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[whitespace] Kamell Toh
Walk Like a Kamell: Toh struts her stuff.

It's Good to Be Queen

As two events this month bring Santa Cruz drag culture out in full force, the kings and queens of the Dakota Club reveal the Top 10 secrets of their art

By Sarah Phelan

WE'RE ALL SO used to saying that drag queens dress like women that we never even stop to think about it. C'mon, no sane woman would ever think of dressing like a drag queen. Except maybe on Halloween. No, most girls learn early on that tottering around on 7-inch stilettos ain't practical and buttock-hugging dresses tend to rip in the worst of all possible places.

But, see, drag queens know their torture is short-lived. At the end of the night, they can toss their heels, dump their boobs and let their privates swing free and easy. For most of them, getting dressed up is a titillating departure from the constricting world of male fashion, a rare chance to outdo women at their coquettish little games.

And you bet your sweet ass Santa Cruz drag queens will be dressing sharp this month, as two events make way for local drag culture to strut into the limelight. On May 26, Club Dakota is hosting Proud!, the latest in its series of monthly Shanda Leer shows, proceeds from which go to support Santa Cruz Pride. And on May 18, drag queen Shanda Leer (a.k.a. Steven the bartender at Club Dakota) will also be hosting the venerable "A Gay Evening in May," with proceeds going to Santa Cruz AIDS Project.


Learning Curves: Perfecting the art of drag means learning from experience.

What a Drag: Local performers bitch about their top 5 biggest headaches in la vida drag.

It's Good to Be King: Women throw around their inner male on stage.


So how do they do it? It's not easy to achieve that tartier-than-thou look while remaining a witty but complete and utter slut, but Metro Santa Cruz has consulted with three of the hottest local queens: Shanda Leer, Jett Leer (Eric Sassaman) and Kamell Toh (Michael Fay). They confirmed that making the transition from jeans and T-shirts to high heels and miniskirts is a major bitch, but these 10 steps we've compiled from all of their advice provide a handy how-to breakdown.

1. Be Ultra Bitchy

"I learned that from my gay forefathers," says Shanda, who uses words like "bitch," "hussy" and "slut" whenever possible. "I was 17, hanging around all these queers, who were so catty and funny, and occasionally I'd chime in to surprise them. And so it evolved." Jett and Kamel Toh concur by giving Shanda catty looks.

2. Get Yourself a Muse

"Mine are Lucille Ball, Cher and Bette Midler. And Rosie O'Donnell. She is my motivation, I want to be the next Rosie. No, really!" says Shanda. The bitch.

3. Build Your Character

"Shanda Leer is a has-been actress, who has appeared in every movie of the kind you find in Frenchy's," says Shandra of her persona. "She thinks she's something, but really, she's no Nicole Kidman. From there, I've--or should I say, we've--evolved from small boobs to big boobs, from small hair to big hair."

Lisa Lixitt
Falsie Imprisonment: Lisa Lixitt has something to get off her chest.

4. Stock Up on Rice-A-Roni

Kamell Toh confides that she never used to use boobs. "I figured if you have enough face, no one will be looking at your tits," she says. "But when I wear an outfit that needs boobs, I use birdseed and nylons, tied tight to get those Kathleen Turner nipples." What a hussy!

"I make my breasts using rice and nylons," says Shandra. "Hey, you could feed the cast of Survivor with the rice I've used in my boobs. Typically, I use Rice-A-Roni--it's the San Francisco treat, after all--or Uncle Ben's, if it's available."

5. Tuck and Shade

"I can't stress enough the importance of tucking well," says Jett. "It's so important, especially since I have a tendency to show my panties." Slut!

"Tucking is essential, but I do anything not to tape," says Shandra. "Using a large flower or a big sash at my crotch helps. But I tape and shade my chest to create cleavage, though I have to keep my arms together most of the night or everything tends to fall apart!"

6. Shave

"Shave body hair and use a feather boa to cover any remaining chest hair," advises Kamell Toh, who always shaves her body. "That's my big thing. The more skin shows, the better."

Jett agrees. "The last show, I totally forgot to shave my armpits. I had to keep my arms clamped to my sides the whole time."

7. Seek Professional Help

"I have a makeup person. I couldn't draw a straight eyeliner if you paid me $100," Shanda leers.

"Put foundation on first," says Kamel Toh, "but it's all about eyelashes."

"Use spirit gum on your eyebrows, then cover them with white makeup," simpers Jett.

8. Thank God for Elastic Waistbands

"Finding clothes is excruciating. I know how big girls feel," says Shanda, who thanks God for Incognito, transgender shops in S.F., Goodwill and elastic waistbands.

Ross and Camouflage are other useful sources, according to our trio, and Shanda notes that shopping for shoes, wigs, boobs and penises is a lot easier on the Internet, though not necessarily cheaper.

Emma Balmer
Who's the Fairest of Them All?: Emma Balmer gives herself the once-over.

9. Invest in a Good Wig

"A good wig can set you back $140. But as Dolly Parton taught us, more is more, in all departments," says Shanda.

"Tease the fuck out of wigs," advises Kamell Toh. "And dump them when they get ratty. I've got one in my closet that looks like a dead raccoon."

10. Prepare to Suffer

"I can't stand pantyhose after two hours, and pumps throw out my back," says Shandra. "I enjoy being a boy, a gay male in this gay society. My clothing preference? 501s and a T-shirt."

On May 18, Shanda Leer will be emceeing 'A Gay Evening In May,' at 8pm at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. On May 26, The Leer Sisters present 'Proud!' at Club Dakota, a benefit for SC Pride. Proceeds from both events will go to help the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, which has lost $50,000 in funding since the passage of Measure L. For 'Gay Evening' details, call 479.3355. For 'Proud!' details, call Club Dakota at 454.9030 or go to www.clubdakota.com.

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From the May 15-22, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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