A Drag Laureate? So West Hollywood!
The City Council on Monday will be asked to consider authorizing the creation of that honorary position as a way to promote West Hollywood’s Boystown gay nightlife district. The proposal is being brought forward by Council members Lauren Meister and John Duran.
A memo to the Council says that “West Hollywood has been one of the centers of drag culture for decades. Drag performers are often the main attraction at restaurants and bars, star in arts and cultural events, or even lead storytelling and crafts at Drag Queen Story Hour (which takes place at West Hollywood Library.)
“A Drag Laureate program would create an honorary position of Drag Laureate for the city. The Drag Laureate would serve to highlight and promote the contributions of drag artists to West Hollywood by acting as an ambassador to businesses in the city, especially those in the city’s historic LGBT district.”
The “LGBT district” to which the memo refers is West Hollywood’s Boystown nightlife district, a concentration of gay bars and nightclubs on the west side of Santa Monica Boulevard without the “L,” “B,” and “T.” (The city’s only lesbian bar, The Palms, closed in 2013 after having been in business for over 40 years, https://wehoville.com/2013/05/06/palms-bar-sets-closing-date-lesbian-safe-haven-remembered-fondly/. and there are no bars or clubs that target a distinct bisexual or transgender clientele). The Boystown district has been in a slow decline in recent years, a decline exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen the recent closings of popular gay bars such as Rage, Gym Bar, and Flaming Saddles during COVID-19 pandemic.
The memo says the Drag Laureate would also “work to promote arts and culture in the city. If approved, staff will further develop the proposed scope of the program, guidelines, and selection criteria and return to City Council for further discussion and consideration. The selection of the Drag Laureate will be facilitated by a selection committee made up of stakeholders from the community and local businesses, including representatives from the local LGBT bars and restaurants.”
The memo notes that the idea of a Drag Laureate was originally included in San Francisco’s recently developed LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy to preserve and promote LGBTQ+ cultural heritage in San Francisco.
West Hollywood has a popular drag culture, with places like Hamburger Mary’s, The Abbey, and Mickys hosting regular drag performances. The city has been home to major contestants on the very popular RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The city’s only other “laureate,” a term of honor bestowed upon someone for outstanding creative or intellectual achievement, is its poet laureate. That position, created in 2014, currently is occupied by Charles Flowers, whose term expires in October. https://wehoville.com/2020/05/13/nominations-are-being-accept-for-west-hollywoods-next-poet-laureate/