In the not-so-long-ago-but-seemingly-distant world of 2019, Portlanders could support a different drag brunch nearly every Sunday of the month. And in the evenings, the 53-year-old Darcelle XV Showplace in Old Town—home of the West Coast’s longest-running drag show and owned by the Guinness–certified world’s oldest drag queen, 89-year-old Walter Cole, a.k.a. Darcelle—offered drag shows nearly every night of the week. But when the pandemic hit, bars and clubs shut down, and drag bars were not spared. Darcelle XV closed to the public in accordance with the state order in mid-March.
Kevin Cook, who performs as Poison Waters, has been appearing at Darcelle XV for the past 30 years, along with other drag venues across the city. When the bars shut down, his drag performances came to a complete halt. Then, a friend asked him to host a drag bingo birthday party over Zoom. Since then, Poison Waters has been hosting drag fundraisers and corporate events over Zoom (including Portland Monthly’s upcoming Light a Fire event).
But once bars were allowed to reopen, Cook says, live drag performances “went from zero to hero.” Darcelle XV now hosts performances Tuesday through Saturday nights—but Cook noticed that none of Portland’s drag brunches came back, even after bars were allowed to reopen.
Starting this Sunday, Darcelle XV will offer a weekly drag brunch with mimosas for the first time ever, hosted by Poison Waters and Alexis Campbell Starr. “It’s been really great getting back to work, and we’re all super excited about getting to do it in a different way with the brunch,” Cook says.
Each brunch features a 90-minute show featuring members of the Darcelle XV cast and special guests, including the occasional performance from Darcelle herself. “Darcelle will make special appearances,” Cook says, though Cole is present at his club pretty much every day. “He’s 89 years old, but he’s always there. He just goes, goes, goes.”
There have been, of course, a few modifications for the health and safety of everyone involved. Brunch will be served plated rather than as a buffet, and the drag queens won’t be coming down from the stage to playfully flirt with the audience. But be sure to bring your dollar bills—not to hand directly to the performers, but to leave in the crystal tip jars placed at every socially distanced table. Call the club for reservations. And be sure to wear your most fabulous, most bedazzled mask.
Darcelle XV, 208 NW Third Ave, brunch noon–2 p.m. Sundays, $20, ages 21+, 503-222-5338 for reservations