Today in LGBT History: Photo Retrospective on 80s NYC Drag Scene

Website Queerty brings our attention to an article by Linda Simpson and her retrospective on the 80s and early 90s drag culture in New York City. From her article:

Throughout my draggy adventures I happened to carry around a camera, which was not a common thing to do back then. My photos were simply for fun, and it was only recently that I began to fully appreciate my fabulous time capsule — vivid and intimate portraits of the most colorful characters of their day as they joyfully pushed the boundaries of gender expression.

photo credit Linda Simpson

You’re excused if you don’t immediately recognize famed drag performer Lady Bunny. The photo is from 1986, years before she adopted her signature jumbo-size hairdos.

The event was Wigstock, featuring Bunny hosting a marathon variety show in the crumbling bandshell of Tompkins Square Park. Only two years old, the daytime festival was already the East Village’s premiere drag event — a showcase for a newfangled sensibility that had been brewing in the neighborhood since the early 1980s.

The East Village’s drag community back then was very unique. Anywhere else, drag was pretty stale — old queens in boas grandly impersonating old divas. In contrast, East Village gender-bending was a hoot — punky, ironic and very kooky. The emphasis was on thrift-store outfits, cheap wigs, and letting your own personality shine bright.

As you can tell from the photo, Wigstock’s early years were not exactly crowded. The few hundred people that showed up were those in the know, thrilled to be part of an exciting and creative wiggy new scene. I was still getting to know the East Village, and as a male! I moved to the neighborhood the following year, and Linda Simpson was born soon after.

Fast forward to Wigstock two years later in 1988. It was an upbeat day during dark times.

See the drag photo exhibit including a photo of a young glamazon who now-a-days helps mentor young queens via her TV reality show.

See the original article

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