One fabulous evening of in March, the second floor ballroom at the William Way LGBT Community Center transformed into a dimly-lit cabaret club, festooned with feathers, sequins and plenty of gold lame. This evening was the Philadelphia Gay Mens’ Chorus (PGMC) Annual Drag Cabaret fundraising event. Held officially for the past 3 years, but unofficially for at least twice as long, this event has grown from its humble beginnings in various neighborhood bars to the glitz and glamour, standing-room only event we see today. This annual event raises funds in the thousands of dollars, managing to increase its amounts every year.
A raucous and fun evening full of laughs, the basis of the event is much more serious. PGMC does outreach to students at local schools throughout the year, a different one every month from September through May. They strive to teach acceptance, tolerance and respect for all people, gay or straight. According to Adam Funck, President of PGMC, the students are sometimes surprised to see “just regular guys – accountants, real estate agents. It helps them to see that we are just regular people. And not just the gay students, but the straight students, as well.”
After partnering with the Gay/Straight Student Alliance at these various schools throughout the year, one is selected by the organization to be the recipient of the proceeds from the annual fundraiser. This year’s recipient is Parkway Center City High School. As the Gay Men’s Chorus is musically and artistically driven, the funds are earmarked for the school’s music program. Speaking with Adam, a member of the Chorus since 2012, as well as Joe Buches, the Artistic Director for PGMC, who has been involved with PGMC for 13 years, we learned of the passion the group has as a whole for reaching out to today’s youth, answering questions and providing guidance.
“We sometimes hear the question, ‘What’s our relevance?’, well, we are more relevant than ever now,” says Adam. “They need to know it will be OK. Things will always be tough, there will always be bullying.”
But they stress the importance of knowing that things do get better, that those tough times in life will settle down.
“Far beyond just dealing with being gay, we teach respect for others,” said Joe.
And that message could be felt throughout the evening. Respect, love, admiration. Whereas the majority of the performers were members of the Chorus, professional drag queens donated their time to do makeup for all the performers.
This night was all about fun. Adam stated that the drag cabaret started as a fun way to get new members involved.
“Here, put on this outfit, go out there and sing!” Adam laughingly said was how it all began.
But over the years, it evolved into something bigger. Now, many of the long-time members love to participate and showcase their talents.
“Most everyone performing tonight is an amateur. This is their first time.”
The show was interspersed with a few numbers by the professional drag performers, but for the most part, this was a showcase for first-timers. And they did a spectacular job.
Hosted by Stella D’Oro, a well-known drag performer who has been hosting from the very beginning, the show featured 12 performances by singers with such names as Ginnie Tonic, Dixxie Cups and Cherry Poppins. The crowd delighted in some Golden Girls banter, saw a hysterical mash-up of quotes mixed with songs called the “Paula Deen Mix,” cheered along with Dominique who was “Holding Out for a Hero,” and re-lived that inimitable You Tube performance of a first experience tasting “Patti’s Pies.” A four-girl group called The Heathers, of which Adam was a performer, brought the crowd to its feet with a number called “Kill the Lights” – fully adorned with holiday lights in their hair.
The event was sponsored by Kohl’s and included a light-fare buffet catered by Pink Garlic Catering. There was an open bar sponsored by Tito’s Vodka, Angry Orchard Hard Cider, Barefoot Wine and Victory Beer, all of which kept the crowd lively and in the mood for fun and laughs. The sold-out event was standing room only, with the PGMC having sold 100 individual tickets and 48 others at VIP tables. In addition to the ticket cost, the proceeds being donated to Parkway Center City High School include the all the tips from both the bar and the performers.
The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus hasmore events coming up soon. Be sure to catch the PGMC at one of their upcoming events, and help support them in the good they do in the community.