I mean, seriously. Mutherfucker.
Everything was gone. The car had been broken into; they took my suitcase – and everything that I needed for tomorrow night’s show. I felt sick. What fucking crackhead would want a suitcase full of my ho’drobe, makeup and wigs (well, I think we can all agree on this one point – a pretty fucking fabulous crackhead indeed.) Nonetheless, it was like losing a child at the mall, if you like children, which I don’t… but if I did, I’m sure it would hurt deeply. I heard the mantra echo in my head “what is truly yours can never be taken away from you…” but it didn’t change things. My shit was GONE.
My friends and I decided to drive around SOMA to see if there were any tumbleweaves or rhinestoned pantsuits that I might recognize. It was the classic first stage of grieving a loss: denial. We asked some of the homeless people that were milling around, but when I realized how ridiculous it was to ask these people that were living out of carts if they had seen my missing wigs and glitter, I decided I wanted to skip right past all the other steps and get right to acceptance. My shit was gone, let’s skip past all these feelings and just jump our asses right into looking for a solution.
But was this even possible? Could I really get through this without anger, bargaining, or depression? There were things in that bag that held true sentimental value—my “Ho” necklace that I had worn at just about every performance I’d done since moving from NYC to California 5 years ago. I also lost a chic red suit that my hubby had lovingly bought for me, because he said “a powerful ho without a pimp is definitely a BOSS — and bosses sometimes wear suits.” Of course these two things are among the replaceable things in that bag, and, at the end of the day — they are just things, but I definitely was starting to feel it. Sadness. Anger. Despair. The feelings just weren’t happening in the linear fashion described in the Kubler-Ross scale, but are they ever? So in order to deal, I got into action and decided to share what had happened on social media. Little did I know that with the help of my community, this loss would turn into a full blown miracle. I don’t think that I would be able to comprehend the magnitude of this gratitude today if it wasn’t for my journey and my adoption into this community of drag in the first place.
I’m no stranger to asking for help, it’s definitely not my favorite, but in my chosen field you start out working by using favors as a sort of currency. Author Paulo Coehlo refers to it as “the favor bank,” a sort of kindness currency that I see in action all the time in every business, community, and partnership. Of course, when I first started in entertainment I had zero awareness of how things work, I just was ambitious and again—wanted to fast forward through the steps in order to magically arrive at stardom and success!
Patience is indeed a virtue I continue to work on. I had no family in show business, no path laid out for me. I just had the burning desire to express myself in a fabulous and funny way, I never even thought of joining this family of drag queens. I mean, I am a biological woman. Sure, coming from a theater background, I had tons of gay friends, and I loved to go to drag shows, I was for lack of a better term — a fag hag. I have always hated that term, but when a friend actually suggested that I was a female drag queen? I was offended! Don’t you have to be a man in order to be a truly over-the-top woman?
My career started in the underground comedy clubs of New York City, where I was revered as bold, brave, different, theatrical, but definitely still a woman—and definitely not a part of that boys club that continues to exist today. I had my own show at Caroline’s on Broadway pretty early on in my career, and although it was fun to have my name in lights on Broadway, as I had always dreamed that I would, the club was raping me financially. When I found out how much they were making from my show vs. how much I was being paid, I asked for a small raise—and was not only denied, but also for the first time heard laughter in a way that I never want to hear again. Laughter has always been my healer, the best medicine, but in this case it was a weapon, a knife through the heart.
I felt so rejected after that meeting. What was a girl to do? I called one of my best friends, of course, who happens to be gay. He suggested that we go to a gay bar where there was a drag queen rumored to be lip synching my new parody of Oleta Adam’s “Get Here,” now known as the drag classic, “Fuck Me.” Wait. What? Already? I hadn’t even properly released that song, and a drag queen was doing it in her show? I always said that I would know I had made it when I was working on Broadway and the queens started paying homage. It all was happening so quickly, and yet it definitely didn’t feel like I had ‘made it.’ We went to that club, and that night I was asked to interrupt the queen that was ‘doing’ me, and to really sing the song live. I happily obliged, and what happened from that point on was unbelievable. Not only was the response from the audience a deluge of love, but I was offered my own show at that very club—and I got exactly what I asked for in terms of budget. I thought, “who laughing now, Caroline?”
I soon left the comedy scene and focused on delivering my goods to those that appreciated it the most: the queens and the gays. Not that there aren’t straight people that don’t get what I do, or that I don’t still meander over to the comedy club from time to time, but I have just found that there is a shorthand amongst us. I find it comforting.
That was a long time ago when I was just a baby ho. I live in California and I continue to work in gay bars nationally and internationally. I don’t question it – that’s just how it has worked out. My act is one part stand up comedy, one part nasty singing, but the only umbrella I can find to stand underneath that is a catch-all for what I do is: female drag queen. I have been completely embraced by a community that didn’t have to embrace me, and I’m so glad they did.
After that initial rejection by the comedy club—and there have been plenty of rejections since then – there has always been some member of this community who has picked me up and dusted me off. Each time I have fallen, I have been able to get back up because one or more of these people have helped me. I, in turn, have been propelled and I have been able to help others. There is a beautiful chain reaction in helping one another that we don’t always get to see. This was definitely the case with my stolen drag bag.
Within 24 hours I had everything I needed to do a show. Queens in San Francisco like Puta (Jose Guzman Colon) and Becky Motorlodge were throwing wigs and jewelries and tights (and even duct tape for my big ole poon). Since taking my woes to my facebook page, a friend set up a gofundme campaign. In less than 72 hours I had made enough to replace almost all of the contents of my bag. I asked for $2,500, and as of now, I have received $4,000. I don’t take this lightly, and I intend to pay the surplus forward to Hospitality House in San Francisco —an organization that helps the homeless in SF. Maybe they’ll set up a drag fund? I also intend to donate to another gofundme campaign that needs help, to a sister that lost something that cannot be replaced.
Sometimes bad things happen to good hos, and sometimes if we are very, very lucky—they happen just to remind us of how very blessed we are. I am very lucky. I am blessed. I find myself singing the words, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” My friends, I believe that a higher power resides in each of us collectively, and it is our duty to help one another if we can. What truly belongs to me: my job, my art, my friends, the love in my heart – that can truly never be taken away from me. I feel that now – more than I every have. Want to feel better about life? Go out and find someone to help. You’ll never feel better, and you just never know how that person you help might be able to help someone else — and yes, that person could be you. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are. Sometimes we are blind, and have to be made able to see again.
Amazing grace indeed. Gay grace. The best kind.
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