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Arts and Culture

‘Curbside Queens’ Deliver Maine Drag Show Right To Your Door

Troy R. Bennett
Drag performers Cherry Lemonade (left) and Gigi Gabor spring from their pink bus named Peg at a birthday Party in Brunswick on Saturday Aug. 28, 2021. Their pandemic-inspired business, Curbside Queens, is a self-contained outdoor drag show delivered to your door.

PORTLAND, Maine — The big, shocking pink bus is hard to miss. Patrons took notice when it rumbled up outside the sedate Goodfire Brewing beer garden on Saturday afternoon.

Some of the beer-sippers looked confused, glancing around the assembled picnic tables for answers, wondering what would happen next. Others just stared.

Troy R. Bennett
Curbside Queens Cherry Lemonade (left) and Gigi Gabor get ready to perform their traveling drag show in their Portland studio on Saturday. The pair started their business, now an official limited liability company, last summer.

Answers came moments later when two drag performers in festive wigs, flowing costumes and blinding makeup bounded out of the bus with a theatrical flourish. Dance music then began pumping from a hidden sound system and the pair launched into their raucous first number — dancing, lip-synching and being fabulous.

The Curbside Queens had arrived.

The traveling, pandemic-inspired outdoor show is the invention of veteran Maine drag performers Gigi Gabor and Cherry Lemonade. With most indoor venues closed last year, the business partners took their show on the road, performing in driveways, lawns and parking lots.

“When we started, nobody knew how long the pandemic would last,” Gabor said. “We thought we might do it for a couple of weeks.”

Troy R. Bennett
Cherry Lemonade of Curbside Queens works the crowd at a birthday party in Brunswick on Saturday.

The partners are not new to drag. Both are past winners of Portland’s Miss Blackstone’s pageant and Lemonade competed on “American Idol” in 2015. Between them, they have over 22 years of experience. After a successful 2020, they are upping their business game.

“Over the winter, we became an official limited liability company and purchased our powerful steed,” Gabor said.

That’s Peg, their former Massachusetts Transit Authority bus. Gabor did repair work on the 2008 Ford herself, fixing the engine, painting it pink and transforming the inside into a mobile dressing room.

“She’s 300,000 miles of pure sex,” she said.

Troy R. Bennett
Gigi Gabor (left) and Cherry Lemonade perform a hula hoop gag.

While focused on comedy and fun, the Queens’ show also includes one serious moment, with Gabor telling the crowd the group is “lucky to be able to do what we do in a big, pink bus,” in a nod to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, seen as the start of the modern LGBTQ-rights push.

Gabor then said the Queens give a portion of all profits to transgender rights and racial justice organizations, encouraging the crowd to do the same. Later, she added the Queens still get occasional pushback.

“Someone did throw a rock at us the other day,” Gabor said to boos from the crowd.

Between shows, Lemonade had a related, offstage request.

“Can you leave our government names out of this story,” she said, stating she sometimes fears for her safety. “They don’t have anything to do with who we are today.”

Troy R. Bennett
Bennett Todd, 11, and his sister Louisa, 6, watch drag performer Cherry Lemonade at a brewery beer garden in Portland on Saturday. “It’s baby’s first drag show,” said Kristin Sladen, their mother.

The serious stuff out of the way, the pair got back to fun.

The Queens’ first song at the brewery ended with only a polite smattering of applause as the audience attempted to gain its bearings. But Gabor and Lemonade’s energy never wavered. They plowed straight through their well-honed routine.

The almost hour-long performance is rooted deep in American traveling vaudeville shows of the past. It was studded with music, dancing, acrobatics, puppets, sight gags and a hilarious turn with an as-seen-on TV Shake Weight. By the end, the brewery crowd was swollen with people from other nearby tasting rooms. Everyone was on their feet, clapping, hooting and hollering.

“The name of the game is make it work, make it happen,” Gabor said.

Gabor and Lemonade then took selfies with the crowd, gathered a brimming bucket of tips and boarded their bus. Waving, they drove off, in full costume, bound for a show in Hollis.

In addition to their traveling show, the Curbside Queens are also performing at the Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 5, with Arabella LaDessé, Bunny Wonderland and special guest Joslyn Fox of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

This story appears through a media partnership with the Bangor Daily News.