Queer Entertainment Culture

Jim Blythe Buffalo Chips scrapbook 3
Gertrude "Ma" Rainey
Drag Show
Investigation of The Otherside Lounge Bombing, Atlanta, Georgia, February 22, 1997.

While professional theater in Georgia developed an LGBTQ+-focused repertoire, queer artistry also took other stages. Nightlife spaces provided an opportunity to create and foster entertainment culture by queer artists for queer audiences. Bars and clubs hosted drag shows on a regular basis; Sweet Gum Head, the same bar where Howard Brunner staged theater productions, was also among the earliest Atlanta bars known to have featured drag performances and competitions. In 1977 Lucina’s Music production company began bringing lesbian musical performances to Atlanta. Some local queer musicians who initially rose through Georgia club circuits would go on to reach mainstream success: Macon-born Little Richard began his career performing in drag as “Princess Lavonne” in vaudeville shows touring through Black queer clubs. As progress in LGBTQ+ rights pressed forward, queer entertainment was no longer strictly confined to nightlife, and queer artists formed singing groups and dance teams that have performed in parades, concerts, festivals, and civic events. However, nightlife and underground events remain critical spaces for performing; the underground vogue ballroom scene, which fostered camaraderie and competition for queer youth of color, arrived in Atlanta in the 1980s when four friends from Morehouse College founded Atlanta’s House of Escada. In 2018 Black and Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC) organizations MORPH and Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP) collaborated with Red Bull Music to present the “ATL is Burning” vogue ball, one of the biggest events of its kind in Atlanta’s history.