CULTURE KLASH: Glamorous Darlings Return

By on August 23, 2017

Caravan of Glam titillates valley with drag bingo and two shows.

Total wallflowers Isaiah Esquire and Johhny Nuriel (Photo: Mehrban Jam)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – When Justin Buckles and his cast go out in the small towns they visit, they often catch people trying to sneak photos of them. Standing more than seven feet tall in 12-inch high heels, they’re hard to miss.

But they want the attention. It’s why they tour through small Western towns like Jackson—to give locals a taste of something new. Whenever they catch someone hiding behind a camera, they invite them to take a photo together.

“Seeing a drag performer walking down the streets of San Francisco, or Seattle or Portland, no one blinks an eye,” said Buckles, a resident of Portland, Oregon. “Take drag queens into Jackson Hole, people want to know what the hell is going on. A lot of people have never really seen a drag queen in person.”

Buckles and his crew, the Caravan of GLAM, will perform on the Pink Garter stage Saturday night. This is their third appearance in Jackson, but veteran audience members can expect a “brand new show,” Buckles said.

Ringleader Spyke Naugahyde will also host drag bingo Saturday morning in The Rose. Buckles doesn’t fully understand why bingo is as popular as it is, but in the show’s four years on the road, “everybody asks about bingo. It’s the weirdest thing.”

Drag bingo, Buckles clarified, is “not your grandma’s bingo.” It’s crude, often inappropriate, and fueled by mimosas and bloody marys. But grandmas are welcome. At a recent show in Newport, Oregon, Buckles said a 92-year-old woman came with her great granddaughter. “She loved every second of it,” he said.

Buckles founded the show four years ago. After an extensive Los Angeles career in production for shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, he moved to Portland and realized he was “overqualified” for most of the production gigs there. So he decided to create his own show, and take it on the road. He grew up in a small town on the Oregon coast, and remembers being awe-struck by the “midget wrestling show” that came through town once a year. “It was the most amazing thing in the world,” Buckles said.

So when the time came for him to produce his own show, he wanted to emulate that wonder for people who might not otherwise have the chance to experience it.  “The focus has always been going into cities that don’t have this type of entertainment,” Buckles said.

Audiences are hungry for it, perhaps without even realizing it, he said. “People want that escape. It doesn’t matter the age or demographic … people just want to have a good time.”

And good times abound. The Caravan of GLAM isn’t your everyday drag show. It’s a burlesque show. It’s a musical. It’s Cirque du Soleil, in heels. And it’s interactive. “Don’t be surprised if you’re pulled up on stage,” Buckles said.

Before performers take the stage, it’s customary wherever they go to hit the town the night before. Jackson’s no different. The performers will be out on the square Friday night to hand out bills, take pictures, and meet their audience to make themselves visible. Because visibility, Buckles said, is important everywhere, to everyone.

“All my performers live out and proud,” Buckles said. “None of us are afraid to be who we are, live how we want to live, or dress how we want to dress. We carry on every day how we do.” His shows, then, are merely extensions of those identities. But then, isn’t every form of expression? Because that’s what this is, Buckles said: Self-expression.

“A lot of my performers perform what they’re feeling,” he said. “They create numbers around the angst they’re going through at the moment, if they’re depressed, if they’re happy, if they’re sad.”  To be a passionate performer, Buckles said, you have to draw from your own experiences.

Buckles’s show tours through 14 Western states, and keeps growing. He can only remember one occasion of resistance from a local. It was in Montana, and a woman with five kids in her car rolled down her windows to shout slurs at Buckles and his performers. “We smiled, and waved, and told the kids not to be like their mom.” Otherwise, “we’ve always been embraced,” he said.

Jacksonites have a handful of opportunities to hang out with the Caravan of GLAM. Drag bingo is noon, Saturday, August 19 at The Rose. There are two Caravan of GLAM shows Saturday night: one at 7 p.m. for people 18 and older, and another at 10 p.m. for the 21-and-up crowd. Before any of that, however, you can look for them Friday night. They’ll be out and ready to mingle.

“Expect to see a scene on the streets Friday night,” Buckles said. “We might be seven-foot-five in 9-inch heels, but we’re really nice.” PJH

Tickets to bingo are $10 and are available at JustinBucklesProduction.com, or at the door. Doors open at 11 a.m. Tickets to both evening shows are available at PinkGarterTheater.com, $15 general admission, $20 for premier seating. Doors open one hour before show time.

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