One cold December night, in a little drag bar called Jacque’s Cabaret, in a very small, very old neighborhood called Bay Village, four queens put on a show.
The most sparkly queen was called Nicholle Pride. The most demure queen was called Sapphira Cristàl. The hairiest queen was called Frieda Fries.
But the loudest and sweatiest queen was the hostess for the night, and she was called Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova — Katya for short.
Katya, who liked to say she was a Russian émigré, founded the night six Decembers before, calling it Perestroika, the name Russian leaders gave to a restructuring of the Soviet government long, long ago.
Katya said many people came to the first Perestroika and liked it very much, but the second one fell on New Year’s Day, and not many people were there.
“It was like four drag queens, some crickets, and some crack-heads who never made it home the night before,” she said.
This very special anniversary Perestroika fell during that festive time of year when people decorate trees and light menorahs, when many are feeling goodwill toward man, but Katya was having none of it.
“It is technically the holiday season, sure, but more importantly it’s our anniversary,” she said with a sneer. Katya said most things with a sneer.
In a tiny dressing room behind the stage, the queens put on their makeup and wigs. They talked of many things, of pop stars and holidays and makeup tips, and whether to shave their bodies.
Sapphira wasn’t like Katya. She was feeling the holiday spirit and planned to lip-sync to all holiday-themed songs in the show. She wore holiday costumes and holiday makeup.
“I’m doing my Christmas eye,” Sapphira said as she carefully painted her face. “Gold, gold everywhere.”
Nicholle told the others she downloaded the latest Rihanna album from iTunes, but not the duet with Chris Brown, because he was violent and abusive.
“I live for Rihanna,” Nicholle told the queens. “She’s my spirit animal.”
Frieda said she never shaved her chest, even when she wore low-cut jumpsuits. Frieda wore a lot of jumpsuits.
“They notice,” she said about her chest hair, “but they don’t really care because I’m giving them all the face.”
Frieda gestured toward her face, which was made up like a feminine clown, with blue eye-shadow that went all the way up over her eyebrows and was surrounded with bright white makeup.
Soon the queens took the stage, with Katya, Nicholle, and Frieda all lip-syncing to Lana Del Rey’s version of “Blue Velvet,” each wearing a different costume made of that very fabric.
Then the queens took turns.
Nicholle lip-synced to bouncy, soulful songs by Whitney Houston, Basement Jaxx, Aaliyah, and, of course, Rihanna.
Frieda chose songs about women — usually older women — who wanted a man in their lives in a special kind of way.
Sapphira picked Christmas songs sung by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, but after the words, “All I want for Christmas is …” she switched over to another song that was very, very naughty.
Katya’s songs were strange and sometimes frightening.
She performed to a Russian song called “Cursed Love” and a Russian version of the song “My Heart Will Go On,” from the movie “Titanic.”
For that song, she wore a tiny, cardboard ocean liner on top of her dress.
The people in the club liked the queens’ performances very much and gave them many $1 bills, and even some larger denominations.
One of their favorite moments, it appeared, was when Katya and Frieda recreated a scene from the movie “Muriel’s Wedding,” performing to the Abba songs “Waterloo” and “Dancing Queen.”
The people were very happy. Maybe the happiest of all were Drew Lynch and his boyfriend Jason, who met at Perestroika one year earlier.
Drew and Jason came to Perestroika together every month after that. It was a special place for them.
“It’s unlike any other drag show in Boston,” Drew said with a smile.
“Unlike any other drag show, anywhere, ever,” Jason said with a bigger smile.
Jason made special cupcakes to celebrate his anniversary with Drew, and each queen got her very own cupcake. The cupcakes had naughty images on them, but the queens didn’t mind.
Drew’s roommate Ethan was very happy for Drew and Jason.
“This is love,” Ethan said. “This is what love looks like.”
To see a gallery of photos from Perestroika, click here.
(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)