Four legendary performers spoke about their careers as “charity drag queens” at the May 21 edition of Outrageous Oral in The Rose Room.
Outrageous Oral is the oral history project of The Dallas Way. Videos of the presentations are available online.
Although the four — Michael Lee, Sister Helen Holy, Edna Jean Robinson and Patti le Plae Safe — had all worked with each other many times, this was the first time the four had all performed together. All are known for what they called “charity drag,” raising money for LGBT and AIDS organizations, rather than pageants and professional drag — although Edna Jean and Patti have both won national pageant titles.
During the ’80s and ’90s, Michael Doughman performed as Michael Lee. He said he hadn’t been in a dress in several years and had to borrow the dress he wore. His performance for The Dallas Way he called his last. Rather than heels, he wore house shoes as he recounted how he became “a man in a dress,” which he called simply “funny.”
Rodd Gray continues to perform as Patti le Plae Safe. He recounted the years when he performed seven nights a week to raise money for every AIDS organization in town. He said it never mattered how much money he raised, as long as he was raising money.
Paul J. Williams told how his Helen Holy character evolved and then circulated through the audience picking out individuals and groups to show how she’s just a liiiiiiiittle bit better.
Edna Jean used video and pictures to tell her story. For more than 20 years, she’s appeared in videos, on TV, in movies and on stage, entertaining and raising money for groups throughout the LGBT community.