*This story is a little taste of BPB’s larger project in New York, which launches soon. Stay tuned!
Stuck in your uncle’s split-level condo deep in the labyrinth of Jackson Heights? We suggest you step away from the Patel Brother’s groceries and Bollywood DVDs and run into the arms of much sexier Queens, tricked out in sequined sleeves and jungle-red manicures.
We chatted with some of New York’s best drag queens on where they eat, shop and hang, who gave us plenty of information on everything drag from soup to nuts. And we’re not talking about almonds.
SHOP: A BOYS GUIDE TO WEARING HIPS
Patricia Field: This native New Yorker pretty much corners the market on the one-stop-shop for all things drag. Here you’ll find clothing, wigs, shoes, make-up, a salon on the premises and even body painting. 306 Bowery between E Houston and Bleecker Street, 212-966-4066.
Planet Pepper: This is the home of the “Astrobooty”, essentially hip pads for queens. Run by two former Broadway costume designers, at Planet Pepper they’ll whip up any outfit you can imagine, from a 1000-sequinned gown to a sexy smoking jacket. Call 917-704-4807, planetpeppernyc.com.
Screaming Mimi’s: Successful vintage hunting from every decade, with many drag-friendly sizes. Here you can accessorize your inner Jackie O or find a buzzing beehive wig fit for a B-52. 382 Lafayette St, 212-677-6464.
The Leatherman: Their website comes with a content warning, and you have to be 18 years or older to proceed. Perhaps not the obvious drag go-to, but alternative queens swear by their leather corsets, vests and custom-made pants. They also have a wide selection of slings, and if you don’t know what those are, you should be sure to stop by. 111 Christopher St, 212-243-5339.
Abracadabra: Here you’ll find a line of lipsticks with each color dedicated to one of fifteen iconic drag queens. They also carry Ben Nye highlight powder, setting powder, and most importantly, a TV Paint Stick, extra heavy foundation to hide that 5:00 (AM!) shadow. 19 West 21st street, 212-627-5194.
Ricky’s: Yes, they’re a chain all over New York, but they have a great selection of wigs for drag first-timers and a ton of make-up, skin care and hair products for the rest of us. Also check out Wigs and Plus (37 W 14th St, 212-675-4129) for over 500 wigs, all of which dispel the myth that only blondes have fun. Visit rickysnyc.com.
No Relation Vintage & Vintage Thrift Shop: No drag-shopping excursion is complete without at least one trip to a thrift shop. Most of the drag queens we spoke with swear by these two. Both have good reputations and glamazon finds like bell-bottoms, hostess pajamas and Cyndi Lauper tees. 204 1st Ave at 12th St, 212-228-5201; 286 3rd Ave at 23rd St, 212-871-0777.
BLUESTOCKINGS: Joan Rivers said that “no man ever put his hand up a girl’s skirt looking for a library card,” but it doesn’t hurt to pay a visit to this “100% volunteer-powered and collectively owned bookstore” in the Lower East Side. It may not be the place to go for a makeover, but they carry over 6,000 titles on queer and gender studies, feminism, and much more. 172 Allen St, 212-777-6028.
EAT: WERK THAT MOUTH
Cafeteria: The only thing simple about this Chelsea staple is its name. Open 24/7 and offering comfort American fare, Cafeteria serves as a fuelling pit for the neighborhood’s unique mix of gays, queens, yuppies and supermodels. The best part of being here is scarfing down fried chicken and waffles at 4 AM while a 6’2 “Beyoncé” dances in the aisle next to you. 119 7th Ave at 17th St, 212-414-1717.
Veselka: Once 7A closed down, East Village’s lady-boys moved to this all-night Ukrainian restaurant where you can try five different kinds of pierogis. And if you’re feeling Divine, leave room for the chocolate peanut butter pie or a giant rice krispy treat. 144 2nd Ave, 212-228-9682.
Gray’s Papaya: Surprisingly, the hot dog and tropical juice chain came up as a favorite for many of the queens we talked to. “Honey, whatever’s cheap,” they quipped, before launching into a tirade about that cute guy that drank their gin and tonics all night, but who left without asking for their phone number. Two world-famous hot dogs and a tropical juice can be had for about five bucks. 2090 Broadway, (212) 799-0243.
Vynl: Once a lodestone of drag culture with bathrooms dedicated to Cher, Dolly Parton, Nelly and Elvis, the new and shrunken version of this quasi-diner is still a favorite hangout. Pay special attention to album-covered menus and deviled eggs, and make sure you check out the Michael Jackson and Beyonce johns – these you have to see to believe. 756 9th Ave at 51st St, 212-974-2003.
Waverly Restaurant: After the untimely demise of iconic West Village diner Manatus in 2014, the queens picked Waverly as their new late-night castle, haranguing creaky waiters into serving them cheeseburger deluxes and vanilla milkshakes. 385 6th Ave at Waverly Pl, 212-675-3181.
PERFORM AND PLAY: GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN
Barracuda: Walk into this Chelsea bar you’ll find yourself in a Middle American home from the 1950s that is tripping on acid. Vintage lamps and colorful shapes pepper the room, which is bathed in reds, pinks, blues, yellows, greens and purples. Sink into a comfy couch on Dragtastic Mondays (or any other night of the week) and you might have to squint to see through all that glitter. 275 W 22nd St, 212-645-8613.
Industry: This dance club kicks in the feel-good with music that hops from pop to classic disco to camp, blasting within a massive midtown space. Come dance with the boys and stay for NYC favorite Holly Dae, who hosts “Queen” every Thursday night. Just remember to pile on the mascara, and you’ll fit right in. 355 W 52nd St, 646-476-2747.
Pieces: Beat Sunday blues with Drag Bingo hosted by Miss Vodka Stinger (famous for her Balls-To-The-Wall Bingo version) at this gay bar known for cheap drinks and an old-fashioned vibe. Just like church Bingo, but – well – different. 8 Christopher Street, 212-929-9291, Sundays at 5:30 pm.
Boots & Saddle: For the bravest among us all. Here, you’ll get up close and personal with the wildest, hardest working drag queens in New York. Boots & Saddle was grunge before Kurt Cobain was even born, so don’t overthink your Levi’s and Harley boots. The place offers an early 6:00 pm show for the older queens whose feet can’t take a late night in five-inch heels, with a great happy hour for the thrifty. 76 Christopher Street, 212-633-1986.
Lucky Cheng’s & Lips: Go for dinner and a show featuring drag queen servers, bartenders and performers who will wait on you through a three-course meal while you enjoy a larger than life (literally) Barbra Streisand or Bette Midler. 95 Delancey St on the second floor of DL NYC 212-995-5500; 227 E 56th St 212-675-7710.
Story contributed by Frank Liotti, a stand-up comic, copywriter and mixologist living in New York.
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