By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
While hanging out at Scottsdale Civic Center back in the early '80s, teenager Alison Farmer and her friends often dropped in to Jutenhoops gift shop, where they'd kill time perusing greeting cards in the Adults Only racks.
"They were pretty risqué cards for the time," says Farmer, who remembers snickering over one particularly raunchy line featuring the antics of a trio of over-the-top drag queens.
"Congratulations on your success!" read one memorable greeting picturing a power-suited cross-dresser. "The only time I'm able to pull strings is when I'm on my period."
But as she chuckled over the rude curios, the Chaparral High student would have howled with laughter had anyone advanced the notion that the male glamazon staring out from the card -- the future star of the drag cult film Vegas in Space -- would one day be the father of her children.
Ridiculous as it was, that suggestion was made all the more ludicrous by the fact that at 17, marriage and motherhood were the last thing on the mind of budding lesbian Alison Farmer.
Now ensconced with their three preschool-age children in a sprawling toy-strewn ranch house in the shadow of Squaw Peak, Mr. and Mrs. Dalton Bradley Chandler II gleefully concede that yes, their unorthodox pairing would probably cause Dr. Laura to drop dead of apoplexy.
Indeed, even the jaws of some longtime friends dropped when they first heard of the quirky romance between a member of San Francisco's most celebrated drag troupe of the era and the Sapphic transplant from Phoenix. ("I think he was just frustrated with men," opines onetime roommate Phillip R. Ford, who directed the pair in Dolls!, a stage version of Valley of the Dolls. "I mean, who hasn't been?")
Astounding skeptics, the unlikely union has lasted six years and so far has produced a two-year-old daughter, Lily, as well as twin sisters Dorothy and Evelyn, born last March.
Chandler, who has worked in the collections department of an Ahwatukee computer firm since moving to the Valley last summer, shrugs when quizzed about the unusual union. "What can I say?" asks the John Waters look-alike, explaining that he was introduced to his wife by mutual friends nearly 10 years ago at Klubstitute, a hip San Francisco nitery. "We met and just totally hit it off."
Thus began the sort of storybook romance that unfolds like a latter-day chapter of Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin's freewheeling chronicle of San Francisco life in the '70s.
"It sounds corny, but the first time I saw him, I knew X was for me," echoes Alison, whose relationships up until that time had primarily been with women. "He was dressed as a guy at the time, wearing some hideous red-and-white seersucker jacket like a car salesman. But as we started talking and I got to know him, I thought, 'This guy is a god.'"
At that time, God answered to the name "Miss X," or, more simply, "X," a nickname he uses to this day. He lifted the name from Dear Abby columns because, he says, he was intrigued by the atrocious behavior of "a friend I'll call 'Miss X'" whom readers were constantly griping about. Embellishing the bio of his hellacious drag persona, he also claimed to be the heiress to the "Brand X" fortune.
And although the 49-year-old X hasn't donned a frock and war paint since singing at a friend's wedding four years ago, Chez Chandler is awash in souvenirs of his heady salad days as a member of Sluts A Go Go, a group of three queens who ruled the Golden Gate drag roost during the Reagan years. An unlikely counterpoint to the Legos, coloring books and what is apparently the entire Fisher-Price product line scattered across the floor, X's extensive collection of framed portraits and posters from productions featuring him and his colleagues make the house look like a 1950s day-care center operated by Auntie Mame.
As it turns out, the madcap misadventures of that fictional relative positively pale beside the real-life exploits of Miss X.
The eldest son of a Cincinnati restaurateur, Chandler was, even as a child, a ham who never missed an opportunity to perform for anyone who'd watch him. "Don't get me wrong, though," he stresses. "Offstage, I was shy; I was never the JonBenet type."
Party dresses, makeup and tiaras were far in the future. Instead, the young Chandler honed his theatrical chops singing in the high school chorus and dashing off plays (he wrote his first one in second grade) in which he inevitably had the best role -- or roles. "If you're going to write something," he reasons, "you might as well give yourself the juiciest part."
One role of which he wanted no part was that of a college student. As it turned out, the scholastic world wanted no part of him, either, and after a disastrous freshman year at the University of Cincinnati, in 1972 he packed his bags and headed for the West Coast.
Few clichés of '70s counterculture wanderlust went unexplored. Looking back with not a little chagrin, an embarrassed X recalls a misspent youth that involved, among other things, a run-in with the law when the sheriff of an Arizona backwater discovered a small quantity of speed in a traveling companion's backpack, a stint as a projectionist in a Hollywood Boulevard gay porn palace and a period in which he pretended to be mentally deranged to qualify for disability payments in San Francisco.