Diana Fire is Portland’s Daddy Bear Drag Queen, and is best known as a contestant in Season 2 of Camp Wannakiki. She first cut her teeth in drag bar Embers Avenue, which she performed at for the last few years of its existence up until late 2017.
We caught up to discuss bachelorette parties, stinky basements (and no, that’s not a euphemism!), and the confusing, confusing world of drag families!
Find out more about Diana Fire at her website.
Diana Fire 00:00
I mean, part of it is what you’re signing up for by doing something for other people’s enjoyment. You know, you’re deciding to be sort of a public spectacle. So you have to be prepared for it to some degree like to publicly justify your existence over and over. Fair, maybe you’re putting you’re putting yourself in a position for people to ask you questions.
K Anderson 00:26
Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, a podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they used to know. Diana fire is Portland, Daddy bear drag queen, and is best known as a contestant in season two of Camp wanna Kiki. She first cut her teeth in drag bar Embers Avenue, which he performed at for the last few years of its existence. right up until late 2017. We caught up to discuss bachelorette parties, stinky basements, and No, that isn’t a euphemism. And the confusing, confusing world of drag families, my head still hurts from that conversation.
Diana Fire 01:38
My story with the Emperor’s Avenue starts close to its end. The Emperor’s Avenue was a you know, just a pillar of the Portland gay nightlife scene, especially in the 80s and 90s. Were its heyday, you know, it was the place to go it was you know, lines around the block. You know, every weekend, they had an upstairs giant dance floor, there was a back bar that has a large stage and performance area. And then the front bar, which is you know, kind of more the sit down, you know, almost like country, you know, saloon vibe, if you will, the video poker is and stuff like that. So yeah, it was it was just massive. And it was it was definitely an epicentre of gay nightlife. All before I got there, you know, one of its big claims to fame was that it had drag shows every night, Wednesday through Saturday. So it’s sort of, you know, almost any night of the week that you’re in the mood to go pop into a drag show they have going on. So it was definitely a place where a lot of performers got their stars where they got their experience, you know, there were a lot of people who sort of rose to their local celebrity status, you know, through their time there. So, you know, it played an important role in a lot of, you know, a lot of queer people’s lives. Yeah.
K Anderson 03:10
And so I’m learning a lot about geography through this series and a lot about communities and cities and sizes. And Portland has a reputation, shall we say, for being a bit? Oh, I was gonna say hippie dippie. I think that’s actually the the preferred nomenclature. It’s not a huge city. So like, 700,000 people, I’m just looking at Wikipedia. I What is it like what is it really like, like, does it live up to that stereotype? or?
Diana Fire 03:50
Yeah, I mean, for the most part, you know, Portland, Portland is definitely a small city. You know, I’ve lived in Seattle and Austin. And both of those are very big in different ways. So coming back to Portland after that, really helped put it, you know, kind of kind of put the perspective in place. You know, Portland’s Portland’s downtown is very small. You know, a lot of the nightlife is actually spread all throughout the city. Because Because Portland is very, you know, it’s small Portland’s downtown footprint is just physically very small. So so much of that nightlife gets spread all around the city. And because of it, you know, there’s there’s a fairly small community as well but it’s broken up into all these you know, sort of sub segments if you will. So it’s it’s the community is bigger than I expected it to be for how small Portland physically is.
K Anderson 04:50
And so what kind of competition does embers did embers bar have like how many queer spaces are there important
Diana Fire 04:59
that numbers sadly is rapidly declining. At this point, we probably have four or so venues that are sort of, okay, specifically LGBTQ. Yeah. Um, you know, back Back in the day, you know, I know Stark street downtown used to be just where all the gay bars were, it was it was, you know, our mini Castro district type of thing. So there used to be several, you know, dozens of gay bars and a lot of them downtown. Located just over time, so many have shut down so many have spread out into other areas. And yeah, it’s dwindled down. By the time I was at embers as a performer. You know, there were probably six or seven other gay bars in town, and now we’re down to about half of that. Okay. And that’s in a period of how many years that has been in just the past, what, four years now?
K Anderson 05:57
Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s quite huge. And so let’s find out a bit more about you then. So you mentioned before that you came back to Portland. Does that mean you’re from Portland?
Diana Fire 06:10
So I’m from for people who aren’t from here? Yes, more or less? I grew up about an hour and a half south of Portland.
K Anderson 06:18
Okay. And you’ve lived in Austin, and you’ve lived in Seattle? And what made you come back to Portland?
Diana Fire 06:27
Um, you know, I was at a point in my life where I was ready, you know, for some change, you know, just got dumped, you know, my, my life that I had sort of expected to build in Texas, you know, wasn’t wasn’t coming together the way I had planned. And I came back to Oregon to visit and I just sort of really fell in love with it after being away for so long. I just felt like and this is, this is the time you know, I’m ready for some change in my life. And this is it. The universe is giving me a sign. So yeah, it just it just felt right. It felt like home again.
K Anderson 07:06
And that’s where your relationship with embers started.
Diana Fire 07:10
Yes, indeed. So yeah, I had I had been performing for a little while in Austin, I was still a very, very new performer toward the tail end of my time there so I moved to Portland and took the opportunity to rebrand myself and, and, you know, get my foot in the door in the community. So I started going to shows and going to shows in drag in, you know, tipping the performers and introducing myself. And that’s how I ended up getting connected with one of the hosts at embers. I think she was hosting Thursday nights at the time honeybee heart. And she was the one that gave me my, my first opportunity and everything took off from there.
K Anderson 07:53
So let’s talk about so what is your first gig then? Embers.
K Anderson 07:57
And what was the performance? Oh, what did I do? I want to say I probably did. You’re just faking a sound like, Oh, I can’t remember. I know.
Diana Fire 08:12
Before we get embers wasn’t my first time performing in drag. So I can still tell you my first drag performance ever in Austin was an awful an awful performance of the circle of life. is a Disney themed show. And everybody had already picked all the good songs.
K Anderson 08:31
And were you were you Simba? were you?
Diana Fire 08:34
I was I don’t I don’t know. I was a brand new baby queen who is doing her own makeup for the first time wearing a costume that somebody had said, Don’t worry, I got it. I got you covered. And it turns out like a furry diaper and a leopard print top. It was the whole thing was a mass. So that was
K Anderson 08:52
a that was your peak then.
Diana Fire 08:54
Exactly. So it’s all been downhill from there. So my first performance at embers if it wasn’t a themed show, it would have been Cheap Thrills by sia. Ah, I can almost guarantee you that was in the mix. The format at embers was we did five to six sets a night. So, you know, my first performance there was was a bit of a marathon. You know, I did probably six numbers that night. So it’s hard to remember exactly why.
K Anderson 09:24
Wow. And then and I’m kind of fascinated by the drag culture in America. Because, like tipping, I mean, like, tipping is really not that common in the UK. And I definitely wouldn’t tip a drag queen like the drag queen would just perform and then get off the stage. And
Diana Fire 09:47
I learned that actually at the Austin international drag festival. I hosted a few sections of performance slots and any performer that was from the UK. We had To give instructions to the auditor, somebody go around and collect tips because they didn’t plan their number to incorporate any moments to take money because that doesn’t happen.
K Anderson 10:08
Yeah, yeah. Cuz like, I mean, that was what I was gonna ask. So like how, like, practically when you are choreographing a number or like planning, like what you’re gonna do, like half of the song is given up to walking around and like, trying not to be manhandled? Correct. So how do you? How do you plan?
Diana Fire 10:32
Um, it’s interesting. I mean, I started out my performance history, I was, you know, I was a theatre kid, I was a dancer, I was on dance team, I was a dance instructor. So I’m used to planning and choreographic and every movement being prepared, so very much over prepared in the beginning, and learned pretty quickly that you need like less than half of that, because there’s so much time needed to you know, off, especially in a show where the audience is sitting down. Now you have to go into the audience to go get your money. Otherwise, you’re leaving with the $15 payout from the bar that night. And that’s it. Most of your money definitely comes from the tips here. So yeah, you learn quickly. And it’s, it kind of becomes a bit of a cop out. Sometimes you almost don’t have to plan anything. You can just
K Anderson 11:28
Yeah, well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s really boring to watch it. I’m sorry. Drag Queens and crap. Like, sometimes it’s like, Oh, come on, you’re not going to like perform that. You’re just going around taking dollar notes of people?
Diana Fire 11:45
Yeah, no, I think it’s important to find the balance. You know, I, I always I had the belief of if getting off the stage and going into the audience is part of getting your money. I don’t like that to happen until after you’ve done at least the first chorus, you know, the first like, third of your numbers should all happen on stage and there be a performance happening before you then go off and get your money. That’s my personal approach to how it’s structured. Everybody has their opinions, artists objective.
K Anderson 12:16
We can learn a lot here. And so what are your tips for encouraging tips
Diana Fire 12:25
be engaging, you know, a lot of a lot of the audience is they’re prepared to give money. And they’ll they’ll throw up $1 bill when you get near them. But if you’re doing something where you are actually catching their attention and making them look up from the conversation, they’re having, you know, put down their phone is there replying to a text message, you can get that moment of attention out of them, they’re going to be more than just that $1 as you walk by
K Anderson 12:51
saying you don’t just try to look menacing and intimidate them.
Diana Fire 12:56
It’s one approach. And for some queens that works, I tend to have to rely on humour or intense drama, there’s one or the other. And that pendulum has to swing pretty hard.
K Anderson 13:10
And, and so we’re quite quickly in the UK, becoming like a cashless society. Like what’s happening in the US and now you just gonna start carrying around like a swipe fee payment thing.
Diana Fire 13:24
Every every drag queen has a Venmo and cash app and pay pal and every every payment app that exists, a drag queen has an account on it. So sharing sharing our Venmo handles and our cash app handles is becoming increasingly common at shows and especially with the new you know, social distancing. We all live these these virtual shows are becoming very common so it’s becoming a lot easier to share the you know your your payment account information.
K Anderson 13:57
Yeah, but that yeah, that’s super interesting that just change in our culture. Yeah, cuz it changed wildly and abruptly. Well, that Yeah. And but just like, I’m sorry, I’m getting like stuck on this and asking lots of questions. Do people carry notes in the us
Diana Fire 14:16
is that common? If you’re not, not in day to day life anymore? If you are going to a drag show most people will go get out money. And then the bartender will give you change. So you’re not having to tip you know, $20 bills. Yeah, so that’s that’s still coming out a drag show. But otherwise, you know, if it weren’t for drag, I would never have cash on me. And no one ever theories coins at you. Thankfully, no. That’s only for the really bad.
K Anderson 14:47
Like, I’ve always got coins. I just never have notes. And so I knew I didn’t know what I would do. And I remember Yeah, when my friends and I went on a road trip in the US and it was like down the east coast, like half of the East Coast. So I think we started in Myrtle Beach and then ended up in the keys. And we went to some really bad drag shows. And, like so. So the first thing was I was just like, I don’t really understand this tipping culture, like what am I supposed to do? And then the second thing was like, but you’re also not very entertaining. See, there’s mutual disappointment that, like, Oh, I’m gonna give you this pound because this this dollar, sorry, because I don’t want to be like, shamed by the audience. But like, This isn’t good.
Diana Fire 15:43
Yeah, yeah. That is. That’s a difficult balancing act these days. But no, we all have to start somewhere.
K Anderson 15:52
Yes, that’s right. Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s just that that in between, like, so if you’re like, absolutely terrible, I am all for it. Like, I am just like, I’m there. I’m down. And if you’re great, then yeah, same thing. But if you’re like, in between, and it’s kind of like it’s over. I, it’s when it gets to that.
Diana Fire 16:12
Yeah. And yeah, I think that’s the toughest area for a lot of performers to get out of, you know, to get the basics down, and, you know, kind of, you know, stumble through them. You know, it’s the that’s it’s very intriguing, we’re watching you develop, we have and it’s easy to get stuck in that middle part because the the actual performance and being engaging and, and, you know, drawing that attention you know, it doesn’t come naturally for everybody. And that’s, I think, an important part in in getting over that stage. And that’s just something where I think experience comes in handy and to tie this all back to embers
K Anderson 16:49
cuz I’m not going to see
Diana Fire 16:54
your embers was embers was that for a lot of people, you know, when when they’re doing drag shows, you know, what, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, so at least four nights a week was five nights. There might have been a Sunday show two, it’s been it’s been closed. Yeah. But when you’re doing shows multiple, you know, I was I ended up on cast two nights a week. And you’re doing five to six numbers a show. So you’re doing 10 to 12 numbers every single week, you get a lot of experience really, really, really, really, really quickly. And that’s, that’s, you know, super helpful in getting that growth and getting through, you know, I got through a lot of my awkward, you know, baby deer trying to figure out how to walk on their legs phase out of my system. You know, during my early time at embers,
K Anderson 17:39
I say, and do you have a preference about where you go in the night I am as as like a performer, I either like to go first because there’s no one that’s come before me. And there’s nothing to compare me to, or after someone who’s terrible.
Diana Fire 17:54
And it’s so hard when you look when you’re doing an out of town show and you don’t know any of the other performers. You’re like, what am I going to go after, it’s I like to go somewhere in the middle and I like to go after. might sound bad I like to go after one of those like middle of the pack performers. Because if it’s too bad, the audience can can disengage, that’s when they’re gonna go smoke a cigarette, go to the bathroom, get another drink. So they might be gone so long that they miss your number. If you’re next, you have one of the performers, we’re probably not breaking away, we’re probably hanging out. But the expectations are just kind of hanging out. So at that point, when you can come out with something super entertaining, super impactful, super dramatic, or whatever, whatever that is. You know, I feel like you have them right where you want them.
K Anderson 18:45
Hmm. Well, I’m glad that I’m not the only person who enjoys when other people on the same Bell as you are not amazing. You have to have some variety. Oh, you call it variety. I call it being diplomatic. Yeah, I haven’t quite learned that. In all my time.
Diana Fire 19:09
When the things you say affect your ability to get books, to choose your words wisely.
K Anderson 19:18
How no one’s gonna listen to this and be like, that’s it. You’re on my shortlist. Surprise. Oh, really? Oh, this one, you know, this is just tempting me to ask questions about how happy people are. And that’s going to get you in even more trouble. Possibly. So I guess that’s a small town thing, then. You know,
Diana Fire 19:43
I always wonder because, you know, I only know the communities that I have direct experience with. But yeah, there’s there’s definitely a certain degree of you know, everybody knows what everyone else is doing. So Whether people are saying it or not everybody has their opinions of what everyone else is doing. It news some people are more forthcoming with those.
K Anderson 20:12
Yeah. But is it? Like in terms of the drag scene? Is it really clicky? That? I mean, that’s a very naive question, isn’t it?
Diana Fire 20:23
Yeah. I mean, yeah. Yeah. You know, going back to the fact that we have so many sub communities within the LGBTQ umbrella. You know, there’s, there’s not a tonne of, of, you know, being in multiple groups, you know, you can, you could sort of outline the different shows that happened in town in the different venues that they’re at, they’re typically the same groups of performers that are usually booked in those shows, you get a few of us that will, we’ll hop in between a few here and there, but for the most part, a lot of the sort of, you know, sub segments of the community tend to, you know, stick together work together and foster those those smaller community groups that they’ve they’ve built. So, yes, clicky
K Anderson 21:15
Yeah, that was really diplomatic. See, see, I told you, I’m good. Damn, if you were here in person, I could give you a drink. Just No, nothing, no wave ever coming this. And so, okay, so your first night was a trial by fire as a performer there? What? What, if anything, do you remember about that?
Diana Fire 21:44
What do I remember I drink so much. I remember drinking a lot. Um, no, I mean, I remember us being you know, sort of, you know, speaking of cliques, I remember us sort of being our own, you know, little little ragtag family you know, embers definitely had had its you know, heyday of of being the place that everybody went it was sort of more in dive bar status by the time I got there. And that was that was part of what I felt gave it a lot of its charm and I feel like it was it was representative of you know, those of us that performed there a lot of us were still you know, cutting our teeth and getting our experience making our names for ourselves and you know, we all supported each other some nights you know, you’d get a Saturday night where it would turn into you know, standing room only other nights you’d be performing on a Wednesday or Thursday and you know, we’re all passing the same dollar bill around to each other. But we were always having the same amount of fun and we were always you know, giving each other the same amount of support no matter what. So I definitely remember that I also remember how bad the basement smelled Oh, oh, I
K Anderson 22:57
mean, I’m gonna go back to your original point but what what did it smell of
Diana Fire 23:02
gross all of the bases all the buildings in downtown Portland all have basement spaces and that is almost always where the performers have to get ready and just the the embers basement was particularly unfortunate in in its stench
K Anderson 23:21
like male juwy stench was it out there Yeah,
Diana Fire 23:25
it was. It was mildew. It was you know, leaky pipes. It was who even knows what
K Anderson 23:34
all of that glamour. Exactly.
Diana Fire 23:36
Yes. Those those beautiful dressing rooms that you see when when somebody goes backstage at a drag show in a movie or TV show. Now this doesn’t exist. It’s not here they don’t
K Anderson 23:48
like it wasn’t even a mirror with light bulbs around it.
Diana Fire 23:52
There were a few mirrors propped up the anybody who was a host there, there was actually like a locked dressing room area that had lights and mirrors and all of that. Then the rest of us lowly guests got to sort of got the outlying spaces. So there are mirrors up there were lights up, but it definitely wasn’t the like posh, cushy, glamorous looking dressing room that you might envision it was definitely a mirror against the wall with like a couple of shop lights put above it
K Anderson 24:27
the best that you can get from IKEA I’m guessing Exactly. The Home Depot’s find us and so what was that first point you were making? I’ve been distracted. Oh about about the ragtag gang. Yeah, yeah. Who were who was in the gang.
Diana Fire 24:48
I mean, so many of us gang sounds so intimidating. I don’t I don’t know that any of us were remotely that intimidating. But what’s a better alternative? And I don’t know what do you call it? A pack of drag queens or real bush?
K Anderson 25:06
come on. I mean, I’m a big fan of alliteration, so that’s why a dongle of Drag Queen xanga live drag we had to do dude. I can’t come up with anything. I know I’ve suddenly lost all my creative. Yeah, well we’ll end this call. It’ll be like, Ah, that was how I came up with.
Diana Fire 25:35
Well, I the the hostesses when I got there. onyx. Lynn Valentine was the host of Saturday nights she she had been performing at embers since the day she was legally allowed to and was a host there shortly thereafter, so she had the Primo spot. She was the she was called the first lady of the Emperor’s Avenue. So she was sort of the the, she was our royalty. She was our sort of leader of of the Queen’s almost of embers. honeybee heart I mentioned crystal Lin Ben wha was one of the hosts, the Athena heart honeybees daughter was one of the hosts. And later autumn rains, Hart, who was also one of honeys, daughters. And now also one of my daughters was also a host. So they were sort of the the figureheads almost. And then there were a gaggle of us I know that’s not alliteration, but that also performed there. So they were they were the ones that were, you know, our higher ups almost, if you will. And then of course, Robert, our director, you know, he was the one that ran all the shows, corralled all of the the drunk and drag queens random music paid us at the end of the night. So he was the he was the one that made it all tick. Did all the fun stuff.
K Anderson 27:05
Did you? Were you intimidated by the long standing queens when you first started there?
Diana Fire 27:14
Yeah, no, absolutely. You know, when, when you’re first starting out, you know, somebody who’s been doing this successfully for cell for years. You know, that’s, that’s incredibly intimidating. So, you know, it was it was an honour to, you know, sort of get seen pretty quickly in my, my, you know, time being in the scene in Portland, for them to bring me in, was it was definitely comforting, and definitely reassuring. And then shortly after I started on Thursdays with honey on it, like reached out to me about joining Saturdays with her. And that was, that was like my first moment of feeling like I was exhibiting success. And like the Saturday night co host, the first lady is acknowledging that I’m doing well. And she wants me on Saturday nights with her like, that was that was, you know, that was like one of the first big moments in my drag career in Portland, I would say, I was when I first felt like I was doing something right.
K Anderson 28:15
That’s amazing. And, and so Okay, so I’m like a total ladder. And I’m asking you really dumb questions. But like, I get the family thing when someone is the mentor of someone else. So I get like, the moment their daughter their? What, like, if you are both already drag queens, how does one person become the other person’s daughter?
Diana Fire 28:43
That’s a great question. I don’t, I don’t know that there’s ever really like one consistent answer. So many of us are just, you know, queer family, regardless. So sometimes these titles are just sort of arbitrarily put on, you know, an existing relationship. You know, in the case of autumn, for example, you know, she was honeybees daughter in that honeybee, you know, probably taught her a lot of her early stuff, you know, she was she was there in the beginning, I came in very late in the game.
K Anderson 29:18
And I’m gonna have you, it’s my turn.
Diana Fire 29:21
She honeybee was making jokes about not wanting autumn anymore and autumn decided that she was just going to be mine. So she actually sort of adopted me. But, you know, he, in all that time that you spend, you know, a five set long show is pretty long, we were there for, you know, several hours, you know, multiple nights a week together. So we spent a lot of time talking getting to know each other and I ended up you know, giving a lot of advice when warranted. You know, poking fun at each other. So yeah, we just sort of established a relationship and she decided to call me she actually calls me dad most of the time. So yeah, it’s, it’s, you know, they kind of become organic. They’re not, they’re not necessarily the traditional, you know, I’m taking you under my wing and teaching you how to be a drag queen.
K Anderson 30:13
But, you know, it says something more about the dynamic that you have.
Diana Fire 30:16
Yeah, you know, I know a lot of people that have, you know, drag aunts and uncles and you know, I have dozens of performers that I would call sister or sibling. So yeah, it’s, you know, we’re all a big, you know, inter woven queer family.
K Anderson 30:37
How? Okay, I might just have to accept. So I get I like, okay, so I’m on the right page with you with this mom thing. But the arm thing? What?
K Anderson 30:50
yeah, I might just have to exaggerate.
Diana Fire 30:51
It’s fine. Exactly. Yeah. Clear. There’s no clear, you know, honeybee calls me her sister among several others. So if one of those other queens has a child, that child, you know, could call? Oh, yeah. And without there being any direct relation, or it could be, you know, you’re someone I look up to and hang out with, but you don’t, you know, directly mentor me and you’re not, you know, letting me use your last name.
K Anderson 31:20
Oh, letting me use my last link. Do you have is there like, is there it to have like a ceremony or something?
Diana Fire 31:29
Not necessarily. So there there are. There are different kinds of drag performers, if you will. There’s, you know, there’s the the sort of mainstream nightlife performing in clubs. There’s also the charity side. And there’s the imperial court system.
K Anderson 31:48
What? Oh, you haven’t heard about it know why
Diana Fire 31:52
the imperial court system started in San Francisco. Back in the 70s, I think I’m gonna get crucified. For not recalling all of my let’s,
K Anderson 32:05
let’s pretend that this signal glitched back in there Perfect.
Diana Fire 32:09
Perfect editing. Yeah, the imperial court system has been around for several decades, there are chapters in cities all around North America. And they have coronations they elect emperors and empresses. You know, every year they all have the coordinations at different times, you have line members that all have different titles. And, and the point of the court is to use drag and performance to raise money for local charities, typically local LGBTQ charities, in most cases, so with them, there’s there’s a lot of, you know, pomp and ceremony that surrounds a lot of this, you know, people are getting crowns and titles and, you know, people will, you know, give people awards and pass on family names. And, you know, I’ve known court members who, you know, when when they’re walking in a coronation, you know, it takes five minutes to say their full name, because they have 17 names from from all these different people, but do you only use the one as a regular performer? So there is that whole side of drag? And the little bit of that carries over, we definitely don’t do ceremony, ease and stuff like that.
K Anderson 33:27
I mean, have you thought about it there?
Diana Fire 33:29
I mean, a drag queen will celebrate every day anything. So I suppose we do ceremonies in our own way. Usually the ceremony is just a Facebook post. Like I’m so excited to say that so and so is now you know, a fire in a relationship with so yeah, so you know, autumn Autumn is technically autumn rain heart. Autumn rains, heart fire. Sometimes just goes by autumn rains, sometimes the full thing sometimes autumn rains heart. See, got to pick and choose depending on you know what you’re doing and what makes sense. And who you want to pay self. Exactly. Like are you trying to say something? dramatic when like, I’m taking the last name away. You are no longer a fire. That is quite
K Anderson 34:22
dramatic. Ah, sounds like fun. Okay. Did you like was so I’m assuming that you didn’t start out with a mother. I did. Oh, you did? Oh, okay. So did fire come from someone else? No. So, yeah, hi. killing me.
Diana Fire 34:45
No, I know I one of those that I didn’t I didn’t follow the pattern I gather. So yeah, I actually started in the imperial court system back in Austin. Anastasia fabray, Davis was the current reigning emperess of Austin at the time, and she was the one who put me in drag the first time she and Shay Fox. So I would consider Shay my drag aunt. In that case. They put me in drag for the first time and it was Oof, they did not know what to do with that beard. Hey, they were stumped. So it was it was a rough process to begin with. But yeah, I got started in the court system. But yeah, I I actually went by the name Erykah Badu no corn early days, so yeah, no, again, did not have Anastasia’s last name anywhere. And then when I moved to Portland, that was my opportunity to rebrand because I realised that I had picked a very stupid name. And nobody could say it right when announcing me onto a stage. So the first time I got introduced to somebody like Portland, oh, I spelled it awfully it didn’t spell it like, no. Yeah, he’s a big mass. How could you Yeah, okay, that’s our ayar WRECK A. Okay, hold on. Yeah. And then the last name, that is essentially bad unicorn as one word, it just No, it was it was confusing from start to finish. So the first time somebody asked me in Portland, I cut them off and said, Hi, Diana, fire. Nice to meet you. Yeah, I saw the opportunity. And I seized it.
K Anderson 36:36
And then but so what was your thought process in not taking on your mother’s name?
Diana Fire 36:41
I really didn’t know how it all worked. So I didn’t I didn’t know. any different. No, she.
K Anderson 36:49
Yeah, sir. Okay, I think I’m satisfied. I think I understand a little bit more. But before we move on, I was just wondering whether or not I would be able to be your second cousin once removed? I yeah. No, we could do that. Is that is that okay? Yeah, yeah, I’ll put you on the family tree. Okay, fantastic. Thank you. Well added to the mailing list. Okay, good. So, um, so let’s just get back to you again. So you had moved back to Portland after your love life when, you know, among other things, yeah. Other things. And so you came back to the city, like single and
Diana Fire 37:35
Actually, no, as I was getting ready to leave Austin. And I was actually right. It was before I had made the decision. I had crossed paths with this guy. And by that, I mean, we met on scruff. And we chatted for a while and hung out a couple times. And it wasn’t until a few days in that I realised that we knew each other. We both had dated people who hung out together. So my axe worked with his ex’s sister. So like, we all hung out in the same group several times.
K Anderson 38:17
Wait, hey, wait. Okay, I
Diana Fire 38:18
know, right? It’s super, it’s super convoluted. My ex boyfriend worked with his ex boyfriends sisters to Okay. Yes. Okay. So the sister and my boyfriend, were co workers and friends. And so they started hanging out. And so her brother was there. And so by proxy, yeah. Both he and I were there also. Okay, so we connected all these dots, you know, days into chatting and hanging out.
K Anderson 38:49
But so, and when was this said this wasn’t in Austin, this was when you live
Diana Fire 38:54
in. So this was so okay. When Austin so yeah, that was the we had crossed paths early on in my time in Austin. And now this was like, a couple years later, okay. Yeah, that we crossed paths again and connected all these dots. And we started dating. But then shortly after shortly into that I had come back to Portland visited to sort of re fell in love and realised You know, this is where I want to be. So I was bracing myself for this like, hey, this isn’t gonna get to go anywhere. And And long story super short. He was like, Yeah, like I’m not I’m not married to being here. Let’s you know, let’s not make any decisions. Before we have to let’s see what happens. So we ended up being long distance for a few months between Portland and Austin. And then he ended up moving out here. And longstone story super short again. We are now married. Ah, so yeah, you know, things aren’t always you know what they seem and yeah I made the decision to relocate halfway across the country, while also starting a brand new relationship.
K Anderson 40:07
And it worked. And it worked. That makes me sick. And so sorry, but so those first days, then when you were exploring your drag amber is there was this relationship like that might or might not work on the back of your mind? To Obviously, I’m getting to the point where it’s like, cuz my obsession is like, have you hooked up with anyone in there? I mean, first of all, what is it? Like, when you’re in dragged in a bar? And does anyone treat you as a sexual being?
Diana Fire 40:42
The latter part is pretty rare. Because for a lot of us, there is nothing sexual about getting and drag, it is super uncomfortable. It is unpleasant, physically. So yeah, no, I don’t think most of us feel like sexual beings, when we’re when we’re all done up. But I mean, people definitely do treat you differently, you know, you You are now you know, a piece of art almost, you know, you’re you’re sort of something that that I think, to a lot of people almost isn’t necessarily human. It sounds a little weird, but you know, we sort of become this this novelty. And I think a lot of people forget that there’s act there is actually a person, you know, under the wig and the makeup and the costumes and everything, because people will have no problem just like poking you and touching you and touch your hair, you know, grab your grab your ass things like that. Male people people don’t necessarily know that drag doesn’t imply consent. So while it’s not necessarily always sexual, there definitely is a sort of, you know, people forget that that’s a human being they’re interacting with.
K Anderson 41:53
And so then, have you ever been actually head on or it all just, I’m waiting appropriateness?
Diana Fire 42:02
I think I have one through social media. Absolutely. But in person, like, once or twice, but I mean, but especially being a bearded drag queen who, who sort of goes for a little more over the top can be a static, you know, I feel like if somebody is looking at me in person in drag and hitting on me, that’s that’s a lot of red flags all at the same time.
K Anderson 42:29
Oh, you sell yourself short. Well, thank you. Um, but, um, but they do on social media.
Diana Fire 42:39
Yeah, no, I definitely don’t get it as much as some of some of the other drag performance. I see. I have yet to get an unsolicited dick pic. Believe it or not,
K Anderson 42:50
what a fucking I know. Sorry. I know. I feel so robbed. I feel so wrapped. Maybe we can like wish it into the world. This is this is me putting it out there. Will it and you know, I’m down for it as well if anyone’s listening and sharing is. Okay, and so this is something that I guess I have not really considered in much depth. Is that like, obviously I know that when you’re there as a performer, you’re there. You’re working. But I guess I’d always considered it as a bit of more of a blend of half hanging out like half flirting, half meeting and you know, half looking for someone to be home with as well as as performing but it sounds like that’s not how you approached it. Yeah, I
Diana Fire 43:54
think you know, it’s it’s different for everybody you know, I know some performers who you know when I am you know at the club, I am in drag, I am in the zone. I am getting ready for my next number. Like Don’t talk to me don’t interact with me. You know, I need to make sure like I’m ready to go what are the ways to circle of life? So I’ve met some of those those performers. And yeah, then there are others where you know, I’m I’m here to socialise and like, Oh, hey, it’s my turn to go on stage. Be right back. So I’m not as intense about my performances, as others might be. See, I like to think that I fall somewhere in the middle there. But I definitely cherish the end of the show when I get to take everything off. You know, when everyone’s like, Hey, now we’re gonna go over to this club and keep hanging out. I’m like, my testicles are pushing against my butthole I really don’t want to stay in this longer.
K Anderson 44:54
You fucking idiots. What are you doing? Exactly? We’re gonna get one to be that person that asks about the testicles thing, but now you’ve brought it out, but everybody does. No, no, no, let’s not, I’m just gonna, I’ll Google that, like, I don’t need to worry about that. But the one thing I do want to ask, and it struck me that for a really long time, people would ask me, my coming out story. And that’s not really happened for me in the last like, five or 10 years. And I don’t know whether it’s because everyone assumes that like, I forgotten because it was so longer or because, like, society’s just moved on, and no one really cares about that. And it’s not that interesting. But for you, like, has that question been replaced with? When was your first time in drag?
Diana Fire 45:51
Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know, when when somebody learns, especially when somebody knows me, not as a drag performer first, when they learn that fact about me later, it’s opening floodgates every time. Yeah, absolutely. How did you get started? Why
K Anderson 46:08
do you do drag? It’s it’s a laundry list of questions. And do you? Do you prefer just not to bring it up? Or are you quite open?
Diana Fire 46:17
I mean, I’m pretty open. It depends. It depends on context. You know, I do work in in corporate sales. So I’m not running around sharing that information with, you know, a lot of my co workers necessarily. And, you know, I’m not, not,
K Anderson 46:34
you know, get the merchandise sales there.
Diana Fire 46:37
I mean, I do have a number of co workers who have purchased my merchandise, and worn them to work events. So that is a very real thing that happened. So yeah, you know, it depends on the audience. Mm.
K Anderson 46:53
Hmm. Interesting. So, I’m aware that I have taken this conversation in lots of places that are nowhere near me. So I apologise for that. And we said we wanted it to be. Let’s get back to this stinky basement. They’ll get back to the front bar in the back bar. And let’s get back to performances. When what’s your most memorable performance? Oh, my most memorable performance, I think would probably be the night embers closed. Yeah. So before we get to that story, then when How did you react when you heard that it closed?
Diana Fire 47:40
Oh, it was it was devastating. embers had was owned by two people, and one of them had, I believe it was a stroke, and ended up hospitalised and that was sort of the the beginning of the end, just financially, there wasn’t any way to keep the bar going. So we ended up writing it out as long as we could and had embers last dance at the end of that year. Oh, wow.
K Anderson 48:13
Yeah. Oh, that’s heavy. And so then this final performance Tell me about him.
Diana Fire 48:20
So it was it was very interesting, you know, this bar that while I had been there, had sort of, you know, taken on this dive bar type role. All of a sudden, as everybody learns that it was going to be disappearing from the community at you know, in the way that we know it. Everybody who had ever had an experience a memory tied to that place showed up that night, it was lines around the block all night long, you know, got to the point of maximum capacity one in one out super crowded, and just the energy it was this weird mix of melancholy and celebratory at the same time. See, I was just a weird it was a weird vibe. And again, you know, we followed our multi set format so I did a performance to the greatest by sia and I was one of the last people to perform because the the the night had to end at midnight that night, I believe, or do we write it up last call? I don’t remember it was either midnight or 2am. And so the format of the show was once we got to you know four minutes prior to that point, we would stop wherever we were in the setlist and onyx the first lady was going to do the final performance so I ended up being the last number right before her so yeah, just the whole thing was you know the the energy that getting to be sort of the the last guest to perform there, or the last cast member Yeah, it was it was quite an experience.
K Anderson 50:04
And do you remember the days following that night?
Diana Fire 50:08
vaguely. I mean, there was a lot of hangover was most of it. But it was, you know, I remember just being so sombre packing up, but the end of that night, spending our last minutes in that stinky basement, you know, kind of saying our goodbyes to the space, and some kind of to each other as well, because for a lot of us, that was when we saw each other. So yeah, it was it was a weird, physical and emotional hangover, you know, for at least a couple days afterward. Hmm.
K Anderson 50:45
And, and and what do you think Portland has lost? Since it lost embers?
Diana Fire 50:52
Yeah, it’s it’s lost another, it’s lost another one of its, you know, queer safe spaces for one. You know, it was a place where a lot of people, it’s a place where a lot of performers got their experience, you know, sometimes for the first time, as a drag performer, it’s where a lot of people went to go see their first drag show ever. You know, we definitely have a lot of straight people, especially that would up there because you know, of a friend, you know, we heard about this, we’re having a girls night out bachelorette party, so and so’s birthday, whatever. And so there were a lot of people who, you know, we were there, their first taste of gay culture, or their first drag show ever. And, you know, being located in a great place downtown, it was easy for that foot traffic. And there’s just, there’s just that that sort of community pillar, if you will, that’s missing. Hmm.
K Anderson 51:52
So you’ve just brought up bachelorette parties. And I’m gonna ask a few questions about that. I will say there are some people who are very, like, they should not be in the spaces. They are kind of, Hmm, I want to say like, the sacred the sacred space, sacred space, and then there’s some people who were a bit more like, Oh, well, like they’re bringing in money and they’re bringing Yeah. And we should be welcoming everyone. Where do you fall on that? spec? You
Diana Fire 52:26
know? Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s, uh, there are two sides of the coin. And I can make arguments for both, I feel like ultimately, you know, coming to a drag show, especially if it is in, you know, a place that is specifically a gay bar, or an LGBTQ space. You know, you’re welcome there. And I feel like you should feel welcome there, your drag drag should be accessible to everybody. And it’s one thing that I like that it’s getting getting some more mainstream visibility, and it’s being a little more normalised and more audiences are feeling, you know, feeling comfortable and empowered to come to them. I think that’s great. I think it’s just important, you know, bachelorette party, or otherwise, you know, if it’s not your space, that you’re respectful of it, you know, this, this, you know, you are coming for a good time, and, you know, drag performers are there to put on a show. So that right there like that, that’s a great combination, you’re there for a party, you know, so make sure you’re prepared to tip make, you’re gonna be respectful, you know, drag is not like I said earlier, drag is not consent. So do not touch somebody’s hair don’t touch their, their bras don’t touch their, their ass any of that. Especially, especially, drag isn’t just sis men in makeup, you know, that might be a sis woman that might be a trans woman that you know, a Navy, regardless of who they are, and whether you’re touching their flesh or not. You didn’t ask permission. So it’s just some
K Anderson 54:04
breastplates are expensive as well, like,
Diana Fire 54:06
exactly, yeah, and anybody who’s had implants, those are even more expensive, or grown them themselves or some combination thereof. So yeah, just knowing that that you know, there are boundaries, and just being a respectful person. You know, make sure you tip the performer, give them a compliment, don’t take up all of their time, though. Don’t try to get on the stage. Don’t try to make the night about you. If there’s a point in the show where they’re doing the whole isn’t anybody’s celebrating anything. Great that five minutes can be about you and then go back to your seat. You know, don’t don’t try to steal the spotlight, things like that. I’ve I have watched that drag parties get kicked out because somebody got drunk and got carried away and would not listen to the instructions being given to them by the host of the show.
K Anderson 54:54
Okay, okay. So I was just about to say that you’re giving me a bit of a tangent Queen answer here again. I want the examples of stories of of it going all terribly wrong in a row. Like let’s throw down let’s throw some bachelorettes under the bus. Come on. Yeah, yeah, I
Diana Fire 55:16
mean, luckily I don’t know any other name. So you know, I can’t throw them under the bus
K Anderson 55:20
directly. Mindy. Mindy wasn’t empty.
Diana Fire 55:26
Yeah, no, there was there was one night where I you know, the the the host was you’re getting the crowd engaged and you know, having people get excited. And she was going over the rules about you know, make sure you tip blah, blah, blah, make lots of noise. Then one of the rules was don’t get on the stage unless you are specifically asked to. Then she thinking she was going to be cute, went and got up on the stage. This Bachelorette? I think I think it was one of the girls in her party. I don’t think it was the bachelorette herself. And the Queen was like, nope, get off the stage. And she decided to try to play this a cute pouty like cross her arms like stomp your feet. Then the drag queen was polite enough to give her twice. That point is just like security isn’t gotta go. And so that whole party got ruined quickly because one person decided they were gonna try to be cute, and make the show about them and not follow the rules.
K Anderson 56:29
I feel like you’ve got a better story. And even,
Diana Fire 56:32
you know, actually, like, as far as I let go, I have lucked out the bachelorette parties that I have been present for, for the most part have been pretty respectful. I have had drunken gay twinks get on the stage in the middle of people’s performances.
K Anderson 56:46
Hey, let’s talk about that. Yeah.
Diana Fire 56:49
So that that happened to the show that I hosted once someone had brought this, this guy that I think they were dating or hooking up or whatever, whatever their title was, you know. And yeah, this this, this little twink got super, super trashed, in the middle of someone’s number just got on stage, essentially pushed the Queen out of the way and just took over. Yeah, so that was that was fun. I
K Anderson 57:18
do a good job.
Diana Fire 57:19
No, wrong, and not a performer. Wasn’t it was it was all bad. Everything was bad. And so yeah, you know, we had to stop the show and get security and it’s like, like he’s on the stage. So we can’t not watch it all go down. So we have to call security and have them taken outside and I’m pretty sure they were dating they are hooking up with like one of the performers that night. They’re having to like deal with this person they brought causing this problem, but like they’re also still in this show that’s still going on. I’m having to host this and like try to get the show back on track. It was just awkward and uncomfortable and messy. And honestly that’s that’s I feel like the embodiment of drag awkward.
K Anderson 58:10
Awkward uncomfortable. messy. Yeah. Yeah. Sounds good to me. Yeah. Did you ever go to embers Avenue? Well, if you did, I would love to hear more from you. Tell me your stories and share any photos or anecdotes through social media. You can find me on most every platform under the user name K Anderson music. And you can also find out more about Dianna firstname.lastname@example.org, Dianna fire.com. And all her socials follow the same naming convention. Go, Dianna fire. Last basis is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the coming year. You can hear the first single well grim boys, which is also playing underneath my talking right now on all streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribe