SLAYING A DRAG-A-THON
The true, chaotic story of an attempt to break the world record for the longest drag show ever. A 5-episode sidecast of the We Can't Print This podcast featuring RuPaul’s Drag Race alums Peppermint, Eureka O’Hara, and LaLa Ri. Plus Frankie Grande, Fred Armisen, Cameron Esposito, Punkie Johnson, Paula Pell, and more.
Photo by Holly Andres
Episode 1:What if We Break a World Record?
Two friends, who had never produced a drag show before, decide to meet the drag bans and anti LGBTQ+ laws with joy by attempting to put on the longest drag show ever in Portland, Oregon. And where else would it be held but at the country’s longest running drag cabaret helmed by Guinness World Record holder Darcelle XV, aka the oldest working drag queen in the world.
Featuring Darcelle XV, Poison Waters, RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Peppermint, Wildfang CEO Emma Mcilroy,
stand up comedian Cameron Esposito, the Trevor Project’s Vaughn Frisby, and more.
Episode 1 transcripts
Producers Eden Dawn and Emma Mcilroy get cozy on the onstage heels at Darcelle's.
Emma Mcilroy 00:00
Welcome to Drag-a-Thon. I'm Emma Mcilroy. I'm the CEO of Wildfang
Eden Dawn 00:10
My name is Eden Dawn. I am the host of the We Can’t Print This podcast and a silly little gal about town. We are thrilled to kick off an official Guinness World Record attempt for the longest drag show in history. Now, Emma, how the hell did we get here?
Eden Dawn 00:37
This is Slaying a Drag-a-Thon, the true chaotic story of our attempt to break the world record for the longest-running drag show in history. As you just heard, I am Eden Dawn, one of the show's producers, and it all started with this:
Eden Dawn. This is Emma Mcilroy. I have a slightly bonkers kind of insane idea that I want to pitch you and see if you want to do it with me. So, call me back. Yay!
Little introduction here. Emma is the founder and CEO of gender nonconforming apparel brand Wildfang. You might know them for their cult-like following for their coveralls, their Wild Feminist shirts, or maybe you’ve seen their stuff on some of their fans. I don't know…Janelle Monae, Hillary Clinton, Megan Rapinoe, and so many more. Emma is somebody who takes big swings. So when she says she's got a bonkers idea, I'm sure it is. And I call her right back.
Okay, here's my thoughts. As you know, there are a lot of really upsetting drag brands happening all across America, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and I think we're gonna see a wave of them. And they not only target the drug community, but they they target the queer community, the trans community, I think particularly the trans community.
News Clip Montage
The Texas Supreme Court upheld a new law that bans all gender affirming care for trans youth.
Tennessee has become the first state to restrict drag shows.
Montana is now the first state to ban people dressed in drag from reading books to children at public venues.
More than 450 Anti LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year.
Emma Mcilroy 02:27
I'm trying to think of how we do something in reaction to that. And I think the bands are filled with here. So my thought is what if we meet that hit with joy? And I started speaking to the folks that the Guinness Book of World Records and hear me out before you say no.
Emma and I met back in 2012, when Wildfang was opening in Portland and I was the only fashion editor in town. She aggressively hit me up to go for drinks and pitch her new brands. I liked her immediately. And in the decades since we've become close friends who enjoy a shenanigan together. So yeah, I had to hear out. Also for the record, meeting hate with joy is a pretty persuasive mission statement.
Darcelle (center) taking a bow with her cast of queens circa 2017.
Darcelle in her signature assless chaps performing to Rhinstone Cowboy.
Johnny Nuriel poses with a Darcelle portrait between Drag-a-Thon numbers.
Nicole Onoscopi was one of a handful of performers who upped the ante by singing live.
Poison Waters backstage at Darcelle's sitting at her vanity.
So the world's longest drag show ever was done by a group in Melbourne. And it was 36 hours and 36 minutes, I want to say and so I thought what if we host a 48-hour continuous drug show? We break the world record. So when I think about the idea and the sheer amount of work and insanity behind it, I think…who do I want to help me with this? I need an experienced event producer who's a dear friend, and who also knows more about Drag than anyone else on the planet.
I do love drag. I first heard RuPaul’s “Supermodel of the World” back in 1994 when I was a kid living in the Oregon countryside. I would sashay our apple orchard runway with my goat name Lipstick and my horse named Cher to that song and dream of one day having a fancy life. I've been addicted to RuPaul’s Drag Race since the second it came out and seen every episode over and over and over and been to more live drag shows than I could possibly ever count. I am a straight woman, but the drag community has always inspired me to chase glamour, to put on sparkles, and to take up space. And I think I owe a lot of who I am to drag queens.
And my thought is, I can probably tap into local businesses and high net worth individuals to sponsor each of those 40 hours. If I can get 5k for each of those hours. That's at least $240,000 for queer and trans youth who are meeting this shit head on right.
And with that I was fully committed despite the fact the two of us had never produced a drag show of any kind. We decided to try to raise $250,000 for the Trevor Project. Emma will tell you as a queer founder how hard it is to see companies rainbow washing, selling their pride merch without ever stepping up in any way for the community. So Wildfang agreed to foot the entire cost of the event. Trevor Project is a nonprofit that has been supporting queer youth with a round-the-clock crisis hotline for 25 years. And that hotline has seen a massive uptick in calls this year in the wake of all of the anti LGBTQ legislation.
Every day thousands of LGBTQ+ young people reach out to the Trevor Project and look for affirmation support and someone to listen to them and their time of need.
Eden Dawn 05:48
That's Vaugh Frisby, senior philanthropy officer at the Trevor Project,
We estimate that there are about 1.8 million LGBTQ young people who consider suicide each year in the US alone. We can't be there for all of them, unfortunately. But we also know that one affirming adult and the life of an LGBTQ young person lowers their risk of suicide by 40%.
Eden Dawn 06:11
For kids who don't have an adult, The Trevor Project is a lifeline currently handling 1800 crisis calls per day. The fact that this wild record attempt could help support those kids made us all the more determined to put on a glorious show, one that is chock full of drag queens who are at the front line of many of these attacks. With that being the case, there was only one possible place to hold this event. Portland's historic Darcelle XV Showplace.
If you've never been there, I want to paint a picture for you. Imagine a dark room straight out of a David Lynch movie. Red velvet curtains, decades-old smoke somehow still lingers in the air. Every inch of the walls are crowded with old newspaper clippings and pictures of drag pageant winners through the ages. There's a tiny bar serving cocktails and fishnet stockings leg cups, and an L-shaped stage with bright lights over it spelling Darcelle and loopy cursive. This is Her club, and has been for more than 50 years.
I'm Darcelle XV. I have a cabaret show in Old Town, called Darcelle XV.
Eden Dawn 07:25
Walter Cole was born November 16 1930 In Linton Oregon, which is historically known as a lumber mill town. He married his high school sweetheart Jeanette, served two years abroad in the army and had a son and a daughter before opening a small cafe in downtown Portland, with the very first espresso machine north of San Francisco. In 1967, two years before the Stonewall uprising, he bought Demas Tavern in Portland's Old Town neighborhood, which became a popular lesbian bar featuring female impersonators. He'd secretly fallen in love with the dancer Roxy Neuhardt, prompting him to come out to his wife and children. It was Roxy who put Walter into drag for the very first time at age 37, bringing the iconic drag queen Darcelle to life. Demas became Darcelle XV Showplace which is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is the longest-running cabaret in the country. Darcelle performed there every weekend for decades in her signature bejeweled assless chaps to Rhinestone Cowboy. Back in 2015, I asked her the question many Portlanders feared: Will you ever retire?
No, I have no intent to retire. Why retire when you're doing something that keeps you young, keeps you going, keeps you involved, keeps your mind going? And besides, I'm only 85.
Eden Dawn 09:07
The next year she snagged the Guinness World Record for the Oldest Working Drag Queen. So we decided to double down on all that good Guinness luck and try to establish our record there too. And we knew we couldn't put on a show at Darcelle XV Showplace without Poison, who had been at Darcelle’s side for more than 30 years.
Poison Waters 09:26
Hey, everyone, it's me Poison Waters. The cohost at the Darcelle XV and Company, the oldest drag club in the entire world.
Eden Dawn 09:33
Poison grew up in Portland in the 1980s. She had never seen or heard of a drag queen until she discovered the city's underground LGBTQ club scene.
Poison Waters 09:43
I went to The City nightclub. And they would have drag shows every Friday and Saturday and they were at midnight and they were so boring. And they were so dumb because I went the club to dance. It was the music of the late 80s! You know, I want to be dancing with my friends. So I always thought they were boring. Well, then one day they said oh, we have a special guest from Darcelle’s and the Embers and the curtain opened, and it was four of the most beautiful black women drag queens in sequins and rhinestones and feathers. And I was like, like, now I get it, that's drag.
Eden Dawn 10:14
Two of those queens, Rosie and Misty Waters became Poison’s drag mother and drag grandmother, mentoring her as Poison took her first steps towards becoming a queen.
Poison Waters 10:25
I remember very clearly the first day I ever met Darcelle, I ever heard the name, I ever saw the person, it was all in the same moment. So at the end of 1988, when I first started doing drag is when I won the title of Rosebud. How cute is that for the drag queen title for the teenage drag queen of the year type situation. And at the end, you know, when they give you the crown and all that stuff, they bring in the dignitaries to preside over the crowning ceremony and they're like and here comes Darcelle and literally threw the spotlight in the smoke because everybody could smoke in the clubs back then, is this giant white wig and all this sparkle. And you know, she said what she had to say for the ceremony. And then she just looked at me and said and most of all have fun. And I always remember that because she always would tell me that remember to have fun.
Eden Dawn 11:10
When we started to plan this show in March Darcelle was 92 and still working at the club every weekend with Poison as co-host. She was moving a little slower but still hitting the stage in those same assless chaps. We officially booked the club for Drag-a-Thon and got to work. And then we got the news.
The sad announcement tonight Portland legend Walter Cole, better known as Darcelle XV has passed away at the age of 92.
Eden Dawn 11:37
Portland was devastated. The whole city mourned as did the nation. The New York Times ran a full-page obituary, CNN, People, NPR, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, everyone marked her passing. On April 25, thousands of her friends family and fans came together at a public celebration of her life in downtown Portland, including appearances from two governors the Portland Gay Men's Chorus, the Mayor, Jinkx Monsoon, and many other members of drag royalty.
Queen Mother I of the Americas, Empress Nicole the Great
Darcelle lived through the 1950s homosexual witch hunt of Senator Joe McCarthy. That Darcelle lived through and survived the 1960s where with just a stroke of a pen and the signature of a judge or your parents, homosexuals were sent to state hospitals as perverts and many were subjected to electric shock treatment and lobotomies never to return the same.
Eden Dawn 12:43
That was Darcelle’s lifelong friend with the best title you've ever heard: Queen Mother I of the Americas, Empress Nicole the Great of the International Court System. She reminded us all of what our late Queen had lived through.
Darcelle posing for a photo outside a drag pagent show.
Mcilroy and Dawn kicking off the 48 hour event.
Cameron Esposito and Punkie Johnson trying out new looks for their onstage appearance.
Poison Waters and RuPaul's Drag Race season 9 queen, Peppermint posing pretty.
Queen Mother I of the Americas, Empress Nicole the Great
Walter Cole lived through those times in the 1970s when Anita Bryant launched her national, anti-LGBT campaign, Save Our Children. Darcelle survived the 1980s and the anti-LGBTQ campaigns of the likes of Jerry Falwell, and became a leader in those early dark years of AIDS when we were all alone.
Eden Dawn 13:27
I was one of the thousands of people in attendance that night at the very packed Arlene Schnitzer concert hall. The feeling all around me was of people being so full of love, but also unmoored because Darcelle had weathered all of this for so many years with such lightness and joy. And we looked to her for stability and guidance. All of a sudden, our queen was gone, and the attacks were still coming.
Queen Mother I of the Americas, Empress Nicole the Great
When Darcelle and I last talked. We talked about the changes in America and the renewed campaigns and crusades against our communities. The attacks on our transgender community and trans children and of course, drag queen story our in our drag queen community. For indeed of war has been launched on our LGBTQ community. And I say to you this evening, if you really want to honor Darcelle and her legacy, you must all become activists and vote at our next election.
Eden Dawn 14:36
We made all the plans for Drag-a-Thon based on being at Darcelle’s with our reigning world record holder part of the show. It felt strange to be moving forward without her. I saw Poison crying on stage. a roomful of people morning and I was as well. Was this even the right thing to do? And then Sharon Knorr, coauthor of Just Call Me Darcelle took to the stage.
you want to know how much Darcelle gave to his family, his friends, his community to the world, just look around you. And I'd like to say one more thing. It's kind of a war cry that we performers use. When Roxy died, as you heard, Darcelle went did a show. When Darcelle died. The club didn't close. They did the shows. No matter what happens, no matter how bad it is. The show must go on. Let's say it together, the show must go on. The show must go on.
And Walter and Roxy, you better believe that it still is. Thank you.
Eden Dawn 15:46
And then we knew the show must go on. For her.
What do you think Eden? I've explained the rules, should we kick it off?
Eden Dawn 15:55
Almost. So we found ourselves on stage at Darcelle’s on July 10 2023, starting the clock on a new world record hoping to do her proud.
As most of you know, Darcelle was a Guinness World Record herself as the World's Oldest Working Drag Queen. Yes, until she passed in March at the age of 92. But I am very pleased to say that before she did Darcelle knew about this event and gave us her blessing. So she is for sure here with us tonight. Yeah. And I think that you know, as somebody who's been coming here for 20 years, I use skincare I look good. I've been coming over 20 years and I can say that the thing about this place and Darcellel—who let me interview her and spend so much time with her—she truly made everybody feel loved and seen in that community and supporting each other was the most important thing in the world. And I think that we are continuing her legacy here tonight and it was the only place we could do it and I'm just so happy.
Hell yes. All right. Are all of my official clock timers ready? Ashod? Chloe? Is all about we have more than one clock because one of y'all might pull this out. So we have multiple clocks. Has everybody got the clocks ready? We are ready. I'm getting thumbs up from the back and Ashod. I gotta Yep, from the back. Please can I get a count done? Let's
Eden Dawn 17:24
do this. Let's start at 10987654321
With a song from the 1980s Dolly Parton musical Best Little Whorehouse in Texas blasting out cane Darcelle XV’s cast: Alexis Campbell Star, Cassie Nova, Summer Lynn Seasons, Bebe Jay, BinkYee Bellflower, and of course, Poison Waters, all swathed in coordinating sequined gowns and feather boas.
The tiny walk-in closet size backstage area, which includes an open trapdoor down to the basement dressing rooms that we are all actively trying not to fall into, had turned into the sweaty, raucous, airless party of the year. Emma and I are squished in the corner holding onto our clipboards for dear life dictating the runner show.
Can you tell them we had a new audience we have to remind these rascals to not throw money on the stage they put it in the crystal ball or people are gonna fall.
The next round of queens have come on board including Donatella Nobody, Henny, and performing duo slash husbands Isaiah Esquire and Johnny Nuriel who perform as iZohnny. Here's the sweet surprise bonus to being cramped into a tiny hot space. With adrenaline running through your veins. People started forming friendships fast, like the first day of summer camp.
Punkie, we’ve never been onstage together but
Eden Dawn 19:04
We teamed up comedian Cameron Esposito with Saturday Night Live’s Punkie Johnson for an emcee shift. An hour ago they had never met and now they've nabbed two giant bouffant wigs from the Darcelle’s cast that, speaking of Dolly Parton, would make Dolly very, very proud.
I was just saying to you backstage, this is how I looked in every school picture for all of grade school, but also like truly wearing this outfit. And then my hair looked like this and then I also would have like a kerchief on because I looked like I was either a flight attendant or, you guessed it, homosexual. But I've never been a flight attendant.
Eden Dawn 19:47
Our emcees had many jobs to help us stay on track, but the main thing we needed from them was to hype the crowds up. This was when we had slotted our first big surprise of the night, a beloved RuPaul’s Drag Race alum, season nine runner up, Peppermint. But the night before when Emma myself and our third producer, Wildfang’s Chloe Roach were eyeballs deep in run-of-show of spreadsheets and other various drama, we got a call to say Peppermints flight from New York was canceled. Thank you surprise July hailstorm.
Okay, so stop everything else you're doing. You both need to work on this immediately I'm grabbing this burger and literally going to run back. Peppermint’s flight got canceled. So, Chloe, I need you to fucking phone Delta. See what options they have on the table? Like, is there a first class with this stop or whatever it is, and I need you to go to every other airline that flies from that airport to Portland. We all need to find options in the next 30 minutes.
Chloe Emma and I were utterly swamped dealing with sick performers, ticketing, software malfunctions, and chasing after some queens and kings who still had not turned in their song choices. But we had to drop everything and hit the phones looking at every flight possible. We quickly began to lose hope.
I don't see away with the storm and nothing leaving
This was not a great moment for team morale. The three of us had been pulling 18-hour days at this point for days in a row problem solving every waking minute. And now our first night's headliner might not make it. Two hours and a million phone calls later. We got her on a new flight in the morning, but not in time for her original slot. Which meant we had to rearrange our whole run of show the night before yet again.
But our glamourpuss Peppermint arrived just 30 minutes before she was due on stage as sweet as can be sparkling in sequins and ready to blow the audience away. I'll let Cameron do the honors.
I don't want you to wait. Even another moment for who is coming to the stage. You're gonna You are gonna lose your minds when you hear because it is that queen that you know and love from RuPaul’s Drag Race, the one the only Peppermint.
Eden Dawn 22:24
Next time on Slaying a Drag-a-Thon
Hi, everybody. I'm Peppermint. How you doing?
You know, I'm always very clear that marathon attempts are not the ones you want to do. There's a switch that happens in every marathon attempt where you say oh no, this was not a good idea.
Eden Dawn 22:42
How am I gonna do this for 40 fuckin six more hours.
Slaying a Drag-a-Thon is a side cast of the We Can't Print This podcast co-written and co-produced by Fiona McCann and me, Eden Dawn. Follow us on socials @ wecantprintthis this to see more behind-the-scenes video and images from the show. And check out our website wecantprintthis.com for transcripts and extras. You can support us on firstname.lastname@example.org/wecantprintthis. Our audio producer and editor is Owen Agnew. Thank you to Ashod Simonian for his artwork. Thank you to Desert Island Studio productions and Creative Calibrations AV teams for their assistance in the live show recording. Thank you to Emma Mcilroy and Poison Waters for all of their time and willingness to be recorded 24/7. Thank you to all of the queens and kings from Drag-a-Thon for letting us capture their art. And a special thank you to Darcelle and Roxy who stayed together for 47 years. They made space for all of this and for everyone.
Photo by Holly Andres
Episode 2: people backstage are having a panic attack
We take on the long list of very strict and very tedious Guinness World Record rules, cast 60 drag performers and 63 emcees for 783 stage changes, kick off an epic spreadsheet battle for songs, discover the meaning of “drag time,” enlist Broadway star Frankie Grande to put the audience to work, devise a list of Hail Mary backup songs, and discover that marathon record attempts are a really, really bad idea.
Featuring RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Peppermint, Frankie Grande, Guinness adjudicator Michael Empiric, many committed and costumed audience members, comedian Fred Armisen, Guinness world record holder Anthony Wallace, Poison Waters, Pluto the bearded queen on the scene, and more.
Episode 2 transcripts
Producer Chloe Roach, emcee Beach Pace,
stellar queen Peppermint, HBIC Emma Mcilroy,
comedian Cameron Esposito
Dolla in My Titty official video
I'm gonna rain on me. What's your money. Put a dolla in my titty.
Eden Dawn 00:00
We're 23 hours in and we've had a high with RuPaul’s Drag Race alum, the one and only Peppermint.
I'm Eden Dawn, and this is Slaying a Drag-a-Thon, the true chaotic story of our attempt to break the world record for the longest-running drag show ever. Peppermint was one of our headlining queens and it was a huge get that required moving mountains. And as you can tell by the crowd's reaction, it was worth it. She came out singing her own track, “Dolla in my Titty,” while wearing sparkly pasties under a see-through black mesh catsuit with a plunging neckline.
I love drag. I think drag is healing drag is freedom. Drag is freeing and drag is under attack. And so we wanted to make sure I mean, I wanted to make sure that I was a part of this historic moment. And I think that you all are doing it as a love letter to the drag community. It's also a love letter to the LGBTQIA community, you know that we have our safe spaces and I think that y'all are building and creating the most ultimate safe space right now.
Cameron Esposito 01:18
One more time for Peppermint.
When it came to casting, we had to strike a delicate balance. We knew we needed our Olympic gold medalists of drag to get media attention and bring in the RuPaul fans. But we also wanted to support our amazing local queens and kings who are out there doing the work every single night. Our royal advisor Poison Waters has helped us get the word out to performers all over the Pacific Northwest to apply through an open submission form.
Poison Waters 01:49
When we were casting this Drag-a-Thon, it's a whole buffet ahead of us. You know, the thing with that is to get professional level drag queens, not me they had to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but professional meaning you're going to be on time you're going to adhere to the rules.
Eden Dawn 02:05
The one caveat, everyone had to come under Guinness’s definition of drag which is:
Dresses up and portrays an exaggerated theatrical interpretation of femininity or masculinity, playing on cultural stereotypes and subverting expectations. All participants must wear full-bodied attire (example: wig dress and heels for a drag queen suit slicked hair and facial hair for drag king) and makeup. All performers must be of a professional standard. And all acts must be planned and rehearsed in advance.
Honestly, it's a pretty legit definition, but it did knock out some of our newbie performers applying.
Poison Waters 02:45
And so casting this, it was never a concern that we wouldn't have enough queens, who would we have the right queens.
Eden Dawn 02:52
So planning out the 48 hours, we divided it into two-hour shifts, with three performers on each shift. We had the budget to pay 60 drag performers, but at least triple that number applied to be part of the show. And how does one possibly begin to start whittling that down? Step one, have Poison go through the list and give her personal thumbs up to the performers she could vouch met up to the professional standard Guinness required. Step two, watch a lot of drag online. Step three, doled out the Shantay You Stays and Sashay Aways with very mixed feelings and a lot of well wishes because honestly, we wanted everyone.
Cassie Nova was one of our three bestie Darcelle queens that stayed around the clock in case of emergency.
The infamous Oh Shit List.
Alexis Campbell Starr, a longtime veteran of the Darcelle cast, was another one of the important Oh Shit emergency song crew.
Slaying a Drag-a-Thon co-producer, Fiona McCann, backstage with Sue From Coporate.
One page from the glorious Run of Show spreadsheet.
Perfomer Coco Jem Holiday with an emcee trio: actress Katie O'Grady, LiveWire host Luke Burbank, and CityCast host Claudia Mezza.
Producers Emma Mcilroy and Eden Dawn with queen Candy Whorehalla.
Poison Waters 03:33
in the old days, we would sometimes have to pad a show meaning bring in somebody to do comedy or dance because we didn't have enough drag queens. Now that is not the problem. There are drag queens in every nook and cranny in the Pacific Northwest.
Eden Dawn 03:48
Once we had the show cast, we turned to the greatest scheduling dilemma of all time. The queens and kings had to submit hundreds of song files in advance to make sure that not only did they fit the Guinness timing rules—no song could be under two minutes or over 10 minutes—but also no performer could repeat a song even if they were doing multiple shifts. And obviously, we couldn't have four queens performing “Turn Back Time in a Row,” which would truly be a drag tragedy.
(Eden in phone call with Emma)
I have to search each song to see if it shows up anywhere else on the spreadsheet. Then I have to put them into the run of show and see if one of them's on Monday but the other ones on Wednesday we’ll allow it. But if it's both on Monday, then we have to go to the timestamp and drop people. So I knew it was going to be tedious. I'm gonna say it is more tedious than I had anticipated.
If you’re curious, the most popular songs submitted by our drag-a-thon performers were Dua Lippa’s “Levitating,” “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Lady Gaga’s “Scheiza.” That’s called RANGE sweetie. While I handled the spreadsheet, Emma was in her own hell tracking down the music for our RuPaul queens from their managers, who didn’t seem to get it that unlike most drag shows, the Guinness rules do not allow for any wiggle room.
Emma Mcilroy 05:10
I called him and I said, thanks so much for the recordings. One of them is 11 minutes, I cannot allow that to be performed. As we discussed, all songs have to be under 10 minutes from when they walk on to when they walk off. He goes, I don't give it a big deal as is 15 minutes long, just let her do it. And we discussed the Guinness World Record rules. And if she does that the entire event is over, the attempt is over so she's not doing it. And if she tries to do it, I will walk out two minutes before the end and talk over her. So let's not do that.
Eden Dawn 05:42
Welcome to Drag Math 101. The average song lasts about three and a half minutes. And we figured we needed each performer to submit a max of six songs for their two-hour shifts since we'd also have emcees talking in between. So while Emma was dealing with songs that were way too long, we also had a lot of performers unexpectedly submit songs that were way too short to fill their shifts. And that's on me because I don't think I'd have fully understood the athleticism required for each exhausting number. So Chloe and I had to go back to performers and ask them to submit more songs. While Emma kept on with disgruntled managers. We planned out our run of show down to the nanosecond, with a total of 783 stage changes, and not a single one of those could be under or over time by a second without us being disqualified. It is fair to say we were a little stressed out.
Poison Waters 06:43
I do not believe that drag performers at all are known in any sphere of the world for being punctual and adhering to rules. There's actually a common phrase called “Drag Time” and everbody says shows start on drag time. Or this queen or this king is going to show up on drag time.
Eden Dawn 07:01
We realized we needed a backup plan just in case and devised a list of what we cryptically called, OH SHIT songs. We taped the list of 16 songs to the dressing room door for our three bestie Darcelle queens. They could sing all of them at the drop of a hat should someone break an ankle, pass out, have a panic attack, or show up on the dreaded “Drag Time.”
They're going next and I'm getting poisoned for an ocean song between the two of them and they need to go up for a minute. I might be able to do it, but let's get her Poison. I need Poison
Poison, Cassie Nova, and Alexis Campbell Starr agreed that one of them would always be backstage for every second of the 48 hours. They napped in shifts to make sure we had someone in case of emergency to bust out I Will Survive or Like a Virgin at a moment’s notice.. Turns out, we yelled Oh Shit many, many times—and had to cross a lot of songs off that list.
What do you want to do?
What do you have?
I have nothing. Everything on this. What do you want?
I'll do Dolly.
Did you already do it?
Okay, you did different Dolly.
Yeah, I did Nine to Five. Does that matter?
Not only did we go through the pain of scheduling all the queens and all their songs, we had to repeat it multiple times scheduling out emcees, witnesses, Wildfang’s staff for the door, and volunteers. And unfortunately, there is no “Oh Shit” function in Google Sheets. We were on top of the front of house, and we were on top of backstage, but another one of the many issues to contend with was that Guinness required video footage of the whole show, with a clock and performers visible at all times for them to review later. Which was totally fine except when it wasn’t.
One thing to note on that is because of what of the wide angle even if the widest angle that the cameras are able to be up there where we have to have the shots for dentists with the clocks in them. We are not going to be able to let Queens get off the stage and go down into the audience.
Poison Waters 09:11
Oh, well, you know what, that's great, because we stopped that for COVID. Everyone's used to that we don't leave the stage anymore.
Eden Dawn 09:17
So we crossed that off our list of worries. But once the show began, performers understandably couldn't help themselves from getting right down into the cheering crowd. We put signs up backstage, I asked any nearby queens to help spread the word, we told emcees and then we realized we had to enlist the audience as well. Who better to do that than one of our special guest emcees, Broadway performer and YouTube phenom, Frankie Grande.
Frankie Grande 09:43
You all know that this is like Guinness Book of World Records is like real serious, by the way. Okay. Every time a drag queen goes into the audience, there's like four people backstage who are having a panic attack because they're not allowed to leave the stage. So I need you to like bar them. I need you to be like, No, you can't keep going back because This Guinness Book of World Records is real serious. Okay, let me tell you, I'm not allowed to go down there so keep them up on stage.
Eden Dawn 10:05
Shout out to the amazing audience who kept their part of the bargain. For the rest of that shift, every time a performer so much is dipped a stiletto toe off the stage, the audience was there holding up their arms and waving them back on. Frankie, dressed and head-to-toe mermaid glamour, had the audience eating out of his hand, and then let us whisk them into Darcelle’s teeny, sweltering basement office for a chat.
Frankie Grande 10:29
You know, I've always been a huge supporter of the drag community and my best friends are all drag artists and ever since getting to be on Drag Race season 10 and being put into drag for my, you know, first time as a drag queen on such a major stage, it really did change my life. I find it to be such a liberating art form. And I also think that it just, it's more fun. It's just it allows you to be sillier and a little bit sassier and just say some things that, you know, were always on your mind where you were always afraid to like actually put into words, and then you can carry that with you back into your normal life, which I love. I learned a lot from Eufreaka. That's my drag queen name.
Eden Dawn 11:08
Frankie is a board member for the advocacy organization, GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. And part of their work is to create more positive queer portrayals in the entertainment industry for young people to see, you know,
Frankie Grande 11:21
I do remember when I was coming out of the closet at 21 years old, not knowing any other gay people and it being really weird and confusing and a very, very traumatic time in my life. So I'm glad that the gay youth and the queer youth now have so many wonderful examples to look to, of people who have been able to forge the path successfully. But it doesn't mean that their lives are without trauma when they come out. Like there are a lot of people that are coming out in these places around the country where drag is becoming banned or becoming illegal, which is this just an attack on the LGBTQ+ community. It's like we're going backwards in this country. So to those kids, I say, stay strong. Just be yourself. Have fun, enjoy coming out enjoy being part of this incredible rainbow community because we're going to have your back and you're eventually going to be the ones that are going to shape the future for everyone else. It sounded like a toilet exploded. So that's my exit cue. Thanks, everyone. Thanks so much for having me. Love you all. Bye.
Eden Dawn 12:19
This might be a good time to employ the phrase that's showbiz baby. The mayhem backstage was neverending. And we all problem solved in real time: sewing a queen into her quick change costume, sweeping up mirror shards from the dressing room floor, wellness checking a very tall performer who knocked herself out on a ceiling pipe. But the most arduous task of all might have fallen to the witnesses who had to log every second of what was happening on stage.
Lynn Le 12:47
My name is Lynn Le. I'm a witness with David Chen, my brother from another mother. I literally started my hand started sweating profusely with the first time that I wrote down because I was nervous that it was off by a millisecond.
Eden Dawn 13:05
In addition to filming the entire show for Guinness, we had to hand over a record with every performer, emcee, and song logged to the second by two independent witnesses operating in four-hour shifts. Then the Guinness judge would check the logbooks against the video ensuring they matched exactly.
Lynn Le 13:23
We have to have the time down to the dot, because if we don't, then that could be a huge problem for the entire record. So our witness and record keeping is really important.
Emma Mcilroy 15:10
What else Eden, what's the other rules?
Eden Dawn 15:11
Okay, well, you are all a huge part of it. Because literally our rules say we have to have a certain size audience with butts and seats all times. And do you remember when we were very worried about that?
Nervous we were like, what idiot is gonna go to a drag show at 3am on a Tuesday? These idiots!
These idiots as Emma called them were the best idiots. Portlanders and many out-of-towners showed up in droves. There were lines around the block for both the ticket holders and the hopefuls in standby. Unlike most big productions with long guest lists, we had none. You wanted a seat, you bought a ticket, and we kept the price at just $10 so everyone could afford to attend. And 100% of the proceeds from ticket sales went to the Trevor Project. People were so committed, they bought tickets for multiple shifts, they dressed in their finest, they booked hotel rooms to let them nap. But most importantly, they showed up.
Audience Montage 16:17
We're first shift, but we're here until five in the morning. We bought the full block, then we come back at nine tomorrow night stay until five in the morning. And then we come back from one until the end. And Deb has all 48 hours.
I have a room across the street at the hotel for two nights. So back and forth.
Eden Dawn 16:36
The drag upon audience had it all. We had sparkles. We had sequins. We had Wildfang fashion everywhere. We had pajamas and we had costumes galore.
Audience Montage 16:47
I’m currently wearing a dragon onesie, complete with horns, gold horns.
I'm excited. It's either the latest or earliest drag show I've ever been to.
People had all kinds of reasons to be there. Supporting family members, celebrating pride, helping Portland take home a prize. Some were even there on doctor's orders.
My therapist recommended it to me. Here we are.
Eden Dawn Take two Queens and call me in the morning.
These audiences got us through the hardest hours, the late night shifts, the sleep-deprived zombie states. But you know what else kept us all going? The idea that we were going to get ourselves another Guinness record to hang on the wall for everyone to see.
Anthony Wallace 17:34
When they see that, they're like, what's that? And like, yeah, we've got the world record for the longest nonstop drag show. Really, like it kind of validates your space as being pertinent to drag because you've got a world record,
Eden Dawn 17:49
Australia enters the chat. Specifically Anthony Wallace, the owner of the 86 Cabaret Bar in Melbourne, the person behind the original world record, which BTdubs is 36 hours, 36 minutes and 40 seconds. So how did he feel about us coming for his record?
Anthony Wallace 18:11
At first I'm like, no, they're taking this away. But it's not. It's just yeah, it just builds on and we really do wish them all the best to get there. And I really hope they do and they and that they smash it out of the park. But if they do fail, hold their heads up high because the drag queens in Melbourne are tough. But I will say to you, you'll get to that point. If you once you hit 37 hours and therefore surpassing us, it will be really hard to keep going. To think that you’re attempting to do another 18 I'm like. If you did achieve the 48 there is no way I wouldn't even contemplate it ever again of trying to win it back.
Eden Dawn 18:59
Despite us coming for their hard-fought record. Anthony gave us his blessing in true Ozzy style.
Anthony Wallace 19:05
Because I'm a thespian through and through and I've run the Cabaret Bar, we just do the theater good luck, which is Chookas. So on behalf of the 86 venue that currently holds the Guinness world record for the longest nonstop drag queen or king as show on behalf of everyone that was involved in setting that world record. I personally would like to also add a huge Chookas to Portland on beating our world record and seeing a much greater number. And hopefully it stands up as long as else.
Eden Dawn 19:45
Thanks for the Chookas Australia. But as emcee Jason Rouse reminded the audience to get to that moment there were still so many hurdles. The biggest of all, the Guinness judge.
Jason Rouse 19:57
So much has to go right. Virtually everything has to go right. And if you've ever lived a day in your life and tried to go to the store and not forget, you know, the apples your wife asked you to get and nothing else, you know that feeling. I'm not gonna cry because I'm not gonna cry. People forget, Jessica.
But how do we, in the end? How do we know that we've officially have the record? How does it happen? How does it happen? Well, on an airplane flying here right now, I'm not even really joking are representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records from Castle Guinness.
Michael Empric 20:34
So my name is Michael Empric, and I'm an adjudicator for Guinness World Records in New York City.
Eden Dawn 20:38
Michael's job was to check the logbooks against the video recording and, of course, observe the show in real-time with his eagle eyes. He has been a Guinness judge for 11 years and has bestowed records on for example: the largest gathering of Elvis impersonators, the most couples to kiss under the mistletoe at one time, the fastest speed for a car driven blindfolded 211 miles per hour since you ask, and has even presented Dolly Parton with three Guinness certificates, including one for the longest span of number one hits on the US Top Country Albums Chart. Honestly, at this point, I kind of wish we had gone with the blindfold thing.
Michael Empric 21:18
You know, I'm always very clear that marathon attempts are not the ones you want to do. Because physically mentally you think, Oh, we can go for 48 hours. When you're, you know, eight or nine hours in. There's a switch that happens in every marathon attempt, where you say, oh, no, this was not a good idea.
Eden Dawn 21:39
He was right. And we all hit that point way earlier than we thought. Because here's the problem. Emma, Chloe, and I were already days into our marathon of planning before the clock even started ticking on the record attempt, and Poison was coming off doing 85 events during Pride month. But that tedious time sucking meticulous spreadsheet we had all poured over four days became the hero of the hour. And for all the talk of drag time, not a single performer was late and I could kiss them all. Of course, despite all that preparation and excellent timekeeping. There were still some things we had no control over. Like when the giant clock onstage keeping time for witnesses and judges began to teeter and fall right into the audience.
I'm literally standing on the stage holding the clock that broke Well, everything is going on around me. And they look I'm standing here on the stage holding a very heavy clock. What a nightmare.
Eden Dawn Next time on Slaying a Drag-a-Thon
Poison Waters 22:50
I just saw Fred Armisen’s ass go up their sales historic stairs.
Fred Armisen 22:54
Hi, my name is Fred Armisen. I love Poison Waters.
I am Pluto. I'm the bearded queen on the scene and I am Mx Gay Oregon I.
Emma Mcilroy 23:03
Obviously, anything can happen but she was like I talked to the RuPaul’s Drag Race team. She's like it would be like criminal if you guys were not somehow involved.
Eden Dawn 23:13
Slaying a Drag-a-Thon is a side cast of the We Can't Print This podcast co-written and produced by Fiona McCann and me, Eden Dawn. You can follow us on socials @wecantprintthis to see more behind-the-scenes video and images from the show. And check out our website. wecantprintthis.com to sign up for our newsletter. See transcripts and more photos too. You can support us on patreon at patreon.com/wecantprintthis. Our audio producer and editor is Owen Agnew. Thank you to Ashod Simonian for our artwork and emceeing a shift in the middle of the night. Thank you to Desert Island Studio Productions and Creative Calibrations AV teams for their assistance and our live show recordings. Thank you to Emma Mcilroy and Poison Waters for all of their time and willingness to be recorded and their general Virgo ways. And the hugest of thank yous to all the queens and kings from Drag-a-Thon and honestly every club around the world for making such beautiful art. You are all perfection.
Photo by Holly Andres
Episode 3: i keep pinching myself
We're 28 hours into our world record attempt and the comedians—Saturday Night Live alums Fred Armisen, Punkie Johnson, and Paula Pell among them—are holding it down and cracking us up. Meanwhile, RuPaul's Drag Race stars Eureka O'Hara and LaLa Ri pay homage to our local queens and remind us of why drag spaces are needed now more than ever.
Featuring Eureka O'Hara, LaLa Ri, Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Punkie Johnson, Paula Pell, Janine Brito, Meghan Klingenberg, Amy Ta'Kill, Pluto, Poison Waters, Maridee Woodson, and more.
Episode 3 transcripts
Janine Brito 00:00
I was thinking as a drag king I could be a Joaquin Penis. Could be a cute.
Eden Dawn 00:06
It’s hour 28, and comedians Janine Brito, Paula Pell, and Carrie Brownstein are on stage trying to figure out their drag names as they lead us into our second sleepless night. .
Janine Brito 00:21
Since I'm Cuban Lezi Arnaz. I love that one. Since I'm mostly vegan/vegetarian Ricky Fartin. I am very gassy. And as a drag queen, I was thinking I could be Gloryhole Estefan.
Paula Pell 00:48
Mine are Thick Van Dyke. Probably some of these things have been taken. I didn't even Google them. Booty Garland. And what was the other one?
Janine Brito 01:04
Paula Pell 01:05
Lezzie Minnelli could be a fun one for you as a Broadway queen. No, Leza Minnelli. And for Carrie….
Janine Brito 01:13
We were thinking to be in the rock vein, the musician vein. You could be Kate Full Natural Bush.
Carrie Brownstein 01:25
You haven't seen my Only Fans, but that's very good.
This is Slaying a Drag-a-Thon the true, chaotic story of our attempt to break a Guinness World Record for the longest drag show ever. My name is Eden Dawn. Our emcee trio was ushering out a shift of performers including Viper Fengz, Kenzie B. Valentine, and Maria Peters Lake while a new crop—Buster Open, Amy Ta’Kill, and Slutashia—came on board.
Paula Pell 02:00
Let's hear it for Slutashia!
Eden Dawn 02:04
A quick reminder about planning this show: Emma and I had never put on an event where we had to sell thousands of tickets. And Guinness rules also required a certain number of audience members present at all times over 48 straight hours during some of those hours, we weren’t even allowed to serve liquor per Oregon law. We genuinely did not know if people were going to show up. We lured them in with the promise of laughter and really big names. So we went knocking on the biggest drag door of all.
Emma Mcilroy 02:37
Hello, good morning, and good morning. My very quick update is I spoke to Lindsay nice and early today. Obviously, anything can happen. But she was like I talked to the RuPaul drag queen team like the production team. And she's like it would be like criminal if you guys were not somehow involved. Anyway, I will continue to update you with my update.
Eden Dawn 03:02
Okay, so let’s quickly talk about Lindsay Shookus a veteran Saturday Night Live producer for 20 years who helmed the show’s talent department until her departure last year. She knows everyone. Including #blessed Emma.. And Lindsay went above and beyond for our show by reaching out to so many people in her network on our behalf, many of whom came on board.
Fred Armisen 03:26
Hi, my name is Fred Armisen,
Eden Dawn 03:28
And what are we doing right now?
Fred Armisen 03:29
We're gonna set a new Guinness record for the longest drag show on earth.
Eden Dawn 03:37
And why was it important for you to come be here with us tonight?
Fred Armisen 03:42
Many reasons. First of all, I love Portland first and second of all, I love drag. Third of all, I love this venue. And I love Lindsay Shookus who told me about this
Eden Dawn 03:57
We call Lindsay the Patron Saint of Drag-a-Thon for the record and you are in love with poison waters on the record.
Fred Armisen 04:05
I love Poison Waters.
Eden Dawn 04:09
omedians and drag performers go together like nipples and pastie and our crew of funny people were up for whatever we threw at them. They accepted any crazy timeslot we gave them, squished themselves between giant breastplates and mile-high wigs, in a sweaty, smelly backstage room, ready to go when we called on them. Fred was even kind of a fixture behind the curtain handing out dick-shaped cookies to any performer walking by.
Fred Armisen 04:35
I love it here so much. I don't want to leave tonight. I just want to be here. This is the place to be. It's amazing. I love it. I love it. I love being here. You all look so great. Everything sounds great. Everyone, every performer it's like because we have like a feed back there. You know, backstage it's like a little tight. And when I'm sort of in somebody's way I'm really in somebody's way there's that people have big personalities back there. So I feel very teeny.
Eden Dawn 05:07
He meant it. He never wanted to leave. Sometimes even forgetting the very strict five-minute emcee rule. It didn't matter if you were Fred Armisen or not, if you are getting close to going over time we yanked you off stage.
Fred Armisen 05:20
You got to have a bike. I'm scared to death of hitting someone on a bike I drive like a turtle. Come on up on stage.
Emma Mcilroy 05:28
Fred Armisen. This is the voice of God, it is time for the next performer.
Fred Armisen 05:34
All right, give it up. See you guys later.
Eden Dawn 05:36
All those celebrity emcees waived their regular appearance fees so our performance budget could go entirely to the kings and queens. And each one had their own reason to be there.
Punkie Johnson 05:47
Number one: I love the queens. I love the drag. I be inspired by it because it's a different way to live that we could show the straights, we know how to express our emotions in different ways. And I know it might be weird to people, but that's how we live and we love it. And it's a different type of culture. And when you tap into it, you'll see it and we call this hell, man. Why not? I don't want to be a part of history. This is a Drag-a-Thon what, let's go, let's get this record.
Eden Dawn 06:15
You may recall SNL cast member Punkie Johnson from her wig hijinx with Cameron Esposito in episode one. She blasted in for two high-energy shifts, dancing backstage and making friends with every single person before catching a flight back to New York.
Punkie Johnson 06:29
I do not remember the first drag show I went to, but I can just tell you what it means to me to see it. To me, I kind of compare it to like the gay person strip club. Because it's a way to get up there and just put your trauma out there in a different type of language. Put your vulnerability out there in a different type of language. And everything you've been bottled bottling up in a week. You can you can put that into drag. So that's why I love it so much. And I'm here for it.
Eden Dawn 06:59
how does it feel to be in this space with all these people compared to a normal standup show? I'm very curious about the vibes backstage feel similar are we rowdier than most?
Punkie Johnson 07:09
First of all, everybody needs to know nice the queens got sass. Okay, they are sassy. And they are not playing no games. And I think I rather be I'd rather be here.
Eden Dawn 07:21
Here, where the live show chaos reigns backstage, something that’s familiar territory for a lot of these folks.
We don't have Fred coming until I think he's going to be here at 8 so we have 123, we have like four more slots to fill
Okay, now tell Fred you owe me money. So is it the two of us until eight
but again, you can take turns who's going out there or whatever you guys want, unless somebody has to bounce and then Emma and I'll walk out and take our tops off just to buy a little time.
I’ll take my top off too.
That's it. We all go well everybody take their top off.
What am I doing? I'm ready for it, baby I'm born for it.
Did you find Santa hats? What the fuck?
But wait, we aren't done with SNL peeps yet. Don't forget about Paula Pell, who wrote for the show from 1995 to 2020 and helped give the world Debbie Downer. She is one half of the funniest power couple in the country with wife Janine Brito, aka, Leza Minnelli and Joaquin Penis.
Paula Pell 08:34
right now. There's so much despair in our community. And we feel very protective of the parts of our community that are just being absolutely obliterated and hammered and attacked.
Janine Brito 08:47
And we're also both we're both from Florida. So it was it felt like this is we feel like we have to fight back because our home state is becoming such a dangerous, dangerous place.
Paula Pell 08:58
I love Florida. I grew up in Florida and really have so many great still great friends and family there. But what is happening there is a reflection of so many states and we think DeSantis should just get on his knees and suck our d. Can I say that on here?
Eden Dawn 09:17
But it was not just SNL peeps, we had sporting legends including gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, strongwoman Gabi Dixson, and Thorns player Megan Kilingenberg who had her own coming out story to tell.
Meghan Klingenberg 09:30
This story is actually more about my mom. When I first came out, my parents had their like, you know, normal Pittsburgh, Catholic parents being like, Oh, I don't know about this. And I was like, Well, I do your girls queer. And so my mom was like, I just gotta get my gotta wrap my head around this. I gotta wrap my head around this. And thank god she did and she came around really fast and is a super loving amazing mom. That's why shout out to all the fucking moms here that are the best. I wish my mom was going to drag shows when I was when I was a kid. Anyways now leading up to the I call it the gay game which is also known as pride game of the Thorns, but I call it the gay game. My mom was like stay gay honey.
Eden Dawn 10:20
We also had professional storytellers including Cheryl Strayed, Sarah Marshall and B. Frayn Masters. We had some of our favorite musicians like Corin Tucker, and Kathy Foster. We even had the band Portugal.The Man perform an acoustic version of “Feel It Still.” This was an amazing moment because the rules stated it had to fall within a emcee slot so they had to run on stage, with Emma carrying a drum behind, play to a very surprised audience and get off all in under five minutes with a clock ticking above the whole time.
The list goes on and on with Emma and I leaning heavily on our connections and taking some kind of big swings.
Emma Mcilroy 11:16
I also got a request to Hillary Clinton.
Eden Dawn 11:20
Okay, fine. Not every swing landed. But after 10 bajillion phone calls and offering my kidneys to anyone and everyone, when we finally nailed it all down and pressed publish, announcing it to the world. We were frickin giddy. Are we on the record?
Emma Mcilroy 11:36
Are we on the record?
We're on the record.
I'm just phoning. I am just wanting you to say we are fucking doing it. We are fucking doing it. We can do it we just told the whole fucking world that we're doing it we are doing it we're doing this thing and we got all these equally insane people to sign up to do the thing with us. I'm gonna post it on my channels and say, forego your birthday presents and Christmas presents for me this year, which is saying a lot because I'm turning 40
Just buy tickets
Eden Dawn 13:48
As you can tell, we spent a lot of time and energy worrying about how to get people to the show. But turns out that everyone needed a nonstop endless drag show in their lives about then.
Amy Ta'kill 14:01
Hi, my name is Amy Ta’kill. I am the Portland girl next door you wish would move away.
Fiona McCann 14:06
Now you have done quite a few numbers this past few hours. Can you tell me specifically?
Amy Ta'kill 14:13
Yes, I have done the morning shift to 4 to 6am. And then I have done just wrapped up the 8 to 10 shift, which included doing eight numbers in the morning and six numbers in this evening. I'm exhausted but it's been an absolute dream.
Fiona McCann 14:31
So give us your grand total.
Amy Ta'kill 14:33
What 14 Numbers. I would say about 20 high kicks. I would say about six different little rolls and then dips on dips on dips.
Eden Dawn 14:47
TIckets sold out in days, and Emma and I spent the following weeks dealing with requests for more that we could not honor. Yeah we needed people for the Guinness rules but also, hello, fire marshall. The sweetest surprise was realizing that performers and emcees like Janine and Paula needed it just as much as the audience did.
Tell us what the vibe has been like here, like how have you felt being here? Because you've never been to yourself?
Janine Brito 15:11
No, we've never been to Darcelle’s. And it's just been so joyful. And it's just when you go to an old school, queer drag bar, it just has it, you can feel all the energy in the bones of the building. And it just feels like a homecoming. Even if you've never been there before. It's like I'm back.
Paula Pell 15:31
And I mean that, you know, I grew up, I'm 60. And I was very closeted for many, many years, like half of my life, and more than half my life, and drag bars and gay bars that were really authentic gay bars, not places where you know, there's tons of straight girls going for their bachelorette party like, like, authentic drag bars and gay bars were absolutely the place, the only place you could be yourself and you would feel the piano off your back, you'd walk in and go, Oh, my god, I can be myself I can be out I can be free.
Eden Dawn 16:06
That’s Paula Pell again. She and Janine were possibly the MVPs of the emcee circuit tapping in for far more shifts than they were assigned and cheering in the audience for hours when they were off the clock. You need to know there are many many recordings of me saying I love Paula Pell throughout this. And I do.
Paula Pell 16:28
The song “Levitating” by Dua Lipa, there's something in that and I don't know if she sampled something or, but when I play that song, for some reason I have this. When it kicks into the dance part, there's some sound in it, that I felt like an actual sensation of lights of like old school dance dance floor lights coming across my face and like fans, where you just used to go in a dance in a dance bar for hours like ever since I was a teenager hours in a gay bar, just people were free. And the fact that that has gone away so much breaks my heart and I feel like there's so many young people now that I see this verb that they want to fight to get that back or to preserve like preserve Darcelle’s, preserve all these bars, they’re churches.
Eden Dawn 17:15
You will be very pleased to know that three different queens are doing “Levitating” so there must be something to it.
Paula Pell 17:26
[Singing Moonlight] And it just reminds me like I felt a sensation the first time I ever like danced to it and I literally got emotional I got tearful because I was like, I miss it post pandemic and everything I miss just that energy in a dark room with like, lots of energy and freedom and that we walked in here and we were like, oh shit, this is what we needed in our souls. This we came yesterday to watch drag for a few hours before because we're going to host today. We were like let's come so we know the ropes. We know what the crowds like we know. And then we got here and we were literally sitting in the booth with our ear to ear smile just because it had been so long since you watch RuPaul you watch all the
Janine Brito 18:09
Drag on TV, it doesn’t match like being there live
Paula Pell 18:13
and you're given somebody $1 And oh, it's so good.
Eden Dawn 18:17
And for the millionth time I wish Darcelle could have been there that's exactly what she had spent her life creating for people
Maridee Woodson 18:26
Hi, I'm Maridee Woodson, Darcelle’s daughter. He would have been to the moon this would be something that he would be absolutely proud of him you know he's always been one that the door is open and welcome everyone's welcome. Everyone's here in a safe place. And you know, he just made everyone feel so loved
Eden Dawn 18:55
this is a theme we heard over and over and over drag bars are a safe space for so many people and they will always be necessary
um, you know, I did have some members of my family that didn't approve of me being a gay person.
Eden Dawn 19:15
Pluto, a long-haired queen with sparkly butterflies pinned on her beard who currently holds the title of mx gay oregon, showed up for us all. Not only did she perform a surprise Oh Shit song when we needed one coming out literally swinging from the rafters for Kylie Mingoue’s summer anthem Padam. But when one queen, who was supposed to sing her number live had a moment of paralyzing stage fright preventing her from going out, Pluto aimed a platform heel at her butt yelling “get out there, I’ll feed you the lines.”It worked and I'm not sure I’ve never loved anyone more. So it’s hard to hear how difficult it was for her growing up.
I'm very blessed to have my mom who's very supportive, but I had, you know, a very hard time with my father who wanted to kill me. Horrible names called me everything under the book that he possibly could. But everyone says, you know, I'm so sorry to hear that. And, you know, I always used to say, Oh, it's okay. But you know, it's not okay. But it's made me grow into the person that I am today. You know, you get to choose as a gay person, you're your family, you get to choose your chosen family. So that's, you know, that's what I love being who I am today, it's like, I get to choose with my family. And for anyone, any child out there that doesn't feel safe. Anyone that out there that was dealing is dealing with that you know, you are loved you are supported. And you will find that happiness.
Eden Dawn 20:45
It turns out not to matter whether you’re a younger queen on the scene like Pluto or an established global one like RuPaul’s Drag Race alum and star of HBO’s We’re Here Eureka O’Hara, who grew up in Tennessee. The message we heard was the same: You can’t stop people from being themselves.
Eureka O'Hara 20:58
When I first found drag, it was a place for me to learn how to heal, growing up in a very masculine toxic environment in East Tennessee, where everything feminine about me was beat out of me. But what they didn't know it wasn’t beat out of me. So now we're beating it on the dance floor, you know, so it was a way for me to take traumas that I went through growing up and release it in a healthy way.
Eden Dawn 21:23
And having a space for that release is as important now as it ever has been.
Eureka O'Hara 21:28
We're here, you know, just a big ol drag queen with a platform. I’m very blessed to know a lot of the entertainers here actually, even before Drag Race. You know, a lot of these ladies are the dolls that I grew up knowing and working with. And then obviously, being on Drag Race getting to work with more. But we're the same thing. You know, Portland Oregon is obviously known for thinking outside the box. And with so much legislation happening against drag, you know, what better place than Portland to stand up for it. And I think that that's what this event is all about. I think it's just showcasing that you're looking at how many entertainers and how many people are willing to support like, no matter what you try to do to us, and this has been a history of queer people, not just drag queens. You keep trying to hide us and tear us down and, you know, make us feel like we're less and we'll always find a place where we can be asked. So that's why we're here.
Eden Dawn 22:18
It was exciting to hear how many of these big name queens said they knew of Portland’s performers, our drag scene, and of course, of our Darcelle.
We were all starstruck when LalaRi, another Drag Race girl and a veteran of the Atlanta drag scene, arrived in a neon green gown with a thigh slit up to her waist. It turns out the feeling was mutual.
LaLa Ri 22:39
First and foremost, this is Darcelle. I've known about Darcelle for a long time even before I started drag. Yes. I've never been to Portland, but this is legendary. Okay, so to be here, physically, it's just like a surreal moment. And I'm just so honored. I keep pinching myself, like I'm really here at Darcelle for this world record iconic moment. So it's amazing.
Eden Dawn 22:58
So we had to wonder, if all these RuPaul’s Drag Race queens knew about us, did that mean Ru did?
Poison’s on the other line, merging you in.
where are you both? Are you both here?
No, I'm in LA
Our calls are merged together and you're being recorded for the podcast legally. I have to tell you.
Oh my god, literally every time I talk to you now we're on the podcast.
Yes, well, you're potentially on the podcast. This is how the people understand how the sausage is made. And I know you like sausage
I love sausage
Oh my god. I cannot take more sausage chat from you two. But the other person who my friend Lindsey texted directly today with the asset and ask them if they would be on board to promote and help was a little a little person called RuPaul.
Ah, yeah, no, I thought that they weren't I thought they weren't allowed outside of the nursing home anymore. That's interesting. Okay, that's great. Sure. Oh my gosh, Emma you're so dumb. Are you kidding me? That would be fucking amazing.
When you break the drag record to get fucking video from RuPaul?
We need Ru
Yeah, of course. Absolutely. Oh my god. Yes. Yes, yes.
Eden Dawn 24:19
Next time on Slaying a Drag-a-Thon
Isaiah Esquire 24:22
it gives me a medium to be able to express myself. My identity and the vastness of that the complexities of that
John Cameron Mitchell 24:31
I felt more like a man more like a woman I felt more like myself.
Meesh Peru's Niece 24:35
That's a closet I had never been into before. And I went in and it was a full dressing room vanity with lights, wigs galore makeup everywhere, heals everything and I was just in shock.
Eden Dawn 24:49
Slaying a Drag-a-Thon is a sidecast of the We Can’t Print This podcast co-written and produced by Fiona McCann and me, Eden Dawn. Follow us on socials @wecantprintthis to see more behind-the-scenes video and images from the show. And check out our website wecantprintthis.com for transcripts and extras.
Our audio producer is Owen Agnew and our artwork is by Ashod Simonian
Thanks to Desert Island Studios Production and Creative Calibrations AV teams for their assistance in the live show recordings.
Thanks to Emma Mcilroy and Poison Waters for all their time, and willingness to be recorded 24/7. Thanks to Lindsey Shookus, to all our comedians, and honestly to Saturday Night Live for a lifetime of influencing me to want to stay up all night making cool shit with my friends.
Photo by Holly Andres
Episode 4: let's hear from our drag nation
Genderqueer burlesque high kicks, bare-chested stage slides, shining rosebuds, movie lip syncs: our drag nation brought it all to the show, even as everyone involved in its production became increasingly deranged with exhaustion. From Isaiah Esquire to Buster Open to John Cameron Mitchell, we hear how drag has transformed so many lives—and transported our Drag-a-Thon audience.
Featuring Poison Waters, BinkYee Bellflower, Isaiah Esquire, Johnny Nuriel, Donatella Nobody, Buster Open, Hedwig and the Angry Inch's John Cameron Mitchell, RuPaul's Drag Race alum LaLa Ri, and more.
Episode 4 transcripts
Eden Dawn 00:10
Good fucking Morning.
Emma Mcilroy 00:12
Morning. Is it morning?
Eden Dawn 00:13
I have no idea. I've been awake since 5am yesterday and I've had a three hour nap since Sunday.
This is Slaying a Drag-a-Thon, the true chaotic story of our attempt to break a Guinness world record for the longest drag show ever.
What's your name?
My name is Emma Mcilroy. Shit. No. I'm Eden Dawn and you are Emma Mcilroy.
What do you do?
We are the producers of Drag-a-thon.
Now, you might recall that the existing record established by a bunch of amazing Australian Queens was 36 hours and 36 minutes. At this point in the show. We were closing in on that, but we decided to try and knock it out of the park by aiming for a full 48 hours, which right about now seemed like torture,
Emma Mcilroy 01:10
we are the only people stupid enough to believe they could put on a 48-hour drag show.
Eden Dawn 01:17
And we are many many, many hours weeks, days years in
Emma Mcilroy 01:23
a long way in. Actually, at this point, we're about 35 hours. 3636 hours in Yeah.
Eden Dawn 01:31
And we have had a couple of mishaps along the way couple. Remember when that clock fell and I had to hold it for a few songs.
Emma Mcilroy 01:40
So what what happened I would recreate it for you but I mean, I don't think I was ever able to get my leg that high. Certainly not at this point in the game. But a queen managed to kick to here and the clock with this way followed by this way and the person in your seat went FUCK
Eden Dawn 01:56
We might tell you about a few more but we got to stay on motherfucking schedule.
Emma Mcilroy 02:03
Who's up next?
Eden Dawn 02:04
The one and only Candy Whorehalla
As you can tell from our raspy voices and general frenzied vibe, we were wrecked. There’s no way we would’ve kept going if it wasn’t for all the people cheering and bringing fresh energy every two hours. Our head queen Poison Waters was right: audience is everything.
Poison Waters 02:29
A good drag audience is an audience that's open for anything because you never know what's coming up behind the curtain especially nowadays drag is everybody's every kind of drag queen. There's punk drag queens and country drag queens and comedy drag queens and ball drag queens and bearded queens and you just have to be open to it all. I always say this, there's so many different types of drag. And there's so many different types of drag enthusiasts with our show at Darcelle’s because we have every kind of drag queen, we prefer that people are just open to whatever.
Eden Dawn 02:57
The Drag-a-Thon audience was definitely open to whatever—they kind of had to be. We kept the setlist secret so they never knew what they were about to behold, and then they had to give themselves over to the magic.
Matt Sheehy 03:11
I didn't know that peppermint was going to be here and so to see her come out and then it's like sparkly and larger than life and the music was so cool and loud. And I just felt totally whisked away for a few minutes, you know, like just completely transported.
Eden Dawn 03:29
But what makes a good drag number? What does it take for performers to whisk their audiences away like that?
Poison Waters 03:37
You have to have a connection to it, you have to have a reason to do it. So like my better performances are anything of a song that I grew up with the song I really know and it looks a memory or a feeling. So that's like the Supremes, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, any like those folks, it's not just a song that I think the audience is gonna love. I have to love it too. You have to want to share it with the audience. It's an exchange of energies, an exchange of excitement.
Eden Dawn 04:05
Over the course of this marathon show more than 3000 audience members showed up. People filed in and out of the 130-capacity club every two hours, and each time they brought all the energy and excitement. Some were there to see their first-ever drag show. Others were Darcelle regulars. And some were even family of the Queens themselves who got to witness their loved ones go from Bruce Wayne to Batman. And yes, Batman is 100% drag.
So my uncle is Meesha Peru, who was one of the first Latino drag queens here in Portland. I can specifically remember going over to his house and one point he asked me to get something out of a closet and it's a closet I had never been into before and I went in, and it was a full dressing room vanity with lights, wigs galore makeup everywhere. Makeup, sponges, heals everything. And I was just in shock. I had no idea that that was something that he did at the time. But also, I was just mesmerized by it all. There's so much glitter. It was just amazing. And at that moment, we, you know, my, you know, my family kind of talked to me about it, but they really normalized it like, Oh, your uncle does drag and it's like, okay, cool.
Eden Dawn 05:35
FYI, Meesha is a true pro. During one of the aforementioned mishaps, Wildfang’s giant neon sign began to fall from the ceiling. Emma and I carted out a 10-foot ladder on the stage and held the sign up while we tried to fix it. Instead of ignoring us. Meesha incorporated it into her number salsa’d over in her fringed mini dress and posing in front of the ladder to hoots and hollers from the very entertained audience. She is one of our city's veteran drag queens having started to perform at Darcelle’s some four decades ago. And on the other end of the spectrum, we have new queen BinkYee Bellflower.
BinkYee Bellflower 06:20
I am BinkYee Bellflower Malaysian Chinese drag queen living here in Portland, Oregon. Way back home when I was used to be in Malaysia, I used to do a lot of performances on stage, mainly musicals, I was the ensemble most of the time never drag. Well, I guess what the definition of drag is like you put on head-to-toe outfit that's not really you and embody something else delivering joy and a performance. That is that is sort of drag, right? So I rewrote myself when I got here, I pushed myself out there to try out this new performing arts called Drag.
Eden Dawn 06:49
BinkYee arrived in Portland just two years ago and began doing drag when she was stuck at home during the COVID pandemic. It wasn't long before she found a place as one of our cells, seven main cast members.
BinkYee Bellflower 07:02
I think it has allowed me to build my platform and a very positive voice for more than just a community. I think we are a nation where a growing nation of drag performers because drag nowadays can be so many things.
Eden Dawn 07:15
Let's hear from our drag nation. First-up, gender queer burlesque performer extraordinaire, Isaiah Esquire. Isaiah, self dubbed a Goliath of Glam performed more than a dozen numbers with high leg kicks and dramatic balancing acts and all manner of elaborate costumes. One of the many that stands out a PeeWee's Playhouse lip sync with red metallic fringe cowboy chaps and vast while holding a foot-tall found vagina. Yeah, he kinda had to be there.
Isaiah Esquire 07:48
But I'm just honored to be a part of it and feel proud that I lead my my sweats and then not blood but some sweat and some tears and lots of glitter, and lots of sore muscles in high kicks. to this to this moment and having androgyny and, and gender queerness being present in this is really really important. So I'm honored to represent the way that I represent in this space as being a big, bald and Dragon androgynous black pansexual man
Eureka O’Hara 08:26
Holy Moly, Roly Poly. Isaiah you didn’t have to do me like that.
Isaiah Esquire 08:43
Drag is meaningful for me because it gives me a medium to be able to express myself, my identity and the vastness of that, the complexities of that, and it's also a lovely avenue to be able to kind of confront some of my own internalized homophobia and things about body image and self-worth and all those things that you know happened from growing up in a society like ours.
Eden Dawn 09:13
Isaiah’s husband, Johnny Nuriel chimed in, after a memorable number which involved a surprise reveal of a well-placed LED light magically shining out from his rosebud.
Johnny Nuriel 09:27
we just performed actually a quite a long set for a Drag-a-thon. So we did a double shift. We both performed. My husband and I performed eight, eight numbers in total. And most of our numbers we tried to pick numbers that were longer so because the purpose is to hold space and to be present and to create, create entertainment that lasts.
Eden Dawn 09:56
Jonny, it will stay with me forever. Also a citizen of Drag Nation? Big haired, sparkly, lipsync queen Donatella Nobody who at one point came out in a silver metallic mini to cosplay as Julia Roberts for a beat perfect rendition of the famous “fucking ugly shoes” scene.
Do you mind if I record you and ask you a question real quick?
Donatella Nobody 10:21
Yeah, I'm about to go on.
Eden Dawn 10:23
I know. That's all I want to say. How do you feel about going on?
Donatella Nobody 10:25
Oh, I'm so excited. This has been lovely. So excited. I'm doing an Erin Brockovich monologue and work by Iggy Izalea
ERIN BROKOVICH 10:34
Those are my files.
Yeah, we had them couriered over and listen, good work. They're a great start. We're just going to have to spend a little time filling in the holes in your research.
Excuse me, Theresa, is it? There are no holes in my research.
Okay, look, I think we got off on the wrong foot here.
That's all you got lady two wrong feet and fucking ugly shoes.
Cameron Esposito 11:03
That was an inspired choice. Erin Brockovich isn't, I mean, that's beautiful.
Eden Dawn 11:08
Then we had drag king Buster Open sliding across the stage with all the Magic Mike moves, barechested with a gold neck chain.
Buster Open 11:18
Right now, it's incredibly important for drag to be visible, I would say, especially with the political climate the way it is. And so, being part of this event really helps showcase just like the different values of drag. Drag is an art form. It's a way to express yourself. I am trans and I would not have been able to explore gender, the way that I have with drag without it. I'm incredibly thankful for drag.
Eden Dawn 13:28
It was powerful to hear performers talk about how drag helps them understand themselves, their identities and their relationships to masculinity. More on this from John Cameron Mitchell, who directed and starred in the iconic Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a cult hit from 2001 featuring John in drag as the East German rock star Hedwig Robinson with a signature ice blonde wig.
John Cameron Mitchell 14:03
I created a role learning from my favorite drag queen friends to bow at the altar and learn what I could to play a role that was for stage and screen.
Courtenay Hameister 14:20
So how did you feel different when you were dressed in drag?
John Cameron Mitchell 14:23
Oh my god, the power the joy I had? I'm a lesbian-identified gay man. baring my fucking soul. Are you with me? I was so nervous to first gig and I was, I felt more like a man more like a woman, I felt more like myself. I felt like I let go of all my femme phobia to which you can grow up with as a gay man. Right? Masculinity is currency for a long time in gay male cultures which fucks people up. Right? Closer to the oppressor. You know what I mean?
Hey, rascals. We're running out of time.
Eden Dawn 15:11
John came to town to help break a record wearing a motorcycle jacket and a black leather mini kilt. And he had so much fun. We had to yank him off stage more than once to, but behind the curtain, the conversation kept going.
John Cameron Mitchell 15:25
How long have you been working?
Eden Dawn 15:29
down when I started, I was 19. Now look at me. I'm a middle aged woman.
John Cameron Mitchell 15:33
You should be on stage eventually everyone was a great comedian.
Eden Dawn 15:36
Tell me why you wanted to be part of this event?
John Cameron Mitchell 15:40
Because these guys are kicking ass. It's in a legendary space. All the pictures on the wall the history you can smell it. People the audiences are fucking great. I'm stoned. What could be better?
Eden Dawn 15:57
And then obviously, you are a part of the drag icon. How do you feel?
John Cameron Mitchell 16:03
I don't think of myself as a real drag queen because I haven't paid my dues the way these queens have.
You haven't done it sweaty clubs.
John Cameron Mitchell
No, I'm a I'm a worshipper at the altar and learn from so many to play a character that in effect use drag to survive some brutality. And make people think and laugh and it's a wonderful thing that I think everybody should do and drag is for everybody.
Eden Dawn 16:32
Drag shows might be for everyone but marathon drag shows definitely are not. The night before this whole affair kicked off, with run of show print outs carpeting my office floor and empty takeout containers piled high, I pulled Emma aside to talk about what we were heading into.
Emma Mcilroy 17:00
One is sleep deprivation. And that leads into the other two which are food deprivation slash hunger, like making sure I don't get hangry. And then the other one is, which is what all of this leads to, which is I do suffer from migraines and migraines are brought on for me by a lack of sleep, increased stress and like bad diet, blood sugar management, and so this does seem every fucking thing like the perfect concoction for a nasty migraine.
Eden Dawn 17:27
Yeah, and I also am a hypoglycemic anemic, who gets migraines, and a real fun gal. So all of those are I'm very worried about the lack of sleep. And when we're at the point where we haven't slept in two days, and we're like eating a flaming hot Cheeto. We found on the basement of a drag club.
I hate to say I told me so….but
I was so disassociating with my sleep deprivation, I like don't know when I'm sitting, I just sort of come to and I'm like, Oh, I'm in a chair.
In my defense, I was not the only one starting to fall apart at this point. The exhaustion was even getting to the inexhaustible Poisoned Waters, who at one point had claimed that she could do the whole thing herself with some cold pizza and a case of energy drinks.
Poison Waters 18:18
I have no nails on no boobs, no earrings. I have freckles and a beard. I’ve been in drag since 10am Monday. I'm sorry for looking like this.
Eden Dawn 18:28
But you know what? being tired made us all a little more vulnerable with each other.
LaLa Ri 18:33
I just want to say thank you because you've been doing drag for 35 years. Because of you we were able to have Drag Race and I'm able to be here right now. So thank you for paving the way for queens like me.
Poison Waters 18:45
I’m sorry, I’m not usually a cry baby. I'm usually kind of a bitch
Eden Dawn 18:46
That’s visiting RuPaul queen LaLa Ri hitting Poison’s tender spot .Here’s the thing, I thought I was interviewing LaLai in our makeshift basement VIP dressing room but then in comes Poison, wigless in her tucking panties, and I got to just sit back and listen.
Poison Waters 19:07
No, thank you. And you know, the important thing is I love RuPaul. I love RuPaul’s Drag Race. And it has done amazing for so many people and all of us whether you know we realized or not. But thank you for saying that. Because so many of us are like we've been doing away before. We're not looking for accolades, but like we were, there wasn't the internet when we did start doing drag. We took albums to the club and hoped the man wasn’t mad and put the B-side on when we said A-side. You know, it's like, so thank you for saying that. Because right now like the RuPaul’s girls are the rock stars of our new generation, and deservedly so. I mean, you all do what you do.
But thank you for giving that nod, you know Darcelle passed away she was 92 and didn’t really get like the RuPaul thing. She's like, what this TV show really talking about. And they mentioned her two times. Anyway, just me rambling. Thank you for being here. It means a lot.
Eden Dawn 20:02
This is why we really wanted to surprise everyone there with a message from RuPaul, it just felt we needed her blessing. We had Lindsay Shookus connecting directly with members of her team, we had her bestie Drag Race judge Michelle Visage generously giving our show social media shoutouts on her channels. It started to feel possible we could actually get to Mother.
Emma: Hi, I'm okay, here's a request you might not get every day as a writer. I am sending you two very rough scripts for RuPaul
Emma: Obviously, there are not many people who know rose voice better than you do. So could you maybe take a crack and text me back?
Eden: Um, I have been preparing for this moment. preparing for this moment since 1994, when I saw Supermodel of the World world. Yes, I'm ready to go.
Emma: Okay. It has to come back by text because I need to text it to their team so that is my my request get writing RuPaul understudy.
Eden: You need to call it you need to say that's my RUquest, because that's what Ru would do.
Emma: Okay, this is your RUquest. Good luck.
Eden: Get it, girl. Bye.
Eden Dawn 21:19
Meanwhile, we had a record to break.
Poison: This is the first time I've been allowed to talk in 36 hours. Give me my two lovely people. I had gotten to say a damn thing. And you know, it's just killing me.
Eden: There's been a lot of talking backstage. Here's what you need to know. Every single time poison comes on fucking stage. She goes, I'm gonna save the show.
Editor's Note. When I say every time. I mean, literally, every single time.
Poison: I mean, I just shaved over my makeup every single day. I'm here. I'm here. It's for the people. It's for the people. Lord Jesus.
Emma: Okay, okay. Okay. I have a little thing. I wanted to share just a little thing.
Poison: I heard that before.
Emma: No. I came out ages ago. We're good. So what time did we start this whole thing at eight in 4:10pm pm on Monday. Pop quiz shit.I hope there's some people who are less tired than us and good with math. This guy we're relying on him. What is
Eden: the current Guinness world record for the longest ever drag stage show is in Melbourne, Australia in the year 2017. I almost said in the year of our Lord because that's how tired we all are right now. In the year of our Lord 2017, the Queen's broke it with 36 hours. 36 minutes and 40 seconds. That's good.
Emma: That's what do we think that might mean? 'm not sure what that means. Does that mean I get to chat? No, fuck you're staying right here.
Eden: That means we think that at 4:47, we might have broken the world record.
Emma: But the reason we say my is this little fellow with a gold suit from Guinness World Records has to turn up and watch a whole bunch of footage and make sure we didn't do any wrong. So we cannot tell you that. Yeah, I know.
Poison: A little fella with a gold suit? We need him on our side. He's a strapping lad who made his father proud.
Eden Dawn 23:53
We felt high at the idea we might’ve beaten the record, but without an official sign off from Guinness we also had knots in our stomach about it. What if we had slipped up somewhere or broken a rule we didnt even know about. Plus we’d told the world we were gonna do the full 48 hours to ensure our record stayed for eternity, and by all that glitters we were gonna do it. Even if we were so tired we couldn’t remember how to do our job .
Emma Mcilroy 24:31
Eden, our next performer who is…
A great person!
Eden Dawn 24:38
Next time, on the final episode of Slaying a Drag-a-Thon
Cheryl Strayed 24:45
Ok here’s the punchline, I'm not really Willie Nelson.
I am what the strongman community calls a deadlift specialist so you know what that means Emma I need you guys on the floor. Thank you.
Guinness Judge 25:00
Hold your applause until if you know it's successful because it's very awkward otherwise,
Eden Dawn 25:03
Slaying a Drag-a-Thon is a sidecast of the We Can’t Print This podcast co-written and produced by Fiona McCann and me, Eden Dawn. Follow us on socials @wecantprintthis to see more behind-the-scenes video and images from the show. And check out our website wecantprintthis.com for transcripts and extras.
Our audio producer is Owen Agnew and our artwork is by Ashod Simonian
Thanks to Desert Island Studios Production and Creative Calibrations AV teams for their assistance in the live show recordings.
Thanks to Emma Mcilroy and Poison Waters for all their time, and willingness to be recorded 24/7. Thank you to all of the fans of drag who have been sharing this podcast and reaching out. We love you dearly.
Photo by Holly Andres
Episode 5: 48 hours, 11 minutes, 30 seconds
We inch towards 48 hours of nonstop drag, leaning heavily on our emcees to fill time in whatever creative way they please, which turns out to include a lot of naughty jokes, deadlifting Wildfang's CEO, some serious chair-based exercises, and an impromptu jig. Mr. Guinness has arrived, and he is very much judging us. But as the minutes count down and everyone becomes grubbier and more unhinged, there's a big surprise in store.
Featuring RuPaul, Cheryl Strayed, Poison Waters, BinKyee Bellflower, Flynn Boyant, Emma Mcilroy, Jessi Duley, Guinness adjudicator Michael Empric, and more.
Episode 5 transcripts
Eden Dawn: This is offensive to your people. I'm just recording it.
Fiona McCann 42:45
No, they love this. We’re ambassadors.
Emma Mcilroy 42:49
We’re ambassadors for Ireland. Culture. Yeah, yeah,
this is what happens hour 46 of a drag show when we need to fill four minutes as we send out the two Irish.
Fiona McCann 42:59
We need to play 76 versions of Willie McBride. No problem.
Let's get some Irish music, get some Irish music.
Oh my god yeah!
Eden Dawn Narration: Welcome to Slaying a Drag-a-Thon, the true, chaotic story of our attempt to break a Guinness World Record for the longest drag show ever. My name is EdenDawn. You just heard my Irish Dragathon coproducer Emma and my Irish podcast coproducer Fiona fully conspiring to takeover the stage with an Irish jig. We had over 200 emcee slots to fill with time so performers could race down the precarious hole in the backstage floor to the dressing room, change one elaborate costume for another, and even maybe catch a breath or two. And as the show went on, and on, we started to get weird with it. Like when Gabi Dixson, the 5th strongest woman in the world, who has hoisted an astonishing 600lbs, found a new deadlift target.
So I just need to get a couple reps in I didn't bring any weights with me. But I am what I am what the strongman community calls a deadlift specialist. So do you know what that means? Emma,I need you to get on the floor. Thank you. All right. How many should I do like five maybe? Can you count for me.
Deb Kemp 18:01
Okay. All right,here we go. Is this a new category for the Guinness Book of Records? I mean, I think we could do it. Grabbing the crotch people grabbing the crotch.
I feel great.
Eden Dawn Narration: And if you can’t deadlift a grown ass woman, you can always ask the internet for jokes.
Cheryl Strayed : I Googled jokes. And I came up with six of them. I think this one's pretty good. Okay, what is what is the worst thing to hear when you're blowing Willie Nelson?
Eden Dawn Narration: Here’s NYT bestelling author Cheryl Strayed with some high brow humor she officially did NOT write.
Cheryl Strayed I know it's awfully early for a blow job. But
Fiona: Did you know there's a 98 year old woman in the audience and you just told that joke and
Cheryl: She knows more about blowjobs than I do. If you're 98 Okay, here's the here's here's the punchline I'm not really Willie Nelson.
Eden Dawn Narration: Now. Imagine you’re in a drag club at 5 a.m; when the bar is closed, everyone is sober, trying to make it through your two-hour audience shift. It’s smelly and hot, someone has just handed you a free cup of cold brew when Jessi Duley, the definition of Energizer Bunny, comes out to up the vibes by leading the audience through a round of chair exercises, with World Cup winner Meghan Klingenberg.
Shoulders. They have like a ramp up. There's a ramp up, shoulders, shoulders, shoulders. You're at a drag show quit clutching your pearls. You're at a drag show.
Oh, Meghan. Go Meghan.
Eden Dawn Narration: At this point i was so unhinged from exhaustion, that Jessi, who was supposed to leave, insisted on staying by my side sort of like a beautiful and extremely fit human version of a service animal whose person was having a meltdown. Thank you, Jessi, for keeping an eye on me and to the performers who kept themselves on track while also dropping pearls of wisdom as they tornadoed through. Like drag king Flynn Boyant, who drove five hours from Southern Oregon to be part of the show.
My teachers hated me ,little did they know I didn't need ADD meds I just needed drag.
Eden Dawn Narration: So here we are, on hour 47 in a club that has had 3000 people come through all sweating and dropping drinks on top of 50+ years of people coming through, sweating and dropping drinks. The basement dressing room and tiny backstage had not a window or fresh air to be sniffed. It was just carbon dioxide circulating round and round, making the air so stuffy and thick, I had taken to slathering Vicks vapor rub across my nose every 15 minutes just to allow for breathing.
Eden Dawn: how sweaty and haggard do we look?
Emma: Taralyn just saw me and she goes What did you do? I was like, really? She says you’re dewy.
Eden Dawn: I know it's sweat. I just was thinking is this how queens look young? They’re just covered in sweat?
Eden Dawn Narration: We weren’t just sweaty and gross, our clothes were disgusting. I had taken a seat in a pool of fake blood from a queen’s set and it was smeared all over my butt and the back of my legs. Emma made the massive mistake of touching the floor.
Emma: I was gonna find a quiet dark area and just find 15 minutes. And I laid down and then I realized why you never lie down to drag club.
Eden Dawn: Don't do it.
Emma: Cuz you will get up you'll stick to the floor, which is what happened.
Eden: So we almost lost because she was stuck to the floor.
Emma: Well, my jacket got stuck to the floor. I got up but it stayed behind. So never sleep on the floor of a drag club.
Eden Dawn Narration: First rule of drag clubs: Never lie down on the floor. Second rule? Never mess with Poison Waters’s sleep.
Poison: I have two more appearances on stage. Two out of 337,000 the last three days.
Fiona: No big deal.
Poison: Always a big deal. And I'll be talking to my legal representative in the morning.
Fiona: Right? Get your lawyers. It's all fine.
Poison: Lawyer that's extra I said legal representative that’s my cousin
Eden Dawn Narration: While the diehards were teetering on the gruesome, new folks had the audacity to show up looking amazing which, frankly, was too much to handle. Like LaLa Ri ascending the stairs as a neon green dreamsicle.
Eden Dawn: This fucking color on you. Are you kidding me? I'm too tired and too emotional for you to be looking good, right? I'm just gonna cry and hug you.
Eden Dawn Narration: We were getting so close to the end we almost started to believe it. Even Emma. But let’s flashback to the night before we started.
Emma: What's your confidence level?
Eden Dawn: Look, here's how I really feel in my heart.
Emma: What's your confidence level?
Eden Dawn: If you ask me gut reaction. There's no fucking way we're not doing it.
Emma: You're 100% then?
Emma: Well, I'm at 91
Eden: in my heart, I'm like, Emma, you are a founder and I am a theater kid. And together, there never was a more successful duo than people who will not quit.
Eden Dawn Narration: But at some point, thankfully, Emma found that missing nine percent
Emma: Eden, this is the first time I think we might actually break this fucking record.
Eden Dawn: You haven't thought we were gonna do it this whole time.
Emma I've been a little apprehensive but no, I think we're gonna do it.
Eden Dawn: We have to do this. Emma, like 680 more times
Emma I know but now I'm starting to find my vibe.
Eden Dawn Narration: Even if we, at times, had our internal doubts, the queens did not waver.
Pluto: I woke up this morning and it felt like Christmas morning like I was a 10 year old waking up to presents like it was so emotional. I was like, oh my god, I can't wait to get downstairs. I can't wait like I can't wait to get downstairs to look at my presents. Like I can't wait to get to the stage like that's just how I felt today. It was it's so magical
Eden Dawn Narration: Thanks Pluto. Speaking of Christmas. In the final stretch, Emma yanked me off the curtain and shoved me into Darcelle’s office.
Eden Dawn: Already recording what's happening This better be good news. Not bad news. Stop it.
RuPaul: Big kiss from Mama Ru.
Emma: I got it.
Eden Dawn: Oh my god, Ru knows what we're doing, I’m gonna cry.
Eden Dawn Narration: So what were we doing? At that moment, we were all upstairs, behind curtain. The long-awaited Guinness adjudicator had arrived backstage at this point and was peering over our shoulders at EVERYTHING we did. As the official clock watcher, he was the ultimate authority on our schedule. We were down to the last page of the infamous run of show. Who knew math would be such an important component of a drag show?
Guinness Judge: in terms of time, you have 15 minutes 30 seconds to get to 48 hours.
Emma: 15 minutes. And how much have we got programmed?
Eden Dawn: Yes, can you hold this for a minute? Somebody get a calculator
Emma: I can do it in my head.
Emma & Eden numbers numbers numbers
Eden Dawn Narration: Hey. Don’t judge us. You try adding up minutes and seconds after you’ve stayed awake for 48 hours living on Vicks Vaporrub fumes and one cold piece of pizza.
Emma: We're going over.
Eden Dawn: Yes.
Eden Dawn Narration: Wait, what? Did I agree to go over?
Do you want to go to 49?
Eden Dawn: No. Are you fucking kidding me? I was recording that. And fuck you. That’s the meanest thing you’ve ever said to anyone ever.
Eden Dawn Narration: Fact. It was. All eyes turned to our stoneyfaced judge who had at this point had spent several hours reviewing our video footage, looking over every single possible bungle to decide if we had violated the sacred Guinness rules.
Guinness Judge: so watching the evidence, you know, there were some snafus throughout the attempt, you know, a drag queen hit the Wildfang sign, a drag queen kicked the clock at one point and it fell off the wall, the clock stopped functioning correctly at one point. So all of these things, I had to double check, make sure things were still going according to plan. The performances continued during all of those instances. And that's what I needed to see. So going through all of that evidence, making sure the breaks were correct. There were some of the emcees were a little wordy had to get pulled off the stage. That's part of doing a record attempt, you know, it's not going to be easy.
Eden Dawn Narration: He stood backstage posed like Rodin’s Thinker, judging our little trauma-bonded huddle. It was down to just family now, stumbling towards the finish line together.
Guinness Judge: I will be delivering the results
Emma: I have a request. Of all the marathon attempts you've been to, like if you were to rate them all? Well, would we give 10?
Guinness Judge: Well in terms of fashion or in terms of snarky attitude from drag queens that that's off the charts
Emma: I desperately want to be ranked also just like detail efficiency preparation.
Guinness Judge: So here's what I said is that you know drag queens are not necessarily known for they're sticking to a schedule commitment to time. So the fact that you're the person running this is the right solution because you are that person and can corral everyone.
Emma: Michael, just called me a control freak.
Eden Dawn Narration: Emma was antagonizing the judge into complimenting her, I was white knuckling my clipboard trying to keep it together while nearly hallucinating, and Poison was crying. We were all doing great.
Poison: Oh my god, I'm so overwhelmed. I have been on the verge of tears this entire time. And now they're coming. And I have to go on stage. I got to save the show.
Eden Dawn Narration: And with that, Poison and the entire Darcelle cast performed the last of over 600 songs in our Drag-a-Thon, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” standing under the hot lights bedecked all in Wildfang fashions. Poison introduced them all one by one before bringing Emma and I out for the final time.
Poison: thank you thank you, and now I’d like to take just a moment, if we could lower the volume just a litbit, thank you, I’ve been awaken since god was a child, I can’t scream. Please welcome to the stage BinKyee Bellflower! From Acapulco Mexico, Bebe Jay! From Portland, OR put your hands together for Alexis Campbell Star! From the exotic locale of West Linn, please welcome Summer Lynn Season! All the way from Bend Over Oregon, the sassie Cassie Nova! Celebrating 42 years here at Darcelle XV, from the capital of the Beaver State, Salem Oregon, here’s Mr Mitchell! And next we have employee of the month for 35 years, it's me Poison Waters!
And now it’s it’s my pleasure to bring out my two sisters, we started this, we said if we’re still friends at the end we’re gonna be friends forever, but I’m not sure that’s gonna happen, please welcome Eden and Emma!
Eden Dawn Narration: Now we wait for our Guinness judge and the moment of truth.
Emma: Okay, okay. Okay, here's the thing. I told you the rules is an official Guinness World Record attempt. So please give me a big help and welcoming to the stage our official adjudicator Michael Empiric. From Guinness World Record.
Poison Big Daddy. Big Daddy is what they call him on the street.
Guinness Judge No one calls me that
Poison I thought, oh, that's just me.
Guinness Judge: That's just you.
Poison Waters: Okay, I want to ask you a question. What is Cease and Desist and why do you keep texting me that?
Guinness Judge: The level of harassment to my HR team is gonna hear about this time
Poison Waters: Oh is harass one word? Oh, I misunderstood. I'm so sorry.
Guinness Judge: So for those of you I have not met today, my name is Michael Empric. From Guinness World Records in New York City. The Big Apple, the Big Apple, save your applause until a few notes successful because it's very awkward. Otherwise Oh. So this was an official Guinness World Records attempt for longest drag artist stage show. So the mark to beat was set in Australia several years ago. That was 36 hours, 36 minutes and 40 seconds. Now before I announced the results, I just like to thank you all for your hospitality. Portland has been very welcoming to me.
Poison: You're welcome. And there's more where that came from.
Guinness Judge: You’re just pushing it. So today in Portland, Oregon, USA, You had a time of 48 hours, 11 minutes, 30 seconds at the new Guinness World Records title. I'd like to congratulate all of you. Congratulations, you are officially amazing. Great job.
Eden Dawn Narration: Holy shit, we did it. Gold glitter confetti rained from the sky, someone shoved champagne flutes in our hand, the audience was sobbing and laughing and hugging each other, It was the most j oy filled room I’d ever been in in my entire life.
Poison Waters:Thank you so much, Michael. So well. Thank you. It was touch and go for a minute there because I was touching and you went and I thank you so much.
Emma: Okay, okay. Okay. Just before we all lose our minds, and now I'm crying. So I've joined Eden. I gotta tell you, honestly, there were times even on Monday night, Tuesday morning where I was like, Eden, I don't know if we can do this.There was one person who believed in us. And if I could encourage you to turn your attention to the screen on the left, and as my AV team to hit play, you'll find out who that person was.
RuPaul: Congratulations Darcelle’s. You did it. You just won the Guinness World Record for the longest drag-a-thon in history. Oh my goodness. Thank you for spreading love and the joy of drag throughout the world. Oh my goodness. Big kiss from Mama Ru.
Eden Dawn Narration: Yah. We got Ru. And Portland went wild. Because the audience understood this was always about much more than a drag show.
Poison: Everybody say love.
Eden Dawn Narration: The bone-tired Wildfang crew, who’d been working on this thing for months alongside us, crashed the stage to take teary and triumphant group photos with the official Guinness certificate The party began to spill into the streets while drag queens and kings and laughing audience members mingled with news crews and passersby who were unexpectedly accosted with sequins and sweat while going about their regular Wednesday afternoons.
Audience Member: Being a part of something not just in a historic venue in historic part of Portland. But I mean, it's a Portland's coming back in a very, very big way. And these parts of town the beautiful stuff happening here in combination with the struggle and people hoping that out is amazing and ourselves is a phenomenal venue that it was to have to walk in and have ourselves be there to be the place it was that many people there in the middle of the day. How much effort and work went into it what it means and all of it goes into the predicate Trevor Project is such a special and amazing thing that it was yeah, it was. We were laughing and clapping but crying at the same time. It was beautiful.
Eden Dawn Narration: BinKyee Bellflower summed up the journey that began with a bunch of hateful drag bans and ended with a jubilant drag world record.
BinKyee Bellflower: Who would have though With a little angry voice in our hearts sparked a vision and an ambition. And here we are today.
Eden Dawn Narration: In the end we raised $309,000 for the Trevor Project and for queer children across the country to hopefully feel this type of love and joy whenever they need it. Emma, beet red from the heat, the cheap champagne, and the high of a wild idea come to fruitio,n was still ever the CEO in her Wildfang suit.
Emma: I am completely overwhelmed. I can barely hold it together to be honest. When that many people come together to make anything happen, you can't help but be overwhelmed and it's like I'm gonna say something super cliche you know, it's like a reminder that there's good in the world. Like if a single person dropped the ball that didn't happen like almost 200 People had to come together and want this to happen like when does that happen?
Eden Dawn Narration: And finally, my dear coproducer Fiona and our Audio Editor Owen, without whom this podcast would never have happened, turned the mic on me.
I'm just so tired. And so happy and everyone was crying and hugging and there's So much love. And everyone's talking about how Darcelle is here in spirit and how Portland needed this moment of pride, and how people just like needed something to feel joyful and good about on being in a tiny sweaty drag club where everybody feels like themselves and happy. And hugging is honestly the best thing ever for being wet. Poison and Emma call the token straight have this relationship. I value queer spaces, and I'm grateful they let me into them. Because I feel like everybody belongs and that feels good. Now I really want to go home and snuggle my cat.
Eden Dawn Narration: As if we weren’t enough in our feelings, Poison then landed an emotional gut punch.
Poison Waters 25:45
I was remembering. I told Emma the day she called me. She's like, why did they call me I'm like, Girl when I'm busy. Please don't call me and she called me because I didn't call her and I was in The Dalles, Oregon doing a show hosting for ourselves because we had just put her in the hospital that day. And I knew she wasn't coming now. And she's like, I got this idea. What do you think about this? I'm like, oh my god, we have to do it. But I can't talk to you right now. And we did the weekend ourself. So Darcelle passed Thursday and then the next week we like we're freakin doing it. I mean, we got to do it. It was like that quick. And so I told Darcelle's about it. So he knew about it, But the fact that he was really really proud of his Guinness World Record, unfortunately, because when he passed away his record went away it went to somebody else. So the fact that now we can transfer a different one to the club. It's amazing
Eden Dawn Narration: One audience member, Andrew Tweedie, who had been there almost as many hours as we had, spelled out how a gift like the one Darcelle had given all of us can last forever.
We lost Darcelle’s in March, as everybody knows. And there have been lots of accolades that have happened internationally about all of the things that Darcelle and his partner Roxy did to help the queer trans movement. But seeing something like this happened and transpire just means that that legacy continues the dollars that were raised the hundreds of 1000s of dollars raised for the Trevor Project will have an infinite impact on children and youth. that we we will never see you never know. And that's what legacy is about.
Eden Dawn Narration: Darcelle lived her truth, allowing and encouraging everyone she came in contact with to do the same. That’s her legacy, and it’s on all of us to continue her work, passing out joy and unconditional love. Who else could close this show out but her.
Darcelle: I want to be remembered because I made somebody smile, and care.
Eden Dawn Narration: This has been Slaying a Drag-a-Thon. a sidecast of the We Can’t Print This podcast co-written and produced by Fiona McCann and me, EdenDawn. If you liked this podcast come listen to us interview writers about the stories behind their stories.
Our audio producer is Owen Agnew and our artwork is by Ashod Simonian
Thanks to Desert Island Studios Production and Creative Calibrations AV teams for their assistance in the live show recordings.
Thanks to Emma Mcilroy and Poison Waters for all their time, and willingness to be recorded 24/7. And to the Wildfang team for everything, particularly Chloe Roach, Amy Hjorth, Taralyn Tuot, and Jessie Morris.
And a final thought: Darcelle didn’t put on drag for the first time until almost 40 years old and still became an international icon in her lifetime. It is never too late to chase your happiness, so get on out there and do it.