Thursday October 01, 2015

Miss Understanding and Miss Behaviour

The Bovines

The Bovines (James Loewen)

Listen to Full Episode 53:57

Is drag a mockery of femininity, an earnest tribute, or something else entirely? Willow Yamauchi, a drag queen's daughter, unpacks her father's gowns, secrets, and illusions, and works through his little black book to find his answers - and her own. **This episode originally aired on June 18.

"To me, he was dad. To my children, he was papa.  But when he put on a wig and a dress and got up on stage: *her* name was Hydrangea. My dad was a gay man, and he and my mom were best friends.  So he adopted me and my sister, and they raised us together. Dad was a big man, 6 foot tall and athletic, with broad masculine shoulders, a large moustache, and lots of chest hair. But he was also playful and irreverent and dramatic... 

Hydrangea performed with a group of other drag queens,who called themselves "The Bovines".

I never got to see their act  -- I was a kid and too young for the clubs. But from what I've been told, The Bovines always wore matching cow print dresses, long white gloves and beehive hairdos. 

Two summers ago my mom pulled this garbage bag out from storageā€¦some junk of my dad's that she'd been holding onto for years. 

As I opened it up I saw cow print. My heart skipped a beat."


Miss Understanding & Miss Behaviour

Hydrangea Bovine (James Loewen)

When Willow Yamauchi was growing up in Vancouver in the 1980's, she didn't know many other children whose fathers wore dresses in public. That's because, among his many adventures, Willow's father was a drag performer, he passed away ten years ago and he left Willow with many unanswered questions. But he also left some clues -- one of them, a bag of cow-print dresses and another, a little black book.

That book lead her to the studio of James Loewen in Vancouver. James photographed Willow's father performing onstage in the 1980's, but never developed the pictures beyond the contact sheets until Willow called him out of the blue, and they met up. Willow Yamauchi wanted to know more about her drag performer father. So she opened the bag of gowns and her father's black book, and went in search of "Miss Understanding and Miss Behaviour".

Participants in the program:

Bill "Honey" Monroe has been a drag performer for 63 years. He is a beloved entertainer and well known for his depiction of Queen Elizabeth.

Ron Dutton is the archivist for the BC gay and lesbian archive which he started in 1976. The archive was- at last count- around the three quarter of a million mark.

Greg Nepean is a professor and sociologist. He's the author of the thesis: It's all Glamour the Halifax Drag Community as study of Identity Community and Region. He currently teaches at the University of Guelph Humber and Seneca College. 

Sunny and Spencer Stump are a mother and son duo. Spencer's drag persona -- Cruella de Vag -- is new to the drag scene, but took the 2014 title of Vancouver's Next Drag Superstar. 

Dave Deveau -- who performs as Peach Cobblah, and Cameron MacKenzie -- as Isolde N. Barron are a married couple who both perform in drag. Dave and Cameron are leaders in the drag community in Vancouver, hosting regular events and drag shows.

Easter Armas founded the organization A Loving Spoonful to support people dying of AIDS in Vancouver. Easter was a friend to the Bovines and a good friend to the gay community.

James Loewen is a photographer and activist from Vancouver. James took a number of iconic photos of the Bovines.

Image Gallery

Willow Yamauchi is a storyteller and writer from Vancouver. She is the author of Adult Child of Hippies and Bad Mommy.