Aug 30, 2012

Recap: Zackary Drucker and Her Friends

A buzzing chatter filled the glowing red Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer as guests eagerly found their seats with only minutes until the start of the public program Zackary Drucker and Her Friends: Films and Discussion on August 22. As I too found my seat, I looked around and saw what seemed to be friends meeting after a long separation. I then realized that many of these people were in fact just strangers welcoming one another with the warmest of greetings. Collaborators and couple Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst are artists featured in the exhibition Made in L.A. 2012, and the program drew a large audience from the queer community, as they are both transgender. And that is exactly what the audience of the program felt like… a community.

Still from "At least You Know: You Exist" (Zackary Drucker left, Flawless Sabrina right)

The lights dimmed along with the murmur of voices, and the series of three screenings began with Zackary Drucker’s At least You Know: You Exist (2011, dir. Zackary Drucker with Flawless Sabrina). Made in collaboration with renowned drag queen Flawless Sabrina, whom Drucker deems a mentor, the film is an artful product of two distinct eras and human beings. It begins with vivid and brilliant colors, almost shocking initially, maintaining a sometimes eerie but dreamlike quality. Drucker coalesces the rich imagery with self-narrated poetic lines throughout the sixteen-minute experience. There are a series of provocative images such as close-ups of Flawless Sabrina’s intense make up and goggle-eyed stare and Drucker’s daring nude appearance. The two are contrasted throughout their interactions in the film, while still complementing one another. Drucker represents a youthful and soft appeal of her generation while Flawless Sabrina bears a raw and theatrical essence that is so characteristic of drag in its beginnings. The film is a testament to the interconnectedness of all people, while transcending time and the gender binary.

Holly Woodlawn in "Broken Goddess"

Following this experimental film was the iconic Broken Goddess (1973, dir. Dallas) starring the once Warhol Factory-superstar, Holly Woodlawn. The silent film in black and white contrasted heavily with the stimulating film preceding it. It was an elegant and emotional twenty minute feature depicting a “damsel in distress.” Filmed at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park in New York City, the story is narrated in title cards drawn from the lyrics of Laura Nyro’s love songs which are embellished with a soundtrack of Claude Debussy’s resonant music. The film opens with Woodlawn draped in a black, flowing garb, descending a flight of stairs towards the fountains. The sight of this image drew a roar of applause and cheering from the audience. After depicting a dramatic struggle through explorations of body movements and a porcelain face crumbling with emotion, the broken goddess emerges a serene and composed woman at the end of the film. She turns her back towards the audience and symbolically ascends the same set of stairs from the start of the film, leaving behind her painful struggle.

Film cover of "The Queen"

The series of films ended with the critically acclaimed documentary, The Queen (1968, dir. Frank Simon), which features Jack Doroshow as Mother Flawless Sabrina. This documentary includes hour long footage of the Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant held in 1967 at Town Hall. While the film is entertaining and comedic in the way it captures the colorful personalities of the drag queens in the contest, it is also a marker of progression for the queer community. Through the actual dialogue of the contestants, the documentary clarifies many misunderstandings the general public has about drag queens. A candid conversation between two of the contestants shows their struggles as gay men, misinterpreted to be transvestites. They exclaim that although they enjoy the experience of being feminine in drag, it is only for temporary entertainment purposes and they would “never get the surgery!” The film captures the camaraderie, insecurities, hilarities, and dramatic disputes of the contest. The documentary aims to educate the audience about the culture of drag and to elucidate any misconceptions about the queer community.

In conversation with Holly Woodlawn (left), Zackary Drucker (center), and Flawless Sabrina (right).

The program ended with a conversation with Zackary Drucker and her two beloved mentors, Mother Flawless Sabrina whom Drucker calls Aunty and the spunky Holly Woodlawn. Each member of the trio contributed a distinct character to the conversation. While Woodlawn’s outrageous and witty demeanor resulted in cheering and laughter from the audience, Flawless Sabrina told of the historical significance and importance of the work which was shown. Flawless called herself a “gender clown” jokingly but went on to express that she felt “gender itself is a clown…the biggest men I’ve known are women.” Both Flawless Sabrina and Holly Woodlawn have had extremely intriguing lives, facing discrimination as well as legal consequences for their appearance and even their identities. Woodlawn made light of her struggles as she exclaimed in a humorous tone, “I’ve been humped, dumped, and thrown off a truck!” Drucker joked that the two were often referred to as the Witch of the East (Flawless Sabrina) and the Witch of the West (Holly Woodlawn) . Woodlawn was sure to clarify that neither were evil. The conversation closed with Flawless Sabrina answering a question about the future of the queer world by addressing today’s generation when she said, “Where we’re going is where you take it.”

-Jonaki Mehta, Communications Intern
Jonaki is currently a second year UCLA Student planning to major in Communication Studies.

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