Black Cap Drag

Richard Benner

A rare surviving record of 1960s drag performance at Camden's Black Cap pub, last screened in the UK more than 25 years ago. Drag queens Shane and Laurie Lee perform and discuss their craft in this home-made documentary by US-born filmmaker Richard Benner, who later made the Canadian drag feature Outrageous! (1977). With thanks to the San Francisco Media Archive.


Whats a Girl Like You

Charlie Squires

Welcome to the "Palladium of Drag" - south London's Royal Vauxhall Tavern. The first half of this scintillating LWT documentary celebrates the late-60s drag renaissance at one of Britain's oldest surviving gay venues, home to a diverse throng of working-class regulars. Dynamic camerawork swoops along the bar-cum-stage as pints are pulled under the thrashing heels of anarchic queens Bow, The Polka Dots and Mr Cleo Rose. Despite the clunking insistence that "the one thing you don't have to be for drag is homosexual" this is a refreshingly non-judgemental and joyous insight into queer nightlife half a century ago. A fascinating shift in tone occurs when the spotlight shifts to the northern drag circuit. The girls range from highly polished female impersonators (Bunny Lewis) and glorious grotesques (Al Nicholls) to innovative drag striptease (Terry Durham). Transgender singer Ava strikes a more troubling note with "Strictly a he-male female", a sharp reminder of the less than rosy outlook for trans women in 1969. Featuring candid interviews with all the performers, this is a valuable and timely rediscovery. In 2015 the RVT became the first venue in Britain to be awarded Grade II-listed status for its importance to the LGBT community.