A Note from Vivian

2010, the year in review for Vivan

It’s December 28, 2010 and the year is quickly coming to a close.  It’s been a year with so many fantastic experiences, all of them firsts! 

Now let me say that had I, for a minute, realized that drag was as expensive as it is, I’d have NEVER embarked on this journey!  Instead I’d be tipping with 5 dollar bills at shows!  

Halloween Highball 2009 was the first time Vivian was painted and out in public.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was a lot fun, at least initially.  My dear father-in-law, Thomas Bartolomei Sr. passed away the week before Highball, so my fantastic husband Tom Jr. left to be with his family in NJ.  He was an amazing man and I still miss his laugh, crazy New Jersey driving and those choke-hold hugs he’d give when saying goodbye!  As a result Viv had to get ready on her own.  I cheated with some foundation that was recommended by a friend.  Didn’t work for me at all.  The 4 inch stilettos, while sexy as hell, weren’t a sensible walking shoe for the Short North terrain.  I took them off and walked in my stocking feet.  That’s when I tore a tendon in my left ankle.  Nice huh? 

The first Vivian sighting on a stage was Miss Havana 2010.  It was a blast, laughed and had a good time.  It probably would have been to my benefit to actually MOVE on stage, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?  My costume was made in whole by me and my newfound seamstress skills.  Lets suffice it to say that you can’t really install an invisible zipper with a serger.  Lesson learned. I owe a huge shout out to the Find Fred Fresh Meat softball team and the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus for coming out in force to support me.  They literally bought me a spot in the final 5 or 7 for having the most tips.  You boys are the deal!  A special shout out to Harold Coles & Jason Guthrie…it took a village to get Viv’s fat ass in those tights…and the hip pads, well, if you look at the photos, that shelf on my sides, that’s foam….I could sit drinks on those bitches! 

The second time on stage was the annual fundraiser for Camp Sunrise, Bear Villities, Kamp Kountry Jamboree.  Thanks to Tim & Bill for allowing me to participate.  If I’d have seen me on stage at Miss Havana, I don’t know that I’d have let me perform in BV!  Vivian had dancing boys!  What fun, Brett Gambill, Christopher Menhorn & Scott Moody, thank you!  I spent hours making the costume, and 10 times as much time and money stoning the long jacket.  I had no idea, but yet another opportunity to learn.  It looked great!  Since the theme was country, who better than Columbus Stomper choreographer extraordinaire Dean Cox to set me up with a clever little routine!

I need to stop here for a minute and thank a very dear friend and mentor, Nina West.  She met with me several times, telling me all kinds of little secrets and tips for getting started in drag.  She allows me to tag along and paint with her and the girls before shows and is the kindest, most positive influence anyone could ask to have in their life.  Thank you Nina, I love you and treasure our friendship.  Thanks to several ladies, Virginia West, Freesia Balls & Eva Stolichnaya.  They were great encouragers while I was learning the art form of painting, (and trust me, I’m still learning, eyes are the bane of my existence).  You ladies rock!  Trust me, it is an art form, and don’t let anyone tell you different.  I love Brent Fabian’s comment, “Cover Girl doesn’t cover boy.”  He’s so right, and I chuckle every time I hear it. 

I also must take the time to thank Penny Tration who is one hell of an entertainer!  She and her husband live in Cincinnati and has been kind enough to allow me to come crash the “Ginger Estate” to learn how to make hair and several different types of costumes.  Penny is a great friend and mentor as well. 

I wouldn’t be where I am today, without the support & encouragement of Nina & Penny.  Thank you both for your time, energy and patience. 

Next was Robbie Rickard’s birthday celebration.  It was a superhero extravaganza that Vivian hosted, or hostess-ed, is that even a word?  Lois Lane was the character, which required a red 40’s inspired red suit.  Lordy, I was in over my head with that costume.  Amanda Smith and Jason Guthrie came to my rescue and were a huge help!  Let’s also state that Vivian’s 50DD “breasts” were NOT going to fit in that suit jacket.  So for that show she had a breast reduction procedure.  It was temporary, the girls are back to their pre-Superhero Party size.  It’s all about proportion, as we know Vivian isn’t a skinny girl.  She’s got a large frame, as I prefer to say.  Well, that and huge hooves, it takes a 14w shoe to get her heeled!

I was then asked to perform in Dragapalooza for the Pride 2010 Celebration.  What fun that was!  Mini-Viv was birthed and Kim, you looked amazing!  More dancing boys, Troy Alvarado, Jon Goshe, Clay Evans, Scott Moody, along with my drag sisters, Bobo DeMontreal and my best CGMC pal, Anna Mation, who made her return to the stage after a 5 year or so absence.  Patrick Carmichael did an amazing job with the choreography and we really worked it.  Of course there was more sewing involved, and I used a pattern for the first time, successfully, all by myself.  Thanks to each of you!

Next was the fundraiser for 2010 Gay Softball World Series, The Night of 100 Drag Queens.  I’m not sure if there were actually 100 queens in that show, but it was so much fun, and hot as hell!  Two of the dancing boys from Dragapalooza became girls for this number.  Britney Blaire and Jillian (aka Crimson) Von Brokenhymen hit the stage for the first time.  It was hot as hades in Axis that night and Vivian almost lost her hair during the Ho Sho number. 

Bear Camp was next up.  A white trash little skit with a softball theme to tie in with the Gay Softball World Series.  Viv sported a short little skirt and busted out the red satin, bowed bedazzled thong for her “I wanna be a bear” number.  The bears seemed to like both it and having Viv sit on their laps!

Next up was the surgery to repair the tendon from the injury in October of 2009.  That put Vivian out of commission for a while.  It wasn’t a total wash, as she made several new wigs during the recovery process.

The Ho Sho was revived as a fundraiser for the CGMC.  This one, being the 6th, was named Ho Sho 666 and had a horror movie theme.  Probably the best costume, makeup and hair creations I’ve done to date were revealed for this show.  The Zombie bride number was so much fun to do.  Groom Troy Alvarado & Father Chris Menhorn were on stage with me and we had a blast.  It was freakin’ hot as hell at Wall Street that night, but still so much fun.  Troy even ordered white contact lenses for this number.  It was freaky to even look at him with those in!  If you’ve not seen the photos, please check them out on Facebook, they amaze me when I see them.  My boys looked great!

Highball Halloween 2010 rolled around as my 1 year anniversary!  So in true drag queen fashion I resurrected the Zombie Bride costume and the hubby, Mr. Von B became my groom.  We were told we should compete in the costume contest.  Well, unbeknownst to us, it was about 8 cuts long before we even got in the tent.  We did the walk on the stage, so much fun.  Nina West was the Mistress of Ceremonies, so that was a great experience!  We didn’t win, but did make the opening clip of the news story that next morning.  Such a great memory!

Probably the highlight of my year was being asked to do Nina & Virginia’s Christmas Special.  I was so humbled, excited, nervous, honored, and scared to have been asked.  I can’t thank Nina & Virginia enough for providing me that opportunity.  I was nervous about my ankle, which really was still recovering from the surgery in August, I didn’t want to embarrass the West family with a poor performance.  The cast was simply amazing.  Nina, Virginia, Sandy, Freesia, Eva, Natasha & Chutney were so much fun to work with.  The choreography was my biggest challenge, that and keeping my face looking happy and expressive.  The rehearsals were long, but I learned so much about myself as a performer and the craft of drag.  There is SO much work that goes into these shows, the sets, the rehearsals, the costuming, the hair, makeup, the table set up, the music, the dressers back stage, it’s a daunting task, but the West clan has it down to a science and they make it happen.  Let me just say dancing in 2 layers of tights, 2 layers of pantyhose, a corset, a slimmer, a onsie bra/panty, 10 pound birdseed 50 DD boobs, a wig and an inch of make up is tough enough, but put on polar fleece pants, shirt, hat, beard and backpack to become Yukon Cornelius, and you have a whole new respect for the craft of drag.  Thank you to Nina, Virginia and the entire cast for making my first West show such a fantastic experience. 

So as 2010 comes to a close, as I look back, I’m a very blessed person.  I have the best husband I could ever dream of having, his never ending love and support of my drag career, a wonderful home, some great friends who I can go to when I’m troubled or unsure, the best softball team family, a chorus family and a drag family who support me as well.  Thank you, from the very bottom of my heart!  I’m so looking forward to 2011, and when the books close on 2010, I’ll smile, laugh and be thankful for such a fabulous year! 

With love, respect and a joyful heart,

Vivian Von Brokenhymen