An amalgam of drag, burlesque and performance art, Mustache Envy is redefining entertainment
AMY PRICE | Contributing Writer
Underneath a dim florescent glow, a dark, masculine silhouette enters stage right. The music cues to the familiar beginning notes of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and explodes from the speakers in the Vixin Lounge at Sue Ellen’s. The strikingly handsome singer — called Frankie 4play and dressed in mostly dark attire and too-cool-for-school facial hair — lip-synchs to the King of Pop while the packed room roars in admiration. Toward the climax, Frankie dances toward two linen-draped tables topped with tall glass-enclosed rainbow candles. Frankie grasps the candles and shocks the crowd by showering in the wax. Dollar bills start catapulting from the audience.
Frankie is a kind of king, too — a drag king, a woman who performs as a male impersonator.
Concluding the one-year anniversary show, Lilly Lovely acts out every hormonally charged teenage fantasy dressed head to toe in the cliché of “sexy librarian.” The feminine and sultry Miss Lovely begins to rip her clothes off piece by piece, straddling her desk.
The already not-so-typical drag king show takes a turn from male illusion to totally stripped down pasties-and-panties burlesque.
Mustache Envy has arrived.
The group, unique in the drag world, bridges masculine and feminine dynamics. Performers include cross-dressing Frankie Klee (Frankie 4play), Mo Snow (Mitchell McLuvin), Skye Newkirk (Ricki Sparxxx), Ashton Layne (Seth B. Sexxon), Kasson Marroquin (Jake St. James) and Sebastian Lee (Zachary Binks), along with burlesque performer Whitney Copeland as Lilly Lovely and the host, Lillith Grey. DJ Paloma Frausun and stage manager Kurtz Frausun complete the troupe.
Klee, who leads the show, brought them all together following a Dukes of Dallas show six years ago.
“I saw a Dukes of Dallas show when Nate Jones ripped his shirt off in front of me. I thought, ‘That’s hot; I could do that,’” she says. Klee then became Frankie 4play and a member of the Dukes; when she fell in love, she found herself wanting to spend more time with her significant other and the group slowly fizzled.
“I retired and I thought I was fine with that then I realized I really missed it. I had hung it up and didn’t think anyone was interested in doing it again,” Klee says.
She was wrong. While working in Deep Ellum booking bands with Arnetic, she was asked to put on a drag king show for a charity event. Klee called her old Dukes of Dallas friends together for the event; it was a huge success.
She was bitten, for a second time. Klee rallied every friend or colleague who owed her a favor to turn out for Mustache Envy’s first show.
“A lot of people came together to save my ass. Screaming Red, Electro Shock Machine, Static Mind, basically just friends I knew who I was ever their designated driver, or even given their urine- soaked dog a bath came out to help build the first show,” she says.
The Vixin Lounge reached max capacity that night. The overwhelming success secured Mustache Envy a spot on the bill on the first Friday of every other month.
Klee had a regular gig; her next move was to find someone to play a permanent host to the emerging kings.
Klee had seen a burlesque show, I Am Fifth, at The Bone in Deep Ellum and thought Lillith Grey would be the perfect host. “We wanted someone who was a good fit especially pronoun-wise. We launched her for our October show and the crowd loved her,” says Klee.
Grey, a notable figure in the Dallas burlesque world as a part-time performer for Viva Dallas, says she was honored by the invitation. She even enjoys that part of performing more than at other burlesque shows. “There’s just something about the queer space that feels like home to me,” says Grey.
Most of the drag kings in Mustache Envy are female-to-male transgenders.
“I wanted to do something for the trans community,” say Layne, also a former member of the Dukes of Dallas.
The fusion of drag kings and burlesque brings out a diverse audience. Klee has seen the demographics of their fan base change from a solely queer crowd to now a mix including straight men and women who often come up after a show to say how much they loved it.
“Sexy is sexy, regardless,” says Klee. “Drag kings may not be your thing but hey we got naked women too; someone’s going to come out topless and in pasties.”
Themes for the show are selected in advance and promoted through their Facebook page and website, Mustachedallas.com. Of course, the mustache is their icon and paste-on mustaches are popular party favors at their shows. (Audience participation is also a staple in Mustache Envy’s shows, such as “pin the mustache on the cactus.”)
“One day I walked into Party City and the girl behind the counter whispered, ‘There’s that girl who takes all our mustache stuff,’” say Klee.
In addition to their regular first bi-monthly show at Sue Ellen’s, the group often participates in charity shows. Their next is Aug. 24, when Mustache Envy will be taking over the downstairs at Sue’s in the national charity Kings for a Cause. Last year the group raised $600 for Camp Kindle and Youth First Texas; this year’s beneficiaries are the It Gets Better Project and Resource Center Dallas.
Grey and Klee are also fronting the Panty Raid shows at Sue Ellen’s on months Mustache Envy is off. These shows will be a mix of performers from belly dancers, drag kings, burlesque and more to keep the community interested in performance art.
Mustache Envy will also be a part of this year’s Pride parade, the first time for Dallas to have a drag king group march.
“We are so excited about this opportunity, we will definitely bring a surprising presence to the parade,” says Grey.
But this tight-knit family does not have aspirations for money or celebrity; they simply want to bring this hidden art form out to the forefront of the community. Everyone puts hours of practice into each show.
“I put everything I have into each performance and I am just grateful to be a part of it,” says Snow.
“We don’t have grandiose dreams,” says Klee. “We do well on the Sue’s calendar and we’re fine with that. Our main goal is for our crowd to be comfortable and to reach as many people as possible to off our art forms.”
Mustache Envy. Performs the first Friday of
alternating months at Sue Ellen’s Vixin Lounge,
3014 Throckmorton St.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 24, 2012.