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First Things First

August 16, 2017 2:56 pm0 commentsViews: 65
Photo: David Ayllon

Photo: David Ayllon

Bob The Drag Queen Enters Provincetown Purse First

by Steve Desroches

After watching the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2009 Christopher Caldwell began his life in drag. Watching that first crop of queens, like Tammie Brown, Nina Flowers, and the winner BeBe Zahara Benet inspired him. Like a little girl watching the Miss America Pageant he decided that someday he was going to be America’s Next Drag Superstar. The Georgia native who is now a New Yorker became the toast of the Big Apple as Bob the Drag Queen, not just for her memorable name, but for side-splitting comedy, a deep commitment to equality and community, and a new take on the art of drag. Bob has been riding a rocketship trajectory ever since watching that first season of the pop culture phenomenon that put her into the stratosphere when she snagged the crown and ever since she handed the crown over to the reigning queen Sasha Velour.  And now as she crisscrosses the country touring, Bob the Drag Queen is arriving at the Art House – purse first, of course – for her Provincetown debut.

One would think that it would take a crow bar to get the crown of a queen’s head, and indeed passing on the title is anything but easy. But just as Bob was giving her final walk as the reigning queen, her song “Purse First” was climbing the dance charts bringing her trademark preferred entrance into a room and her affection for the documentary Paris Is Burning, which is sampled in the infectious dance hit, to the masses. So much so that Academy Award-nominated actress Anna Kendrick posted herself going to the Met Gala “purse first.” And then there was the debut of Bob’s LOGO comedy special Suspiciously Large Woman, filmed in Atlanta, earning rave reviews and launching her into a whole new level of acclaim and opportunity. Ever since winning the crown life has been a whirlwind, one that at the moment has him performing on an RSVP Cruise and in port in Ketchikan, Alaska, with 2,000 gay men and Tori Scott, the powerhouse singer who is the imaginary love child of Bette Midler and Paul Lynde. It’s all been a bit of a blur.

“It’s the one question I have a hard time answering,” says Caldwell. “I don’t even know where to begin to tell you what life has been like since winning. I cannot possibly put it into words. It was great. It’s been great. But it’s also been exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, hard. It’s been a lot of things.”

Riding the wave of RuPaul’s Drag Race success does look to be grueling. Throughout his Provincetown run he’ll dip out of town on off days for gigs in Portland, Oregon, New York, and Chicago, before dashing off to Nashville just a day after rapping up at the end of the month.  Wherever Bob goes, laughter follows. And the fan base for Bob goes beyond the LGBTQ community as well as adults. Last Halloween Bob surprised little 9-year-old C.J. Duron of West Hollywood, California, who dressed up like Bob – his favorite drag queen – as the two went trick-or-treating purse first, pulling in a huge haul of candy.  Caldwell loves children. Prior to his success in drag he worked in children’s theater for years. But he also loves making people laugh. So he’s launched a mini-episodic video series called Bob & Lilith, where the drag queen goes full on Joan Crawford on a little girl. It’s only 43 seconds long, but the laughs go on and on. Pretending to be mean to kids is hilarious, says Caldwell, and his co-star was a hip and funny 10-year-old who was eager to be in on the joke.

The shows at the Art House will be an entirely adult affair as Bob the Drag Queen brings a new show with new material and a few performances throughout, opening just a couple of nights before the big Carnival parade, giving Caldwell quite the introduction to Provincetown at its wildest. Those who watched Suspiciously Large Woman will find these live shows a fresh delight. And by all means, bring a purse. The buzz of Bob’s appearance in Provinctown became immediate when the news broke earlier this summer that she was coming at the tail end of summer, joining the long list of top-of-their-game drag performers that have graced the storied stages of town for almost 100 years, not to mention other RuPaul’s Drag Race winners like Jinkx Monsoon, Raja, Bebe Zahara Benet, and Bianca Del Rio and other former cast members Courtney Act, Trixie Mattel, Tammie Brown, Mimi Imfurst, Milk, Detox, Ben De La Crème, Robbie Turner, Willam, and Charlie Hides. Provincetown is the top place in the country for drag performance, so what took Bob so long to get here?

“To be honest, it was because I don’t really like beaches,” says Caldwell. “It’s not that I didn’t think I’d like Ptown, just that it was a beach town.  And it’s way the hell out there. I’m very much a city girl. But now I’m a citizen of the world, so I’m really looking forward to performing in Provincetown. But you won’t find me at the beach.”

Bob the Drag Queen performs at the Art House, 214 Commercial St., Provincetown, Tuesday through Thursday at 9:30 p.m. until August 31. Tickets ($40 general/$65 VIP) are available at the box office and online at ptownarthouse.com. For more information call 508.487.9222.