RuPaul’s Drag Race is as much about the series itself as it is about the ways in which queer viewers relate to it. That’s why I wanted to cover the eighth season of Logo’s annual drag queen competition program with a series of posts written based on my experiences watching each episode at a different bar in Brooklyn (and who knows, maybe even other boroughs). Expect each installment to be part TV recap, part bar review, and part introspective, navel-gazey queer feelings to help you, the reader, figure out which bars you might want to watch the show at going forward—make sense?
This week, I watched the season eight premiere at Flowers for All Occasions, located at 1114 Dekalb Ave off the Kosciuszko J.
I wanted the Hidden Crush Cabernet, but they were out. So I got the Trapiche Malbec. It was spicy and peppery—at least that’s what the menu said. In any case, my crush remained hidden, and the placebo effect, very much real. Then again, were I actually concerned about a potential crush coming out of hiding, I probably would not have cracked open my copy of Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse while waiting for Flowers for All Occasions’ RuPaul’s Drag Race season premiere viewing party to begin. Nor should I have followed that up with 44 minutes of Cracking The GRE prep, complete with Princeton Review-recommended scratch paper by my side.
But, who cares—the Malbec was delicious. I had two glasses, which I paired with the establishment’s black bean burger. Sure, the burger was a little burnt, but it was notably smoky in flavor—a palette that’s somewhat difficult to affect in a non-meat patty. Just ask my ex-boyfriend. He used to season the veggie burgers he’d make for us with Goya brand chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. And now he’s dead. Just kidding, he lives by the Navy Yard. And I’m reading Andrea Dworkin at a fucking bar.
To say that I wandered into Flowers for All Occasions’ Drag Race viewing party with reservations would be an understatement. The longer I’ve lived in New York, the less I trust male homosocial spaces. Gay bars, in particular. Too often, do I leave these spaces with a rotten taste in my mouth, uncomfortable with the overarching sentiment of anti-femmeness, if not outright misogyny, that pervades these environs. But therein lied my fault: Flowers for All Occasions is not a gay space but a queer one, and it was quite simply wrong of me to assume gay male homosociality of a venue airing the season eight premiere of Logo’s flagship series. True, there were tons of gay men present–including season seven runner-up Pearl, out of drag–but there were also women, trans people, nonbinary people, and drag queens. (Sidenote: The lone restroom is gender-neutral. See, it’s not that hard!) And you’d better believe that this diverse group of (albeit predominantly white) fellow viewers impacted my enjoyment of the night’s proceedings for the better.
In the past, fatphobic and racially problematic audience commentary have tainted my Drag Race bar viewings, but this did not end up being the case on Monday night. For once, I found myself agreeing with nearly every “YAAAAAS,” “WOOOO,” and shadily forced silence I overheard during Drag Race’s season eight premiere—the one-hundredth episode of the series thus far, which saw 12 new contestants recreate past seasons’ sewing challenges in the hopes of becoming America’s next drag superstar. I say “nearly,” because I heard at least one “YAAAS” for Derrick Barry—a professional Britney Spears impersonator who is, in my opinion, the emperor has no clothes of drag. I mean, how can you call yourself a Britney impersonator if you can’t manage an eight count? Unless Derrick’s career is some kind of BeyHive long-con… but I digress.
Those gathered at Flowers for All Occasions cheered the loudest for Kim Chi, Bob the Drag Queen, and Brooklyn hometown hero Thorgy Thor, while Robbie Turner received the most consistently negative reactions from the crowd. (Co-host Tyler Ashley, the Dauphine of Bushwick, dubbed her “the trauma from Seattle.”) I’m still not sure what Robbie did to deserve so much scorn, but perhaps I’m just out of the transnational drag gossip loop. Regardless, Robbie fans might want to steer clear of this place on Monday nights. As should strictly vodka soda queens, since Flowers for All Occasions can only serve beer, wine, and soju due to some kind of weird law about it being located next to a church—although I will attest to the fact that the “tequila” shots I downed tasted exactly like actual tequila, not in quotes.
What more is there to say, except that I had a really good time watching RuPaul’s Drag Race at Flowers for All Occasions? Oh yeah, and that contestant Naysha Lopez was eliminated after lip-synching against imperfectly stormy Gloucester babe Laila McQueen. No one at the bar was mean, no one at the bar was dumb, and no one at the bar was mean in a dumb way—something that often happens when Drag Race fans attempt to mirror the shady banter they hear on the show before first learning how to verbally crawl.
Speaking of banter, co-hosts Merrie Cherry and Tyler Ashley’s commentary throughout was hilariously biting, and their post-premiere performances were equal parts energetic and riveting. Merrie Cherry lip-shrieked along to a twistedly altered take on Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” while Tyler Ashley stuck to a standard, though no less dramatic, rendition of Céline Dion’s “To Love You More.” Brooklyn drag queen Patti Spliff also performed what I believe was k.d. lang’s version of “Skylark.”
My only regret is that I hit this place up first, for who knows what kind of masc gay space Andrea, Cracking The GRE, and I will have to watch Drag Race at for the next dozen or so weeks.