If a drag queen gets drunk in the middle of a desert, does she still make a sound?
Yes, but it’s not pretty.
I was one of the fortunate 70,000 people to acquire a ticket to this year’s Burning Man festival in Nevada at the end of August. I was not, however, the drag queen mentioned above. (I leave all my drag at home when I go.) The event is my escape from the everyday “default world” and a chance to experience a world of magic and creativity. Plus, there’s the dust — lots and lots of dust. The temporary Black Rock City is constructed on an ancient dried-up seabed. The dust blows back and forth between the surrounding mountains and coats everything you bring with a fine white saline powder. Sparkly sequins and fabulous hair will not stay that way for long.
So I was surprised to learn that Willam, the disqualified contestant from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” was performing at the GlamCocks camp. The GlamCocks are a group of gay burners with chapters in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Sydney. Along with Willam, they brought along Australian pop-diva Courtney Act to perform at their Tuesday night party.
One thing you need to know about Burning Man is that nothing is for sale. It’s a sharing economy. So people build camps, set up bars and nightclubs, and everything is shared. Booze is poured freely (as long as you are over 21) and it’s BYOC — bring your own cup. In my opinion, Willam must have had a very large cup and put it to use all day. By the time she hit the stage, she was a hot mess. Instead of singing her songs, she talked and screeched at the audience over her soundtracks. There’s nothing uglier than a drunk drag queen. Bless her heart.
Burning Man itself is an amazing experience. This was my third time. I describe it as “beyond reason, with unlimited creativity.” There are times when you’re riding your bike through thick dust storms (cars are not to be driven once you arrive) and you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. But once the dust clears, there are amazing art installations and sculptures like nothing you have ever seen. Many are interactive and some, jungle gyms of fun.
The art and afternoon dances at camps Pink Mammoth and Distrikt are fun, but it’s night when Black Rock City really shines. People adorn themselves, their art cars, their bikes, and their sculptures with colorful lights. And then there is the fire. One of my favorite art cars is Pulpo Mechanico, a steampunk metal octopus that shoots fire out its tentacles and head. Robo Heart is a roving art car that pumps out music all night long as long as you can find it. Every night it’s in a new location and people seek it out to dance in front of the giant LED light panels and booming sound system.
There are fire spinners, stilt walkers, and all manner of acrobatic performers. During the day events include everything from “Mystical Unicorn Tarot Readings” to “Kink Fu: Martial Arts For Sex.”
And then there is, of course, The Man. A giant wooden male effigy is constructed, weeks in advance and stands at the center of the city. On Saturday night, everyone gathers in the center of the city on the playa along with lighted music blasting art cars to watch the man burn. And he does more than burn. Fireworks and explosions erupt to the cheers of thousands.
If you can handle camping in a sea of dust for a week, Burning Man will reward you with the most amazing sights and an unforgettable experience. Burn, baby, burn. l
Nuclia Waste, the Triple Nipple Drag Queen of Comedy, can be reached through her website at www.NucliaWaste.com.