(Above) Drag performer Bill Sullivan, also known as Daphne Bertha Storm.
The rise and popularization of drag performance in our community and nationwide has been building and exploding with exuberance and passion. Drag has long been an expressive art form in which performers of all identities and backgrounds are able to show off their talent and beauty. In recent years, Eugene has fostered a community surrounding drag which cultivates a safe and supportive environment while serving a fierce array of struts and poses. As we make our way out of our homes and back into restaurants, bars, and venues, the energy, vibrancy, and captivation of a drag show is a firsthand experience you won’t want to miss out on.
Much like all gender and sexuality identities, drag is fluid. Drag allows for freedom of expression through pageantry, appearance, and pure talent. But beyond the talent, drag can be a way for someone to feel comfortable in their own skin and most importantly, hot! Drag has been used as an acronym which stands for “dressed resembling a girl, dating back to ancient times when male theatrical actors would play female roles. Since then, drag has taken on a life and following of its own while attracting audiences and breaking barriers along the way.
On any given night in a venue such as Spectrum, located on Broadway in downtown Eugene, you may see drag queens or kings touching up the finishing details of their costume, performers letting their hair down—or taking it off, and of course, the murmurs of excitement and celebration amongst the crowd.
To help explain this excitement, we caught up with Bill Sullivan who also goes by the stage name Daphne Bertha Storm and is a part of the “Glamazons.” The Glamazons describe themselves as “a cast of fabulous drag queens who call the Pacific Northwest home, and will step up to entertain you where needed.”
Sullivan spoke of the art of drag in an elegant and inclusive manner. You could really hear the passion in his voice and read it in his words.
What makes a drag show unique to other types of performances and what makes it so special?
Drag shows are unique in the fact that it’s generally an individual’s interpretation of the song/music they are performing. That combined with the look (hair, makeup, and outfit) makes a special performance. The ability to interact with the audiences as well adds to the interpretation and can actually enhance it more.
How have you seen the Eugene drag community grow since you’ve been involved?
I have seen the drag community grow immensely over the decades here. Coming out and starting drag in 1980 here in Eugene, it has grown to such a wonderful place that each generation has much more open to them, places to perform, places that are welcome to the LGBTQ+ communities. From being afraid to walk down the street for fear of being arrested or worse, to now having many open places to be themselves (ourselves).
What would you want to say to anyone who is interested in getting involved in spectating or participating in drag but they may be unsure of how to get involved?
I would say reach out to an existing entertainer and get input. Always listen to those before, but make sure you are staying true to yourself. Create your look, create your individuality, be yourself, and always remember to have fun with it. If it ever got to a point where you get tired or bored, put it away for a while and refresh yourself. It can be a lot.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Other than above, always be yourself, be respectful of your surroundings (people and locations), grow with the community, and never ever stop having fun… responsibly (laughs).
Thank you to Bill for his time, insight, and perspective. I think whether through the lens of drag or not, we can all take a page out of his book for how we live our lives, how we treat others, and how we approach our goals or passions.
As for your enjoyment in Eugene, Spectrum Bar is the premier spot for a drag show and a good time. In usual times, on Friday nights, the bar turns into a packed house full of stunning bright dresses and glamorous makeup. Other venues which hold home to the oohs and ahhs of a soulful Eugene drag show include The Drake just off Broadway and Starlight Lounge on Olive Street.
As the rise of drag continues and as we continue to come up with new ways to express ourselves, let us embrace change in the name of being comfortable in one’s skin and us presenting ourselves in the ways which we choose and prefer. Drag is just one of many ways for us to be able to experience certain practices that we may not be familiar with.
Over the last many decades, the art of drag has built its own industry: it has given careers, it has given fame, love, brought people together, and much more. Next time you pass by a drag show, or anything you may be unfamiliar with for that matter, give it a shot. Who knows, you might end up spending every Friday night there.
Spectrum | 150 W Broadway
The Drake | 77 W Broadway | 541/656-4690
Starlight Lounge | 830 Olive St. | 541/343-3204