Today in LGBT History: Mystery Drag Ball circa 1960s Kansas City

photo credit: Jack via

Do you know these gals at left? If so, you may hold a key to an important part of drag culture history.

As reported by and New York Magazine’s ‘The Cut’, artist Robert Heishman was rummaging around a Kasnas City salvage yard when he stumbled upon a piece of Kansas City’s Drag History:

“The first image I looked at was this picture of a man in a kimono that was incredibly colorful — it was just a stunning image to behold,” Heishman told the Cut. “There were family photos, and then I hit this line of images that were all people dressed in drag, predominantly standing in front of this beautiful mosaic outside a bar.” Intrigued, Heishman purchased the slides — for $2.

The slides weren’t the only ones from the same time period and, possibly, the same party. A few years later, Heishman’s friend Michael Boles came across a shoebox of similar slides when helping a friend move into a new house:

“When we got them together and paired them up, it was kind of amazing,” Boles reflects. “Some of them are even from the same parties.” The resulting collection — titled “Private Birthday Party,” after the signs that used to appear on club doors when drag balls were taking place — includes over 200 images and provides a vivid glimpse of Kansas City’s early drag-ball culture.

Now, Heishman, Boles and Emily Henson are on a quest to find out more about the photographer, the subjects and the history behind these photos. From New York Magazine’s ‘The Cut:’

What else have you been able to find out about the images?

Boles: We are still in the process of this, to be honest. We’ve identified some of the performers with help from Stuart Hinds of GLAMA (Gay and Lesbian Archives of Mid-America, UMKC), but we still haven’t met with anyone in any of the photographs. We’re looking to find them, and interview them, and really further that part of the project, but so far we haven’t come across a lot … Because they’re so old, a lot of these people, unfortunately, have passed.

See more of the photos at the Private Birthday Party website

If you have any information or background about the images or are even one of the people in them, contact Michael Boles. Preserving our history is an important part of telling our story.

See the original post

Read The Cut interview with Heishman, Boles and Henson

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One Response to Today in LGBT History: Mystery Drag Ball circa 1960s Kansas City

  1. Thank you for posting, Patrick! We greatly appreciate it. Love, Private Birthday Party

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