The Ku Klux Klan couldn't stop me. After the Dallas Morning News ran an article denouncing the Miss Gay America Pageant to be held there in October of 1981, a conservative circus, including the KKK, showed up to protest the pageant. Of the few literate signs without misspellings, one read, "Homosexuality is a curable disease. One bullet in the head will do it." In their cowardly white robes with pointed hats, they chanted and marched outside the Dallas Convention Center; but, not surprisingly, when the media outlets left so did the KKK. That year we crowned Jennifer Foxx as Miss Gay America 1982.
Religious conservatives couldn't stop me. The following year in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Reverend Joseph Chambers organized a protest for the Christians for Moral Decency, who conducted a prayer vigil outside city hall. According to one newspaper, over 40 churches banded together to stop the pageant at Ovens Auditorium. That year the attempts to stop me took a more malicious turn, as the Reverend Chambers announced that he would photograph audience members entering the building. The presumption that he intended to use the photographs as a form of social blackmail, threatening those whom he believed supported homosexuality; this certainly would have been a criminal act if he were to follow through with the threat. No fire and brimstone fell from Heaven however; nor did lightning strike anywhere nearby as over 2,500 people watched the crowning of Franchesca Wakeland Miss Gay America 1983.
The Order of Freemasons couldn't stop me. In 1985 they had contracted to lease their Masonic Lodge in Indianapolis, the Murat Temple, for the beauty pageant, but when they found out it was for female impersonators they threatened to rescind their contract, even though I had already paid a deposit. We had no reason to suspect that they wouldn't be willing to lease their temple to us, since in a previous year, we used the Masonic Temple in Detroit for the final night of the pageant. I sued them to get my deposit back, and we held the pageant instead at the convention center ballroom. That year we crowned Lauren Colby Miss Gay America 1986.
The city manager of Oklahoma City couldn't stop me. When Scott Johnson refused to lease the Myriad Convention Center, even after officials had promised it would be available for the national pageant, I sued the city and won. Johnson claimed that the pageant was "an open expression of homosexuality." Attorney for the city, Diane Davis, argued that the pageant should not be accorded constitutional protection under the First Amendment's free speech guarantee because it was not a "noteworthy artistic endeavor, such as a play or musical." Judge David Russell responded by saying that "although it may not rise to the level of Hair or La Cage aux Folles, the First Amendment is not an art critic." He also said, "In view of acclaimed performances by Dustin Hoffman, Julie Andrews, Flip Wilson, Harvey Korman, Tony Curtis, and Milton Berle in roles as female impersonators, such impersonations may not be necessarily equated with homosexuality." We held the final night of the Miss Gay America Pageant there as we crowned Tasha Kohl Miss Gay America 1984.
In spite of all the opposition that I faced in my 30-year-tenure as owner of the Miss Gay America Pageant, I had never been stopped. The opposition didn't always come from outside the gay community, however. The original owner of the pageant had tried to stop me. He agreed, in exchange for me loaning him money, that I would own stock in the company that ran the pageant. It turned out that no such entity was incorporated in the state of Tennessee, let alone anywhere else. The stock certificates he issued were in the name of Gay America, Inc.; I did not know what that meant. I then incorporated the pageant in my name. He wrote a nasty letter to me claiming that he would fight me all the way if I tried to take the pageant from him. I held the pageant myself that year, and every year since, for 30 years.
From the local police to spiteful employees, from city governments to backstabbing drag queens, I have faced mountain after mountain of opposition, and have not been stopped. Perhaps that is why I am known by many as "The Godfather of Drag." I have been threatened, mobbed, betrayed, and physically tormented. I have not succumbed to the evils of intended destruction. I have triumphed.
Little did I know that on that fateful night of my 26th birthday (June 25, 1972), when I won the very first Miss Gay America crown, that I would be catapulted into a life of potent opposition and powerful obstacles, of vindictive backstabbers, and vicious marauders.