"Paris Is Burning
reprinted from CUT Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3 September 1992
It was the ball everyone waited for. And waited. And waited. It was scheduled to start at 6pm, but anyone that's "in the know" knows a ball never starts on time. But that's because NO ONE EVER COMES ON TIME. Hector Xtrava and I arrived at the Marc Ballroom (14th and Union Square West) at 10pm (his suggestion). The Grand Prize trophy, standing over 7 feet tall, stood like a beacon at the main enterance, showing the girls the way.
It was another hour wait before things began. There was no Grand March: they just went right for the categories. The first part of the ball dragged on, because of arguments and other mad antics. Junior LaBeija shared the emcee spot with Richard Ebony, and kept the crowd in check when necessary with a threatening cry of "Security!", causing three or four goons of varying sizes to instantly appear, whenever some queen just couldn't get the hint. Most of the time, Junior's mouth was all that was needed.
One of the high points of the event was "Femme Queen Body". After several contestants, a defiant Octavia St. Laurent walked, and dared anyone else to bring it. BAM! came Onjane Mugler, and SLAM! came Tracy Africa. The runway was immediately swarmed by a frenzy of spectators, feeding on the scandal. I can't even remember who won, these three were socking it so: this one laying across the judges table and that one draped across the floor.
Another kicker was "Butch Queen Face over 30". Legends like Michael Princess (House of ), David Ultima (Ex-Ganza father) and many others paraded the runway, showing new school what old school was all about. It was amazing to see how handsome these men still are: no wrinkles, lines or bags.
Grand Prize was "Marie Antoinette and Her Court". It was turned out by the Legendary House of Pendarvis, lead by Mother Avis. This kind of thing is way up her alley, because she is definitely from the old school of balls: glitz and extravagance.
At the center of it all was Paris herself, the mother of one of NY's longest running houses, Dupree. Several categories into the ball, she made her grand entrance with a long velvet sheath dress, studded in front with a jeweled Eiffel Tower, to match her Eiffel Tower "coif" (gag!). The children definitely pay homage to one of the ball world's best know veterans.
Houses and contestants from all over were there: Africa, Avant-Garde, Chanel, Dupree, Ebony, Infiniti, LaBeija, L'Amour, Mugler, Nations, Richards, St. Claire, St. Laurent, Ultra Omni, Xtravaganza and others. One contestant came all the way from Hawaii. The Japanese were there with their video cameras, and were the only ones allowed to do any filming: there is a pending court case over the "Paris Is Burning" movie, concerning the rights to the name.
Alas, many categories were skipped (in order to get to Grand Prize), because there was a time limit of 4am on the ballroom rental. No one guessed they would skip "Pop, Dip and Spin", the only vogue category offered. Everyone aged. No vogueing? What kind of shit was that? Well, that's what happens when you come to a ball anytime but on time.
|Copyright © 1992 Aaron P. Brown. All rights reserved.|
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