Arizona drag queens take the stage

 

Tempest DuJour, host of Retro Game Show Night at Club Congres in Tucson, Ariz. Photographed by Noelle Haro-Gomez
Tempest DuJour, host of Retro Game Show Night at Club Congress in Tucson, Arizona. Photogra by Noelle Haro-Gomez

Boogie Wonderland by Earth Wind and Fire plays as a warm up for the crowd. Young and old shimmy and shake down the aisles with wine, beer and nachos in hand. Then a theme song announces the start of the show at Tucson’s Hotel Congress. Tempest DuJour has arrived.

“Are you feeling sassy!?”

Tempest DuJour, tops on the drag scene in Arizona and even nationally, hosts Retro Game Show Night at the historic Hotel Congress in Tucson.

Patrick Holt, 47, the man behind drag queen Tempest DuJour, is the tallest and oldest contestant to ever compete on the Logo TV reality show competition “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He is also the only contestant to ever represent Arizona in seven seasons.

“I love larger than life theatrics,” Holt said. “It’s about letting loose and having a communal good time with the audience.”

Retro Game Show Night features a different audience participation game at each monthly showing with a new set and props. A neon sign twinkles center stage with the words “Retro Game Show Night” in bold colors. Games include Password (sassword), Wheel of Fortune (wheel of misfortune), and the Newlywed Game (not so newlywed).

Contestants compete when they volunteer or have Tempest DuJour pull their names out of a fuzzy, pink box. Tied games are resolved by a dance off. The monthly event has been selling out every performance since it began three years ago, Holt said.

Tempest Dujour hosts Retro Game Show Night at Club Congress in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Tempest Dujour randomly calls members of the audience to take part in the show.  Photographed by Noelle Haro-Gomez
Tempest Dujour hosts Retro Game Show Night at Club Congress in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Tempest Dujour randomly calls members of the audience to take part in the show. Photographed by Noelle Haro-Gomez

Holt began his drag career in 2007 when he won the drag pageant Miss Gay Arizona. Raised Mormon, Holt attended Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City and ended up in Tucson through an opportunity to teach at the University of Arizona.

His extended family has been supportive of his drag queen persona, Tempest DuJour, and her appearance on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Holt said.

“They are on the more liberal end of the Mormon spectrum,” he said. “My mom is into it.”

Holt’s sister didn’t understand drag at first. According to Holt, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” produced by the actor and world famous drag queen RuPaul, has helped make drag become more mainstream.

“RuPaul opened the door for greater respect and understanding of drag as an art,” he said.

Priscilla Fernandez, an actor in Retro Game Show Night, added that RuPaul was a pioneer for abandoning gender stereotypes in the 1980s.

Fernandez plays game show “celebrity guest” Elena Sanchez, a character she has been developing for 10 years. Retro Game Show Night producer David Hoffman recruited her when he saw her YouTube videos.

“Where else can you see a drag queen hosting a game show?” Fernandez said. “I had to be a part of it.”

Fernandez’s character Elena Sanchez is a “tacky” and over-exaggerated Hispanic woman. Game show night is breaking down stereotypes, Fernandez said. Her own best friend was homophobic until she saw Retro Game Show Night.

“The show gives visibility to a subculture that most people don’t know about,” Fernandez said. “We celebrate stereotypes and laugh at ourselves.”

Retro Game Show Night’s “silly” and “adult” humor is attracting people from Scottsdale, Phoenix and Casa Grande, Fernandez said. Game show night played shows in Phoenix bars last summer and popularity has spread by word of mouth. The cast is willing to take the show anywhere, she said.

According to Holt, the audience is mostly straight, 18-80, married, single and “everyone in between.” If audience members keep an open mind they will enjoy themselves, he said.

“Game show night can appeal to anybody, which is encouraging to where society is headed,” Holt said.

Drag queen Barbra Seville has been performing in the Phoenix area for more than 20 years. There are enough entertainers and fans to have a drag show Monday through Sunday, Seville said. About 75 drag queens perform at least once a month in Arizona. About 100 to 150 perform drag as a hobby or are just getting started.

“Arizona is very diverse and competitive,” Seville said. “People like Tempest DuJour, being recognized nationally, speaks to the high level of entertainment in the state.”

The political climate in the state of Arizona does not impact the drag queen community, Holt said. The drag queens are focused on their commitment to the art.

“I won’t let some old white guy in a suit in Phoenix determine my happiness,” Holt said.

The drag queen community consists of pageants, some of which contestants may have augmentation to their bodies and others contestants must be natural.

According to Holt, a drag performer has to be a hair and makeup artist, a costumer and an entertainer.

“There’s a lot involved,” Holt said. “The heels alone.” 

Tempest DuJour reapplies eyeliner on her face after hosting Retro Game Show Night at Club Congress in Tucson, Ariz. The show has three different rounds and cast last a couple of hours. Photographed by Noelle Haro-Gomez
Tempest DuJour reapplies eyeliner on her face after hosting Retro Game Show Night at Club Congress in Tucson, Arizona. The show has three different rounds and cast last a couple of hours. Photographed by Noelle Haro-Gomez

Holt is a costume designer and a Theater Arts professor at the UA.

“Discussions in class force me to keep learning,” Holt said. “I am fascinated by people.”

Student Marty Aguirre took Holt’s theater makeup class.

“I did drag makeup for my final, and he told me what I could do better,” Aguirre said. “He is high profile, yet personable, which is very humanizing.”

Other drag queens aren’t as personable as Tempest DuJour, Aguirre said.

“She’s someone you’d want to hang out with.”

Holt takes up to two hours to prepare for a performance, applying theatrical grade makeup foundation in “brighter” and “garish” colors.

“God never intended for drag queens and fireflies to be seen in the light,” he said. “We are creatures of the night.”

The creative team behind Retro Game Show Night all have theatrical or choral experience, said Paul Katona who operates the music and sound effects.

Katona uses two CD players. He loves ’70s R&B and Disco that will get the audience energized, he said.

“Tempest likes to have men take their shirts off, so I have music ready for that,” Katona said. “She calls the shots.”

The game show night cast doesn’t rehearse before the show to encourage spontaneity, he said.

“There is a magic between Tempest and the contestant and you can’t script that moment,” Katona said.

Retro Game Show Night audience member Colleen Halpin said Tempest DuJour is quick-witted like an improvising comedian.

“I never knew what to expect next,” Halpin said. “The show is over the top and fun.”

Katona is excited and humbled to see how the popularity of Retro Game Show Night has grown from its beginnings three years ago. Soon the standing room only show will outgrow the current space that fits more than 100 people, Katona added.

“The audience gets it now,” he said.

Holt enjoys balancing his offstage persona with that of Tempest DuJour, he said.

“My sense of humor is wilder and sicker when I’m Tempest,” Holt said. “If you don’t take it too seriously you will have a good experience.”

Erin Shanahan is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at erinshanahan@email.arizona.edu

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