LA Times is the new NY Times, so Walter Cole, one of Portland’s great normalizers of the weird and wonderful, is honored and graces tomorrow’s edition.

The long, fabulous reign of Walter Cole and his drag cabaret

I don’t know anything about drag queens, but Darcelle’s has won over a generation of Portland. Oh it wasn’t easy and you can read all about it.

But Portland has always had a scene. From 1830 – 1880 there were hardly any women here at all. Chinese women were not legal, Indian women were kept out by their men. So truth be told – some of the women weren’t women at all. And that was all part of the seaman / pioneer fun, I bet. I remember just 90 years later ghosting around downtown Portland watching the show out front of Dahl & Penne on a sleazy hot summer night. Just the right sort of education for a kid from the provinces.

I remember watching this beautiful hustler step out to the sidewalk, long past midnight, wearing a cheap blue suit, no shoes + no shirt, drenched in sweat and Canoe, smiling, shaking, smoking, nervous, a chrome silver pistol tucked discreetly in the small of his back, wipe his eyes with a billowing silk handkerchief, gulp the outside air, brace himself and shimmer back in under the blue neon and through the swinging doors of Dahl & Penne.

Peter Boag, historian from the U of Colorado, published Does Portland Need a Homophile Society?, nice essay from Spring 2004 detailing some of Portland’s gay history. At the left here is a showtime line-up from the 1950s.

Boag also author of Same-Sex Affairs + Environment & Experience: Settlement Culture in Nineteenth-Century Oregon.

Our old town houses the archeological remainders of those bygone days, cast iron and brickwork buildings with single rooms upstairs and taverns below. Imagine this village an island isolated by a thousand miles of woods and water. Sailors arriving cash in hand are met at the gangplank by seasoned guides for frolics. No sense in getting back onboard right away, is there? You can imagine the frontier fun. Cole and cast have made their home in old town for decades, fitting in perfectly with community and timeline of vice and artwork.

Is it art? You try to walk in these heels honey and you’ll tell me it’s an art.

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