Eugene is a surprisingly active place for drag, according to queens Monique La Faye and Karess Ann Slaughter of the local troupe Glamazons. “There’s more drag here now than ever,” the two queens agree.
Cottage Grove? Not so much.
But, last month, La Faye and Slaughter changed that by hosting Drag Brunch at Axe and Fiddle — a popular downtown restaurant and pub about 20 miles south of Eugene. They’ll be hosting a similar holiday-themed brunch event there this Sunday, Dec. 23, called “A Very Merry Drag Brunch.”
La Faye and Slaughter’s given names are Curtis Tsukamoto-Wixey and Cornel Hardiman, respectively. For this article, the two opted to go by their drag names and use “she” pronouns, as they do when they’re performing.
La Faye is friends with a new chef at Axe and Fiddle, which is how the restaurant’s co-owner Alyssa Gonzales heard about the idea of hosting a drag brunch.
For last month’s event, there was a big turnout and Gonzales was thrilled, though she admits to being anxious about how Cottage Grove might react.
“I was a little nervous for our small town,” Gonzales tells Eugene Weekly. “I was a little nervous how some people would treat it.”
She continues: “Knowing the Axe and Fiddle is a safe place for any event, I knew no matter what we were going to have a lot of fun and everything would be OK.”
The event was more than OK, Gonzales says. To her and her staff’s surprise, there was a line outside the door before Axe and Fiddle even opened.
“The space it’s given for our queer community alone has been incredible,” Gonzales says. “Bringing it culturally to Cottage Grove has been beneficial to everyone.”
La Faye and Slaughter were also a little unsure about doing a drag show in Cottage Grove, but they were met with an excited crowd.
“I’m always very apprehensive walking into a space being queer,” Slaughter says. “But, it was amazing. The turnout was amazing.”
Because it was a daytime show, La Faye and Slaughter say they got to perform for an audience they would not have normally — from families with young children to a table with a group of people in their 70s and 80s.
“It’s really nice to see kids in the crowd,” La Faye says. “There’s a light in their eyes. They’re looking at you with wonder and amazement.”
She reminisces on a time when she first started doing drag, 16 years ago, when it was more taboo to be “out” in public.
“Another queen told me never to look children in the eye while in drag,” La Faye says. “It just shows how far we’ve come.”
La Faye, who grew up in the Coos Bay/North Bend area, says performing in a smaller town like Cottage Grove was a particularly personal experience.
“It felt kind of like a little piece of home,” she says. “It’s nice that we can bring a community together that’s not always here in one place.”
As for the drag brunch itself, it’s a full-on production, La Faye says. Last month’s event was an hour-and-a-half long. This Sunday’s will be “split into two,” she says, “with two separate seatings” — a 45-minute show at 10:30 am and another 45-minute show at noon.
The Axe and Fiddle’s chef creates a special brunch menu for the event, Gonzales says. He “usually does some kind of special hash,” she says, along with other basic brunch options.
La Faye notes that the eggs benedict looked delicious.
The show will feature Slaughter and La Faye as well as La Faye’s three “drag children” — two drag queens and a drag king (a woman dressing in masculine drag) early in their career that La Faye has taken under her wing.
There will be group and solo performances, all with a holiday theme. Slaughter jokes that she already has two Mariah Carey songs on the docket.
“I don’t think I have enough red dresses,” La Faye says.
“I do,” Slaughter laughs. ν
“A Very Merry Drag Brunch” takes place 10:30 am and noon Sunday, Dec. 23, at Axe and Fiddle (657 E. Main Street, Cottage Grove). The show is for all ages with tickets available for $5 at axeandfiddle.com.