More campy than classy and more theatrical than trendy, what was once an underground club staple for the gay and lesbian crowd has become a multi-night affair drawing crowds of every persuasion. At first blush our fair -- er, beige -- city may not seem like a hot spot for hairsprayed wigs and luscious lashes coupled with (fake) T and (real) A, but if you know where to look -- and we do -- you'll find plenty of places doubling as a drag queen's paradise.
We criss-crossed the Valley and found 10 of our favorites, one for every night of the week -- and then some.
Naughty or Nice Bingo
We get it, Mondays are pretty much the worst. It's the beginning of the workweek and your weekend feels like it flew by. Enter Apollo's Lounge -- and bingo, surprisingly -- to put an end to boring Monday night plans.
Yes, bingo tends to be regarded as a choice game for those of the wrinkled or purple-haired variety, but anyone who says they don't love shouting out of turn and playing for stakes (even if they aren't very high) is probably lying. Mondays at the lounge are home to viewing parties of RuPaul's Drag Race (whose most recent season just wrapped) followed by Naughty or Nice Bingo at 9:30 p.m. Desiree Demornay takes the mic, calling out numbers alongside jokes for a chance to win a variety of bar prizes.
Stars Choice Contest
What's more fun than one supreme drag queen? Sixteen hopefuls (sort of) competing against each other à la RuPaul's Drag Race, which has been crowned with bringing the long-underground club scene to the masses.
BS West's Stars Choice is a four-person team event in which four teams battle it out in the style of NBC's The Voice -- partaking in reality show-esque challenges (think sketch comedy and erotica) and featuring weekly eliminations and cash prizes for the audience favorite. Each team is headed by a well-known member of the local drag court, like the campy yet couture Coco St. James. Now in its fourth "season," the weekly event is hosted by Kendra Katoure and DJ Sinclair and features a grand prize for one lucky crew. Admission to the Scottsdale dance club varies per week with $4 and $5 drink specials.
The Savannah Moussier Show
Each drag show and every reigning queen has a certain je ne sais quoi that livens things up. For show with added flavor, try Tuesdays at Karamba Night Club. The Savannah Moussier Show spices things up following the club's salsa night, narrated by DJ Stixx's mix of Merengue, Reggaeton and Latin pop. Guatemalan-born Moussier brings the heat at the free, 10:30 p.m. show, offset by beer specials including dollar drafts and $2 domestics.
"Garden" Variety Revue
Generally, the term "garden variety" begets the expected, boring, and drab. Not so in the Valley's world of drag, where the phrase means a night hosted by queen Olivia Gardens and weekly appearances from a crazy collection of lady friends. The show relies on a live mixture of comedy, singing and impersonations and promises to be entertaining no matter how many $5 martinis you've had.
The show has taken over the 10 p.m. Wednesday timeslot at Kobalt Bar -- which was recently vacated by Celia Putty's 2 Girls, 1 Cup. Putty still performs, though, and has been known to guest star as part of the court for any number of queens.
Think more cabaret than comedy, says Ian Christiansen, half of the dynamic duo that puts on "Showtime at The Bar on Central." Thursday's late night (10 p.m.) good time tends to highlight the vocal talents of area performers from Theater Works and Phoenix Theatre. Hosts Christiansen and Barbra Seville have contributed comedy commercial breaks and sassy banter for going on six months now, continuing to draw crowds with the help of $5 ShowTinis and a rotating guest list that's pleasing to the eyes and ears.
Truth, Dare or Drag
Arguably Phoenix's premier concert hall, Crescent Ballroom brings in an even more diverse crowd these days with the addition of its drag night, "Life's a Drag. Party Like a Queen." The Thursday night staple, hosted by Olivia Gardens, debuted in late March -- bringing with it $3 drink specials, a raunchy "truth, drag or dare" game and a live DJ. The free, 21-and-over show starts at 10:30 p.m. Expect an audience that's equal parts ironic hipster and lip liner enthusiast.
Scandaleyez on Fridays
Friday nights usher in the weekend with arguably the scene's most scandalous, and certainly the most heralded, night of them all: Scandaleyez. Savannah Stevens seems to borrow makeup tips from drag pioneers like Divine and provocative performances that are perfectly at home among campy comedy and outlandish, audience-interactive cabaret. Stevens stomps all over The Rock starting at 10 p.m. and she draws a crowd (and a cover), so reservations are required.
Charlie's Weekly Roundup
No gay bar roundup could be complete without the addition of Charlie's, a staple in the his-on-his nightlife scene and unofficial landmark of Seventh Avenue's "gayborhood." Humpday gets a little more heavenly with Nevaeh McKenzie's "High Heels & Halos" at 10:15 p.m. Wednesdays, featuring $3 drink specials, including pitchers and Smirnoff vodka flavors.
But the reigning queen of Charlie's has to be Pussy LeHoot (born Kevin McSweeny), who has proudly won a bouquet of Miss Gay Phoenix, Miss Gay Arizona, and Miss Arizona Gay Rodeo Association titles, and was crowned winner of the International Gay Rodeo in 2005. LeHoot owns the stage Sunday nights with a bevy of friends for a drag show soiree. Special guests have included Savannah Stevens, Trixxie Deluxxe, and Barbra Seville (who hosts the no-pants party Nearly Nekkid Men on Mondays at 10 p.m.).
The Barbra Seville Show
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Seville's on our list three times, which is an indication that she gets around -- in the best way possible. She's gained attention in the past for her Jan Brewer YouTube sensation and her "Ask Barbra" column in the biweekly Echo magazine. After 15 years of performing, Seville (a.k.a. Richard Stevens) has amassed both an impressive collection of breasts and Miss Gay Arizona and Miss Gay Phoenix titles. Seville brings it all to her Saturday night staple at The Rock, where she bats those big black eyelashes and coos and croons at this Vegas-style cabaret show. The 10 p.m. show always features a special guest, though nothing (and no one) comes for free. There's a $3 cover and reservations are required.
(Seville also performs a free show Fridays at 10:30 p.m. at Cruisin' on 7th during The Girlie Show.)