James Holmes

A Halftime Show & the Night I Made a Straight Bar Sing

Filed By James Holmes | February 21, 2012 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: drag queens, Like a Prayer, Madonna, Missouri, Super Bowl Halftime

Since I chose to switch from my usual recap of this season of RuPaul's Drag Race to a live blog format, I thought I'd still give you a moment of drag for your Tuesday enjoyment.

In this clip from Brazil, we have an all drag reinterpretation of Madonna's Super Bowl Halftime Show. Is it better than the original? No. Mostly because the boys keep their shirts on. Is it worth watching all 13 minutes of it? Yes. Mostly because of the recreation of my favorite Madonna song of all time - "Like a Prayer."


I have a personal love for anything with a gospel choir (maybe my Pentecostal upbringing?), but what I love even more is an all drag queen gospel choir (still possibly the Pentecostal upbringing). I have requested one for my funeral.

But "Like a Prayer" holds a special place in my heart, not because of its chorale backing, but because it was also my first and only lip sync performance in drag - impromptu, in a straight bar, and in the middle of Missouri.

Picture this: Missouri, a college town, and a little known nameless bar sometimes called the "Alley Bar," more as a description than official title. It was a relatively small space with a staircase in back leading up to an overlooking balcony. About halfway up the stairs was a landing that also housed the DJ who played the same mix of 80s music every Friday night.

I was a junior at the University of Missouri at the time and discovered the place through some friends. Apparently it served as the VIP area of another bar every night of the week except Friday and served mostly a straight crowd. However after my partner and I started inviting our friends, that began to change, but that is a different story.Like_a_Prayer_Single_Cover.jpg

My drag night came not long after we discovered the place. I was going through a rather androgynous phase at the time and often wore full make-up (looking back that was very brave for Missouri). Also, I like costumes so I had a small stock of wigs.

As my partner, David, and a girlfriend of ours, Alisa, were prepping for a Friday night trip to the Alley Bar, Alisa asked if she could borrow one of my wigs. I told her yes but with one condition - if the DJ plays "Young Hearts Run Free" by Kym Mazelle (we had it playing at the time) I get to wear the wig. We shook hands in agreement and headed out.

I'm not sure how far into the night it was (sometime before 1:30 - thank you MO liquor laws), but I was pretty liquored up when the place went silent and the first cords of "Like a Prayer" began. Giving up on "Young Hearts", I turn to Alisa - "Give me the wig."

Wig on, I began to ascend the stairs. Upon reaching the landing near the DJ, I looked across the crowd, arms outstretch, and began to channel Madonna to the best of my ability.

Suddenly, as if summoned by God, a spotlight hits me and all the crowd cheers (or my friends at least - I was blinded by the heavenly lights), and as the song ordered the choir to sing, I had one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I think if I had drank a little more, I may have levitated.

I honestly don't remember how the night ended, and I really wish smartphones were around to capture the performance, but I'll never forget the night I made a straight bar sing. Thank you Madonna. Keep inspiring.

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