RuPaul’s Drag Race is as much about the series itself as it is about the ways in which queer viewers relate to it. Or at least it is for me. 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 second episode of season eight at Metropolitan, located at 559 Lorimer St off the Lorimer L.
Even with the revelations of Jackie Fuchs’ abuse, the Runaways’ music still feels like home. And yet, I found myself at odds with my surroundings when I first entered Metropolitan. “Cherry Bomb” blared as I sat under the red overhead lights, but I almost immediately found myself in a corner, alternately checking Twitter and turning off my phone to conserve battery to take notes for this write-up. This bar used to be my place, but now I don’t drink to obliterate; now I don’t go home with someone just because they shower me with the slightest amount of attention; now I’m not me at 22. I got some air, got some spearmint gum from Bagelsmith, and came back in just in time to catch Thorgy Thor’s first bit of hosting.
Hold for applause. And shouts. And woos. And screams.
“…Thor, and I’m drinking whiskey. And it’s good to be back in motherfucking Brooklyn.”
As good of a time as I had watching the RuPaul’s Drag Race season eight premiere at Flowers for All Occasions last week, watching “this crappy second episode” live with a member of the season eight cast lent itself to a totally different level of entertainment. Sure, this marked the first time I have ever, in my seven years of going to Metropolitan, had to pay a cover to get in; not even when they filmed The Real L Word on some Wednesday dyke night (R.I.P.) in 2010 did I have to pay a cover to get in. But the five dollars was worth it, as Thorgy spent the commercial breaks during last night’s 90-minute “queen-size” episode spilling “the motherfucking T” — short of breaking her non-disclosure agreement with Logo, that is. Plus, I got a free shot of whiskey with the cover. But back to Thorgy’s confessions.
Here are some of the highlights of what Thorgy, dressed in her red velvet gown from the premiere, told the mostly cis, mostly white, predominantly male, frequently bearded, often bespectacled, very much Kim Chi/Thorgy/Bob the Drag Queen-leaning crowd assembled at Metropolitan the night of March 14. After fan favorite Kim Chi revealed that she’s still a virgin, Thorgy’s friends started blowing up her phone with texts about how they’d “fuck the shit out of her”–so, Thorgy says she gave at least three of them Kim Chi’s number. Robbie Turner told the other queens that she paid $40,000 for her red Vera Wang gown. (That’s, like, four years at Bridgewater State!) Speaking of Massachusetts, Thorgy wondered if she expressed “enough how much I wanna sleep with Laila” McQueen. (Same.) Kim thought she fucked up the “Bitch Perfect” mainstage challenge, so she switched her runway ensemble at the last minute to something more glamorous that she had been saving for a later week. And finally, producers literally put duct tape over the contestants hotel doors so that they know if the queens sneak out or have people over sans permission. Thorgy said that this policy was instituted after Willam broke the rules during season four.
Thorgy’s demeanor while hosting was exuberantly cheerful, yet thoroughly shady just below the surface. Instead of saying declaratively negative like “Dax ExclamationPoint did a lackluster job during this challenge” or “Laila McQueen’s probably going home tonight,” Thorgy would ask the audience to answer those questions for her: “So, do we think Dax is going home tonight? Do we think Laila’s lip-synching?” Instead of flat-out telling attendees that she thinks Naomi Smalls is “a fucking bitch or what,” Thorgy asked the crowd, “Is she a fucking bitch or what? But she’s incredible! She’s a supermodel! She’s one of my favorite people! You will see.” Which just begs the question…what will we see? Will these two square off in a later episode?
In a somewhat shocking double elimination, both Laila and Dax were sent home. I, too, went home–but not before I watched some local drag talent take the stage as a part of Metropolitan’s weekly Monday night “HOT FRUIT” lineup, hosted by Will Sheridan. Glam or Stephanie flung hunks of deli ham hidden in her panties to Ashlee Simpson’s “Pieces of Me” (complete with an unintentionally Ashlee-esque backing track fuck-up). Lady Havokk made tipping super easy by lip-synching Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” while holding a cardboard sign that read “GIVE ME A DOLLAR OR I’M VOTING FOR TRUMP.” Wiley Gaby played a couple of Goldenchild tracks live on the acoustic guitar, after opening with a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” But the standout of the night was Kelsey Dagger, who mashed up live audio of Hillary Clinton–from “bring them to heel” to Ronald and Nancy Reagan “started a national conversation” about HIV and AIDS–with Babes in Toyland’s “Bluebell” while wearing a coral pantsuit. I screamed. I died. It was better than The Holiday.
Maybe that’s why I didn’t get so hung up on the problematic “spicy Latina” mini-challenge that opened the episode. Maybe that’s why I didn’t cringe so hard at the occasional audience member yelling their most tryhard and affected “ALL T ALL SHADE” at moments in the episode where the interjection made literally zero sense. Maybe that’s why I didn’t grump my way out the door when a quartet of white male dancers, not in drag, tried to command the dance floor when Beyoncé’s affirmational black womanhood anthem, “Formation,” came blasting through the DJ booth. An environment can feel welcoming, even when it’s not perfect.