“Drag: Combing Through the Big Wigs of Show Business” by Frank DeCaro— Celebrating Drag

DeCaro, Frank, “Drag: Combing Through the Big Wigs of Show Business”, with a foreword by Bruce Vilanch, Rizzoli, 2019.

Celebrating Drag

Amos Lassen

Frank DeCaro’s “Drag” is a  celebration of the fabulous, current and historical influence of drag and its talented and inspiring performers. We cannot deny the influence that drag plays on our culture and it is fascinating that drag artists have managed to “snatch the crowns as the Queens of mainstream entertainment.”
This is an informative and witty collection of essays that chronicle over 100 years of drag and reading them is like going on a journey through our culture. readers will embark on a Priscilla-like journey through pop culture, “from television shows like “The Milton Berle Show”, “Bosom Buddies”, and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” films like “Some Like It Hot”, “To Wong Foo”…, and “Tootsie”, and Broadway shows like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “La Cage aux Folles”, and “Kinky Boots.”

“Drag includes contributions from today’s most groundbreaking and popular artists, including Bianca del Rio, Miss Coco Peru, Hedda Lettuce, Lypsinka, and Varla Jean Merman, as well as notable performers as Harvey Fierstein and Charles Busch. More than 100 photos–many from performers’ personal collections are included as well as a comprehensive timeline of drag “herstory.”

Frank DeCaro has been a fan of drag since he was three years old and his new book goes into the history of drag, profiling the big names and unsung legends alike who built drag into what it is today.

Modern drag as we know it – more or less – goes back at least to the early 20th Century. The performer, Julian Eltinge, the considered grandmother of drag, had a Broadway theater named after him in 1912. He was a star of high-profile stage shows, early Hollywood movies, and he even had his own lifestyle magazine for women. Then there was what they used to call “the smart set ”,  those who always sought out drag entertainment. “It wasn’t truly mainstream the way it is today, and yet, it kind of was. It was a way to take a walk on the wild side, but not too wild, and people did.”

This book was written for younger people and anyone who thinks drag began with season one of “Drag Race”. DeCaro says that he wanted these kids to “know how long the tradition of crossdressing in show business truly is. It’s very rich and so worth diving into. The genuinely brilliant queens of today – from Mama Ru on down – know the “herstory” of drag. They can quote Divine and Flip Wilson’s drag character, Geraldine, sing Sylvester songs, and dance the Time Warp like the best “Sweet Transvestite.” One of the reviews of the book said, “Drag” is a history lesson for some and a walk down memory lane for others.”

 An audio companion from Audible is coming in late May  and Lady Bunny co-narrates it with DeCaro.  

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