I miss Prince. I grieved David Bowie hard, but Prince was a much bigger hit for me. I read that we grieve strangers/ icons/ musicians not because we knew them but because we get to know ourselves better because of them. As with “I Will Not Go Gently,” I was not only grieving Prince when he died, but also grieving for who I was when I first discovered him. I knew that one way to help was to attend a Prince tribute and not just any one would do. Nope, only a 6 foot 2 drag queen with an abundance of body hair could do justice to the petite Prince. And, so off we went to see Martha Graham Cracker at L’Etage.
When Martha Graham Cracker first announced she was doing a Prince tribute at L’Etage, it sold out in like 20 minutes. She then scheduled another one for the next night at the TLA (which also eventually sold out), but Susan was smart enough to grab tickets immediately for what Martha was calling “the secret Prince Tribute.”
First, a little bit about Martha for those who are unfamiliar. Martha is a 6”2’ gorgeous drag queen who defiantly refuses to shave and insists on wearing 6 inch high heels. She is, in a word, fabulous. We have seen her a bunch of times and have never been disappointed. I mean never. She has a crack band backing her and she puts on each and every cabaret show as if it is her last. She equally plays small and large venues, from L’Etage to the Art Museum to Johnny Brenda’s. Each show is unique, unforgettable and thoroughly enjoyable. We knew she could sing Prince, because a couple years ago she held a show at Johnny Brenda’s and leading up to it she posted on Facebook that it would be an album from start to finish. She teased us with what albums it could be and Purple Rain was in the running. When those opening notes of “Let’s Go Crazy,” you know the ones, started, I almost cried with joy knowing that we would be enjoying Purple Rain in its entirety. Safe to say, we were excited for Thursday’s show.
Johnny Showtime opened the show. Another cabaret act, though he only does original songs, which he was very vocal about pointing out, and Martha’s, sometimes fiancée, opened the evening. He is also a showman and I was pleasantly surprised at his very stripped down and acoustic versions of a couple of Prince songs. Respectful and appropriate. But we were there for the one and only, Martha.
She comes strutting and sashaying out in full gown and purple top hat with veil. Remember, she is a 6 foot 2 hairy drag queen wearing 6-inch heels. This is all happening in L’Etage, whose ceiling is only about 8 feet at its highest point to begin with. When she was on the bar (yup, she jumps and performs on the bar a lot), there were times when I was ducking my head for her.
If anyone thought they were coming to a somber affair, they were wrong. This was a celebration! She started the evening singing Galileo by the Indigo Girls that totally worked. She sang, and ran like, Tina Turner through the evening. She shimmied, strutted, smoldered with sexuality, laid on the bar, cleaned glasses behind it and massaged a young man’s head. All of this as she told stories about Prince, sang his music, and explained what it all meant to her as a non-conventional youth. And that was the thing about Prince, he redefined sexuality, allowed us to embrace our own and allowed people to be who they were. He gave the freaks a home all while being one of the most bad ass musicians out there. And, Martha encompassed that all.
Of course no show would be complete without an encore, so when she came back out and asked the crowd, “You want an encore? One more? Ok, it’s the one.” And with that launched into a sing along Purple Rain. And, one more time, I cried tears of joy for my little Prince.
4 shows to go, 26 days left…