After a low opening turnout in theaters for LGBTQ rom-com “Bros,” writer and star Billy Eichner wrote on Twitter Sunday that it was “disappointing” that “straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up .” Dot Marie Joneswho co-stars in the film, echoed Eichner’s feelings Sunday evening at the Best in Drag Show, an annual parody drag pageant that functions as a charity benefit for people living with HIV/AIDS, and at which Jones was serving on the panel of judges.
“There’s so much heart and so many wonderful good laughs in this [movie],” Jones told variety at the Orpheum Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s, you know, LGBTQ. It’s not contagious — fuckin’ go see a movie, you know what I mean? It’s crazy.”
“I had a friend, she went and she’s straight,” Jones continued. “She went and saw it and went back and saw it again yesterday because everybody was laughing so much that she missed some of the jokes.”
Jones was joined on the panel by “Abbott Elementary” star Lisa Ann Walterwho called Best in Drag “one of the best shows in town,” and praised the work of the evening’s benefiting organization, the Alliance for Housing and Healing, which provides shelter and resources to low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
“We have the honor, when you have a platform, to speak about things that matter, to take care of people that are homeless, take care of people that are still struggling getting their medication for AIDS,” Walter told variety. “It’s a really important thing to support causes that maybe some people forget about sometimes, but it’s still ongoing.”
The Best in Drag Show has existed in various forms since 1989, when it was created as an AIDS fundraising event and party. Since then, it has become a massive spectacle, with rehearsed musical numbers, extravagant fashions and an enthusiastic crowd of longtime attendees that donate generously and throw wadded-up dollar bills at the stage from as far as the back mezzanine. Sunday’s show raised more than $275,000 over the course of the evening.
“I find it to be the most entertaining show of the year,” said “The Drew Carey Show” star Kathy Kinney, who has been judging the pageant for 20 years. “It’s for such a great cause. With the pandemic, COVID pushed everything out of our minds. But, you know, AIDS is still around and we still need to talk about it and support it, and especially the homeless in Los Angeles, there’s such a high level of AIDS. Let’s put a little money that way and fix it.”
The pageant included evening, swimwear, talent and interview categories for each of the five contestants. The evening’s winner, Miss New York, who performed under the name Madison Square Garden, brought the house down with a saxophone rendition of Madonna’s “Vogue.” Miss Washington, the crowd-favorite Patti Bu Rae, entered the competition wearing a majestic gown adorned in apples, some of which accidentally fell off the vine and ended up all over the stage.
“It’s probably my favorite night of the year,” Jones said. “It makes me get chill bumps. It makes me want to cry, because I haven’t been back in a couple years … More than anything, what I love about this — it’s the most heart and the most love you’ll feel in one building.”