Hail to the kings

That time-honored tradition, the SF Drag King Contest, dons a handlebar mustache for the 16th year in a row

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Fudgie Frottage, the Indra, and canine pal LolaBean ride in search of drag king talent
PHOTO BY RUBY RIEKE

It's that time of year, y'all: the 16th annual San Francisco Drag King Contest is here to shake up midsummer with its proud "cavalcade of sex, drag, and rock n' roll," per its saucy press release. Drag kings are less frequently in the spotlight than their queenly counterparts, but the two groups coexist harmoniously — former Miss Trannyshack and San Francisco Supervisor candidate Anna Conda is among the 2011 event's judges.

Since raising one's glamour quotient to Anna Conda levels likely ain't easy, it seems certain that winning the coveted prize of top Drag King would also require more than throwing on a suit and drawing on a moustache. I went to the source, event producer and co-emcee Fudgie Frottage (also known as Lu Read), to find out more.

SFBG San Francisco has a long history of drag kings — can you talk a little about that and also about how you got your start performing?

Fudgie Frottage The term "drag king" didn't really pop up here until the '90s, when Leigh Crow was doing her Elvis Herselvis character. But prior to that, there were definitely women who were doing drag king performances. Moby Dick, who had been out here, went back to New York and started Club Casanova, and that brought a lot of publicity to the whole drag king phenomenon. I've been performing since I was in kindergarten — for show and tell, the teacher made me sing. When I first moved to San Francisco in the '70s, I was in a few different bands. When Trannyshack was in its heyday, I came up with a "faux-queen" character, and Fudgie came after that. But I was doing my club DragStrip back in '95, before TrannyShack started. I was mostly just producing at first, and then I kind of jumped back on the stage.

SFBG What are the important qualities a drag king must have?

FF Sense of humor. Stage presence!

SFBG How do performers come up with their stage names and personas?

FF I'm not really sure! Sometimes they're suggested by other people. Other times it's just a brainstorm. For me, the name comes first, before the actuality of getting up there and doing something. It's just part of the creative process. It's an art form, just like you just can't ask a painter why they did this particular painting. It's just what's inside of each person.

SFBG Do many performers sing live?  

FF Everything happens! There's been live singers, and bands, and lip-sync, of course. Sometimes there's dancing. There was a juggler a few years back. That was pretty entertaining.

SFBG Looking at the list of special guests for 2011, including bands like Black Flag cover band Black Fag, it's clear the contest is full-on extravaganza. What can audiences expect?

FF [In addition to Black Fag], we've got some performers [like D.R.E.D.] from New York and some locals — this is the first year [rapper] JenRO will perform with us. But we have burlesque chanteuse the Indra, we've got Leigh Crow coming back. It's a huge show, and it's really, really fun. There's definitely a little bit of everything involved in it. In the press release, I say it's a mash-up of a monster truck show, the Miss America pageant, American Idol, and the Westminster Dog Show, since our theme is "Doggone Sweet 16." I think sometimes people might be put off by something called a drag king contest, because they're like, "What is that?" Some people don't even realize that there are drag kings. But we're just a big, huge variety show, where everybody's out to have a really good time. And there is amazing talent.

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