No one escapes a pandemic—except, maybe, the cast of Big Brother Germany—but people who make their living working for businesses impacted by Washington's statewide shutdown are among the hardest hit. Bartenders, servers, and nightlife workers are all out of work. For many, the abrupt unemployment is indefinite and comes without safety nets.
"This is not going to be easy, it's not going to be fun," drag performer Betty Wetter told Stranger arts critic Jasmyne Keimig last Friday. Wetter is highlighted in our most recent print issue as being "everywhere—from the trivia night she hosts on Queen Anne to the bingo night she hosts on Capitol Hill to the game show she hosts in Ballard to the drag variety show she hosts on Beacon Hill."
It's hard to overstate how difficult it is to become a full-time drag queen. Wetter, one of the few full-time drag performers in town, has had to build up many of her gigs from scratch. Her monthly gig at the Clock-Out Lounge, Tush, was one of the venue's first drag performances. It now regularly sells out, with audience members wrapping around the block, hoping to get inside before the venue reaches max capacity. But with Washington's statewide shutdown, Wetter has gone from working everywhere to nowhere.
(To make the situation even more tragic and surreal, our arts critic Jasmyne Keimig was temporarily laid off after conducting her interview with Wetter. Read more about the dire economic impact COVID-19 has had on The Stranger here.)
Since the CDC is recommending that all gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled or postponed until after May 10, I'm wondering: Will drag go digital?
It looks like it might be.
A queen in Miami, Karla Croqueta, started the hashtag #DigitalDragShow on Sunday night, taking her gig from the bar to Instagram Live. "I personally collected over $100," she told Time Out Miami. "Other people made $80 to $100 for a five-minute show they did in their living room.”
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Thanks to all who joined in our first ever DIGITAL COUNTER CORNER show !! This was the first show opening the night by @karlacroqueta inspired by #covid_19 🙊🧼👋 wash your hands and stay home and stay safe ! We have more digital shows coming up this week!! Who would you like to see Perform??
Then, last night, the trend got bigger.
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#DIGITALDRAGSHOW 👾 Join us live Friday March 20th at 7pm PST/10pm EST only at twitch.tv/biqtchpuddin for the world’s first Digital Drag Show! Presented by @biqtchpuddin and @videodisease. Featuring the talents of @theonlyalaska5000, @harajukubk, @junobirch, @vandervonodd, @tenderoni88, @kat.sass & more! DJ sėt by @djmateosegade 💕🦇 Hope y’all join įn on the fun but know when it comes to dåy øf shøw we do ask for a 10$ donation (anything you can give) to help us run this show and pay for this incredible lineup of talent. Info on how to pay will be provided dåy of shøw. Tips will also be on screen for each performer via their PayPal/Venmo links. Spread the word and see ya on the 20th!
Biqtch Pudding, the winner of Dragula Season 2, announced she'd organized a massive line-up of major drag performers across the country for an online-only performance. Called Digital Drag, it will air live on Twitch this Friday at 7 p.m. PST. The performance includes two RuPaul's Drag Race queens (Alaska and Rock M Sakura), a bunch of Dragula queens (including the show's two other winners, Vander Von Odd and Landon Cider), and a ton of queens from across the country (notably: Bible Girl, Kandy Muse, and Florida Man). They're asking for a $10 donation but the event is pay-what-you-can. Viewers will be able to tip queens via PayPal or Venmo.
Locally, the trend is starting to catch on. Drag performer Cookie Couture, who hosts RuPaul's Drag Race viewings with Mila Skyy at R Place, is livestreaming an event Wednesday night. She told me she'll be "getting drunk on 7/11 champagne and talking about boys and the collapse of society as we know it." I've heard that some drag casts, like the cast of R Place, are also considering livestreaming their shows. But turning your club into a TV studio doesn't happen overnight.
If we're going to survive this pandemic, we'll need to get creative. Any film crews down to help some queens out?
Are you a local drag performer hosting a livestreamed event? Let me know.