Monday, June 17, 2024

Queens on the Queen: Jewels Long Beach brings The Queen Mary its first formal drag show

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Jewels Long Beach is never one to shy away from a challenge: Surely, she hosted gigs aboard The Queen Mary and surely, she hosted many a drag shows at clubs, dives, and various dark alleys across Long Beach. But one thing she hasn’t done is a formal drag show on the biggest queen in town—and that is all about to change when she hosts the aptly named Queens on the Queen drag show come Monday, June 10 at 6PM.

Is this really the first time a formal drag show has been aboard The Queen Mary?

“I would like to say yes,” said Jewels.

Surely, it was Jewels herself that brought drag to The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor when it was alive and well—though much to the applause of the dark munchkins, the annual Halloween event has returned following the well-they-tried Shaqtoberfest event that briefly replaced it—but there’s been drag drag show.

jewels long beach queen mary

And it should be no shock that she is a tackling a first yet again: Last year, she brought Long Beach Pride its first stage dedicated solely to drag which, looking on it with 20/20 vision, seems rather odd if not outright offensive that such a stage hadn’t existed until 2023.

Joining Jewels aboard the famed ship will be RuPaul’s Drag Race fave Mayhem Miller along with the you-shut-your-mouth-of-course-she’s-still-alive Dolly Levi, fresh off her appearance in “The Birdcage” from 1996 and remaining a drag legend in her own right.

“It’s gonna be a glamorous evening of libations and performances in the art deco splendor of the legendary Observation Bar,” Jewels said. “It’s Pride Month, dammit: Join us for a night of pride-filled fun and unforgettable moments aboard the ship.”

Tickets are $10.

Why Jewels Long Beach is a (gawt damn) queer icon

Yes, she was the first drag queen to receive a key to the city. She performed drag digitally in her backyard, uplifting the many queer people who felt terribly lonesome without their social spaces. She boldly continues the annual Easter Walk. She’s been sainted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. She has supported drag via Hamburger Mary’s in states where they are passing laws that prevent just that from happening. She is seemingly everywhere and at everything, consistently and tirelessly donating her time and talent. And yes, that is important.

But the real reason Jewels is a Long Beach legend is because she has personally touched many a queer kids, allies, organizations and neighbors in Long Beach. Each of these spirits and entities Jewels has saved in one way or another—and that includes me in a story I’ve told before but it always bears repetition.

The lives of some queer kids are oftentimes be removed from their roots, especially if they’re from a small town: You come out, you leave to find a place more welcoming and, before you even know it, your roots are further and further away from where you are, whom you’ve become and where you hope to be.

There was a moment when my family, facing an odd in-between times during the Easter holiday, didn’t really have a place to celebrate. With their kids out of the house, including me—my adopted home of Long Beach was eons away from my Big Bear birthplace—my mother reached out to me.

I said my Easter was untraditional, but they were completely welcomed. I walked my city to celebrate and to raise money. And I did this because I walked with drag queens, who had instilled in me the idea that being queer was also being a part of a community. In turn, being a part of a community meant giving back. It was the annual Easter Walk, where regular folk, elaborate hats and queens always in elaborate outfits and wannabe queens wishing they had the talent to be elaborate, traipsed down Broadway in a bar crawl to raise money for brothers and sisters living with HIV.

It was an invitation I never expected to give my family. But my mother, my father and my grandmother showed up, ready to day drink with Les Gays. It was the spring of 2013, the last year Hamburger Mary’s would be at its Broadway and Alamitos Avenue location and one of the last years my mom would ever be able to walk that kind of distance.

As is tradition, it began at Mary’s with Jewels leading the famed Brunchettes drag show. Jewels was decked out in a way that would induce jealousy between Mary and Baby Jesus: white hat adorned with an impossible amount of colored eggs, flowers, and accouterments fit for a queen.

My mom immediately lamented: “Had I have known, Brian, I would have worn my best hat!”

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My mom was genuinely distressed at being left out of the festivities. While her hair remained bare and unembellished with accoutrements for the head, she had no shortage of gasps. “Ohhh”s and “Ahhh”s accompanied a constant commentary regarding the beauty of every hat worn by every single drag queen. She pointed out details, touches of flair and overall beauty. Perhaps most importantly, she noted the exuberance and happiness each of the wearers exuded.

Jewels, unbeknownst to my mom, was listening quite intently. Shortly after compliment #693 fell from my mother’s mouth, Jewels approached.

“Well aren’t you just gorgeous?” she said. “Y’know, this crown weighs heavy and it’s exhausting. Would you allow me the honor of wearing my hat for the day?”

It had been a long while since I had seen my mom’s face brighten the way it did. It was the first year she needed to carry around oxygen and the last year she would be able to get around without much assistance. It was, unbeknownst to me, the beginning of her quick decline before passing four years later. And there was Jewels, who had somehow eradicated everything my family was facing at that time—even for briefest of moments—by placing a hat on my mom’s head.

It was one of a thousand moments that Jewels excused herself in order to uplift a complete stranger—so do yourself a favor and buy a damn ticket in support of her back.

Queens on the Queen will take place aboard The Queen Mary on Monday, June 10 at 6PM inside the Observation Bar toward the bow of the ship. Tickets are $10 and can be found here.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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