Tipping Drag Queens: How Much Should You Give—And How?

Also, a return to drag kings: Will they take over from the queens?

My fertile mind was awakened when a publicist for Miss Gay America asked for my personal advice as to tipping drag queens. I said to be generous, but don’t make yourself the show. People paid to see a hard-working performer, not someone act out their dreams of largesse by plying them with dollars.
 

I would also say:

  1. Don’t automatically stick the money somewhere indecent.

    Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty

    If the performer is coming into the crowd and shimmying and encouraging that sort of thing, maybe do a tasteful plop into the cleavage, but that’s it. Don’t stick it where the sun don’t shine for a cheap laugh. Just because the drag queen is acting naughty, it doesn’t allow you to become the next Harvey Weinstein.

  2. Whatever your approach, try to wait until there’s the proper moment.

    MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP/Getty

    Don’t interrupt a heartfelt moment, a strong moment, any moment. Hold on until it seems like the time is right for you to usurp some spotlight and give back some green. The performer will give you some clues.

  3. It’s dramatic to give five ones, but maybe just give a five.

    That would be more concise and meaningful, for sure. But however you break it down, the bigger the amount, the better. These queens are not beggars, but most of them aren’t millionaires either. Show them your love!

  4. Tip them when they’re soaring, not when they’re doing a tired Mommie Dearest bit for the millionth time.

    Don’t reward bad behavior!

  5. Don’t take a bow after you tipped.

    Just go back to your seat and wait for all the awards that will surely come your way. Maybe.

Drag Kings Will be Kings Again

I was also stimulated when asked by a reporter why drag kings aren’t as prevalent as drag queens these days. I replied that I feel they surely will be. Let me expand: Drag kings—women assuming the roles of men—are destined to be huger than ever, especially since the climate is just right for them in 2018. A lot of them back in the day of New York’s Club Casanova—the 1995 drag king bash founded and hosted by the swaggering Mo B. Dick—assumed male privilege as a way of puncturing machismo and objectifyingly crass behavior.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty

Some drag queens are spoofing womanhood, but I find that most of them enjoy the glamour and sparkle of their assumed roles, whereas on the other hand, the drag kings often liked to pretend to be men in order to show you what utter bombastic fools dudes can be. They’re turning the tables, turning over carts, and pushing buttons that are on way too tight around the tummy. And in the midst of the #MeToo movement, what would be a more perfect art form than spoofing male pigginess? I feel there will inevitably be a RuPaul’s Drag King Race, and it’ll be bigly. Ladies, start your shellacking.

Says Dick, “I think drag kings should be more well known, regardless of what current movement is happening. Women are largely ignored, no matter what the circumstance. And yes, drag kings make fun of machismo recognizing that masculinity is an artifice. My motto as a drag king is ‘instead of being an angry woman, I became a funny man.'”

There’s not much that’s funny about the #MeToo movement—it’s easy to poke fun at imbecile behavior, yet hard to spoof physical, emotional violence, and abuse. “Currently, as an elder statesman, I am creating a website (dragkinghistory.com) to showcase the illustrious history of male impersonation leading to the drag kings of today,” continues Dick. “This is to create visibility and viability.”

Not Just the “Other Broadway Composer Named Stephen”

Walter McBride/Getty
A king of Broadway, Stephen Schwartz doesn’t lack for visibility or viability, having scored musicals like Pippin, Godspell, and Wicked, the last of which continually defies gravity. And so, the Dramatists Guild Foundation (DGF) raised a toast to him on his 70th birthday last Monday, with a gala concert held at the Hudson Theater, and I was there to grill the songwriter extraordinaire on his lovely longevity.

“What’s the throughline of your work—heart or danger, or both?” I wondered, not inarticulately, I must say. “That’s a profound question for me, standing on the red carpet—or just off of it a little,” Schwartz responded, impressed. “I think I tend to do shows about outcasts and people who find themselves outside their cultures and societies, and are trying to find how much of themselves they have to give up in order to fit in.”

“So you wrote Little Mermaid?” I joked. “But seriously,” I went on, “is that why LGBT audiences respond to your shows? That ‘outcast trying to fit in’ element?” “Why not?” he said. “I think for LGBTs, the struggle is how much of yourself do you sacrifice and where do you draw the line, and I think the line is being drawn faster and tighter these days.” “I started that,” I grinned, proudly, and he almost fell for it.

Walter McBride/Getty

By the way: Does Schwartz have a favorite score of his? The multi award-winning songwriter said he does, but he wouldn’t specify what it is because he once read that Sondheim’s favorite song of his own was…”‘Little Lamb’?” I smirked. “‘Someone in a Tree’,” said Schwartz. And after that, Schwartz couldn’t listen to that song the same way again, always wondering why it was Sondheim’s fave.

But Schwartz would tell me that his favorite of his own scores was from a long time ago. “Pippin!” I declared, triumphantly. “I’m not telling,” he said, with magic still left to do. And then the evening of powerhouse singers began, starting with a birthday video montage dotted with some cute moments—writer Winnie Holzman saying to Schwartz, “You’ve made me a better tennis player—and I don’t play tennis” and Kristin Chenoweth purring, “Write me another part!”

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.
@mikeymusto