Sunday's sold out show brought talent and fundraising to an excited audience.
The Observatory North Park was standing room only on Sunday as the crowd waited for the six amateur drag contestants to make their debut on stage in “Tantrums & Tiaras Battle of the Bar Queens” 2017.
The night was full of energy and buzz and contestants and guests alike were anxious to see their favorite neighborhood bartenders dress up in frocks, padding and lacy frilly things.
San Diego Gay and Lesbian News went backstage before the show and it was humming with excitement as backup dancers, makeup artists and stylists put the finishing touches on each and every one of their queens.
Holly Roller’s crew was desperately trying to find a wayward prop, “Has anyone seen a Jesus candle?!” was heard echoing through the hall just below the stage before showtime.
Last year’s reigning queen Marla Von Trapp nee Joey Adams towered over the crowd. He was made taller by the giant diamond crusted tiara atop his head.
“It’s been amazing,” Joey said dressed as Marla. “Everyone has been so amazing this year.”
He became recognized at Gossip Grill as soon as the poster went up for this year’s show. He said people were looking at his face on the poster and connecting the dots, “That’s you! they said."
The title of Miss Tantrums and Tiaras includes doing fundraisers and other appearances throughout the community as part of their responsibilities.
Joey says he had to dress up a few times throughout his title and that was fine by him, “We just did a little fundraiser this past weekend at Gossip, it was to raise a little bit more money as well. I did a whole entire performance had the past winners come in and it was such a success.”
He wants the 2017 winner to just be themselves and have fun in the coming year. He adds there’s one thing they must get used to right off the bat; becoming a local celebrity.
“Know that you are going to be known and seen everywhere and people are going to know you from this,” he said. “And they are going to applaud you because they know this is such a big event. And they better put on some big heels because they have some big heels to fill.”
The hostess for the night, drag icon Babette Schwartz was taking some time to relax in her dressing room before taking her spot at the dais as mistress of ceremonies. She says this is one of her favorite events because everything raised goes back into the LGBT community.
“It’s a huge money maker for the Center,” said Schwartz, “it’s a huge coming together of different bars, and different people in the community,--people that wouldn’t necessarily cross paths--and it’s just fun; Everybody checks their attitude at the door and it’s been a hoot.”
I ran into Baja Betty’s own Cody Bray, portraying Holly Roller, complete with blue Paisley dress, bright red hair to match his own and giant fake eyelashes. If I didn’t know better, I would swear I was looking at a pretty spot-on ersatz Katy Perry.
He told me his characterization is kind of like Tammy Faye Bakker.
“She’s a crazy religious Jesus Freak,” he said of Holly; his alter-ego for the night.
Suddenly, the stage manager whistled and everyone took a breath; it was showtime.
Babette took her place at the podium, explaining how the fundraising part of the event worked: people could either throw money on stage or make a personal donation at one of the booths in the foyer.
The evening's judges were introduced with an announcement that for the first time ever, audience members could text their selections for $5.
District Three Councilmember Chris Ward made a surprise appearance speaking about the importance of The San Diego LGBT Community Center before adding, "Hang on to your seats, it's going to be a wild night."
Tantrums officially began as each contestant introduced themselves in a video then made their debut as their characters.
The audience went wild with excitement after each introduction, especially when the bulky Nick Criscione, now Valentina Loveless of Uptown Tavern walked across the stage fitted with a giant pair of wings, a huge broken heart, and a fresh hairless face.
Cycling through each introduction, Miss #1 on Fifth, Rich’s, Urban Mo’s, Baja Betty’s, and Flicks were a color palette of wigs, character and energy.
Then it was on to the talent portion of the celebration as each queen put her best pumps forward to entertain the crowd, something they appeared to do effortlessly.
Representing Rich’s, Miss Othelioma (Madison Kailukaitis), entered from stage left wearing a neon orange and green lace nighty, going into an EDM version of “Thank You For Being a Friend,” from The Golden Girls.
Perhaps the biggest jaw-dropping moment was Valentina’s entrance high atop a mobile platform in a faithful tribute to Britney Spears “Oops!...I Did It Again” complete with her iconic one piece red jump suit.
The crescendo to the number involved confetti cannons which rained down colorful pieces of paper to those sitting in the first couple of rows from the stage.
As the night wore on and after a brief intermission, it was time for the contestants to show off their evening gowns and answer some questions.
Russian secret agent Elektra, portrayed by Marshall Alexander of #1 on Fifth, was asked about San Diego’s LGBT Community Center (The Center) and why it was important.
“Intersectionality,” she said. “The Center has stood to represent the community for 45 years. All of these people bound together by commonality. Strength through unity, unity through humanity.”
It was now up to the judges to determine who would become 2017’s Miss Tantrums. It seemed like tough choice because of all the talent and courage put forth by the amateurs on The Observatory stage.
The Matt Ramone Bud Light Miss (Somewhat) Congeniality went to Uptown Tavern’s lovelorn Valentina.
Baja Betty’s, Rich’s, Urban Mo’s, and Uptown Tavern all placed beneath Flick’s Helluva Bottom Carter and Elektra from #1 on Fifth.
In the end, the crown went to Helluva (Josh Ramirez) dressed in a white Marie Antoinette costume made by Medavog Couture, complete with royal headdress, and tall white ostrich plumes.
“I am totally going to use my platform to bring the counseling services of The Center,” Helluva told us immediately after her win. “Because really it’s important to me. I’m involved in Trevor Project, so the opportunity to speak on that – life saving services, you know?”
Helluva said she knew she was going to be awesome, but didn’t want to get her hopes up until Babette named her the winner.
“I was kinda surprised but not really. I watched the show like four years in a row, so I just brought what I always wanted to see in a show.”
As with every Tantrums and Tiaras event, this one was a spectacular showcase of talent, courage and giving.
Paper bills littered the stage throughout the evening as thousands of dollars were raised for The Center in order for them to continue to provide services and outreach programs for San Diego’s LGBT community.
Helluva may have summed up the tone of the evening and perhaps gave voice to what all contestants want whether they took home the crown or not.
“I am totally going to encourage others to get involved,” she said. “Because, you know, I’ve been here ten years now and I want to give back to the community that’s been so good to me so I want to inspire others to do the same.”
The community came together on Sunday night for this show. It is a collective effort by local artists and business owners who dedicate their time and resources to help The Center continue to connect the community in healthy ways through programs, outreach and education to San Diego's LGBT community.
San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, SDPIX and all of Hale Media would like to thank everyone who made the show a success, and congratulate Josh Ramirez on his win as Miss Tantrums and Tiaras 2017.