La Paz drag show draws protest

By Lisa Heller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 21, 1996

Robert Henry Becker
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ms. "Felice Renard" mesmerized the audience as Marilyn Monroe last night at "Diva La Paz," the drag show at La Paz Residence Hall. Renard, aka Eric Taylor, is Ms. Gay Tucson 1996. Some opponents of the show displayed posters with Bible passages, and others threw eggs during the show.


A drag show that was meant to entertain students at La Paz Residence Hall last night sparked opponents to throw eggs and display signs of protest.

About 150 people crowded into the courtyard of La Paz between 8 and 10 p.m. to watch "Diva La Paz," a show put on by four Tucson female impersonators.

Joaquin Bermudez, a La Paz resident assistant and one of the show's coordinators, said the performance was put on to entertain residents and educate them about other lifestyles.

"We wanted to expose people to something they don't see everyday, and they're loving it," he said as the audience cheered.

However, not all residents cheered for the four men dressed in wigs and makeup. Several people walked out onto a balcony as the men performed and displayed signs that referred to Romans 1:24-31, a biblical verse that alludes to homosexual acts and impurity. Someone also threw eggs from a breezway overlooking the courtyard.

A protester who hung one of the signs, business freshman Eric Prior, said he believes in the biblical verse and had permission to display the signs.

"I don't have a problem with them putting on the show, I just wasn't notified in time to talk to the hall director, petition and write letters to protest," Prior said.

He said signs promoting the show were not displayed far in advance. "If I knew there was gonna be cross-dressing beforehand, maybe things would be different," he said.

However, Bermudez said the flyers promoting the show were put up last week, giving students plenty of time to find someplace else to go if they opposed the show.

University of Arizona police also responded just after 9 p.m. to a complaint about the show.

Sgt. Dave Heacock said an out-of-state father called police and reported his daughter was upset because people in drag were walking through the hallways.

Police went to the hall and talked to a staff member, who explained that the female impersonators were part of a hall program, Heacock said.

The entertainers ignored the protests and put on a two-hour show impersonating and lip-synching to stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Diana Ross.

"I think drag queens are really great," said Adiba Nelson, education sophomore and La Paz resident, who was watching the show. "Any man who can dress as a woman and look better than most women is cool."

Zack Knibbe, theater production freshman, heard about the show through a friend and said that despite the protesters, he enjoyed his first drag show.

Knibbe, who said he is bisexual, said, "I think (the protesters) are ignorant and they don't understand people's choices."

Bermudez said he was upset at the way the protesters handled their opposition and felt the signs were a form of hate speech.

"Would they allow swastikas to be put up there?" he said. "There's a time and place for everything, and this wasn't it."

Jerrold Whitfield, whose stage name is "Ajia Simone," was performing when Prior posted his sign in opposition.

Whitfield took the protest in stride. "I'm not trying to lay up with you, I'm just here to do a show," he said as Prior walked away.