Being a straight drag queen is both exciting and heart breaking.
|David Burham was remembering his childhood in the 1960's, World War II was over and America was the greatest nation in the world. All the other countries looked up to us. When David saluated the flag at school and ball games, he stood proud. A lump was in his throat and tears were in his eyes.
At age seven, David's life was a fantasy land of TV shows like "The Man from Uncle", cartoon characters and super hero comic books. His life was almost identical to the other boys in his class. Of course, there were bullies and weirdos. He had a couple of friends that he hung out with. At the lunch table and the playground they all talked smack about sports heroes, the space race, cars, dopey parents and TV.
David had a shameful secret, though. When his parents were gone, he would sneak into his Mom's closet. Dressing up in her clothes was a slice of heaven in his dull life He loved the feel of satin and lace against his skin. He would put her jewelry on and put a scarf in his hair. He knew show tunes. He would close his eyes, use a flashlight for his microphone, sing favorite tunes and imagine a crowd clapping and throwing roses at his feet.
Then the worst thing happened. David was discovered by his mother dressed in a scarlet lace nightgown and sparkling slippers. He had forgotten to lock the door and there he was strutting in front of the mirror admiring himself.
Mom began to weep.
"Davy, what're you doing? Why are you in my clothes?"
"Mom, it's okay. I just wanted to see how it would look."
"Why, honey, don't you want to be a boy?"
"I don't know why I like dressing up, Mom, but It's fun. It sure don't mean I wanta be a girl."
His parents discussed the possibilities. After all, he was only seven and kids liked to play dress up. He was taken to a therapist, who determined David loved dressing as a female. She had given him psychological tests that determined he was a heterosexual male as far as feelings went. He was interested in females as sexual images. His parents felt like they could relax. They adored their only son but agreed life would be hard in this world if he wasn't acting like a "normal" boy.
Many years passed and David's 'feelings' had paid off. He now looks in the mirror and Divine, his alter ego smiles back. His cosmetic expert, Monique, has earned her sky high salary tonight creating another flamboyant stage presence. The makeup is magnificent.
His eyes are sparkling emeralds with the help of tinted contacts. The glitter on the lids enhanced and the kohl defined. The effect was Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra." Of course, only Liz had marvelous lavender eyes. Elizabeth Taylor was gone now but he had seen all her movies, studied her acting, her indulgences and remembered fondly her love for Rock Hudson as he died from AIDS. She alone had raised millions for research. What a broad!
"Dahling, are you sure we can't get lavender lenses?" David asked Monique.
"You know I have checked all over the globe and none give the effect you would want. Of course, if you want to try yourself."
"I know you look after me and I love you very well for it."
David pulled a long thin Cuban cigar from his humidor and inhaled the luscious smell before placing it in his mouth. His thoughts zeroed in on the love of his life, Miranda. The scene from the last time they made love played in his mind.
Miranda Cuban came from a wealthy family that had business interests all over the world. She had passed her bar exam but wasn't talking about joining a firm. She was much younger, spoiled and had told him a long time ago that he was something different and that turned her on. She spent her time traveling and didn't like to talk about what she did. They seemed to have common interests in arts, travel, private time, fabulous restaurants and lively discussions. He wanted commitment, a home and children. He was in his forties now and needed to act soon.
She would call from London to say she was helping with one of Daddy's nonprofit organizations. They had spoken once a week. She was always abrupt on the phone, never gave details.
Miranda was everything he desired in a lover, playful as a kitten, removing her clothing one piece at a time, dangling it in front of him. When he reached out, she pulled back just enough. He had to work for it, finally chasing her naked through the loft. She liked it a little rough, raking her perfectly manicured fingernails down his back. That usually resulted in bloody scratches, a reminder of their passion.
After hours of lovemaking, she seemed satisfied, purring like a kitten. She never uttered the word "love." He had spoken his heart, saying he loved, needed and even worshiped her. She was quiet except for the sounds of sex.
It was her idea that they take a break for a while to sort their feelings. Time had stopped at twelve o'clock when she boarded the plane. From her it was a quick kiss that said nothing.
All he could do is whisper.
"'Please, don't leave me."
One always seems to love more than the other. He didn't think he could walk away from her, no matter the reason. When he unburdened his heart, Miranda always accused him of being "melodramatic."
"Darling, this is why you are such a successful drag queen!"
He considered his sensitivity an asset. Many professional actors and agents had encouraged him to go to auditions for a play. He loved what he did for a living.
Miranda was back now. This morning she had given him her stipulations for marriage.
"It's come down to this, you need to find another line of work."
"I don't understand, Miranda. I am happy doing what I do."
"Well, I think you could find something else. You are a talented guy. I am sorry but I hate what you do. What do you think it would do to children we have? Don't you want your family to be proud of you?"
"Of course, I want you to be proud of me. As far as children, I want them to follow their passion. No one should feel ashamed like I did."
"Please, David, it's embarrassing. I want to be the woman in our marriage. My God, you look better than me in a dress!"
'Was she really so shallow and vain? Was superficial attractiveness that important to her?'
' He had to remind himself show business was only a job. What he truly wanted at this age was a partner that was proud of him and what he did.
She seemed to be trying to put a leash on him. He could become her show dog to drag out for a laugh in bed and then push in a closet when it was convenient. Great sex wasn't worth all this and he was having a hard time remembering what else positive she had brought to his life for the last five years. Was he willing to let her run his life? He was beginning to tire of the whole situation.
She said she would be missing the show tonight but would come by after the "weirdos" had left.
The weirdos were his friends and fans. He loved it all. Although he wasn't gay, he knew half the audience was. He loved them and they returned it every performance. There were always roses and underwear at his feet plus door keys and phone numbers. His parents had been supporting him for years now and friends came and laughed in all the right places.
He had learned so much doing Bette, Cher, Madonna, Liza and he was working on a up and coming Lady Gaga. It was a challenge and he was an artist that made very good money. He had to hit the gym for two hours a day plus voice lessons. The overhead was high but worth every penny. Some woman was out there that would appreciate his talent, humor, romance, and the love he had to give.
This wasn't anything Miranda understood, even superficially.
Tonight, he was dressed in a glitzy sequined multicolored costume beneath a mink coat. It was a whole lotta Dolly Parton and Liberace.
The music started.
A tap on the door. He smiled at himself in the mirror. It was "showtime", like Roy Scheider said in "All that Jazz." Showbiz was his drug.
He walked past his team, all genders and lifestyles. They were family. The curtains parted and the applause was deafening. The lighters flickered. David drank it all in.
They shouted his name. They loved his antics, camping it up with gestures, clothes and singing. Imitating the greats, his range was tremendous, from high soprano to a low sexy growl. This wasn't a job. It was life and he would not throw it away for a spoiled little girl.
He walked under the spotlight and signaled the band. He opened with "Gonna wash that Girl right out of my Hair".
He did six different costume changes singing Madonna's "Lucky Star", Cher's "I Believe", and Bette's showpiece; "The Rose".
For the Piece de Resistance, David channeled Frank in all his glory, singing "New York, New York".
The closing was "My Way".
David felt like he was flying to the moon, making wishes among the stars, leaving all that tried to drag him down behind.
By Kathie Stehr