Drag Race in the Pines 1989.
A benefit for Hetrick Martin Institute.
By Michael Lott.
When I moved to NYC in 1985 from Charleston SC I had been a runner: 45 miles per week. Sometimes in Charleston we would wait until after midnight for the temperature to drop below 80 degrees to run. I moved to New York City and I brought running up to New York with me ( except Winter I cannot run in a New York Winter) . So when I told people I was spending weekends on Fire Island they told me “ Great you can run barefoot on the beach!” Well I tried that that is a nightmare. The beach was sloped so running crooked on the beach was not easy and even worse the wet sand would cause suction on my feet making running a lot less enjoyable. I realized that no actual runner would recommend running “barefoot “ on a beach.
But lemons to lemonade I found running on the wooden boardwalks to be a joy, the wood giving spring to my steps. The only problem was I needed to run at a time when people weren’t using the boardwalks. So I started running early Saturday mornings, at 8 AM . My first two years I lived on Shore Walk and would run over to Ocean down Ocean to the East End and back . Yes no people up early Saturday morning other than a few guys doing “The walk of shame “ home, but there were a couple of encounters with deer who were hanging out on the boardwalks early in the morning. In fact once I came over a hill and startled a big buck who reared up. We were both very surprised and I just turned around and ran back the other way.
In 1988 I moved to 42 Lone Hill, but continued my Saturday morning runs. In 1988 they announced a benefit for the Hetrick Martin Institute starting with a “ drag race” that began in the harbor running east along the beach to Ozone where the party was at the “ Cape Cod House” .
Now drag has never been my thing, though I have donned woman’s clothes on a dare and was universally acclaimed as the “ The world’s ugliest drag queen” .
So when this party was announced I thought I can do this , but I had to make sure the outfit wouldn’t interfere too much with my running. So in my house at Lone Hill I found this tacky silver miniskirt and black fishnet stockings that someone left behind. At the Woolworths on 23rd Street and 8th Ave I bought a cheap auburn wig for $8.00 . Then went down to 14th Street which in the 80’s was full of cheap stores. The first store I went to I told them I wanted size 8 1/2 silver sensible heels. The look they gave me! The woman says “ You can buy them here but you can’t try them on!” Well I went full queen on them “ If I can’t try them on here I am taking my business elsewhere and stomped out of the store. Two doors down there was another shoe store that would let me try the shoes on.The 8 1/2 silver sensible heels fit perfectly and I felt like Cinderella trying on the glass slipper! For $ 12 no less! Total money spent on outfit $20
I completed my outfit with the polyester white string tank top , and a white boa. My housemate Nikki said “ You look like one cheap floozy all you need is one thing and she gave me a baseball hat from the lesbian bar “ The Cubby Hole” “ Cheap and tawdry” my housemates agreed, and as I had muscular legs from being a runner the fishnet stockings were already ripping !
Well I walked to the harbor. “ Sybil Bruncheon” in all her glory was the first year’s MC . There were maybe about 15 contestants.The other contestants were not as serious as I . They shot the starting pistol and I was off . Being a runner and being a smart drag queen in choosing “ racing” heels I was first from the harbor to the beach to Ozone to the party. I had to be a sight running down the beach with the white boa flowing behind me. Imagine my surprise when they announced after the race “Being gay we are non-competitive so we are going to put the names of all the finishers in the hat and draw the winners name” . I was furious since I was gay and very competitive. Needless to say, though I won the race my name was not drawn out of the hat. No prize for me. Well it was all for charity anyway.
1989 came around and they announced the benefit once again. This year I, believing in recycling, wore the same cheap wig, the same “ sensible heels”, but with a really tacky multicolored stripe top that someone had abandoned in our house. I wore the same the same tacky silver miniskirt, the same now very ripped fishnet stockings. I added some large fake pearls I had found , and proudly wore the “Cubbyhole” hat again. My housemate Nikki said “ I don’t know how you have managed it but you look even cheaper and tackier this year!” “ Success” I answered. This year to my surprise my housemate Paul was running with me. He had a one piece “bathing suit” with frills he had stolen from his sister and a cheap red wig with a headband. We were set. We posed for pictures on our back deck .
Calculating it would hit after the race at the party we each popped an Ecstasy pill and walked down to the harbor. When we arrived the MC announced “ We are going to delay the start of the race for thirty minutes.”
Oh hell no.! I grabbed him by the neck , and thought I told him in private “ I’ve already taken my Ex” But actually he had the working microphone in his hand so my comments were broadcast all over the harbor; to much laughter. But not missing a beat the MC, a good friend announced : “ Correction we are going to start the race immediately !” Also to much laughter.
Well we started the race and Paul and I took off like our lives depended on it. This year spectators were ready. They lined the route on the beautiful July beach day and applauded me running in the lead down the beach. My friends Derek and Theo were on Ozone videotaping and Derek yells “Its Carlotta ! “ ( my nickname.) Acknowledging the applauding crowds I ran up on the boardwalk and stopped. At that point Derek says “ Hurry Michael he’s gaining on you!” I said “That’s Paul!” and waited for him. Then arm and arm we strolled across the finish line tied for first . This year I knew it didn’t matter.
The party was fun. I took off my “outfit “ drank champagne sitting on the edge of the pool and took all the congratulations in stride. I won, it was on video and screw those “ non-competitive” party organizers!