On the Way to the Follies

April Rains hosted "April's Follies" this weekend, the first Imperial Court drag show in Wasilla. She describes her adventures on the way to the Follies in her first contribution to Bent Alaska.

All Right
by April Rains

He stood there silently looking at me as his wife purchased material in Joanne's, his large "NRA", "IBEW" and "Marine" patches clearly visible. He was in his lates 60's and was obviously only there because she was. His look said any place would be better now that I was standing there.

A smile crossed my lips, but he gave no response, and several other people joined the checkout line. Keith said it was the clothes I wore that were drawing attention, not "typical" for Alaskan women. "Alaskan lesbian chic" I call it, a look completed with a fringed leather motorcycle jacket and draping green plaid scarf. The two of us made our way as an odd couple through a myriad of stores and shops, picking up last minute items for tonight's show. 

I used to wear high riding mini-skirts and killer heels for very brief, and nervous, stops to get cigarettes or coffee. Home, to the club, and back again. Now it's colorful layered t-shirts, sweaters, designer jeans, flowing skirts and dresses, and dress boots or heels, and what once was a rare occurance to enter a store or do errands in femme, has become the norm in many ways. The styles now reflect the ease, comfort, and fun with which it is done. Enough to say that whatever I am to onlookers, I am not just some guy faking it in women's clothes. There is self confidence, style and taste, life experience, and even serious sex appeal at times, behind the red hair and french manicured nails.


At Mila's Alterations I stood in front of the full length hallway mirror wrapped in a $1000 torqoiuse blue evening gown as she adjusted this strap and that. Mila insisted that I model gowns and dresses with her professionals at tonight's show, and I agreed if she would find something for my daughter to wear as well, as a surprise. Dad and daughter hitting the catwalk together as female fashion models. A first, I am sure, for Alaska.

It's prom season and three teenage girls stood there in amazement and shock as I turned side to side to check the fit. The gown is gorgeous and, like the cocktail dress I bought, cut as if I were the mannequin the designer built it around. "Even I didn't look that good in that dress," one girl replied, and a sound of discontent crossed her lips. They were there as Mila and I discussed shoes and makeup pallettes to match. All just part of life as it moves ahead in odd and bizzarre twists and turns. 


"We need to drop Jesse off at her house," Keith said as we headed out of town. She lives on Fort Richardson, the army base just north of Anchorage. This is not the place one plays games, as armed guards, attack dogs, metal/bomb detectors and heavy armor guard the gates. It's a major deployment point for Striker Brigades, equipment and infantry into the Middle East. The names and units of those killed in combat sit freshly on the minds of everyone, as do those still there, or soon to be going. Anyone or anything in question is not taken lightly there.

Pulling up, a line of cars and trucks waited as teams of soilders stripped and searched each car one by one due to a high security alert. Too late to turn around, the three of us sat there: a goth military wife with a partial mohawk and green braided hair, a photographer covered in tattoos, wearing dark glasses and purple hair, and a drag queen. The minivan was crammed with boxes of potato chips, makeup, dresses, a spot light, camera equipment, and a bright pink guiter. If there was about to be a massive incident, everything pointed at us, even though we had done nothing. 

As we watched, all the traffic was directed to the right and crews descended on the vehicles. We moved up, and we were the only ones told to go left. We approached the guards, and I sat there nervously as Keith handed them our ID's. "Fundraiser," Keith said. The guard stared at the pictures, then at me, and then grinned. "Go ahead," was all he replied, and we were the only vehicle to enter the base without incident. The guards knew I was male by my ID. They didn't care. Go figure. Guess I am all right.

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