Electric Ladyland: the high-wattage wit of drag queen names

The Stonewall Riots of 1969, widely considered the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement, were no laughing matter … or so I had thought.

As it turns out one of its finest moments, at least by my reckoning, came when demonstrators countered an impenetrable wall of helmeted, club-carrying police with a high-kicking chorus line worthy of The Rockettes. The police, incensed with their machismo-spoofing shenanigans, broke ranks and charged at demonstrators with venomous ferocity and truncheons swinging.  But they’d met their match. Protesting drag queens, towering over the constabulary in their heels, proceeded to belt the crap out of them with their handbags.

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And in its own very small way, that devilish sass, hilarity and exuberance is what draws me to the cornucopia of comedy gold that is a drag queen’s ultimate calling card … her name.

From the rich pantheon of nom de plumes comes the most obvious anatomical word play; Dixie Normous, Penny Tration, Wilma Ballsdrop, Tess Tosterone and Ivana Cockatoo.

Particularly popular amongst drag acts are medically-themed monikers; Ginger Vitis, Ella Phantitus, Angie O’Gram, Anne Thrax, Madam Ovary, Dinah Thirst, Sarabelle Palsy and Anna Rexia.

Then there are those utterly devoid of any delusions of grandeur; Robyn Sevenelevens, Mary KMart, Carlotta Tendant, Summer Clearance, Show White Trash and Lois Carmen Denominator.

On the flip side there are the shining literary classics; Hedda Gobbler, Holly Goheavily, Bridgette of Madison County, Agnes of Gosh, Venus de Mile High-Lo and Barbra Seville.

As well as the star-studded; Marianne Unfaithful, Tallulah Bunkbed, Karen Carpenteria, Estee Lauder Harder Faster, Clare Booth Luce Change, Zsa Zsa Lahore and Gina Lola Golden Gate Bridgeda.

Sydney gay culture vulture and former drag queen Simon Lloyd (aka Mandy Vice Rabies) recalls Lady Bump, Cindy Pastel, Portia Turbo and Victoria Bitter sashaying through clubs in the late 80s with equal parts talent and talons.  More recent Australian acts include Minnie Cooper, Maxi Shield, Joyce Mange, Sheila Blige and Dawn Service (who only ever appears on ANZAC Day).

Maxi Shield, Ophelia Shaft and Joyce Maynge.

Maxi Shield, Ophelia Shaft and Joyce Mange

My personal favourite as far as distinctly Australian names go is the indigenous drag queen with the delicious title of Nana Miss Koori.

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Nana Miss Koori at Damien Minton Gallery Nov 2013

And it seems I’m far from alone when it comes to the lure of a seriously good drag queen name if the Facebook group Drag Names!!!!!!!!!!!! (twelve exclamation marks mandatory) is anything to go by.  2,600 members have posted hundreds of suggestions including Beverly Hillbilly, Anna Phylactic, Madonna Kebab, Synthia Sizer, Mena Pause, Uretha Franklin and Vaseline Dion.

Vaseline Dion ... oh hang on ... no, that's just Celine Dion.

Vaseline Dion … oh hang on … no, that’s just Celine Dion.

But don’t despair if your own creative spark isn’t exactly lighting up the room like spotlit sequins under a mirror ball. Let an algorithm do the work for you at Drag Queen Name Generator. And for the littlest diva of them all, there’s The Drag Queen Baby Name book, which is sure to put some bling on that teething ring.

drag queen baby name book

It’s not often that I’m prone to quoting Dolly Parton. But in this case I’ll make an exception because she and I are more in tune than I thought possible.  ‘It’s a good thing I was born a girl. Otherwise I’d be a drag queen’.  Were the latter indeed the case, let the record show that I would have chosen to make my own debut as Pixie Lated.

Jon Gnarr – world’s coolest politician

When your mayor is a former punk bass player, chooses to protest the incarceration of Russia’s Pussy Riot by riding on top of a van wearing a pink dress and balaclava and calls those in France protesting the gay marriage bill ‘assholes’, you can only hope that Iceland’s Jon Gnarr is also running a finishing school for would-be politicians.

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Gnarr in drag for Gay Pride

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While Gnarr’s roots may be in comedy as he rightly points out, ‘Just because something is funny doesn’t mean it also can’t be serious’ and his bio serves up exactly that as a veritable gumbo of travails and triumphs.

Misdiagnosed with severe mental retardation at the age of five and treated in a psych ward in his formative years, Jon determined at the age of 11 that school was of absolutely no consequence to his intended future as a circus clown or pirate and essentially went on strike, refusing to learn anything further.

By 13 he’d joined Reykjavik’s punk scene, graduated to vocals and playing bass with The Dripping Noses, and along the way becoming pretty tight with members of Bjork’s early band The Sugarcubes.

By the 90s he’d swung into comedy radio, tv and film writing, a stint as creative director at Icelandic ad agency EnnEmm and then starred as a bad-tempered Marxist in his hit television series Night Shift, Day Shift and the final installment Prison Shift.  Having had the rare privilege of watching all three series I can vouch for it being some of the best television comedy I’ve ever seen.

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Gnarr – far left in his series, Day Shift.

Gnarr’s foray into politics in 2009 was driven in equal parts by satire and an unsettled country upended by a financial crisis, political cronyism and  four old parties that had dominated Iceland’s political scene since the 1930s but no-one was more surprised than Jon when Gnarrs’ Best Party won comprehensively on what was essentially a comedy ticket.

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The Best Party’s logo

The Best Party’s election campaign included:

  • To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you’re poor or there’s something wrong with you.
  • We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
  • Cancel all debts.
  • Take those responsible for the economic collapse to court: Felt we had to include this.
  • Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It’s as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something. We’re going to change that!

Upon being elected, Gnarr announced that he would not enter a coalition government with anyone who had not watched the HBO series ‘The Wire’, he posted a video holiday greeting wearing a Darth Vader outfit and regularly posts memes to his official Facebook page.

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Two words Jon …. Totally Gnarrly.

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