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Whirling divas at The Reser

Life is a cabaret: Poison Waters and a bevy of drag stars dress up, feel their Pride, light the lights, and put on a show.


BinKyee Bellflower and fans entertained fans at The Reser.

Toto didn’t show. But plenty of others, many dressed to the nines and beyond, happily scrambled over the rainbow to Beaverton’s Patricia Reser Center for the Arts as the region’s newest arts center celebrated both the end of Pride Month and the wrapup of its first season of performances. (The second season is already in high gear.)

The hostess for the evening on June 28? Poison Waters, the talented, funny, and highly entertaining Portland drag queen. The show, which featured many of Waters’ fellow performers from around the Pacific Northwest? Friends of Dorothy: A Queer Cabaret.

While drag queens and LGBTQ+ people face increased hostility and legal challenges across a divided America, greater Portland remains something of a haven for drag culture, partly through the efforts of Poison Waters (known offstage as Kevin Cook) and also through the long and storied life and career of Darcelle XV/Walter Cole, who when she and he died on March 23 of this year at age 92 was recognized as the world’s oldest performing drag queen. Darcelle’s spirit, and the spirit of her beloved club Darcelle XV, hovered over the festivities at The Reser like a blessing.

And what did the audience see on this evening of cultural celebration? A little song, a little dance, some winks, some jokes, some energetic whirling, some razzle and dazzle and costuming to die for and a whole lot of fun.

Photographer Joe Cantrell was on hand with his cameras, and he captured the spirit of the evening with a profusion of happy images. You can see an assortment below. Now, don’t you wish you’d been there, too?

— The Editors

Turning, whirling, feeling the rhythm

Just me and my shadow: Meesha Peru throws a little shade.
Vanellope whirls onstage …
and reaches for the sky.
Mismonsta encircles the evening …
… and BinKyee Bellflower and Cruz Daniels fan the flames.

Dim the lights. Light the other lights.

Izohnny trips the dimming light fantastic …


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Life is a cabaret, old chum

Bebe Jay shimmers in flowers and frills.
Izohnny and friend come back into the light.
Poison Waters, the evening’s hostess, keeps things rolling along.
Kourtni Capree Duv dons a dress of many shades …
… and Bebe Jay feels the joy.

All in the family

You’ve gotta have heart: Barb B. Valentine, Kenzie B. Valentine, and friend.
A gathering of the clan, with fans: Poison Waters, Vanellope, Kenzie B. Valentine and Meesha Peru.

Hello hello goodbye goodbye

Poison Waters embraces the audience and the evening and the happiness of it all.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

I spent my first 21 years in Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, assuming that except for a few unfortunate spots, ‘everybody’ was part Cherokee, and son of the soil. Volunteered for Vietnam because that’s what we did. After two stints, hoping to gain insight, perhaps do something constructive, I spent the next 16 years as a photojournalist in Asia, living much like the lower income urban peasants and learning a lot. Moved back to the USA in 1986, tried photojournalism and found that the most important subjects were football and basketball, never mind humankind. In 1992, age 46, I became single dad of my 3-year-old daughter and spent the next two decades working regular jobs, at which I was not very good, to keep a roof over our heads, but we made it. She’s retail sales supervisor for Sony, Los Angeles. Wowee! The VA finally acknowledged that the war had affected me badly and gave me a disability pension. I regard that as a stipend for continuing to serve humanity as I can, to use my abilities to facilitate insight and awareness, so I shoot a lot of volunteer stuff for worthy institutions and do artistic/scientific work from our Cherokee perspective well into many nights. Come along!

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