A Brief History of GLITZ!: Art Queens Gone Wild

 Ellasarus Rex & Brigitte Bidet (PHOTO: Nico Soiree)

Ellasarus Rex & Brigitte Bidet (PHOTO: Nico Soiree)

Glitz has always been “alternative”, but what I mean by alternative is many-sided. The fact that it’s not comprised of traditional “queens” is a start. The “stage” is an invented space on the dancefloor of Mary’s, who celebrate their 19th anniversary this Friday, though “drag events” aren’t rare at the legendary EAV gay bar. Gurlfrandz takes over the regular Maryoke spot on the occasional Saturday night, bringing out weekend warriors from all walks of life. Glitz, however, is better suited for true blue queers and its cozy packed out crowd on an odd weekday, occurring every third Thursday, is a monthly weeknight ritual honoring ATL’s rising queer performers.

We’ve definitely seen more “art drag” enter orbit, perhaps in connection with pop culture’s acceptance of artistic approaches in music. The realm of RuPaul solidified its presence in drag, but the underground of Atlanta’s artistic queer expression specifically grew from grassroot ideas by folks with more obscure inspirations. Mothered by Ellasaurus Rex in 2014, Glitz has always had a participation of EVERYONE, not confined to traditional ideologies of “drag queens”, making way for touches of fantasy, cosplay and other elaborate costumery. Over the years, cis, trans and nonbinary individuals have contributed their creative visions to Glitz, challenging parameters of “queens”.
 

 Lola Bundy (PHOTO: Austin Frantz)

Lola Bundy (PHOTO: Austin Frantz)

For roughly six weeks, the Miss Glitz pageant takes place drawing different crews from the queer pool and then come in support of contestant friends. The winner doesn’t just walk away crowned, they become the host of Glitz for the next year, curating themes and organizing talent for the showcases thereafter. The titled of the first Miss Glitz in 2015 was given to Lola Bundy after a fierce competition with Chelsea Daggers and Mitzi Pennington. Lola Bundy as an alter ego was personified as a femme fatale or hysterical women suffering from nervous or borderline breakdowns. She used clips from Natalie Wood’s freakout in Splendor in the Grass and portrayed Jayne Mansfield burlesque meets Church of Satan priestess vibes, laying a foundation for creative queens with multi-faceted input on song choice, narrative, outfits, acting and props.

The theatrical but dark side of femininity became a Glitz tradition. Geneva Blaus, who was crowned in the 2nd Glitz pageant, did a Princess Di number to Gaga’s “Paparazzi” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It”, a pop culture / culture shock shake up. Super gorgeous Geneva owned the route of celebrity commentary, cracking up crowds with her Ann Coulter caricature to ELO’s “Evil Woman” for example. Geneva speaks fondly on the pageant:  “Glitz has much more of a communal atmosphere, especially in the last round. You enter The Village Queen family when you begin Miss Glitz. Miss Glitz is as much a learning environment as it is a competition. A Village Queen boot camp if you will.” Geneva occasionally performs, though also studies at Emory and is currently in a performance group called ImmerseATL under the direction of Atlanta Ballet mistress Sarah Hillmer.
 

 Geneva Blaus (PHOTO: Austin Frantz)

Geneva Blaus (PHOTO: Austin Frantz)

Molly Rimswell is the most recent Glitz winner and current host. A bearded queen who towers over the audience, her own brand of craziness is expressed through unstoppable high energy. During the third annual Miss Glitz, Molly was competing with creatively fierce artistes like drag king Mystery Meat and current Dragula contestant Abhorra. The passioned performances during the third year of Miss Glitz solidified every participant's entrance as known performers. In the end, it was Molly who won over judges with her clever edits, cheeky outfits and well-thought routines to everything from Edith Piaf to a Kim Possible mix with Blondie. The current cast of Glitz 2017 is comprised of some previous competitors and the themes under Molly’s direction have been great for interpretation:  “sleep over”, “fantasy”, “family affair”, “space”, “anti-Glitz”.

The glitter expected of any drag performance is present, of course. It IS called Glitz, after all. Presenting bold looks is part of the process but getting through this local competition is not guaranteed by being the most graceful or glamourous. It has always been extra regarding social commentary and sinister satire. These factors reign as the most regal requirements in the Miss Glitz pageant. Midtown, move over! Glitz is more filth, grit, and above all quintessentially queer.  
 

 Molly Rimswell (PHOTO:  Jon Dean )

Molly Rimswell (PHOTO: Jon Dean)

As a long time audience member before frankensteined with tulle into their own cunty character, Molly Rimswell speaks fondly of Glitz as a community space:  “It's a home for the weird kids who were always told they'd never have a family. It's a place where people can laugh, cry, grow, and recharge. There are no rules or expectations. There are just themes. It doesn't matter what you look like, how you identify, or your skill set. Glitz is just a place to express your creativity in whatever capacity you can and Mary's will accept you and love you for being yourself.”

Join hostess Molly for Glitz: Creatures Edition featuring Mystery Meat, Dotte Com, Salem, Nico Soirée, LaRico Potts and a special guest this Thursday November 16th at 10:30 PM Mary’s. 

 

Sunni Johnson is a writer, zinester, and musician based in Atlanta, GA.