Pinkie Meringue Shimmer this year’s Fan Favorite
\For the third year in a row, drag aficionados showed the love to their favorite performers – and to Desert AIDS Project as beneficiary of all their hard work – at the Queen of the Desert lip-sync competition.
“Once again, we expanded our venue at the Renaissance Palm Springs and once again had an even larger sold-out crowd,” said Darrell L. Tucci, D.A.P.’s Chief Development Officer. “This year, our talented group of performers attracted an audience of 766 that raised nearly $60,000! That was due, in no small part, to the incredible efforts of our contestants whose friends supported the event by buying tickets and entire tables.”
As the excited crowd enjoyed cocktails and waited for the third annual competition to begin, numerous gender-benders circulated, setting the evening’s tone, including long-time D.A.P. volunteer Danny Mills. Borrowing one of Oprah Winfrey’s former looks, Mills wore a bright-orange dress and a door-filling Afro wig, greeting arrivals with a bright smile, proclaiming “And YOU get a car!” as he placed a Matchbox car in their hand.
As the crowd settled in their seats, Bella Da Ball, as alter ego Brian Wanzek, provided the evening’s behind-the-scenes voice as well as later appearing on-stage as announcer of Fan Favorite pledges. He began the evening by introducing a tribute performance by Dottie Du Bois and Maude Chapeau of Les Dames du Soleil, the comedic drag troupe immortalized in D.A.P.’s medical clinic waiting room, in recognition of the many years of shows they performed to raise more than $1 million for client services.
As the pair left the stage to join the panel of fellow judges Gypsy of Carnival Cabaret and Delta Werk from Season 3 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the lovely Ethylina Canne, began her emcee duties with a fabulous lip-sync performance of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” complete with a spot-on replica of the red dress Marilyn Monroe wore when performing the movie’s title song.
After thanking Ethylina for marking June 1st as the 90th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s birthday, D.A.P.’s CEO David Brinkman led applause for all of the sponsors for their generosity in supporting the event: Steve Tobin and the Grace Helen Spearman Charitable Foundation, Southern California Gas Company, The Desert Sun, Maximum Security, Alibi/Azul, Brush Palm Springs, Contempo Lending, Crater Lake Vodka, Dynamic Dance & Fitness, Hunters Nightclub, John & Ryan Real Estate & Investments, Toucans Tiki Lounge, Vaso Bello Celebrations, Alexander Events, Classic Party Rentals, Icon Presentations, Renaissance Palm Springs, CV Independent, Desert Daily Guide, Gay Desert Guide, LIVE Magazine, Signs By Tomorrow, and The Standard Magazine.
Brinkman invited the audience, during the show’s intermission, to admire the hand-crafted “Broadway Quilt” displayed for the evening in the ballroom lobby, explaining that the fabrics used in its creation came from famous Broadway productions like “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Color Purple,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” He thanked members of D.A.P.’s quilting group – Larry Edwards, Philip Heckman, John Luckett, Brian Rapin, Paul Sibley, and Bill Stibich – who were present to support their favorite Queen wannabee, for making the quilt.
The quilt is accompanied by its own provenance, like personal notes from some of the actors from the Broadway productions, autographed playbills, and a diagram of each material swatch used. The quilt will be raffled off to a lucky winner, chosen by drawing at D.A.P.’s Everyday Heroes celebration on December 1st, to mark World AIDS Day. A total of 1,920 raffle tickets – one for each fabric piece in the quilt – will soon go on sale at $20 each, aiming to raise nearly $40,000 for D.A.P. client services.
Then … it was time for the drag to begin!
Each of the six contestants performed the first of two numbers for the judges’ consideration. Before intermission, incoming D.A.P. board chair Steve Kaufer and Steven Henke of The Desert Sun, Queen of the Desert event co-chairs, thanked the audience and introduced a surprise guest – “Ivonna Cannoli” – reputed cousin of the seemingly-absent Darrell Tucci of D.A.P., who performed “I’m Not Pregnant; I’m Just Fat.”
Tucci, took on this tongue-in-cheek role in response to a group of audience donors who had promised to put their money on the table … and came through, to the tune of $12,000 to benefit the event’s total proceeds. Throughout the evening, Wanzek appeared on-stage – accompanied by two hunky men who seemed to have misplaced their shirts – to read Fan Favorite votes and pledges, including one for $5,000 from D.A.P. board member Jim Casey in honor of Ethylina Canne!
After a brief intermission, the six performers returned to give the audience their choice of dramatic or high-energy numbers that brought the evening near to a rousing close. All that remained was for the judges to announce their choices … a clear signal for Ethylina to return to stage in her third dazzling outfit of the evening, to dispense flowers, awards, and the coveted crown.
In addition to being chosen 2016 Queen of the Desert, Tommi Rose was judged as Dazzler, Funny Bone, and The Talent. Pinkie Meringue Shimmer was the clear Fan Favorite, with more than $8,000 in pledges. Jazmyn Echelon Simone was chosen both Dressed to Thrill and Ms. Personality. Anita Rose was selected as the Show Stopper while Sheena Wolfe was The Original and Mystic Befierce Miller was judged Fierce & Flawless.
With grace befitting new status as 2016 Queen of the Desert, Tommi Rose told D.A.P. event organizers, “Put me to work! Let me know what I can do to help. If it’s within my means and power, I’ll show up at every dinner, speech, cocktail party, or carwash. Just make the call.”