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Is Fall City ready for drag queens? Divas surprise at twice-monthly show | Photo Gallery

The Lady Chablis, a popular Seattle drag performer, dances with an enthusiastic patron of the arts during Fall City
The Lady Chablis, a popular Seattle drag performer, dances with an enthusiastic patron of the arts during Fall City's semi-monthly drag show. Fall City Bistro hosts Night Queen Sundays on the second and last Sundays of each month, with a different theme and special guest for each show.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

From the neck down, the look was casual, sweats in fact. On top, though, it was all glam and sparkles, with long false eyelashes and a foot-high blonde wig. The martini-swirling phenomenon underneath it all was making the look work, while simultaneously working the Fall City Bistro on a Sunday evening in February.

“Good morning!” Akasha Manila greeted the guests trickling in for dinner, “good to see you! I just woke up!”

Manila’s sleepy claim fit perfectly with the “Divas” theme of the night’s show. It probably wasn’t true though, because this particular diva, like his fellow performers, was already made-up for her appearance in the semimonthly “Night Queens” drag show at the bistro, and doing makeup takes a while.

“It takes me about two and a half hours,” said Versatina Vogue, one of Manila’s co-stars, also known as Thaddeus Wilson. That’s longer than Manila (Louie Alfajora) or LaSaveona Hunt (Jaquan Price) need, but they have the right eyebrows for drag.

“It takes me about two and a half hours,” said Versatina Vogue, one of Manila’s co-stars, also known as Thaddeus Wilson. That’s longer than Manila (Louie Alfajora) or LaSaveona Hunt (Jaquan Price) need, but they have the right eyebrows for drag.

“They’re lucky,” Vogue sighs. Her own brows are very low, so Vogue’s makeup has to include a structural element. “I take an Elmer’s glue stick, and I cover my boy eyebrows, so that I can put makeup over them, and draw on my girl eyebrows,” Vogue says. “It’s an opera trick.”

There’s no sign of boy-anythings about these ladies by the time the show starts, and it’s easy to forget they are actually men, strutting the stage in stiletto heels, and lip-syncing Aretha with soul, but Vogue, acting as MC, offers frequent reminders like thanking one of the show’s sponsors, Kiki Corona, because “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap!”

“I’m the funny one,” Vogue explains. “LaSaveona is the dancer, and she’s the fashionista,” she says, nodding toward Manila.

For now, Manila has traded her sweats for a “walking around outfit,” a black sequined-and-spiked number with leather cuffs and an industrial-strength necklace that’s just proof of what she says next. “For us girls, I’m the one that just goes over the top with accessories — and I want to put everything on my head,” Manila said. “It’s just my personality, I love crazy things… I’m over the top glamour.” She pronounces the word “gla-MOR.”

Hunt, meanwhile, is making hilarious little jabs at her co-stars.

There’s her response to Vogue, telling the story of her early days doing drag and getting into character: “When I first started, I had a character she was very ghetto, very Latino —”

“She’s still there,” Hunt assured her.

Or to Manila’s love of attention.

“I love when people stare,” Manila said, “because that means you’re doing something you’re supposed to do. Like sometimes I get mistaken for a prostitute, I really do… “

“All the time,” Hunt corrects her, “It happens all the time.”

Manila can dish it out, too. Backstage before the show, she suddenly turned to Vogue and said, “Your makeup is so flawless… in this lighting, you look amazing. You should stay in this light.”

Vogue has some competition for being the funny one, but she won’t go without a fight. “We have an opening for a new cast member!” she announced after Manila’s dig.

That, of course was a joke, because Vogue, who created “Night Queens” for her friend, Fall City Bistro chef and owner Sean Langan, worked too hard to get the cast she has.

“When I went to put this show together for Sean, I said I want the best,” she said, and it took about three months to get them. Hunt and Manila both had weekly shows, and followings, in Seattle, and they needed permission from their regular clubs to add the Fall City show on the second and fourth Sundays of each month to their schedules.

Manila, drag daughter of the drag icon Aleksa Manila, and a professional with three and a half years of experience, not only has her own show every Thursday, but also is a server in Filipino restaurant, Inay’s in Seattle, serving and entertaining in drag on Friday nights. Hunt, a four-year veteran with a regular Friday night show, first got into drag while helping her twin brother get ready for his own drag show, then won a couple of talent contests in the area, and decided she loved performing enough to take the plunge — and a crash course on applying makeup.

“I knew nothing about makeup. Nothing,” she said.

Vogue downplays her own part-time drag career, saying “It’s my hobby, but sometimes it pays more than what I do for a living.” But she, too, performs fairly regularly.

Hunt sums it up, with help from Manila: “We all have our own shows, and then we come together for…” When she pauses, Manila jumps in with “…whatever this thing is!”

That night’s thing, in honor of Black History Month in February, was “a tribute to the black divas,” said Manila.

“You know, like Cher, Madonna, Britney Spears,” put in Hunt.

Manila quickly corrected her. “We’re doing Donna Summer, Tina, Aretha, Beyonce…” Diana Ross and Whitney Houston also made it into the lineup, thanks, in part to the show’s special guest (Vogue always lines up a guest act), Lady Chablis.

“I want it to be brand new, every show,” Vogue said.

When the Night Queens first took the Fall City Bistro stage, they were absolutely brand new.

“No one’s doing this, on the East side,” said Langan, whose former Seattle restaurant also hosted a regular drag show. He wanted to bring the show to Fall City as much for the opportunity for the queens and his patrons, as for the “shock value,” even though he notes, “It’s a PG show.”

Was Fall City ready for drag queens? More or less, at least on the night the ladies debuted.

“Our second show was huge,” said Vogue, “we were packed,” with both locals and urbanites.

That trend has continued and shows tend to book up quickly, Langan said. Cost of the show is only $10 per person, and it’s added onto the final bill. All of that entertainment fee gets passed on to the performers, Langan added.

To attend a Night Queen Sunday, check the show schedule and make reservations at www.fallcitybistro.com. And, as the show ads recommend, bring some tipping money — you’ll need it.

It takes a high heel to hold up a drag queen in all her glory, as illustrated by these shoes, worn by the Night Queens of the Fall City Bistro.

The Night Queens of the Fall City Bisro are, from left, fashionista Akasha Manila, mistress of ceremonies Versatina Vogue, and dancing queen LaSaveona Hunt. The three have very different personalities, Manila said, "but we get along so well, we're sisters." "Sisters from different misters," added Vogue.

The Lady Chablis was the special guest of Night Queen Sundays Feb. 23 show paying tribute to black divas.

LaSaveona Hunt cozies up to an audience member, Alan Butler of Duvall, during Night Queen Sundays at the Fall City Bistro.

True to her word, drag queen Akasha Manila likes to accessorize all her outfits with a stunning headpiece, like this boat.

Heather Jorgensen strikes a pose as she competes in the audience game, a regular component of Night Queen Sundays. Tonight's show pitted Jorgensen, of North Bend, against Janet Heubach, of Carnation, in a drag-off.

Plucked from the audience because she'd never been to a drag show before, Carnation resident Janet Heubach strutted her stuff in the night's audience contest, a drag competition.

Versatina Vogue, left, the Lady Chablis and Akasha Manila perform in the show's finale.

Heather Jorgensen finishes her successful, and lucrative round of the room in the night's drag competition while her drag-mother for the evening, Akasha Manila cheers for her.

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