Life is a drag

‘Queens of the Island’ reeling in Whidbey fans

Still looking for signs of night life on Whidbey Island?

Then head to downtown Oak Harbor March 13 and check out Queens of the Island at Off the Hook, a lounge and restaurant on Pioneer Way.

Queens of the Island, a foursome of young, outrageously dressed men, are luring in packed audiences every second Tuesday of the month.

They are led by Vivienne Duchanne (pronounced doo-cane), the stage name and female alter ego of Tyler O’Dell, a 23-year-old Oak Harbor resident who’s done what many thought impossible on North Whidbey — establish a regular and popular drag show.

Last month marked the Queens’ eighth show in seven months, which happened to be Mardi Gras and the day before Valentine’s Day.

Judging by the hooting, hollering and dollar-bill-waving reaction of some 60 people packed in for the 90-minute show, the Queens are raging Whidbey.

“It’s amazing. I love it,” said Tim Landon Hazelou, who’s made the show a monthly outing with his friends. “It’s the funnest night in Oak Harbor.”

Performing with O’Dell/Duchanne are Alex Heape as Alexuhhh Storm, Alex Davis as Fran Zia and Autumn Rayne, who preferred his real name not be revealed.

“I’m active duty, Navy” said the 29-year-old. “I prefer to keep it on the down low.”

Rayne and the other Queens use the female pronoun ‘she’ when bending their gender before, during and after the show.

“It’s the art of female illusion,” Rayne explains. “That’s what drag is.”

Some have years of experience, others just recently honed their drag persona.

All are loud, proud, brash and bodacious.

Colored spotlights shine on ever-changing outfits, wigs and stiletto heels. During two sets of individual acts they lip-synch to a variety of songs and sassy monologues.

And they are always in motion. Think sexual gymnastics — on six-inch heels.

Drag means freedom to O’Dell, a 2013 graduate of Oak Harbor High School, who came out as gay at age 15.

“I got picked on in high school and during my younger years. Now, I’m flamboyant, I’m myself.”

O’Dell honed his acting skills at Whidbey Playhouse and learned how to be a drag diva at Seattle clubs, he said in an interview.

“Off the Hook reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in doing a monthly show.

“We actually have had an outstanding ridiculously packed crowd since the moment we started.”

Alex Bennett, a longtime Off the Hook bartender, advises that people arrive an hour before the 9:30 p.m. shows to snare seats and get food and drink orders in.

“It is hugely popular,” Bennett said. “It’s pretty amazing how supportive the whole town is.”

Apparently, Oak Harbor residents are not only ready for young men to saunter around in high heels, stockings, garter belts and silk, they can’t get enough.

“We may be going to twice monthly, it’s that popular,” O’Dell said. “It’s people of all different ages. There’s little old ladies that come and we definitely have the support of the LGBT community.”

A regular drag event also takes place at the nearby Terrace Wine Bar and Bistro in Harborside Village Mall. Drag Me to Bingo! attracts about 50 people on the first and third Thursdays every month.

Hosted by Autumn Rayne, it just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

Alex Davis — tall, lanky, luscious and a red head as Miss Fran Zia — is from Bellingham where she regularly performs at Rumors Cabaret.

Wherever the stage, she turns heads. As songs like “Dude Looks like a Lady” pulsate over the crowd, dollar bills fly through the air.

Men, women and those in-between can’t seem to get enough.

“The redhead. She’s great,” a couple chimed in unison when asked their favorite queen. “The show’s like what I’ve seen in California,” said Douglas Trammell, sitting next to his partner, Kenneth Hubbard, 48. “We were just told about it today so figured we’d check it out.”

Getting ready for the show takes time — two to three hours, said Alexuhhh Storm, who graduated as Alex Heape from Oak Harbor High School in 2010.

Layers and layers of eyelashes need to be attached, outrageous nails glued on and enough lipstick painted on to cover a few barns.

But it’s not just layers and layers of makeup.

Some bodies also have to be, well, rearranged, hairy legs concealed.

“I have five layers on,” Autumn Rayne reveals in the dressing room. “A corset, two pairs of Spanx, pantyhose and a roll of duct tape.

“Look, it’s given me this fabulous woman’s body,” she purrs.

Not to be outdone, Vivienne Duchanne adds, “I have eight layers of pantyhose on.”

Claude Johnston, cook and owner of Off the Hook, said he caught the act of O’Dell/Duchanne ”for a second” last year at Oak Harbor Lounge and thought, “Wow, that would be a fun thing to do here.”

“It’s been pretty much ginormous from the first show in August,” he said. “And we really haven’t done any advertising, just a Facebook event page.

“They’re great actors and great entertainers.

“Every show we have, more people seem to show up.”

Fran Zia snags many dollar bills during monthly performances at Off the Hook in downtown Oak Harbor. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Fran Zia snags many dollar bills during monthly performances at Off the Hook in downtown Oak Harbor. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Fran Zia snags many dollar bills during monthly performances at Off the Hook in downtown Oak Harbor. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Autum Rayne admits it takes many layers of make-up, panty hose, even duct tape to change gender for drag show performances. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Autum Rayne admits it takes many layers of make-up, panty hose, even duct tape to change gender for drag show performances. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Vivienne Duchanne works on getting her nails just right before deciding on which wig to don. In one act, she switches wigs six times. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Vivienne Duchanne works on getting her nails just right before deciding on which wig to don. In one act, she switches wigs six times. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

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