Drag with attitude in Berkshire County
SOUTH EGREMONT — Growing up near Greenville, S.C., Philip Calabro didcqn't like the drag scene.
"It was pageant drag, which I was not interested in at all. It was all these girls with the big sequin dresses and the big hair and the same makeup, and they looked beautiful, but it was never anything I wanted to pursue," Calabro said during a telephone interview.
Then he moved to New York City.
"When I came to New York, and I saw the grungier queens in the performances and the edgier queens in performances, and I saw that, for lack of a better word, punk drag, that's what sparked something in me," he said.
Now, Calabro, or Miss Nancy Nogood, is applying that New York City tenacity to the Southern format toward which he was once indifferent. And he's doing so in the Berkshires, where he resides today.
On Friday night, Nogood and Only In My Dreams Events will present the Miss "Nogood" Drag Pageant at The Barn at The Egremont Village Inn, with four performers vying for top honors. Nogood and Boxxa Vine will host, while New York City drag queens Gilda Wabbit and Gina Tonic; two-time Tony Award nominee Alison Fraser; actor/comedian Shawn Hollenbach and The Real Housewives of New York City's Heather Thomson will judge.
"It all just fell into place really wonderfully that these people were willing to come in and have a blast with us," Calabro said.
The pageant is one of two major drag events in the county on Friday night. At Pittsfield's Tavern at the A, Weekend Warriors Entertainment will hold its third drag night in as many months. This one is called "Stranger Queens Drag Show," a reference to Netflix's series, "Stranger Things," and a prompt for an '80s-themed evening.
Unlike those performing to the north, the drag figures (Giganta Smalls and Lotus — qween from Connecticut; Pierretta Viktori from New York City; Noelle Diamond from Albany) in South Egremont will not be performing for tips. Instead, they'll be trying to impress the judges, competing in categories typical of a beauty pageant. Calabro said that, for a talent, drag pageant contestants will traditionally do a number, perhaps lip syncing a song. Throughout the night, the judges will assess the performers based on their "PUNK quotient: Personality, Urself, Nastiness, and Kill It Onstage," according to a press release issued by the organizers.
"That's the kind of drag I wanted to bring when I created this pageant," Calabro said. "I wanted to create a show that gives queens a chance to have this PUNK quotient, to have this nastiness."
What does that mean in practice?
"I'm going to love to see the most polished queen on stage, but I'm also going to love to see the queen that does some crazy thing with her makeup and, like, spits a drink out. She doesn't have to spit her drink out, but that would be amazing. That's the kind of thing that I eat for breakfast," Calabro said.
The organizer travels at least once per month from his Pittsfield home to New York City to perform in drag shows. He would be going all-out if he were 5performing in the pageant, he said.
"I'll put in more effort when I'm competing in a competition or I'm competing in a pageant [than in a show]," he said. "I'm going to be putting more effort [into] my performances. I'm going to be putting more effort [into] my looks. I'm going to be trying to think, what can I do to beat those girls to get that prize? What wig reveal do I need to do? Or, what costume change do I need to do, or what death drop? What sets me apart from those girls?"
The prize package for the pageant includes $100 cash; Jane Iredale makeup; a portrait session with a Berkshires photographer; custom-made nails from Nails For Queens and an automatic place for the winner in the semifinals of June's third annual Dance Party and Cabaret with Drag Pageant at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. That event is also presented by Only In My Dreams Events. It has become a staple of LGBTQ Pride Month in the Berkshires and a model for other events popular among the LGBTQ community that have emerged in the county.
"I think this community is so hungry for more queer entertainment," Calabro said. "It's hungry for more queer nightlife. It's hungry for more queer visibility and a stronger and more present queer community, and I think that bringing in these drag shows will — and the drag shows that have already been coming out — it's already setting the ball rolling. It's already setting the momentum."
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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