Waxing nostalgic over the old Rose Room


Hello, lovely people. I hope your summer is off to a great start. Mine has been great so far. June was a Pride Month for the record books. I did so much daylight drag it scared me into believing that I was a day walker. Luckily, I reverted back to my vampire ways very easily.

I am fortunate enough that I get to work with many young, up-and-coming drag queens and performers. Many of the young’uns that I book have a great work ethic and are very reliable. The one thing I wish many of them would learn is a little more of our drag herstory. A few weeks ago, I suggested we do “Lil Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas as a closing production on a Monday night for my Freakshow, and every one of those girls freaked out. None of them knew the song well enough to do, even with me as Dolly and they were just my “whores!”

I was shocked. I know that it is a very old song from a very old musical, but it is so great in a drag show. I think if you are going to be a drag queen, even in this day and age, you gotta know your shit. When I first started doing drag, I didn’t know every single song Donna Day or Tasha Kohl did, but I asked questions — “Who sings this? Do you have a copy of this song?” Back then, you couldn’t just Shazam a song and have it to learn immediately. We traded songs on homemade cassettes like how kids trade Pokémon cards today.

Drag has changed so much over the years, but one of the things I miss the most is someone like Donna Day singing “Old Friend” by Phillis Hyman and making you feel the heavy, beautiful emotion of the song. Or Celeste Martinez doing “Left in the Dark” by Barbra Streisand and having nearly everyone in the room in tears.

That was what was so great about the old Rose Room. It was small and intimate, so that you could feel the emotion coming off the entertainer. Yes, they were lip-syncing, but it was still powerful and magical in its own way.

When I speak of the old Rose Room, I’m talking about before the existence of Station 4. The original Rose Room was a very small room upstairs. It had one bar, a tiny DJ booth and a spotlight with a stage that was all of four inches above the ground. I think there were only nine tables and a rail around the room that people would crowd behind. The performers had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage. If you wanted to do a big costume reveal, you had better be covered up before you hit that stage.

It was always packed inside with a line of people waiting to get in. With it being so small, it didn’t take many people to be there to feel like we were packed. I remember all the girls saying that if the room were bigger our tips would be better. The truth is, not by very much.

The old Rose Room was something great. The new Rose Room is phenomenal — bigger and better in almost every way — but it lost some of the intimacy that I loved back then.

The drama of a beautiful ballad doesn’t work in the new Rose Room. Unless you are sitting in the front few rows, you can’t clearly see the performers enough for that to work. I guess that’s why the new kids are all about death drops and cartwheels. Now you want to make sure that even the people way back in the back of the room are still entertained, even if all they can see is a tiny dancing queen off in the distance.

I guess I am feeling a little nostalgic for the drag of my youth. I miss many of the great ones that are no longer with us. Donna Day, Whitney Paige, Coco… just to name a few. I guess we all feel that the way things were when we were young was the golden age of whatever we were into, and someday these young girls will hopefully feel a little nostalgic for the way thing are right now, because in the blink of an eye, things will change. Can you imagine it? Someday, someone will say, “Bitch, I remember when So-and-So used to slay Cardi B,” or “When that queen did that pussy song by Cupcake, it was ovah!” Then they will say, They don’t make ’em like they used to.”

Speaking of young people, I want to tell you about a kid I have seen around here in Midlothian. I don’t know his name and have never even spoken to him, but I admire this kid so much. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, I was at the vet with one of my dogs waiting for them to open. I like to get there early to sign in, then wait in my car listening to an audiobook. On this day, I happened to look though my rearview and saw this long-haired, slightly chubby, kind of effeminate-looking boy. He was walking towards the high school, so I am guessing freshman or sophomore. Actually, he was dancing more than walking. He had his headphones on and was strutting, side-stepping and spinning on his way to school. To me, it looked like he was doing The Hustle or the Electric Slide. He was in his own world and having the absolute best time. He’d take a few steps forward and then back it up. Throw in a little spin, finger snapping and then move forward again. He was obviously in no hurry to get to wherever ever he was going but was enjoying the hell out of his journey.

That chance sighting made my whole day. A few people honked at him as they passed, but he just kept on living his truth and enjoying whatever song he was listening to. I admire this kid because I can almost guarantee that high school is not an easy place for him to be, and he has the deck stacked against him.

I saw him again a few afternoons later, and he was still jamming: a few steps forward, a few steps back with a little spin. I want to send him every bit of love and light so that he keeps that beautiful spirit. You never know when just being yourself can have an impact on someone else’s day. You do you, dancing queen.

Remember to always love more, bitch less and be fabulous! XOXO, Cassie Nova.

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