of the 1950s. A sort of William Inge play meets a Joan Crawford B-movie, this one boasts lines like, "I can rip you apart with my teeth and put you together again with my tongue," and grand dame Everett Quinton going to the top (but not over it) as the wealthy and wacky Idris Seabright. The entire cast, in fact, seems very in touch with their girl cells.