Lately, I’ve been missing the old I-Beam days. No matter what problems or drama came along, we always worked really hard to put on a fun show. We had great themes that we put a lot of thought into, and we were known for our big finales.
This post isn’t going to be any big thoughtful piece about anything in particular. Rather, I just want to take a little time to reminisce about the fun we used to have with our shows at the I-Beam.
For those who never made it to the I-Beam, it was kind of a dive bar over the bridge into Moorhead on Center Ave. It was always very dark, sometimes a little tragic, and unspeakable things used to happen in any and all of the bathrooms in that building. But it was a community place, even if the community wasn’t always united in their feelings about it. My first show there was the Miss More Head Pageant in 2003; it was the second pageant they had held at the bar, and I don’t think I placed in the top 4. It was an interesting experience and one of the few times I’ve ever appeared in public in a swimsuit. There are not a lot of great swimsuit options for big girls, but I said that if those skinny bitches were going to wear swimsuits, I was going to do it too. And I did.
After that pageant, I started doing shows there fairly regularly, and I also started helping them emcee the shows. When I came back to the Miss More Head pageant in 2004, I took home the crown and became the official emcee for the I-Beam. I wasn’t the show director at that time, and that lead to some interesting drama – but THAT is a story for another post (or for my juicy memoirs, coming soon – as soon as I sit my ass down to write them!). After a year or so, I also took over as show director and continued in that capacity until the bar closed for a brief period in 2007. When they reopened in 2008, I took over the reigns on the shows again and herded those queens until the bar closed for good a couple of years ago.
When the bar reopened in 2008, we made a few changes. First, we did away with the pageants. Even though it was only a small bar pageant, it always lead to drama. We were pretty fortunate that most of our performers got along pretty well, with a couple of interesting exceptions (again, a story for another time!) and a few petty squabbles and annoyances here and there. But every year when those fucking pageants came around, I would end up having to navigate through a minefield of bruised egos and jealousies and fighting, and it would take the next couple of months to get everyone back on speaking terms. It’s part of why I dislike pageants so much: they put so much focus on the competition aspect that people forget that performing is supposed to be fun and entertaining and thought-provoking. People get so caught up in trying to win, they forget that if you put on a good show and people are entertained, then EVERYBODY wins.
After axing the pageants, we also decided that every show would have a theme and we worked to incorporate that theme into at least half of the songs for the night. Some of my favorite themes where “Winter Wonderland” – a holiday show combined with Alice in Wonderland where everyone did one holiday song and one song as a character from Alice – and “Fire & Ice” where everyone did at least one song that reference heat or cold, fire or ice. Kelly Coxsyn was just getting started making mixes, and she threw together a combo of Madonna’s songs “Frozen” and “Fever.” Another thing that we started incorporating into the shows were big finale numbers involving most or all of the cast. These finales became something the I-Beam shows were known for. I mean, who could forget the “Hollywood & Broadway” show where we did an all-white tribute to Dreamgirls and Hairspray!? Talk about color blind casting!
Another one of my favorite moments from the I-Beam was when we did the “Psycho Beach Party” show, a beach-themed show with a special twist in the finale: appearances by Carrie White, Mrs. Bates, and a serial killing inbred mountain girl! This was one of the most fun finales that we ever did!
Halloween was always a big night for us, and one year we did a Twisted Fairy Tales show; in the finale, we turned Disney on its ear with the princesses tossed to the side (for one of them, literally!) and the villainous divas taking center stage.
Sometimes we would have an impromptu group number or mini-finale when we did our Drag Warz shows. For anyone who never made it to Drag Warz, it was our own special version of suicide drag. Suicide drag is when you go out on stage and the DJ plays whatever fucking song they feel like, and you’d better keep up! I knew I’d never get the girls to go along with that, and that even if they did it would probably get real tragic real quick, so I came up with Drag Warz. For each show, we had a set list of songs that the cast would get a week or two before the shows. Usually there was some sort of theme: for “Bullets & Butterflies” for example, half of the songs were Mariah Carey songs and the other half were just a mix of fun, popular songs. We did other Drag Warz shows with an American Idol theme, Bond Girl theme, etc. To spice it up, there were other cards on the wheel as well that made things more interesting. Usually, when you would come out to spin the wheel, you would get your song, and there would be a one song buffer that would allow you to change if you wanted and get ready to perform. But there were certain cards on the wheel that made it so you had to go right then and there, with no time to change or prepare. In several of the shows, the wheel also had cards with names of the cast members on them. If you spun a cast member’s name, they had to come up and perform with you; if you spun your own name, you could choose any of the other cast members to come up on stage with you! In one particular show, Amy Rae Summers ended up performing just about every song! And there was one Drag Warz show where there was a card that made it so the entire cast had to come up and perform, and we all had to come up together and do Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
When it was time to say goodbye to the I-Beam for the second and last time, we knew that we had to do a proper sendoff, and boy did we ever! We put together a very emotional mix with a lot of our favorite songs (over 20 tear-jerking minutes worth!), and we made sure that there would be glitter in that building for all time! I think we used 6 whole canisters of craft glitter – at one point, I slipped a little and actually sort of “surfed” over the carpet of glitter. Luckily the people at the edge of the stage saw it come and stopped me – otherwise I probably would have fallen right off the stage!
Since the I-Beam closed, there hasn’t been the same sort of community place for drag, though I have really enjoyed taking part in the Hell On Heels shows at Jerry’s Tavern in Moorhead, just up the road from the old I-Beam location. It’s been a different environment, and we’re all adapting the best we can. And even if things aren’t exactly the same, we still love a good finale: a few months ago we ended the Hell On Heels show with a little girl power, channeling the Spice Girls!
If you remember the shows from the I-Beam, please comment below and let me know your favorite moment, theme, or the number that still sticks with you!
Tags: Alice in Wonderland, Alli Monroe, Anastacia Rose, Ariel, Aurora, Born This Way, Carrie, Center Ave, Deliverance, drag king, drag mixes, drag pageants, drag performance, drag queen, drag show, drag show finale, drag troupe, Drag Warz, Dreamgirls, Evil Queen, Fargo Rubber Stamp Company, Fargo Rubberstamp Company, finale, FM Pride, FRC, FRSC, gay bar, gay community, Hairspray, Heather Smalls, hillbilly, HomoIconic, I-Beam, I-Beam Nightclub, Ibeam, Independent Women, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Jerry's Tavern, Kadee Starr, Kelly Coxsyn, Maleficent, Mandi Lee Welch, megamix, Miss More Head, Moorhead, Mr. More Head, Mrs. Bates, Nic Fitz, Norman Bates, Proud, Psycho Beach party, Queen of the Night, show director, show planning, Sleeping Beauty, small town gay bar, Snow White, Sonja Neez, Spice Girls, Suicide Drag, The Little Mermaid, Twisted Disney, Ursula