A former queen cried when she saw this pic — and you will, too ... (Image via Outfest)
Available for viewing on the Outfest site (the subscription is worth it) is the new drag doc P.S. Burn This Letter Please, a revelatory look at drag in NYC in the '50s and '60s, informed by the discovery of a cache of letters from the period.
Directors Jennifer Tiexiera and Michael Seligman weave a touching and authoritative portrait, using narrated readings of the letter, outrageously good personal photos from the era and sweet, open-hearted interviews with the surprising number of men (and one woman) who were drag queens or female impersonators 60 years ago and are still with us today.
One of them is 92 and looks better naked than I do, so there's that, too.
The film's title comes from a particularly dishy letter, one that laid out the details of a bold heist two teen queens had pulled, “mopping” dozens of wigs from the Met and selling them for $50-$75 apiece. Though it happened decades ago and ended with the perps in prison, one of them, the outstanding subject Claude, defiantly tosses one of the wigs across the table during his interview. Why does he still have it? “Part ego and part — fuck you, NYPD.” His verve matches the outlaw mentality that ran through drag back in the day — these girls were not on reality shows and making bank legitimately, so they had to assess their realities and legitimately make bank any way they knew how.
You'll have a hard time picking a favorite, but I was also taken with Daphne, who explained a lot about how coming out as a queen to his Sicilian father, and teaching his mortified dad a lesson that the entire gay community has had to learn right along with the straight community: “Not every [queen] looks like one.”
Check out this invaluable memorializing of important LGBTQ history, a movie that has tenderness, humor and the undying spirit of the men who always knew they were born to dress like women.
Visit Outfest.org within the next few days and subscribe in order to watch.