Grab a retro can of Aqua-net and a Virginia Slim 120 for the viewing of this flick full of fashion, big hair, and bitches!

Independent filmmaker Robbie Hopcraft has a jewel in his collection of documentaries every resident, and visitor should eyeball and enjoy, “Audience with the Queens.”

In this intimate, independent film, Hopcraft goes behind the curtains at 801 Bar Cabaret – Upstairs, and mics up the mothers who gave birth, nursed, and raised Key West’s drag queens to show you the esoteric arena.

What the “Audience with the Queens,” discerns is beguiling; as “Sushi”, “Gugi”, “Gassy”, “Destiny”, “RV” and “Samantha,” describe their struggle with their femininity- some more than others.

In front of a dressing table littered with pink cell phones, half-empty drinks, coffee cups, and wigs hung around the mirror on nails, giving the exposed, cream colored pipes style; “Samantha” creates cleavage with duct tape. A tackle-box, likely loaded with make-up is open against the wall. An aqua negligee hangs behind her head as she dons a blonde wig, and “she” begins to disclose her desire of wanting to be a woman.

“Ever since I was five. I would cry,” she pauses and fidgets with the antique, clip-on cluster of pearls covering her earlobes. “I just admire women. They’re intelligent and fun to be around, and that’s just something a guy just can’t really… (she makes a wishful pause) give.”

Hopcraft began an examination of the culture after seeing Sushi dropped from a shoe on Duval Street. He was sending a video feed of the New Year’s eve escapade for a Miami TV station and realized; after living in Key West for 17 years, he realized he was aware of, but completely unfamiliar with who they are, and their entire existence. He became intensely intrigued after a visit to “Sushi’s” home.

“Going into it, I didn’t have a clue,” Hopcraft reflects. “I was fascinated and I live here, and I thought, ‘what does the rest of society think when they see a drag queen. They must think perverted thoughts.’ I’m trying to put this story out there to rid us of some of the prejudice and discrimination. This was a fascinating subject to film and I wanted to tell the world what the girls are all about!”

The compelling components Hopcraft captures are: not every homosexual male wants, or has, the talent to be a queen; and this specific, Hollywood-esque enclave, are au fait on stage and in the streets, striving to be super stars, comfortable and at most at ease when in the limelight.

Their specially formulated lip-gloss never fails to sparkle in the spotlight, along with their sui generis quintessence.

Ironically, we learn the Keys’ queens face the same challenges as many entrepreneurs, business owners, and performers: they must strategize and market their abilities to locals and tourists, in this case, sultry shows. Rising through the ranks, and earning a living, isn’t for the fair-hearted, laissez faire, big-hair homophile!

“Audience with the Queens” accentuates the complexity of their profession and will even make most heterosexual females want to add craft-store glitter to their lip-gloss, don false eyelashes, sew their own costumes, and strike it up on-stage to the beats of Kelly Clarkson, The Pointer Sisters, Pink, and Christina Aguilera!

“Audience with the Queens,” let’s the audience realize there are witnessing the crème de la crème of Key West’s openly-gay community!

Eye-opening entertainment through the camera lens of Robbie Hopcraft!

Josie Koler is the Bureau Chief for the Weekly Newspapers. You can watch the film’s trailer at!

Independent filmmaker Robbie Hopcraft with his queens at the 2009 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Pictured from left to right are Samantha, Sushi, Robbie, Gugi, and Gassy. Unfortunately, RV Beaumont fell ill and was unable to make the trip due to chemotherapy treatment, Destiny who was also a star, died during the making of the documentary. Hopcraft will add scenes from her funeral at a later date.

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