West Hollywood officials vote to appoint a “Drag Laureate” to help promote the city

Drag queens at a Pride festival
(Photo: Shutterstock)

City council officials in West Hollywood have decided to develop a “Drag Laureate” program. While a Poet Laureate helps raise awareness of poetry and writes poems to mark events of national importance, the WeHo Drag Laureate will help promote the city’s LGBTQ inclusivity and gay nightlife district.

The Drag Laureate program was co-sponsored by Councilwoman Lauren Meister and gay, City Councilman John Duran.

Council members voted yesterday 5-0 in favor of the idea. Council notes say, “The Drag Laureate would serve as an ambassador to West Hollywood businesses, especially the businesses in the City’s historic LGBT district, and promote arts and culture in West Hollywood.”

According to a memo to the council ahead of yesterday’s meeting, “West Hollywood has been one of the centers of drag culture for decades. Drag performers are often the main attraction at restaurants and bars, star in arts and cultural events, or even lead storytelling and crafts at Drag Queen Story Hour (which takes place at West Hollywood Library.)

“The Drag Laureate would serve to highlight and promote the contributions of drag artists to West Hollywood by acting as an ambassador to businesses in the city, especially those in the city’s historic LGBT district.”

It continues: “If approved, staff will further develop the proposed scope of the program, guidelines, and selection criteria and return to City Council for further discussion and consideration. The selection of the Drag Laureate will be facilitated by a selection committee made up of stakeholders from the community and local businesses, including representatives from the local LGBT bars and restaurants.”

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This is not the first time the idea of a Drag Laureate has been raised. San Francisco has also been considering the idea of creating a similar role as part of its LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy. However, that idea has not been progressed as yet, so it looks like West Hollywood will be the first US city to get a Drag Laureate.

Now the idea has been passed, city staff will develop the scope of the program and report back to council members.

Meister says she’d been alerted to the idea that San Francisco was considering a Drag Laureate.

“When I read more about it, I thought this was a great thing to do,” Meister, a straight ally, told Bay Area Reporter earlier this month. “Right now, what we need to be doing is supporting our local businesses, our small businesses, our legacy businesses and our LGBT businesses more than ever.”

 

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West Hollywood has a more than a dozen LGBTQ venues, with drag popular at many. The restaurant chain Hamburger Mary’s is particularly known for its drag entertainment. However, the area has seen several high-profile bar closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Gold Coast Bar, Rage, Gym Sportsbar, and Flaming Saddles.

Related: The iconic venues that won’t be returning after COVID-19

Following yesterday’s vote, Councilman John Duran told GayCities, “Drag is synonymous with West Hollywood for the past 100 years. Chicago gangster Mickey Cohen set up the first drag club on our Sunset Strip in the 1930s as a form of entertainment. Little did he know he was helping birth the LGBT community’s presence in West Hollywood.

“The drag laureate will be an ambassador for the City to promote our LGBT businesses and nightlife in the historic Boystown district on Santa Monica Blvd. COVID may be part of our current reality, but we will not be glum. We will continue to be flamboyant, colorful and outrageous as always.”