Embrace The Desire
By Lauren Allain
The single light illuminates perfectly aligned rhinestones that sparkle with every blink. They sit atop a line of thick, black eyeliner - all above fake, curled eyelashes. As her fans arrive, she gets up from the table to give each patron a hug.
Soon she'll be singing Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet" and dropping candy necklaces in hopes of catching a glimpse of a cute butt when someone bends over to snatch one up.
This is Betty Desire - the star of Rumors Cabaret's Wednesday night entertainment.
Her performance at Rumors, the only alternative lifestyle bar in Bellingham, is just one day's work. On Sundays she performs a revival hour at the State Street Depot Bar and Grill, at 11:30 p.m. and on Mondays she performs the Betty Desire Show at Althea's in Mount Vernon at 9 p.m.
As if that's not enough, she also publishes The Betty Pages, a monthly alternative lifestyle tabloid.
An hour of songs and games is the drag queen's forte, creating a variety show starring the audience. Games are the centerpiece of the show, including the recent favorite musical chairs (21-and-up style, which includes provocative dancing around and on the chairs to songs like Fatboy Slim's "Fucking in Heaven"). When it's down to three chairs, Betty yells, "We need to set those up a little straighter. I hate to say that in a gay bar."
During one game of musical chairs, Betty recognizes a contestant. He came in second place at the previous week's show, and the show before that, and the one before that, too. As Betty laughs at his eternal runner-up position, the runner-up announces in his defense while winking to the audience, "It's better to finish second."
Betty Desire is a drag queen. But underneath the makeup is a gay man, who is typically out of drag. For the purpose of this article, the name of the man who plays Betty will not be used.
Throughout the show's 10-year run, it has maintained the same purpose - to make everyone feel welcome.
"During my coming out process, I would come into a bar, and I felt isolated," she says.
Then she participated in a drag queen contest and her life changed. In 1994, Betty was crowned "Closet Queen" at an annual drag show at Rumors.
Her first drag show taught her she really could entertain and gave her the confidence to continue with it.
Her saunter revs up the crowd during the opening "Black Velvet." She sings the line, "A new religion that'll bring you to your knees," and she's on one bent knee in front of a man standing solo against the back wall. He slips a dollar bill into Betty's bra and after a seductive look, Betty slithers her way to another patron.
A simple game of high-low card also is on the agenda. But of course, it can't be that simple - or G-rated, for that matter. One lucky audience member, typically a birthday boy or girl, gets a front-row seat. Sitting in a lone chair on the Rumors' stage under the sparkling disco ball, the contestant gets to pick which article of clothing comes off of the person with the lowest card. A shirt flies, a man sensually slips off his belt and wraps it around the birthday boy, then whips it to the ground. Another low card and one man takes off his sweatshirt to reveal a Jagermeister tank top. He's been here before - the tank top is the prize for the person who ends up with the least amount of skin exposed.
When someone seems unreceptive to her show, Betty uses certain tactics to soften him or her up. At the State Street Depot, she buys birthday guys or gals a Blowjob - a shot of Irish cream and Kahlua topped with whipped cream.
Betty hasn't always been so open. The man who plays Betty did not come out as gay until he was 35 years old - when he had a wife and two children.
"I had known I was different since puberty," he says. He realized he was gay in sixth grade.
He was tired of trying to deal with his feeling alone, so he planned on telling his parents one night after play practice when he was 16.
But a close friend of his had recently been turned off of LSD and been turned on to God instead.
"I thought if God could get her off drugs, God could get me off men," he says.
But prayer didn't work to make him straight.
"I was the guinea pig of every prayer group and evangelist I could find," he says.
Despite his marriage, he couldn't continue living the way he had been, and he came out to his family in 1989.
"It got to the point where I realized it's easier for me to live the truth than to live a lie," he says.
Now the 52-year-old lives two honest lives - one as a drag queen and one as a father and new grandpa or "Grandpama" as Betty likes to sign letters. He's currently single and looking, but he keeps his family close and is still friends with his ex-wife.
His son, Brandon Endrizzi, has been going to Betty's shows since he turned 21.
"Some might see my dad as ridiculous, but it's fun," Endrizzi says.
Endrizzi also appears as a guest writer in some issues of The Betty Pages. In one article, he wrote on the topic of having a gay dad. His response to the question, "What's it like to have a gay dad?" was, "I don't know."
Endrizzi explains this by saying he has nothing to compare it to. He's never had a straight father, only a gay one, so that's all he knows.
After countless shows, it now takes Betty less than half an hour to go from man to woman. She shops for apparel at what she calls "Ross Cross-dress for Less."
"I'm not the prettiest drag queen, and I don't intend to be," Betty says.
Vacation is an idea found throughout the show - from patrons to Betty and even the disc jockey feels like it's a vacation.
"When I'm in character correctly, it's like a vacation," Betty says. "It's the cheapest psychological vacation you can have."
Anyone who attends the show is familiar with the DJ because Betty constantly interacts with him. "Hit it, Velveteen," she commands after asking the crowd if they want to hear another tune.
DJ Velveteen, Richard Hartnell, found an outlet in The Betty Desire Show that he couldn't find at any of his other gigs.
"I would be spinning Nine Inch Nails and thinking about Aqua," he says.
The music is funky - songs you don't hear on the radio - like Cake's "Going the Distance." Betty also has been working on perfecting The Police song "Every Breath You Take." When she messes up, she stops, yells "Rewind, Velveteen," and starts over. She's almost got it down, with some help from audience members who sing the words loud enough to cover up for her when she forgets them.
Subdued sexual humor keeps the audience chuckling.
"If I ever get thrown in jail, I'm bringing my soap on a rope," Betty proclaims.
The show serves it purpose. It brings people from all walks of life together to forget about the troubles that life comes with. For just one hour, the world seems humorous and light-hearted. No tears, no stress, no incessant phone calls - just Betty teaching everyone to enjoy life.
"[Betty] does all of the partying, and I get the hangovers," Betty says.
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