There is also so much talk of what should or should not be included in Pride. We often forget those that came before us and paved the way for us to be able to say what we feel is or is not a part of drag. We often forget our elders and what they went through to create this place we occupy now. Many of these freedoms were fiercely won by the drag community and our fellow transgender brothers and sisters. I would like to dedicate a few posts to those elders that fought so hard for us. Please join me in celebrating them.
Carter Bachmann is a 65 year old AFAB, post-menopausal, pre-operative, transgender man. He had been married for thirty five years and his wife passed almost four years ago. Carter shares that he has been taking testosterone shots every week for a year and plans to perform his top surgery at a future date. He lives alone with his dog, Kaia in Parma Heights, Ohio. He is retired and lives off social security, jobs he performs for his neighbors and performing in drag shows. Carter also states that to his knowledge, he is the oldest, actively performing drag king in the state of Ohio.
How different are you from your persona, Carter Bachmann?
When I first started drag, my persona was practically the complete opposite of who I was and the way I felt. Today, I am me. In drag or out.
How did you find out about drag?
I’m not even sure. But some friends of mine from college decided to go to a show at a venue we’d never been to before. We weren’t even sure exactly what KIND of show it was. As it turned out, that was the night, in 1977, that we all became Danamaniacs. We watched Dana Manchester and Stacy Carlson perform at a hole in the wall place in Ft. Lauderdale Florida called Tacky’s.
What made you want to do drag?
Dana Manchester made me want to do drag, initially. I was a music major, going through a tough time personally, and Dana became one of my closest friends. Within a year, she became what is known as my drag mother in today’s drag scene.
What is the inspiration behind your persona?
My persona today is simply an overstated version of me, the man I’m becoming. I have no hard and fast answer as to any biological male who defines my character, personal, professional or famous, that I draw inspiration from. Certainly not anyone in my life; my father, my bosses, professors, or coworkers.
How do you classify your type of drag?
My drag is classic, slightly underwhelming in today’s genres, with the more creative, cosplay, dramatic, caricature kings. As an elder in the drag community, when 95% of other kings I look up to are around half my age and younger, I cant compete with them on their level. I am unapologetically me. Classic, emotional, able to take a performance and make people feel what I feel. Many times, depending on the song, I make people cry. Because of how I can relate and perform.
What do you get out of being a drag performer?
I love entertaining the masses. I love having a good time with the community at large. And I love being able to instill pride in what I do and how I perform.
When did you first do drag?
March 17, 1978. Dana Manchester painted me once as Liza Minnelli, gave me a Bob Mackie pants to wear, taught me to walk in heels and told me to learn “Liza With A Z.” Then informed me she had entered me in a talent contest. On St. Patrick’s Day, 1978. I won!
What was the scene like, at the time?
I wasn’t exactly mainstream drag and unaware of a lot of the more profound political issues going on at the time. The only blatant act of homosexuality I ever participated in was a Gay Pride parade through the streets of South Florida (I can’t remember if it was Miami or Ft. Lauderdale) during the height of Anita Bryant’s inquisition against the gay community. To be honest, I was one of a kind, since I was a biological female doing drag. We had no Femme queens. I had enough issues trying to fit into a predominantly male, albeit gay male, community and profession.
How has your style changed since you started?
Oh Lord. I was at best a female impersonator, not looking or acting like myself … 43 years later, I’m a male impersonator being the best me I know how to be.
What was your most memorable performance?
My two most memorable performances had nothing to do with actually performing. One dressed as Liza Minelli, when I attended a concert and Ms. Minelli literally stopped in the middle of her performance to acknowledge her twin in the front row and her getting me on stage with her.
The other was when a team of Hollywood experts transformed me into a male character so I could attend Dana Manchester’s step down as Miss Florida F.I. as her date. Her manager had a rather bizarre sense of humor but it was his dime, so ….
Was there a worst performance and what made it so?
‘ve never not had fun performing, although I learned a very important lesson about song choice at one venue. It wasn’t so much the worst performance as it was a learning experience.
What do you think about the scene now?
Wow, that’s a loaded question. The scene now is vastly different than it was in the late 70s/early 80s. So many more forms of drag are being introduced and accepted as an artform and creative expression. Once upon a time, the more you looked like a biological female, the better your drag. No kings, no femmes, no transgender people. Just men dressed as women. So much has changed it boggles my mind at times. Which isn’t me saying that just because I’m not used to a certain type of drag, I don’t care for it. But so much drag is borderline theatrical, it’s hard to fathom at times.
Do you think media popularity of drag performers has hurt or helped the acceptance of drag? How?
Some have helped, some have hurt. RuPaul in the early stages of Drag Race made it fun for the non-gay community to get involved and interested. However, years before there was RuPaul, there were mainstream drag shows being touted as THE shows to go see in Las Vegas. Kenny Kerr and Boylesque, Frankie Marino and La Cage just to name two.
What does being a drag queen allow you to do or express when you aren’t in drag?
To be brutally honest, being a drag queen or king has never changed me outside of drag. I’ve always expressed my own personal opinions, right or wrong, and pretty much done what I wanted. The only time I ever made a HUGE difference by being myself AND a drag queen was when my mother made me get a psychological evaluation because clearly there was something wrong with me. As it turns out, I invited my shrink to my next show and performed as usual. When my mother called him for an update on her baby girl, he told her that there was absolutely nothing wrong with ME, but he WOULD like to make an appointment to talk in depth with HER.
What do you want people to take away from your drag?
want people to enjoy my performance and listen closely to what I’m trying to say. More often than not, I try to TEACH through my song choices, especially when doing a ballad, so that people will LEARN something, FEEL something that they might otherwise have forgotten. Whether about love, family, relationships, life in general, even death … sure, drag can be fun and entertaining. But what about the guy in the corner at the bar, drinking and thinking about a failed relationship, possibly contemplating suicide and just happened to be at a gay bar during a show? I’ll zero in on him and perform just for him if I have to. As long as he’s aware that he’s not alone, that I’ve felt what he’s feeling and that life goes on.
My name is Carter Lee Bachmann and I am me.
There is no denying the impact drag has had on our culture, LGBTQ or otherwise. These icons of strength, beauty, and poise are there to inspire and encourage us to be our better selves and act to support or fellow people, of all walks. They have and are our activists that keep challenging societies thoughts on people and the conditions we face. They have been ardent supporters during the dark days of the AIDS epidemic and continue to battle stereotypes and prejudice.
We owe a debt of thanks and respect to our drag community!