Drag News

Home Drag News
Award-Winning Drag News Coverage From About Magazine.

Make Room for the Queens

Estella Blow Blackberri Room Bar Gayme Night

There’s no place like The Room

(SPRING, TX) — When it comes to drag queens, there are no two quite like Blackberri and Estella Blow. The duo that works together at various shows across the city (including C U Next Tuesday at Michael’s Outpost and Mary’s Comedy House at Hamburger Mary’s) have an undeniable chemistry as rare in drag as it can be in day-to-day interpersonal relationships. But this dynamic duo doesn’t restrict their talent to Montrose. As a matter of fact, both queens take their talent on the road (by Houston standards, at least) up I-45 to Spring, Texas, where they host their lively “gayme” night every Wednesday at The Room Bar.

About The Room

18582502_1174399439372751_3916616945686667170_n Make Room for the QueensWhile The Room isn’t the only gay bar in North Houston, it is only one of two. For queer people in Spring, Humble, The Woodlands, Klein, and Tomball, the options for a neighborhood LGBTQIA bar north of the loop are, well … limited. True, Humble was previously home to the gay bar Whispers, but the north side of 610 (and even the Beltway), leaves only two gay bars, without traveling so far as Huntsville. These are Ranch Hill (located at exit 73 in the Woodlands) and (host to Blackberri and Estella) the Room Bar and Lounge (affectionately referred to as ‘The Room’).

16865071_10207188322781379_2280887585045253962_n Make Room for the Queens
Natalie Brackin

The Room, for those who live north of Houston, is a local staple of it’s LGBTQIA community. For the past ten years, the Room has served as a safe haven for LGBTQ locals from Spring and the surrounding area. At the risk of editorializing, it was the very first gay bar that I ever frequented after coming out, where the regular patrons and staff welcomed me with open arms. And for the last eight years, the bar has been managed by Natalie Brackin, who serves not only drinks, but as a favorite to regulars as she makes drinks with that extra ingredient: smiles.

The staff, which alternates daily, also consists of Michael Booth, Erich Barber-Horn, and co-manager Chris Vega. And with each person that keeps this bar running comes an individual personality that keeps customers coming back. From Michael (whose one-on-one interaction with customers resonates with regulars and newcomers alike), to Erich (whose jokes and charismatic perception leave no patron left behind), to Chris (whose style, flair, and sweetness resound throughout the bar even when he isn’t there), to Natalie (whom patrons new and old affectionately refer to as ‘Mama’, even after meeting her only once).

The bar is host to not just Gayme Night, but also to the monthly Roomers Show, hosted by About favorite Tatiana Mala-Nina. It’s ability to draw out Houston’s favorite drag queens has been long-standing. For years, the Roomers cast, has included the likes of Veronica Strutts, Cyn City, Akira Skye, Chloe T Crawford, and various others.

room-bar Make Room for the Queens
Chris Vega, Michael Booth, and Eric Barber-Horn

Without sacrificing its comfy, hospitable feel, the Room maintains the ability to provide a relaxed, low-pressure environment while still playing host to entertainment that packs out its house. This can only be credited to its staff, though especially so to bar manager, Natalie Brackin. The woman behind the magic of The Room is known for her ability to listen to her customers, provide them with sage advice, and quip them with jokes that often result in not only laughter, but long-lasting friendship.  Even when confronted with drunk (not to mention slightly belligerent) patrons, Ms. Brackin is capable of not only maintaining composure, but also defusing the tension to a mild simmer. And why? Because, in her own words, “Everything’s perfect.” But it’s that sort of comfortability that keeps patrons coming back. The way that Brackin interacts with those at the bar—engaging in their stories, listening to their troubles, appeasing their needs for drinks and solace—is the sole driver in that force that has kept this bar running in the time that she’s been with them—increasing its population ever since. With that said, taking a trip up I-45 to the Room is a bit like following the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City—Ms. Brackin, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. You know, if the Wizard had really been a wizard and not a man behind the curtain from Kansas.

About Blackberri and Estella Blow

IMG_20180322_000759-e1521699651327 Make Room for the Queens
Blackberri performing at Gayme Night

It’s been no secret that Blackberri had a nice rise to drag queen fame in 2017, bleeding into various hosting gigs in 2018. Still, Darius Vallier, the man behind the bearded-genius that is Blackberri, was the FACE Awardwinner of Drag Illusionist of the Year and the Gayest and Greatest Award-winner for Best Host and Emcee in 2017. But that rise to fame didn’t come without work. Vallier spent time working in comedy clubs to hone his craft, as well as studying design in order to perfect his drag abilities. Now, in 2018, Blackberri’s busy schedule includes shows at Hamburger Mary’s, Michael’s Outpost, and a judging gig at Rich’s Dessie’s Drag Race.

IMG_20180321_230211_1 Make Room for the Queens
Estella Blow performing at Gayme Night

As for Estella Blow, whom I first saw right here at The Room a couple years back, she’s no amateur to drag. AJ Speckhard’s (the man behind the lovely Ms. Blow) credits include C U Next Tuesday at Michael’s, the Roomers Show at the Room Bar, and Mary’s Comedy House at Hamburger Mary’s. In addition to her regular shows, she’s also been a competitor in Dessie’s Drag Race at Rich’s Houston (where she now serves as a competitor mentor) every Monday night. Estella, whose comedy chops are as well timed as her drag numbers, is a Room Bar staple that’s made a mark not only on the North Houston audience, but as well as on that of Montrose.

About Gayme Night

For quite a while, the Room hosted its Wednesday Drag Bingo show, where winners won not only drinks, bar tabs, but sometimes cash. The night included not only bingo, but also performances by then-host, Akira Skye, Cyn City, Estella Blow, and various guests from week-to-week. However, after a tiny hiccup with the Texas Lottery Commission in the summer of 2017, the Room transitioned bingo into Gayme Night, where Blackberri and Estella took over following Akira’s retirement from drag.

29511166_2128730720744087_3399457407488589760_n Make Room for the QueensWhile bingo was always a night that drew in a crowd, Gayme Night has proven to be something not only different in vibe, but also in audience participation. Gone are the days of a quiet bar that listened intently while one queen or another called out ‘O-69’ or ‘B-9’ (“you ain’t got the cancer”). Replacing it is an intimate evening of two of Houston’s finest and most personable drag queens engaging an audience not distracted by their own conversations or troubles. And while the games are fun and participatory (from seeing whose inflated balloon can fly the furthest, to blowing up condoms until they pop with an air pump, to drag suicide), it’s neither the games nor the free drinks (which one is gifted if they win) that keep the audience coming back. In fact, it’s the personalities that both AJ and Darius bring to life with Estella and Blackberri. At no point do they allow the audience to drift from their consciousness. Whether that involves Blackberri asking to see the nudes in the phones of those their to see them, or Estella asking how many viewers attend Lone Star Community College like she does, only to insult her own intelligence. Their chemistry, their performances, their ‘sickening’ costumes, and their interaction with the crowd that comes and goes in waves throughout the night all contribute to the success of not only The Room, but the followings of both queens. Both Estella and Blackberri find hilarity in the audience members—”You look like my dog when she had heartworms,” Blackberri told one guest as they dragged themselves across the floor during a game—in each other—”Who’s ready for some bearded beauty?” Estella asked the bar patrons before quipping of Blackberri’s performance “Me neither.”—and in themselves—”I’m gonna head to the back and wipe the sweat from under my titties,” Blackberri teased between numbers.

But of course, neither would be able to pull off this sort of event every seven days past without the other. Each brings their own energy to the bar, each complementing the other in a way that might not quite work with other queens. Their chemistry and interaction is truly something to be admired, something that makes the audience desire more. And while each drag show throughout the Greater Houston Area is special in its own right, as is each and every drag performer, there’s no denying that this weekly show (due in part to the bar staff) is a supernova in and of itself—even if that supernova exists just a little bit outside of the Montrose galaxy.


You can catch Gayme Night every Wednesday at The Room Bar & Lounge (4915 FM 2920 Spring, TX 77388).

You can find both Estella and Blackberri in C U Next Tuesday at Michael’s Outpost every … well … Tuesday and in Mary’s Comedy House Fridays at Hamburger Mary’s. You can also find Estella in the Roomers Show on the second Saturday of each month at the Room Bar, and Blackberri hosting Eye Cons each Saturday, as well as judging Dessie’s Drag Race Monday’s at Rich’s, and as a rotating co-host for Drags to Rich’s at Rich’s beginning Sunday, March 25th.

 

Review: C U Next Tuesday

C U Next Tuesday Blackberri Michael's Outpost Drag

C U Next Tuesday happens every week at Michael’s Outpost.

The C U Next Tuesday drag show is held every week at 9:30 pm at Michael’s Outpost, and is hosted by local Drag Queen Blackberri (winner of Outsmart Magazine’s “Best Host and Emcee” 2017 and About Magazine’s “Drag Illusionist of the Year” 2017). You can also see her every Monday as a judge for Dessie’s Drag Race at Rich’s Houston, Wednesdays at The Room Bar for Gayme Night, and Fridays at Hamburger Mary’s for Mary’s Comedy House.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a show I had never seen before (and goddess knows there are few I’m not familiar with). The show has been around since September of 2017 by more than one name, and let me tell you that there is no shortage of happy fans! From the hilarious hosting skills of Blackberri to the powerhouse performances of the cast, there is not a slow moment from start to finish. I have seen many shows that thrilled me, and C U Next Tuesday did not disappoint.

CUPIC2-e1520896198305-225x300 Review: C U Next TuesdayThe hostess kicked off the show to resounding applause, almost as if the audience had been anticipating the performances for a week (which was most likely the case). She introduced one of her special guests, a local Drag King by the name of Roman Syder-Ross. His illusion of Lil’ Bow Wow was spot on, and the crowd thrilled by his antics and his adorable smile. Despite his stature, there was nothing small about his stage presence. Roman commented, “This is a very fun show to be a part of. Blackberri is an awesome hostess. I love the diversity and the fact that drag kings can come here to show what they have. We have fun with Blackberri!”

CUPIC3-e1520895750403-225x300 Review: C U Next TuesdayBlackberri took to the stage next with a fireball performance of “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse. She commanded the stage and I found myself unable to take my eyes off of her. Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one, and by the end of the number the tip basket was full to the brim. Of the show, Blackberri said, “C U Next Tuesday is a fun time, and it’s different in that we want to be serious without taking ourselves seriously. We want to make the audience feel included in all of the fun that we have, it’s important that no one feels alienated. It’s for everyone to come out and party on a Tuesday!

CUPIC4-e1520895948813-225x300 Review: C U Next TuesdayNext up was Ondi, one of the regular rotating cast members, with a dramatic rendition of Sigrid’s “Strangers”. She held nothing back, with a costume reveal, dancing, and one of the best looks in Houston. It’s easy to see why this Queen is quickly becoming one of Houston’s favorites! Ondi said, “This show has allowed so many types of drag performers to come together into one space. Tonight, for example, you have a dancing legend and you have a weirdo like me. It’s kind of like a melting pot of drag every week, and I think that’s really exciting.”

 

CUPIC5-e1520896934754 Review: C U Next TuesdayLeilani J Ross appeared next. Can we say DANCER??? I’ve seen her onstage before but let me just say that she held nothing back! The mix that she did started out with “I’m Every Woman” and then took me to the moon with the originality and comedic timing. And did I mention the dancing? Leilani had some words of her own about C U Next Tuesday. “I hate Blackberri … ha ha. No, really, I love her aesthetic, and I love working with her.”

 

 

 

CUPIC6-e1520897087989 Review: C U Next TuesdayTomi Ross arrived next, and it’s not hard to see why she is a legend. From the moment she stepped out, we were all riveted. From the top of her head to the tips of her heels, she was every inch the Queen. Her performance of “Around the World” made us feel like we had been around the world. I only wish that the song were longer, so that we could take just another moment to enjoy what she gave to us. “I appreciate the “low-key” family oriented vibe that you get at Michael’s. There’s no rush rush let me see what you’re gonna do mentality. People come here to appreciate what we do without the pressure of other venues. Blackberri being the hostess is just the icing on the cake for me. She’s a professional but we still have fun, and that’s what I enjoy the most,” Tomi said of C U Next Tuesday.

In the tradition of a well-rounded show, there was a “Name That Song” challenge for the audience to participate in! The crowd felt included and loved while yelling the names of old and new favorites including Cher and NSYNC. I don’t believe the contestants of the challenge knew what hit them, but you could tell from their faces that they were thrilled to share the stage with Blackberri and her hilarious bon mots.

Muffy Vanderbilt III came to do a cameo for the show, and wowed the audience with her live singing. She may have a theater background, but that night she was all Queen! Ursula never sounded so good if you ask me!

CUPIC7-e1520896985967 Review: C U Next TuesdayI feel really honored to be booked here, because Blackberri is the bomb dot com and it’s pretty nice to be booked by such a professional entertainer.

– Muffy

Another set followed with all of the performers giving their all for the next round. As I looked around at the audience I realized that no one had left, we were all so engrossed in the show. So if you find yourself free on a Tuesday night, Michael’s Outpost is the place to be!

 

Green with Envy

Blackberri Darius Vallier Miss About Drag

Miss About Drag March: Blackberri

(HOUSTON) – March is here, and that means a few things: Spring Break, St. Patricks Day, and your Miss About Drag – March. In honor of the holiday and the significance of the color green, we chose our winner because of how envious we are of this talented individual. A talent like this only comes around once in a blue (or green) moon, and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate Houston’s Premiere Bearded Beauty.

image1-219x300 Green with Envy

Darius Vallier, aka Blackberri, got his start studying fashion design in college and working in a well known comedy club for years prior to drag. Most know him for being one of the most successful winners of Dessie’s Drag Race and the Bearded Beauty of Houston. Blackberri has taken the Houston Drag scene by storm with her comedic timing, fashionable wardrobe, and will to make everyone laugh no matter what. Blackberri also won About Magazine’s FACE Award for “Drag Illusionist of the Year” in 2017 and also Outsmart Magazine’s “Best Host & Emcee” and can be seen hosting comedy shows, burlesque shows, pageants, and other events around the city. She can be found each week hosting Tuesday nights at Michael’s Outpost for C U Next Tuesday featuring a rotating cast of local queens, Wednesday nights hosting at The Room Bar & Lounge for Gayme Night for a night full of fun games and drag with co-host Estella Blow, Friday nights hosting at Hamburger Mary’s for Mary’s Comedy House a full comedic revue each week with their rotating cast, and Saturday nights hosting at Michael’s Outpost for Eye Cons Houston’s longest running female illusion show.

Magic in Montrose: The Broad’s Way

One of the most underrated drag/live singing performances in Montrose is at Michael’s Outpost every Monday night.

(HOUSTON) — After leaving an event last night, I went out into Montrose waiting for something to happen. I wasn’t sure what it was I was waiting for; but I knew that if I could be patient, it would manifest. Was it that I was going to meet a man? Would I run into some old friends I hadn’t seen in years? Or was it just that I might get drunk and find myself having a good time amongst strangers? I couldn’t ascertain the specifics of this premonition, but I knew that if I could wait it out, something magical would happen.

27709447_349256435554513_8778211720288020205_o-196x300 Magic in Montrose: The Broad's Way
Regina Blake-DuBois

So, I made my rounds. I started first at Guava Lamp, where I had one drink and chatted with a few friends. Fun, but nothing particularly magical about it. I jumped over to Ripcord, where—as per the usual—the Monday night crowd was light and quiet (just the way I preferred my bar scenes). I had another drink there before deciding I was barking up the wrong tree. Nothing unusual was taking place in Montrose proper; and I therefore forged my way toward Richmond for a glass of Cab at Michael’s Outpost.

And that’s where it happened. It was there that I found myself sitting in a half-full bar where before me stood a trope of entertainers performing songs from some of Broadway’s seminal hits throughout the recent decades.

Be still my beating, gay boy heart.

Hosting The Broad’s Way was the lovely Regina Blake-DuBois, a drag queen I’d seen perform a handful of times and whose performances I’ve always enjoyed. Rolling out the remainder of the cast was singer Scott Lupton, drag king Richard Long, songstress Chaney Moore, and queen Mia Opulent Love, each performing showtunes from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

Let me just interrupt myself to say that while, yes, this is a drag show, it isn’t just a drag show. It’s actually the only show in Houston that incorporates drag queens, kings, and live singers. And when those performers and doing the best of Broadway, there’s nothing more that a theatre-geek gay boy who has seen Wicked onstage nine times like myself could ask for. (Pause to add that I was disappointed I didn’t catch Regina on one of her Wicked performance days, as she states they are frequent).

19803_10103044166607607_8163867881690085608_n-1-300x300 Magic in Montrose: The Broad's Way
Chaney Moore

I entered late in the show, with Blake-Dubois entertaining her group that seemed to consist of many regulars. Her hosting style is on-point: she’s funny … but doesn’t mind roasting herself when a joke falls flat or a line doesn’t quite work. And she knows how to keep the audience paying attention (even if that means jokingly reminding them that her phone number is carved into the wall of a bathroom stall). What’s best about her as a hostess, however, is that she really knows her shit. Blake-DuBois’s own theatre nerdiness packs into each joke that she tells the audience.

22089150_273139536510564_1147472023100802852_n-1-300x300 Magic in Montrose: The Broad's Way
Richard Long

Now, to say that I almost lost my shit more than once last night would be a bit of an understatement. After all, when Chaney Moore (who last night joined the show as a regular performer) pulled out a show-stopping rendition of “Living in Hell” from Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, I was done. TAKE MY MONEY! Granted, I only had three one-dollar bills on me, so I had to make sure they lasted (they did not). Her voice is so clean and smooth. The way she jumps into her upper-register sounds effortless, only to come back down and belt out a note bigger than the bar itself. I was certain that none of the other performers would be able to follow her up. Then came the glitter-beard king, Richard Long, with his comedic take on “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables. Who knew that Enjolras could make me laugh with a song of revolution in 19th century France?

26907672_10155982515327246_3699462190948470008_n-300x300 Magic in Montrose: The Broad's Way
Scott Lupton

Of course, I would be remiss if not to mention Scott Lupton’s rendition of “We Beseech Thee” from Godspell. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when Lupton took the microphone, but as someone who was previously unfamiliar with his powerhouse voice, I was completely blown away. A song that is often sang with breathy haste was well-paced, lively, interactive, and downright extraordinary. Even when it came time for the key change (which Lupton funnily made sure to mention to the viewers), the entire song was flawless. As for Mia Opulent Love, the queen in her beautiful green wig danced away to a number from Sweet Charity (a favorite show of mine), which she took the liberty of not only making into a fun, vibrant performance, but one that was tinged with just a bit of her trademark sexiness that she brings to every performance.

22008242_1992854954333349_2140800866299714079_n-300x300 Magic in Montrose: The Broad's Way
Mia Opulent Love

And as the show was winding down, Ms. Blake-DuBois had taken to the back to change (as Love took the mic and regaled us with improptu stories of how someone had asked her if her green hair was natural). When she returned, she donned an effervescent pink coat and knee-high red boots. I knew then, for certain, she could only be bringing to life one of two characters—Glinda the Good of Wicked, or Elle Woods of Legally Blonde. Whether she’d be tackling “Popular,” “Positive,” or any of the other numbers from either musical, I’d be pleased.

Alas, she made a point of mentioning she would not be performing from Wicked, but that she’d be doing a number that was, in her words, “a little more legal.”

Thus came her finale performance of “So Much Better” from Legally Blonde: The Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2007 scoring seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Original Score of a Musical, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress for Bundy as Elle Woods. The show would go on to tape a live performance for MTV, host a reality show in which actresses competed to be the next Elle Woods, and has seen international productions and tours.

lb Magic in Montrose: The Broad's WayIt was also the very first musical I ever saw live right here in Houston when the first national tour came through the Hobby Center stage, brought to us by Theatre Under the Stars. That year (2009), the lead actress, Becky Gulsvig, had broken her toe while on tour, and Broadway’s leading lady, Laura Bell Bundy, had stepped in to fill her shoes. It’s one of my best memories and the musical holds a very special place in my heart. So, when Regina Blake-DuBois took on the task of lip-syncing and dancing the choreography to “So Much Better” (the act one showstopper that is considerably one of the hardest numbers in Broadway history to sing, right up there with “Defying Gravity”) I knew I’d found my Montrose magic. Hell, she even demonstrated the difficult Elle Woods high-kick at the end of the song (which once ended in Bundy launching her shoe into the audience). And, as luck would have it, I’d run out of ones at that point.

What got me about this production was that, while there was a good number of people there to see it, Michael’s Outpost wasn’t quite as full as I’ve seen it for its many other wonderful shows. From Eye-Cons to Cabernet at the Cabaret, Michael’s is usually good about packing out its seats for performances. Maybe it’s just the luck of having a Monday night show, or maybe the night was just slower than usual. Either way, everyone in the neighborhood that loves the theatre (and I do believe that accounts for a large demographic of LGBTQIA people) should make the time to head to Michael’s Outpost to catch this incredible cast put on one helluva show. With a new Broadway-centric theme each week, Regina and her chorus of talented entertainers put on a fun, audience-interactive show that brings the Broadway stage right into Michael’s Outpost every Monday night. And no matter when you make it out there to see it, The Broad’s Way is certain to never disappoint.


Michael’s Outpost is located at 1419 Richmond Ave. and is open 7 days a week with shows (some drag and some live piano) every night.