Dr.a.g.

Text JF. Pierets

 

About seven months after one of our favorite books came out, its publisher was going out of business. Passionate about its content, respect for the performers and certain about it’s power to affect change made Christopher Logan start all over again. It took him about a year to get his ducks in a row. He cleaned out his credit line, got a business loan and released the wonderful book ‘dr.a.g.’ himself. We got him on Skype for a conversation and found a kindred spirit. 

 

So everything fell apart and you had to start over. 
Yes, but I was determined. When the book was launched for the first time I kept calling bookstores in the US and Canada, sending the manager a digital copy and when they liked it, I’d hook them up with the distribution company. I have set up 200 bookstores myself and got to know them very well. So in a way, without the publisher getting bankrupted, without all those connections, I wouldn’t know enough to be able to put out the book myself afterwards. It was kind of a training ground. I ended up contacting the distribution company in the states and asked them if they would take on the re-issue of the dr.a.g. book.

That sounds like a lot of work.
Yes, but worthwhile. I’m very passionate about the book. I think it’s very beautiful and I would feel miserable not to have it out to as many people possible.

You consider dr.a.g. to be the first mainstream book on drag. 
It is. It’s not a dissection of why you do drag, it’s just marvelling on how beautiful it is. Looking at the beauty and the diversity of the pictures. Respectfully honoring those artists who have actually made an impact. In the book we never show anyone as a boy.  We didn’t want to show the transformation, we wanted to show the final product. Every book I’ve seen on drag before was explaining it. That way it becomes a bit of a disclaimer; if you’re explaining what you do, it get’s smaller. It is what it is. You can take it in the positive, or the negative way. You can start your own conversation, but it’s up to the reader on how they want to take it. I think that no one has ever made such a book. It makes drag normal and you see it as you supposed to see it. You don’t pull back the curtain. I’m one of those people who don’t love the extra features on dvd’s. You know, when you see the ‘behind the scenes’ things? I work as an actor in film and I love the illusion it creates. I don’t want to see the wires and the strings and I don’t want to know how things are done. I want to be that kid who is lost in Oz, looking for the wizard and believes that it’s all real. I don’t want to know that it’s a factory, I want to actually see the wizard. I want to believe in magic. When we show the dragqueens at their very top level, you get to see the magic and the illusion of it. It doesn’t get deconstructed into an easy explainable thing.

What’s your personal passion when it comes to drag? 
I did drag for about 5 years when I started out as an actor. I was trained in Los Angeles at the Stella Adler academy and then moved up to Vancouver. I had trouble getting an agent for a little while and I got to know a few friends who where into drag and started working with them. For me it fulfilled a need to perform, to make a little money and get by. But it also let out other sides of my personality and character. Even if you’re not a gay man who grew up ashamed of who you are or having to fight hard to belong, you find things in drag that teach you different bits and pieces of your personality that you weren’t aware of. When you are putting on your costume and your heels, you find your body change in certain ways, even your voice starts to change. You embody the character you’re creating. You put so much effort into getting ready that over time you create this fantastic image. And when people react to you, they’re reacting to what you’ve created. It teaches you to pay attention to the details you put out in the world.

You played a dragqueen in a movie, which was also an eye opener.
The movie called Connie and Carla and offered me quite interesting insights. In the morning, the transport guys and the crew, would be talking to me about who they’d slept with that weekend, about sports, very manly conversations. But then I would go into the make-up trailer for two hours to become a woman, dressed for the Oscars. And when I came out, they would hold my hand as I was going down the stairs. They where all smoking in front of the door, and when I came forward, they slid their cigarette behind their backs and opened the door for me. They almost treated me like ‘40’s gentlemen would do. And they didn’t know they where doing it! It was almost a subconscious visual cue on how I was dressed. It was really interesting.

Why is it important to you to show that drag is normal?
Because it effects change and change is important because it’s progression. We get to become more than we already are. Everybody is afraid of the unknown, afraid of the unfamiliar but everybody’s been through that process where something they didn’t know comes into their lives. And it changes them in a positive way. It’s never the thing you thought it was. You grow up thinking certain things are bad and then you meet someone who’s supposed to be on the wrong side of the tracks and it turns out to be this lovely person with this full, rich life. So you get past stereotypes. The more you affect change, the more you see that people are just people and not these divisions that separate us.

 

 

‘The fact that I’m an idiot helps me a lot. I don’t see the obstacles until it’s too late, but I’ll find a way to deal with it.’

How are the reactions on the book? 
I haven’t had a negative reaction at all. Everyone has really taken it to heart. Every time I’ve seen someone take the book, they don’t flip through it. They go page by page, one at the time, through the entire book. People are getting a lot of joy from it and there are many conversations about how great these artists are, how much respect they have for what they do, while normally they talk about how crazy and out-there drag is. When I relaunched the book I started a company called BookTheFilm. Making books to raise money for independent film. And now it’s become a whole series of books. The next book will be coming out next Spring and has the same format as d.r.a.g., but with the top burlesque stars in the world. Drag is men at their most glamorous and burlesque does that for women, so we’re going to see what happens. 

The book itself started because you have written a film on drag. 
Originally it started as a fundraiser for a movie. I’ve seen a lot of friends doing independent films, lose their way during production. Going away from the message they where trying to bring because they get  caught up in the mechanics of fundraising. In the end they don’t end up as proud of the finished product as they liked to or should be. So I thought if I created a book on dragqueens, the money for the film would actually come from people who actually love the subject matter. It would be a little more pure. 

What makes this movie different from others? 
Every drag film I’d ever seen has a bit of a circus element in it. Some ‘look how crazy this is’ kind of feel, even a certain shock value. I think we’re past that now. With Ru Paul’s drag race in anyone’s home, people are more accepting about drag, which gives us room for development. In most films on drag, the act itself is the centerpiece. I want the centerpiece to be a story about loss of identity. A story about a character who looses his much older partner, who is grieving and falls into the drag world. He ends up hiding as a different character because he doesn’t want to be himself, because himself is alone. He’s surrounded by all these wonderful characters that are screaming out loud who they really are and it becomes a contrast showing the difference between shining in drag and hiding in drag. The movie takes place in the drag clubs so all those wonderful people are just going to be themselves. You see them as boys, you see them as girls, you see them as people rather then a shiny object. 

How did you get all those people involved?
The majority of people I actually contacted on Facebook. I would write a note to someone I admired, saying that I was doing this book and that they could email me when interested. So everyone who’s into the book actually spoke to me about it. They would send me their favorite photos and connect me with the photographer they loved. Because of the book, we now have all those top performers who also want to be part of the movie. We have the chance not to make a drag movie, but The drag movie. As an actor myself, I feel like for the first time I’m doing a movie that actually is going to effect some change. That’s the great thing about film and the entertainment industry; you get the chance to show people who’ve never seen this stuff before, what it’s actually about. 

You make it all sound very easy but nevertheless it’s a brave decision to do this all by yourself.
I don’t think that way. Ever since I was 6 years old I wanted to be an actor and even though I just get by sometimes, I’ve always done things that are considered breaking the rules. But that’s because I don’t know what the rules are. So the fact that I’m an idiot helps me a lot. I don’t see the obstacles until it’s too late, but I’ll find a way to deal with it. I actually thought about taking a few courses in publishing but then I had a few talks with myself – I’m a Gemini, I do that – and I found out that the things in my life work out well because I don’t know those rules. So why learn them and box yourself in. If you get close to a barrier, you figure out how to get over it. But if you know the barrier is there, you might never lift off. It’s that attitude that gets us through. There’s a certain fearlessness when you don’t know that your not supposed to be able to do it. Right?

 

www.bookthefilm.com

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