SO THIS IS WHERE we find drag at the beginning of the 21st century: in a trashed apartment on Capitol Hill, where a young, straight, tattooed roadie with a hacking cough and a Black Label beer is having his face painted by an eccentric queen in wrecked nylons. And neither one of them thinks a damn thing of it. ("My mom wants a full set of these, by the way," says Dylan, a roadie for Vendetta Red, to the Weekly's photographer.) A cat roams about, indifferent.
Our host for this new twist on the makeover is Seattle cult icon Jackie Hell, a.k.a. David Latimer, who spends trouser hours working 10-hour red-eye shifts at City Market on the Hill. With her perverse partner in crime, Ursula Android, Jackie appears at Re-bar's Pho Bang, which has been packing in a mixed crowd since it started about two years ago at the now defunct Foxes. Every Thursday, the pair slugs its way through an ongoing skit, a band plays, a DJ spins, and Jackie and Ursula close with their trademark karaoke tune, the Ozzy Ozbourne/Lita Ford duet "Close My Eyes Forever." Not every queer can go with the postmodern joke.
"Most of the other drag queens in town are really 'gay-oriented'—they think like that, you know?" Jackie explains. "And what I do is not really aimed at anyone specific."
Unlike most drag performers, Jackie doesn't care to look pretty. She looks like Shelley Winters off her meds and on a bender. She has a punk sensibility with a relaxed irony that drops to the floor in a deep, very male voice. She's having a great time, cavorting about town in decidedly unflattering makeup designed to look "like I didn't know better." More is definitely more for her.
Her apartment follows suit (setting up this meeting, she tells us that there isn't a front door on the street, so we should just "knock on the window by the dumpster"). Jackie's place has a lot of clutter but no bed, which naturally makes one curious about where, exactly, she finds room to sleep.
"Wherever I can," she casually replies.
Wherever, indeed. The Epoxies are playing on the boom box ("We are all losing control . . . "), and the living room's full of decaying mannequins, dying couches, feather boas, and engaging pop detritus: a video of current cult zeitgeist Showgirls (a dialogue snippet of which greets you on Hell's answering machine), a Yoko Ono montage, a poster of Brigitte Bardot in A Woman Like Satan, an old advertisement for Pike Place Market's jazz chanteuse Patti Summers.
"I have a headless baby, too, that crawls," Jackie offers, noting with a laugh the fascination her special world has inspired. "My cat's so afraid of it."
We watch the decapitated doll baby inch desperately across the floor. The cat's right—it is frightening.
Meanwhile, Dylan, beaming, is getting coated with a cheap pancake stick and bright red lipstick from Rite Aid. Variations on cheap and disturbing are a huge part of Jackie's aesthetic.
"I saw this woman in New York—she had the most fuckin' obnoxious rouge," she says gleefully. "She was ancient—like 900 years old—with a walker. She had this bright red rouge from right under her eyes all the way down to her chin. That's one of the craziest things I've ever seen. It was so hot."
She decides to try the look on Dylan.
"I'll make you look pretty," she chuckles.
"Do you have a big belt? 'Cause big belts are in right now," jokes Dylan.
He ends up resembling a transgendered Kabuki warrior—with a big belt.
"I can't really make someone up without makin' 'em look like Jackie Hell," Jackie says before clambering out the window to take a photo on the roof. The cat sleeps, unfazed.