The Lookout's Drag Night

or, the intoxication of a crowded dance floor

Compiled from notes taken on, and memories of, January 18th

Before: I met up with Ashley and Rex at SMN around 10:45 after striking a rental from Academic Hall and rehanging the house plot. My stomach was fairly empty but I didn't feel hungry, and I only had one cigarette left, which was a bit worrying. We walked down to York Street and walked to The Lookout, which is in the vicinity of The Dominion Tavern and The 27 Club, both of which I'm familiar with, and a strip club that I've heard from a friend isn't close enough to rock bottom to be worth visiting. Being moderately familiar with the neighborhood, I figured there would be a lot of people around, and my expectation was met as soon as we got close - bums, drunks, and smokers were mingling on the street around the bar.

The thumping of bass became audible as we walked through the door and grew louder as we climbed the stairs to the bar. We had a short, shouted conversation with the two security guards, paid them seven dollars from an ATM, and were given stamps. We paid another two dollars for the coat check where I pocketed my wallet, lighter, and nearly empty pack of smokes, and passed my bag over a counter into a lowered space already full of people's winter clothing.

I asked Rex and Ashley if they'd like to go dance, and we made our way to the dance floor. The music was loud, the lights were trippy, and the people knew how to move. I danced for maybe an hour before the show started, mostly grinning with my eyes half closed, and I experienced the often repeated revelation that I love dancing. Some dude asked if I was gay or straight but I couldn't hear him over the music so I just laughed and shrugged, and we danced for a bit. The lighting was very appealing to me, with little shapes of bright colour constantly shifting and changing which, combined with the music, was a bit like being on nutmeg mixed with magic mushrooms, according to an acquaintance of mine who's name and description I can't remember for the life of me.

All this was pretty great foreplay for a drag show, I think. I went outside occasionally to bum cigarettes, and got one every time from the first person I asked. A tall Marilyn Monroe look-alike came out onto the dance floor eventually, and Ashley got a photo with her. The DJ turned down the music and asked us to welcome the first drag queen.

After: One of the things that was sort of interesting to me regarding this show was the blurriness between the role of performer and the role of audience. The drag queens were dressed in more elaborate costumes than the audience members (participants?), but everyone was singing, everyone was dancing, and the stage was only moderately more dedicated to the drag queens. Audience members would go onstage to dance or sing, or to give money or drinks to the queens. I wouldn't mind avoiding words like fabulous, but the performers (intended to be a soft distinction here) were larger than life and straddled the distinction between sexy and funny. The queens were almost caricatures of what a woman is supposed to be.

To narrow in on my less cerebral experience, I was pretty tired by the time the drag queens started performing. I hadn't eaten enough throughout the day and had drank a rye and coke (I generally try to stick to soft stimulants when I go dancing). I also didn't know most of the songs that were being lip-synced, and having a focal point on the dance floor changed the dynamic in such a way that it was more difficult for me to dance (in part, just because the crowd was more dense).

I don't know if I would go to a drag night for the drag again, but I definitely liked the space and the dancing. I'd stick to coffee or coke(a-cola) next time, and I probably wouldn't dress in my dirty work clothes.