Houston’s favorite LGBTQ country bar, Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, will be celebrating its five-year anniversary tomorrow, August 25th. About Magazine will be in the house and we invite everyone to join us for a night of live music, drag, dancing, karaoke, food, and laughter.
(HOUSTON) – The city’s largest LGBTQ country bar, Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, may only be 5-years-old now, but the history of its building — the former Esquire Ballroom, which began the careers of many legends such as Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline — goes back decades. As discussed in our previous piece about the bar’s anniversary, the Esquire Ballroom opened back in 1955 and saw everyone from Willie Nelson to Loretta Lynn. While it officially shut down in 1995, a full forty years later, the current business owners of Neon Bootshave made a special point of keeping that history alive — even naming the bar’s quaint karaoke room the Esquire Room.
Tomorrow, Neon Boots will celebrate five years with two big events — one on the main stage indoors, and one on the bar’s beautiful and spacious back patio. While both events are scheduled to begin at 7PM, visitors will have the opportunity to move back-and-forth to both. Inside, the Neon Boots staff and patrons (whom co-owner Debbie Storrs affectionately refers to as “family”) will be entertained and delighted by the Illusions Show — a drag performance featuring some of Houston’s top drag queens: reigning Miss Gay USofA Janet Fierce Andrews, Dina Jacobs, Adeciya Iman, Christina Ross, Lauren Taylor, and About Magazine favorite and former Miss Gay Texas America, Kara Dion. The show goes until nine and standing room tickets are available for just $5. Patrons who wish to dine can purchase other tiered ticketing options, table reservations and bottle service. Food will be available at the event as well. Guests who attend will also receive a commemorative Neon Boots anniversary pin as a gift from the bar’s owners.
Out on the patio, Neon Boots will be hosting its final free concert of the summer, wrapping up the Summer Concert Series that has proven to be a success this past year with performances by such Houston singers as Jasmine “JassyB” Branch, Starr Jernigan, and About’s very own Wendy Taylor. Bringing the concert series to a close will be none other than singer/songwriter and Katy-native, Paige Lewis. Neon Boots’ delicious and enormous hamburgers will be served (while supplies last) on the patio for just $5, but admission to the concert is free of charge.
So put your best boot-scootin’ boots on, warm-up your voice for karaoke with in-house karaoke host and vocalist Steven Tilotta, put on something cute for a picture in front of the step-and-repeat, and come have a great Saturday night celebrating Neon Boots with About Magazine editor-in-chief, Anthony Ramirez, and creative director, Wendy Taylor.
Just because Brice Cobb (known better as drag queen Vitamin B) suffered an injury that broke her leg doesn’t mean she’s letting it break her spirit.
(HOUSTON) – Anyone who knows anything about Houston’s drag queens knows one thing: they may love to mess around, but when it comes to their careers, they’re aren’t here to play. Playful, hilarious, spontaneous, and spry, the drag queen community in Houston is constantly tapping into its wealth of personalities, powers, and pageantry to offer audiences something new. And from queen-to-queen, there’s something different to be offered to those audiences. Whether it comes from the reigning Miss Gay Texas America Regina Blake-DuBois’s unrivaled Broadway numbers at her Monday night show, The Broad’s Way, at Michael’s Outpost, the many cartoon character portrayals of Carmina Vavra, the beautifully eccentric costumes and mixes brought to you by Ondi, or the bearded beauty herself, Blackberri, singing at you to give her a dollar, there’s no shortage of different personalities in the Houston drag scene. And creating a personality that is new, vibrant, inventive, and novel isn’t easy. But what’s harder? Keeping it alive.
Drag isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it for those without a thick skin. Like with all performance art, performing drag is taking the risk of being rejected by an audience. Will they like a performance? Will they understand the costume? Will I remember the words to the song? How can I own this and make it mine? There’s much to be considered. What draws people to drag is the very thing that make it so unique — its aberrance. And as time goes on, drag is becoming more-and-more cultural in and out of the LGBTQ community. Whether it be noticed by people outside the community watching RuPaul on a weekly basis, locals attending drag bingos and drag story times at local bars and libraries, or LGBTQ people attending its many events throughout their cities, drag is constantly gaining more steam and becoming more popular.
So what happens when tragedy strikes a queen on the road to success who’s made a name for herself and is gaining recognition? Ask Brice Cobb, otherwise known by his stage name as Vitamin B. Vitamin first made her stage debut last February and was well on her way to her two year anniversary in drag when she snapped her tibia in half earlier this month during a performance at Magical Girl Day in Houston. The weekend-long convention hosted a number of Houston’s drag performers, but during a performance of Katy Perry’s “Hey Hey Hey” (a relatively slow song), Vitamin fell backwards resulting in her injury, only to get back up and finish the number for her cheering audience. What Vitamin hoped was a quick-to-heal injury turned out to be her tibia split in half, which required full bedrest, a cast and bone stimulator, and a hiatus from drag until as early as the beginning of 2019. What followed, however, may have been equally devastating. Cobb, who is a substitute teacher by day and a full-time drag performer by night, was forced to hit the brakes on both jobs and was even forced to drop out of the very popular Dessie’s Drag Race at Rich’s during its third All Stars season.
But is B letting the injury keep her down? Not entirely. As a queen who took her drag seriously and one that worked to prove her place in the community, Vitamin B isn’t hiding away during this time of recovery. In fact, she’s here to make sure that no one forgets her name before her big comeback early next year. One way that she’s done this has been through a hilarious and well-received release of “albums” following the release of Ariana Grande’s fourth album, Sweetener. And the first one looked like this:
Yes, that’s right. Modeled after the Sweetener album cover came Vitamin B’s own Sweet-N-Low. But that’s not all. After gaining attention from her many drag and performer friends, Vitamin B has gone on to establish a pseudo-record label and “sign” her various entertainer brothers and sisters. Each “album” mimes the personalities of various performers, with tracks and titles named after catchphrases, personal lives, quirks, and trademarks. From Carmina Vavra’s Waluigi album to Tatiana Mala-Niña’s Looking for Roman, each album is a fun poke at the artist with the sort of love-filled trolling only a fellow entertainer who has worked alongside them could muster up.
Vitamin B told About Magazine:
“I mean the reason why I’m doing is this is because, honestly, I’m so alone right now. I’m separated from my life […] Making these album posts is keeping me busy and connected with my community.”
Take a look at a few of our favorite album covers below:
Lily VonTease: I Am Breast
Highlights: “Houston’s Drag Race? IDK Her”, “Please Book Me”, “I’m a Lesbian Now” (feat. Liza Lott), “Smallest Waist”.
Blackberri: Bearded Beauty Herself
Highlights: “Angelo Where Are My Photos”, “I Host Everything”, and “U Don’t Book Me, I Book You”.
Estella Blow: 1% African
Highlights: “I Scammed Adriana for $600”, “1 Point Behind” (feat. Ondi), “The Room Bar Stalls”, and “I Won Best Alt Queen and Quit Drag”.
Violet S’Arbleu: I Am 31
Highlights: “Carbs (Gimme Gimme Gimme)”, “Hi Hi”, and “There’s My Mom … Drinking Her Wine”.
Estella Blow & Blackberri: Blowberri
Highlights: “101% African”, “We Were Drunk When We Crowned Iris”, “Did Angelo Send Your Photo?”, and “Skin 2 Skin”.
Tatiana Mala Niña: Looking for Roman
Highlights: This whole thing is magic. Let’s be honest.
Angelina DM Trailz: AHHHHHHHH
Highlights: “Guys Come to Guava”, “Don’t Forget Your Vitamins”, and “Ahhhhh”.
Carmina Vavra: Waluigi
Highlights: (Also basically perfect, but if we have to pick) “Wahhhhh!”, “Bring Me Cigs”, and “Crimson Chin”.
Ondi: I Am White
Highlights: “I Am White”, “Zack Emerson’s Pubes”, “I’m an Artist. That Over There is Trash”, and “Have Some Taste Will You”.
Regina Blake-DuBois: Current Reigning
Highlights: “Fair Regina” (feat. the Broad’s Way), “Dessie’s Gown”, and “Good Witch”.
Dessie Love-Blake: Queen
Highlights: “Stage Mom”, “Let’s Just Have Everyone Lipsync”, “Regina is My Daughter”, and my personal favorite of all the song titles on any album, “Miss Pinky Nail 1894 … Kara Dion”.
One thing is safe to say: no matter how long Vitamin B is out of commission with her leg, with this level of love she’s showing the Houston drag scene, she won’t be forgotten and she will certainly have a place to come back home to when she’s fully recovered.
Chloe T. Crawford is Miss Gay Harris County America … but she isn’t stopping there.
Back in January, About Magazine had the chance to sit down with Chloe T. Crawford, following her big win as Miss Gay Harris County America. Now, Chloe is heading to the state level, we’re she’ll be performing and competing at the state level.
Chloe, who has been doing drag for the last seven years, now performs all around Houston, and will even be hosting a benefit show on Monday, April 23rd, at JR’s to raise money to help her get to the state-level competition.
Here’s a little about what she had to say about the journey so far.
So, tell me a little bit about yourself? How you got started doing drag, what made you want to do it, how you got here, and how its affected your whole being.
In June, this will be my fourth year. I’ve always been a fan of drag, but I didn’t look at it as something that I could do. Because when I would see the drag queens that I wanted to emulate, they were trans, and I was a boy. So, I was kind of like, Well … I don’t know if that’s for me. And then I watched RuPaul’s Drag Race the first and second year, and I didn’t quite relate to any of them, either. But then I saw the third year of it, when Manila and Raja did it, and I went, Oh, okay. That’s beautiful. I can relate to their performance and costumes. So, literally that is what started it all off.
Do you think that those two have influenced you to bring something out to drag that a lot of other people aren’t bringing to drag?
Everybody’s take on drag is different. You might take a piece you saw on TV, or see how someone did their makeup on Instagram, or get inspired for a costume by something you saw at the museum. And nobody can take that or make that, because you thought of all those things together. And that’s what you bring on stage. I don’t necessarily think that I’m revolutionizing drag, but I am giving my own view on it, which can only come from me.
In the seven years you’ve been doing drag, how many of those years have you been doing pageants and competitions?
Literally I did one pageant before this, which was Houston Newcomer. I won that and then it went to state, Texas Newcomer. But that’s with a different system, U.S. of A. But the goal for it is that with Newcomer you only have three years to compete. So, basically it’s a learning pageant for you … with training wheels. I went to America because I had learned what I needed to learn my first time, then I took that to America. This is my first year with America.
What have your drag mothers [Vancie Vega & Tommie Ross] taught you that have made you a better performer that you may not have learned without them?
Confidence. A lot of what they continue to preach to me is how to present myself. But it’s not like, “Oh, this how you be classy,” it’s more of what my vision of Chloe is, and knowing that Chloe is able to elevate and get better on her own and portray that.
In that same vain in being true to Chloe, where do you see your career going? Where would you like to see yourself?
I’d like to continue with pageants. I like doing it. I want to move forward in that world.
Do you have any performances you’ve done or any looks you’ve put on that are favorites of yours or that stand out to you when you think of an excellent performance?
I don’t know. That idea is something that I’d like to think of all my looks and performances. I mean, you’re only as good as your last performance. So, with each one, you want to one-up the one before it.
As far as being in the drag community and getting to work with so many other drag queens, can you tell me a little about how the relationships you’ve made have been special to you as a person and a performer?
We gain sisterhoods because of the fact that you’re with the same group of girls weekly. So, it’s kind of like going to the office. You create relationships, but you also become one another’s family. Some girls I see four times per week. Just from that time, it becomes sisterly. I love you; I hate you; I can’t stand you; you’re my best friend. All of that rolls into one. I don’t think that it ends up being fake, but actually real.
It’s sort of like a biological family, because you don’t pick them. They’re just there.
Exactly! That’s exactly correct.
So, tell me about your pageant win. Gorgeous crown, by the way.
Thank you. I was shocked [when my name was called]. They give you a break down of percentages. I don’t know what I was thinking. My mind was blank standing there, just wondering what was going to happen next. But I won Best Male Interview, Best Evening Gown, and Presentation. So, when they were passing out all the plaques, I was like, “Oh, I got another. Oh, another. Yay.” But even when I was getting them, I didn’t think I’d won. Because I know that the Talent [category] counts the most. In my head, I was like doing the math. But I was still thinking I was first alternate … until they called my name.
With the next pageant coming up in July (in Dallas), what are you looking at with your performance coming up?
Oh, no, sir! [Laughs] It’s a secret. I’ll tell you this –
See how easy that was?
No! [Laughs] I’ll tell you this as a side-note. It’s all top-secret. Even your presentation. The theme this year for Miss Texas is Garden Party. So, you can do something with gardens, or spring, or whatever. But it’s judged. So, you don’t want to give that information out, because people can see what you’re doing and try to copy it.
What advice would you give to a new drag performer if you could?
Hmm. I’d say a few things. “Don’t do it!” [Laughs] No, I’d say to always believe in yourself. Be open to critique. You don’t know everything, especially if you just started. Don’t take yourself so seriously that you can’t receive the information. But, ultimately, believe in who you are and what your vision is. Because, even if I give you criticism on what you’re doing, you’re the only one who knows what you’re trying to bring to the stage and what your vision is. So, some critique you can take, and others you may say, “Oh, that’s not for me.” But be open to receiving it.
Is something you struggled with?
I just know that there are times when you’re starting out when you believe so much in something and you’re so excited, and then you have these older queens with such knowledge who see what you’re trying to do, and who want to help you. But you sometimes don’t want to receive it because you’re excited about your ideas. But we all have those moments.
“I don’t necessarily think that I’m revolutionizing drag, but I am giving my own view on it, which can only come from me.”
If you could tell your younger self something about what you’re going to end up or give that you some knowledge, what would that be?
I don’t know what I’d say. I don’t know where I would be had I not gotten on the journey. And all these experiences made me who I am.
Any final thoughts?
So, I work with HATCH Youth. HATCH is a program for queer teens to come and have a safe space to talk about their lives where they have mentors. They also have activities like movie nights and they do drag shows. I’ll be doing shows throughout my reign and donating money to them, as well as mentoring those kids to build a better view of who they are in the world, even outside of drag.
(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
While 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’).
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.
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
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 Award–winner 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.
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.
While 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.