The Four Greatest Queens?

Continuing our strand on a pack of cards to jog your pop-culture memory, we thought we’d take a look at who’d make the cut as the queens of the pack.  Rather than go for the obvious homage to figures from the past and respect for our present monarch, we thought a slight shuffle of the pack could proved interesting, so here’s our take on history’s greatest drag acts.


The Queen of Spades - DevineKnown  to mainstream audiences for appearing as Ricki Lake’s mother in John Waters’ original Hairspray movie (the role that John Travolta would later play in the 2007 version), Divine appeared in many of Waters’ earlier movies, pushing the boundaries of taste and film censorship. Makeup was practically towelled on, even by drag queen standards. And a strange bit of trivia: Ursula (the tentacled antagonist from squeaky clean Disney movie The Little Mermaid) was drawn with Divine as the inspiration.  Divine’s drag act wasn’t convincing in the slightest, but then that was probably the point.   Divine intended to shock and the climatic scene from John Waters’ Pink Flamingos certainly confirms that this (we’ll spare you the details). In fact, he wasn’t proud of the female impersonation niche he had worked himself into, once commenting that ‘Drag is my work clothes. I only put it on when someone pays me to.

Joan Of Arc

The Queen of Hearts - Joan Of ArcTechnically a drag-king but hey, we’ve already done an article on kings. When only sixteen she disguised herself as a man and sought an audience with Charles VII, the king of France. He agreed (some say out of little more than desperation) to have her sent to Orleans in full knight’s garb to break an ongoing siege.  In 1429 she successfully reversed the siege and led the French on something of a holy war, meeting enormous success with aggressive actions (the leadership had been cautious in previous campaigns and were continuing this policy despite its repeated failings). Despite her successes she was taken off her horse defending the retreat of her troops, imprisoned and later burnt as a witch. Canonised as a saint, she also came to symbolise the kind of nationalist and classless heart of post revolution France.   Hence, Queen of Hearts.

J. Edgar Hoover

The Queen of Clubs - J. Edgar HooverFor a guy suspected of covering up alien crashes in the New Mexico desert, the existence of a second gunman in Dallas and probably personally delivering the moondust for the moon landing set, it’s not that much of a leap to believe that his personal life was somewhat strange and undercover too.  A man with massive power and responsibility uses it to cover up a private life that is far from the American mainstream norm from the 1930s through to the 1960s.  To say Hoover was a controversial figure before his private life is even considered is a little bit of an understatement.  That may have easily fuelled the rumours about his sexuality and his supposed cross dressing all the more. Susan Rosentiel ‘s claim that Hoover wore a ‘fluffy black dress with flounces and lace […] at Homosexual orgies’ is widely discredited, but then some bits of urban legend becomes so much more than the shaky fact they’re based upon.  So, J. Edgar Hoover:  queen of clubs – and not the kind used to beat striking workers either.

Dame Edna Everage

The Queen of Diamonds - Dame Edna EverageAustralian export Barry Humphries has long been regarded as a national treasure in the UK with his alter ego Dame Edna Everage.   He/she is one of the few drag queens to have achieved the accolade of being made a CBE in the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours list.  At least now he can address Sir Les Patterson and Dame Edna on an equal basis. Dame Edna, who greets audiences with her famous catchphrase: “Hello possums!”, first hit the scene as plain old Norma Everage at an appearance in Melbourne University’s Union Theatre on 12th December, 1955.  She shares Barry Humphries’ head and wardrobe space with Aussie bloke Barry McKenzie and slobbish cultural attaché Sir Les Paterson.  His/her other less well known talents includes painting – Barry Humphries is considered one of Australia’s best landscape artists.   All in all, a real Diamond!

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