Chattanooga’s drag king troupe builds momentum
by Jean Marie Davis
Anyone within spit-shot probably knows a drag queen even if they’re not completely aware of it. A drag king, on the other hand, is, well, the opposite and a bit less known. It’s the ladies rocking their gender-bending selves that compose this ever-growing community.
While the first “official” drag king contest was held in San Francisco in 1994, a real explosion onto the GLBT scene was in 1999 when the first International Drag King Extravaganza (IDKE) debuted in Ohio. According the IDKE Website, it’s “the largest yearly gathering of drag performers aimed at celebrating gender performance and exploration of gender issues.”
While this event only takes place once a year, usually in October, Chattanooga’s lone drag king troupe, The MockingCocks, are dusting off their performance shoes early.
Recently, I was lucky enough to catch up with the fellas and ask a few questions.
Jean Marie Davis: How did the group get started?
Mike Mannley: I moved to Baltimore for a few years and became involved in the Charm City Boys, which is the drag king troupe in Baltimore. When I moved back to Chattanooga, I didn’t want to give it up and decided to start up my own group. In April of 2005, I spoke with some of the former members of the Chattanooga Kings and found a few were interested as well as a few others in the community. Our first performance was at the first Southern Classic Drag King Extravaganza (SCDKE) in Nashville.
JMD: So who’s who in the group?
MM: Mike Mannley – So much MAN…you need two hands; Lothario Esquire – Your local boy toy!; Finn/Whit McGuiness – He goes down smooth! and Phil A-she-o – His name IS his game!
JMD: How did you guys come up with the name The MockingCocks?
MM: When we first started out we were called Nachomomma’s. I came up with the name because we were “Not yo momma’s every day drag kings.” As the troupe has changed over the years, we felt the need to change our name. After much wine and laughter, we came up with the MockingCocks. We wanted to tie in Chattanooga somehow while hinting at what we perform as. Not to mention, the name pretty much speaks for itself.
JMD: You’re the one and only drag troupe in Chattanooga, yes?
JMD: How does that feel?
MM: Honestly…being the only drag troupe in town is a lot of work! We continually have to educate and explain what a drag king is to everyone including people in the LGBT community. We constantly have to prove to the drag queens that we are not competition and our performances cover a wide range of gender performances.
JMD: Are you trying to broaden some horizons by performing or is it just for fun?
MM: We all have our own personal reasons for doing drag. Sure, it’s a lot of fun but it’s also an outlet to express ourselves and gender. Sometimes being in drag is more comfortable then not being in drag. Our hidden alter ego’s have a moment or two to shine and we get to be outside of our comfort zone. Drag Kinging means gender exploration and self discovery for us. It’s not about being a “man”; it’s about stretching the limits of gender.
JMD: Would you call yourselves progressive or do you think it sucks that Chattanooga’s not more open?
MM: We do feel that what we are doing is progressive. We don’t impersonate male identities; we perform gender in all of its fluidity.
JMD: Tell me about the last show you did.
MM: The last show we did was at Lamar’s (our usual venue due to low cost and the large space) in Chattanooga. It was holiday themed and seemed to go over pretty well. Roxanne Dupree guest starred, which she has done a number of times in the past. J&J Productions took care of our sound and lights and friends and family helped in other areas.
JMD: When and where are your upcoming performances?
MM: Our next performances are May 10, at the Barking Legs Theater on Dodds Ave. in Chattanooga, and May 31, in Nashville during Pride weekend. We will have another show at the end of the summer and then IDKE10 (International Drag King/Community Extravaganza 10) in October in Columbus Ohio. We hope to travel more this year to nearby cities such as Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham, Johnson City and Ashville.
JMD: What was your best show and why?
MM: Personally, my favorite show was when we performed in Nashville at the second SCDKE two years ago. We performed to “On The Road Again” and the crowd, although hesitating at first, got into it and laughed at the end. I love it when you can make an entire room laugh!
As a troupe, our best show was the first show in Chattanooga which was at Lamar’s last March. The crowd was so receptive and lively. Chattanooga came out to see a new thing and we gave them that and more.
JMD: What was your worst show and why?
MM: (laughing and in complete agreement) Our worst show was last fall at the TVP (Tennessee Valley Pride) Fall Fling. We discovered after we got there that the drag queens dropped out and we were the only entertainment other than the live music. The sound crew was not set up to play CD’s and had to play our music through a CD player and then through the amps which distorted the sound. The only thing you could hear was the music and not the words. Thankfully we knew our lyrics and we karaoked our way through it. Not to mention it was hotter than hell and our dressing room was about 50 yards away from the stage. Somehow we pulled it off and as of yet, it’s the only one of our shows that’s made it to YouTube…go figure.
JMD: What does the future hold for the MockingCocks?
MM: We hope to get more people involved and performing with us and to eventually have a steady venue to perform at. We also want to travel more around the Southeast in hopes to broaden our skills and meet other performers. We also hope to have a Website up soon with a new logo.
JMD: Anything for the reading audience?
MM: We want to send out a BIG THANKS to everyone who helps with our shows because if it weren’t for you, there wouldn’t be the MockingCocks. Thank you to Luster who gave us a start more than three years ago and for believing in us. And thanks to the fans who make it all worth the wile.
For more information about upcoming shows and the group itself, check out their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/mockingcocks.