Recently I was at Handlebar on Manchester, talking with somebody about drag shows and she mentioned that she wished that she could see an all-king show here in St. Louis. I looked at her, shocked. “What about Monday nights next door?”, I blurted, referring to Novak’s weekly king shows. She hadn’t heard of St. Louis’ weekly drag king show and the long-time center of the the king scene here.
I’m no regular at Novak’s Monday nights, but the 3 or 4 times that I have been, I’ve thought it was St. Louis’ best-kept weeknight secret.
In August the SEX+STL crew and I had the luck to catch a special show themed ‘Generations.’ Each king performed a song from the decade of his birth. It was a fun time journey from the fifties to the eighties.
Buck Wilde, one of the performers and long-time member of STL’s king scene opened up about performing, audiences and creating a drag persona. He is in semi-retirement from the drag scene at the moment, but you can catch him tonight in a rare appearance at Novak’s.
How did you get into drag?
My drag brother, Sugar Kane, wanted to enter this drag pageant which was for duets only, so he got me to do it. We didn’t win, but we had fun!
Tell us about your favorite routine.
I think probably the most complicated drag routine I have is to the song “Superfreak.” I start off the song in regular drag, with a sexy feminine assistant who ties me to a chair and takes off my clothes. When we get down to my underwear I’m wearing a woman’s camisole, and then my assistant proceeds to put on my clothes and finally rip off my beard and put that on. She also takes off her bra to reveal her breasts are taped, and she’s wearing falsies. So we end up the song with our genders reversed.
What makes a good audience at a show?
I just love audiences who are enjoying themselves and dancing. I want people to have a good time with their friends. If they tip too, that’s great :o)
What do you like about the scene in St. Louis?
I like that we have so many kings here, more than in lots of other cities, and that it’s pretty easy to meet people and get involved. We’re very laid back. I also like how drag performers interact and work with burlesque troops, in art shows, and in all types of other venues. In most other places, drag kings only work in troupes and do occasional group shows – I like that we have the option of doing group shows or just marketing ourselves as individuals.
Tell us about Buck Wilde – what kind of guy is he?
Well, I’m from the country, so he’s a country boy at heart. But I like to do all types of music, because I think that it’s important to show you have a multifaceted persona. Buck is very honest, likes to be intimate with his audience, not pretentious, and just generally focused on helping people have a good time. Hopefully sexy.
What have you learned doing drag?
I’ve learned that I’m not really in control of 99% of what happens when I’m on stage. Most of the time, the audience’s perception of the show is completely different from mine. When I’m on stage, I realize that what’s going on is not about me, and that takes a lot of the pressure off. I’ve also learned some incredibly painful and inventive uses for duct tape.
How do you prepare to perform – what helps you to make the transition from your off-stage self to Buck Wilde?
I don’t do anything special really, but I think the ritual of getting ready for a show is a good transition. I’ve done it so many times, I have my routine pretty set, and I’m pretty particular about getting every little detail done. By the time I get through all the preparations, I’m feeling good to go. The perfect clothes are the most important thing.
Do you ever channel Buck Wilde in your off-stage life?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve been bartending this past summer, and I think drag has helped me prepare for making small-talk with strangers at the bar. Also, ladies love Buck Wilde – my partner likes to see him from time to time.
What are the differences between your on-stage and your off-stage personae?
I really don’t think there are many. I heard it said once that acting is just being yourself, under different circumstances. So I try to just be myself on stage, but the me I would be in a male body instead of a female one. I also like to think that Buck is slightly more entertaining than I am.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a drag king?
Go for it! Talk to pretty much any drag performer and they can hook you up with the show coordinator at your favorite bar. My advice would be to be yourself and always make entertaining your audience your top priority. Also: buy good shoes. Accessories make the outfit.
Looking for something to do tonight? Join Buck and other St. Louis Kings at Novak’s for a special holiday show. The fun starts around 8:30, there are plenty of drink specials and all you need to get in the door is your I.D .