March 12 2009 12:00 AM

New show heats up club in southside bowling alley

A bowling alley may seem an unlikely place to find a drag show, presenting a potential clash of cultures. But for the last several Thursday nights, promoters Edora Diamond and Anniesa Allure have done their part to make The Players Club bar inside Sky Lanes, 5141 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lansing, a hot weeknight destination.

As bartender Brad Chambers points out, Thursdays would be dead otherwise, making it a perfect night to capitalize on a specialty show with a committed following, so the Sky Lanes management have been supportive of giving it a shot. Spiral Video Dance Bar in Old Town also hosts a weekly drag show on Sunday nights, and drag performers sometimes appear at male stripper nights at Club X-Cel downtown.

So far, Sky Lanes manager Bruce Zurakowski said he has been happy with how the shows were working out, and that they would continue despite the departure of Players Club manager Matthew Berry, who had originally brought the show to the club. Berry disappeared recently. City Pulse has learned he is wanted in Florida for violating probation on a felony conviction.

Last Thursday was the fourth show since the nights began Dec. 18 (there was no show on Christmas), and the production seems to be coalescing fabulously. The show’s producer, the elegantly dressed Edora, greeted me when I arrived. Decked out in a long black gown, she oozed class and poise, careful and meticulous with her manners and speech. It was a marked shift from the Edora who later emerged to emcee the event, the one who shepherded the cast on and off stage by calling them “bitches.”

The queens often lived up to the stereotype of catty harridans who call each other names and make crude tampon jokes, but this behavior seemed to mask sincere support and affection. Wardrobe malfunctions, missed cues and missteps can result in catcalling, but when one of the queens took ill Thursday evening, the rest stepped up to complete the show without her, all the while taking care of their fallen comrade behind the scenes.

The show went on. A drag night is like a variety show. The main event is a series of lip-synced, choreographed solo numbers. Each performer does two or three numbers, with a wardrobe change for each song. The music skews toward R&B ballads and upbeat c l u b m u s i c . Performers often exhibit incredible gymnastic skills, i ncorpor ati ng full splits, somersaults and back-flips into their routines. More impressively, they do these in very high heels. These feats alone are worth the price of admission for a natural-born klutz who never learned to do a cartwheel in grade school.

Around half-time, Edora called up the “virgins,” those who were attending their first drag show. The newbies were treated to the drink special of the night — a red-headed slut — in honor of birthday girl Anniesa Allure, also known as the Red-Headed Slut. Then they were asked demographic, biographic and just plain graphic questions.

Birthday girl Allure falls into the category of the hottest of hot drag queens. This observer, no virgin to drag shows, has created some informal categories of drag queens. There are the super-hot drag queens, the ones who put America’s Top Model to shame. Allure and her colleague Cheetah Jamieson fall into this category. They have fine facial structures, which allow them to pass as women, and killer legs to boot. In a stunning retro polka dot body suit, Jamieson would turn heads on the runways in New York.

The second category is the auntie cougar. Edora and Delicious fall into this category. As the elder stateswomen of the Lansing drag scene, they are perfectly coiffed and meticulously made-up. They are reminiscent of that aunt at a family reunion who works a little too hard to maintain her youth and beauty, but somehow always manages to have some young stud with her. Their confidence reigns supreme.

Then there are the debutantes, the young up-and-comers. In this pack, that is Ace Deville. Deville is brash and cocky, all attitude and flash. She makes her own costumes, rather than buying off the shelf. Showing off her sense of humor, Deville’s most cheeky ensemble of the evening featured a bustier made from plastic Wal- Mart bags.

Performing in the drag show is a labor of love for the performers. While they do make a few dollars in dance tips, and at the Player’s Club the performers get part of the admission charge, they can’t possibly pay for their clothes, make-up and accessories with that money. They do this because it completes them. While most of us have one day a year to play dress-up, for Lansing’s drag queens, the thrill of Halloween comes weekly.

10:45 p.m. Players Club, in Sky Lanes, 5141 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lansing $5/$10 (517) 610-2663 (517) 819-2572 www.myspace.com/thursday_night_ players

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