Lately, the airwaves have been dense with ads for George Hamilton’s La Cage Au Folles. I’m sorry I missed it when it was in town, as those types of shows have always been a source of delight, inspiration and intrigue to me.
I remember entertaining clients in New Orleans in the 90s when I worked for Sports Illustrated, and frequenting many of the transvestite/gay bars along Bourbon Street. All four of us were amazed at the beauty and grace of these performers. Hooray for them to have the courage to be themselves, even if it was under the guise of a nightclub setting.
When I was growing up, there was a place I used to visit when I lived in Studio City called The Queen Mary. Do any of you remember that place?
Teresa and I were in our early 20s, when life was spread before us like a wide-open prairie. College tested our boundaries, and we were experimenting with a variety of lifestyle opportunities.
One season, we were both at home for the holidays. On a whim, we decided to go to the Queen Mary on Ventura Boulevard near Whitsett Avenue.
We were barely over 21, and gingerly handed over our IDs before slipping inside into the dark. Soon we were cushioned by one of the many supple leather booths and ordering some cocktails with fluorescent parasols. Sweet drinks were in. We were both excited and a bit scared. What would our Catholic mother think if she knew?
Inside, we were exposed to a world we’d never seen before — a wonder of beauty, gender bending, and mimicry. These men were gorgeous, and could they sing, dance and act. They were sexy. In fact, I had a crush on many of them and probably stuffed a few singles down their dresses.
The crowd inside was a mixed blend of gay men, lesbians, curiosity seekers and straight people. No one cared. We were all there to be entertained. And we were.
Here’s a description from ClubPlanet.com of this now closed venue:
Queen Mary Nightclub - This club has been around for 38 years and still draws huge crowds for the cabaret shows. Shows include female impersonators, drag comedians and male strippers. The shows are scheduled from Friday to Sunday, but you should call ahead for the specific bookings. Come out on Wednesday or Thursday, and you'll be treated to a night of dancing and karaoke.
According to some sources, it changed ownership in 2002, and is now Serra's Bar and Grill. Now that’s a drag…
I’m sure there are still places like this around town. In fact, I think there was one on La Cienega in Hollywood once upon a time, but it’s gone also.
The Queen Mary holds special memories for me. It was the first of many places like this that I enjoyed visiting. It opened me up to enjoying certain personal freedoms that are not tolerated in many parts of the world.
It saddens me to know that it’s no longer there.
Here’s a clip from the club, circa 1980’s...