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Out in the Bay

World’s first Drag Laureate shares joy, art, and politics of drag

D'Arcy Drollinger's character, shoulder-pad magnate Diana Midnight in Drollinger's play "Bitch Slap," holding champagne cocktail, looks aghast!
San Francisco Drag Laureate D'Arcy Drollinger (right), plays shoulder-pad magnate Diana Midnight in his play Bitch Slap at OASIS nightclub.

A yearly "Day of Drag" and a drag mall? While many states are restricting drag, San Francisco Drag Laureate D'Arcy Drollinger is spreading the humor and "sparkle" of drag to make positive change in the world.

We’ve heard of poet laureates. What is a drag laureate? And why has drag performance, although increasingly popular, become a political football in our culture wars?

Through performance clips, conversation and a visit to Sexitude dance class, D'Arcy Drollinger shares with us the joy of drag and explains how it can help us all, on this Out in the Bay special edition supported by KALW's Queer Story Fund.

Drollinger owns and operates San Francisco’s OASIS nightclub. She’s pictured here playing Diana Midnight in Bitch Slap, one of many D’Arcy Drollinger orginal shows.

She was appointed San Francisco Drag Laureate in May 2023 to celebrate drag as an art form and enhance the city’s tarnished tourism draw. Just a year into the role, Drollinger has initiated what could become a yearly "Day of Drag" and has taken steps toward creating a drag mall in one of the city’s many vacant retail spaces.

Meanwhile, at least three states have severely restricted drag performance and 15 more have similar bills advancing. Under Arizona’s proposed law, for example, a drag performer just reading a book in front of a child could be imprisoned for more than 10 years and registered as a sex offender.

But don’t let that bum you out! On this edition of Out in the Bay, Drollinger shares the joy of drag – and of Sexitude dance class – much more than we talk politics.

Please help us keep bringing LGBTQ news, voices and stories to the world by making a tax-deductible donation at OutInTheBay.org. Out in the Bay – Queer Radio + Podcast is a non-profit, independent production. We rely on listener support. {Clicking links in this paragraph or any donate tab on our website should take you to a Media Alliance donation page with the notation: “Purpose: Support Out in the Bay.” Your gift will be earmarked for Out in the Bay, which is under Media Alliance’s 501c3 non-profit umbrella.}

We thank Mary Gauthier and Crit Harmon for permission to use part of their song “Drag Queens in Limousines.” Hear more of Gauthier’s music and learn about her book Saved by A Song and her 2024 tour on her website.

Thanks also to the good folks at OASIS for helping schedule our recording with D’Arcy and providing audio clips and music from OASIS shows, including the song “Lady Champagne” (by Henri Belolo, Jacques Morali and Allen Whitehead, with lead vocals by Zelda Koznofski backed up by Angel Adedokun, Melinda Campero and Carissa “Snaxx” Hatchel) from the Shit & Champagne Original Soundtrack From the Motion Picture. Shit & Champagne streams on Hulu.

This edition of Out in the Bay was produced by Eric Jansen and Porfirio Rangel. Our conversation was recorded April 29, 2024 at San Francisco Public Press radio station KSFP by studio engineer Mel Baker. Audio editing and sweetening by David Kwan of KALW. Production support was provided in part by KALW‘s Queer Story Fund.

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Eric Jansen is a long-time broadcaster and print journalist. A former news anchor, producer and reporter at KQED FM, San Francisco; KLIV AM, San Jose; and Minnesota Public Radio, Eric's award-winning reports have been heard on many NPR programs and PRI's Marketplace. His print work has been in The Mercury News, The Business Journal, and LGBTQ magazines Genre and The Advocate, among other publications. He co-produced the June 2007 PBS documentary Why We Sing!, about LGBTQ choruses and their role in the civil rights fight.