I know this is hard to believe. I went through it myself and I am still completely befuddled about what happened. Each year the Jewish Federation sponsors a Jewish Film Festival. It runs 6 days and usually has some really good films that are not usually seen in theaters, or even art theaters. We have seen Israeli films, Egyptian films, and American films with Jewish themes and so on. The first film this year was Havah Nagila. Where did this song come from? Why is it so popular with everyone? Why is it almost always accompanied by the Hora ( a dance)? Why is it always played at Jewish weddings? Who knew that a Japanese singer made a record of Havah Nagila.
We could not go to the middle films, but made arrangements to see the last film, “Mary Lou, a musical.” The ads from the film showed some pulchritude, which I was kind of interested in seeing. I also love musicals, even if they are in Hebrew. I had no idea that the movie’s focus was cross dressing gay guys and their lives and problems.
It was right out there for all of us old timers to see. I could look around and see that some folks were really uncomfortable. There were men kissing men, discussions of the most intimate kind, lots of drag queens dancing and singing and the main character going from a lonely high school gay kid to a drag star.
There were sad things about the main character’s mother, who had left the family 8 years before. There was a suicide and lots of relationship problems between men and men, and men and women. At the end of the movie, there was a bunch of clapping and also some disgruntled looking people. One woman said, “I hated it.” However, from my vantage point, it looked like most of the Jews in the theater pulled on their long history of rachmonas (pity) and viewed this as they would an old Jewish tragedy. You must understand that the Jewish theater translated only Shakespeare’s tragedies into Yiddish. This appeared to be a traditional tear jerker with only the gender roles changed.
If that wasn’t enough, there was one more part to this event. We were invited to go across the street to a place called Stallions. Carol and I had eaten there some years ago, but had no idea that it had become a theatre of a type. We were told ahead of time that we would be treated to a “Drag Show.” By this time, I wondered whether some of our older folks (80’s and some 90’s) would even know what that was. They were soon to learn.
The place was never set up for a converging of 200 or so Jews trying to get comfortable in an area that probably could comfortably sit no more than 50. There was kind of a runway down the middle and a small floppy curtain at the end. One thing for sure, the bar did a land office business ahead of time.
The announcer came out and told us that we would be introduced to 6 “girl” entertainers who, he said “worked for tips.” We found out later that the tips would go to an organization that LGBT folks belonged to. The first performer came out looking for the entire world like a beautiful woman and lip synched to a loud and beat laden song. As “she” pranced around, people gave her dollars, and she paid them back with kisses.
All of the performers did the same kind of routine, some pulling off their outer garments to reveal themselves in a kind of skimpy outfit. They all did well and got loads of tips, while the audience was paid back in kisses.
I looked around at the Jews who were sitting there. There was one couple in particular. The couple was probably in their early 80’s. The man had a glazed look on his face, while holding his wife’s purse solidly in his crochtel area. His wife looked positively stoned with her arms across her chest. The did that for all of the time that I was there.
Others seemed to enjoy the loud music, the performers and the company of the other people in the audience. I am not sure that I will ever see such a thing again. There will be no such gatherings in the future. As I write this on Mother’s Day, I wonder if most of the Jews in the audience will think of their experience last night, as a dream.


2 thoughts on “JEWS ‘N DRAG

  1. You asked if some members of the audience might recall the Drag show and movie as a dream. In so many ways- for so many people- it was a dream come true! thanks for the blog………. me

  2. Wish I was there to have experienced your interesting evening, sounded like a lot of fun and would have loved to see the shock on some of the faces.

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