DRAG QUEENS, BINGO & PRIDE MONTH – JJ MILLS TELLS IT LIKE IT IS

Starting Sunday, July 11, and occurring every two weeks, Marathon Community Theatre will present Drag Queen Bingo. The star is JJ Mills, a Marathon local. He’s been a resident of the Keys for 12 years, dragged down to the island chain by two good friends, and makes his living as a hairdresser and makeup artist. 

In 2019, he starred in MCT’s production of “La Cage Aux Folles” as Albin, in his first scripted, traditional show. (“Well, it wasn’t too far a stretch for me,” he said, laughing.) Now, Mills, 59, has been drafted to host MCT’s new, twice-monthly drag queen bingo. Yes, in Marathon. 

It’s going to be a blast.

I did my first drag show at 17 years old in Cleveland. For me, it was always an artistic outlet. I’m not transexual, though I have many transexual friends and sympathize with their plight. I think the best way I can explain it is to paraphrase a line in the movie “To Wong Foo” — “Drag Queens are just too fabulous for one gender.” But I don’t just love drag, I love all types of costume and makeup — horror, goth, vampire creatures, prosthetics. You should see my living space; it looks like a college kid’s dream room. 

Drag has always been my secondary fun. I’ve spent my career in the hospitality and beauty business — as a maitre’d, selling MAC cosmetics, and doing hair. Back in the day, I worked at the biggest gay club in Cleveland, U4ia. I would spend two nights on the stage with the other girls, and two nights behind the bar.

I’m single. Honey, I’m the Blanche Devereaux (“Golden Girls”) of gay men. I was with my high school sweetheart for 17 years. He passed in the mid-’90s. It’s hard for everyone to meet people in the Keys and I blame social media. Listen, I’ll be 59 next month. Meeting someone … if it happens, it happens.  

You have to be quick-witted to emcee anything — whether that’s a bingo game or a drag show. I play off what’s happening around me. My mother had an outrageous sense of humor. Even when she was being serious, I always thought she was hilarious. It was her delivery. I inherited that. I’ve been doing a little practice, coming up with cues for certain numbers. And we’ll do a dry run before the first bingo night at MCT. 

We’re going with a USO, ’40s theme for the drag queen bingo and I’m going to open with Bette Middler’s “Stuff Like That There.” I’ll have that big, rolled up hair. Under my dress, I’ll have two pairs of Danskin tights, sheer to the waist, and a pair of Spanx, cut high on the legs with a high waist. Then we’re good to go. 

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Pride Month has made the whole world more aware, more understanding and accepting. For me, Pride is just the struggle that gay people have gone through since the beginning of history. I remember when it all began — when the drag queens fought back against police raids in the riots at Stonewall Inn in New York City. It was right after Judy Garland died, our hero. We were all just heartbroken and devastated. 

I’ve done a thousand drag shows, all for the cause. It’s always a great thing, assisting and helping with the hospice center and AIDS outreach during that crisis. It was a way I could give back. Back then, only rich white boys got treatment. Blacks and latinos didn’t have a chance. 
Is Marathon ready for drag show bingo? I think so, yes. And like Ru Paul says, “We’re all born naked; the rest is drag.” Listen, there’s nothing sexual about a drag show. It’s not about that. It’s about artistry and dropping the ego and having a little fun. Laughter will get us through the worst of times. So, is Marathon ready? I feel like I have a little question mark over my head. But ready or not, here I come!


UPCOMING MCT EVENTS

AUDITIONS
On Saturday and Sunday, June 26-27, MCT will be holding open auditions for Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre. The auditions are from noon to 3 p.m. both days, and director Charla Garrison is looking for three males and four females to cast (ages 18 and up). The show dates are the last two weekends in August and rehearsals will begin on July 18. Please contact the director Charla Garrison directly for additional information at [email protected] or call the box office at 305-743-0944. 

READINGS
Mark the calendars for Friday and Saturday, July 9-10. Jimmy Zimmerman directs two, one-act readings — “Just a Song at Twilight,” and “Relative Strangers.” Tickets are $15 each (available at 305-743-0994 or www.marathontheater.org). The shows highlight the talents of Donna and Jerry Nussenblatt, Charla Garrison, Dayanara Terpos and Joanne Zimmerman. 

DRAG QUEEN BINGO
Starting Sunday, July 11, and occurring every two weeks, MCT will present Drag Queen Bingo with host JJ Mills. Admission is $5 and includes one bingo card and guests can buy additional cards for $1 each. Beverages and snacks will be sold and seating is limited to 40 per show (book ahead). This is an adult-only show that raises money for the theater’s operating costs and scholarship programs. 

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