PARAMUS, N.J. — On RuPaul’s Drag Race, the World’s Most Famous Drag Queen tells her contestants to “Start your engines, and may the best woman win."
At this past weekend’s Drive ’N Drag — a drive-in organized by Voss Events that attracted dozens of spectators and fans to Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus where it was staged behind the AMC movie theater — a lineup of contestants on the Emmy Award-winning television show were all winners. The costumed queens set the stage ablaze with their seductive performances as silver screen stars dating back to the 1980s to the present with the same zest as if dancing and lip-syncing before RuPaul and her panel of judges on the hit show.
The summer concert series, which is part of Voss Events’ “Werq the World Tour,” is typically presented at large theaters and arenas. However, given the current coronavirus pandemic, it got pushed to an outdoor drive-in that afforded these high-earning drag queens an opportunity make money despite the economic challenges posed by the pandemic. Audience members were even given the opportunity to send tips electronically to their favorite queens via Venmo.
“A pandemic won't keep our queens from ruling the stage,” said producer Brandon Voss in a press release. “The drag show must go on!"
Paramus was one of several locations tapped to stage the series before Los Angeles and Chicago, among others. The hourlong Drive ’N Drag on Sunday, July 19 began with a performance from the slender, bleach blonde Aquaria (Giovanni Palandrani) who was dressed in a red and gold getup with shoulder tassels and a matching cap and lip-synced Adam Lambert and Ivy Levan’s “Science Fiction/Double Feature.” While the audience, some of whom were sitting atop their cars and others dancing in the parking lot had their sights set on the stage, she surprised them all as she swayed her way to the stage from the pavement to the cheers of excited audience members.
Her act followed up a medley of classic movies — a man in sunglasses donning a suit, black boots and a hose performed to the Ghostbusters theme song after which an actor dressed in a Slimer costume came on stage as Britney Spears’ “Toxic” played in the background. In keeping with the '80s movie theme, Yvie Oddly (Jovan Bridges) emerged as a sultry Beetlejuice in thigh-high black tights, a matching black-and-white stripped jacket and the traditional unruly green wig dancing to “Day O” by Harry Belafonte before wildly gyrating to “Jump in the Line” and even bending over backwards to the delight of a starry-eyed crowd.
The show’s host Asia O’Hara (Antwan Mason Lee), whose long bleach blonde and hot pink wig cascaded down her form-fitted leopard print dress, appeared on stage as the narration of "Mommie Dearest” played in the background with the sounds of Old Hollywood: "Joan Crawford, the most dramatic role of her life was her life." Asia abruptly turned around with the film’s classic line: “Don’t (expletive) with me, Fellas!” As she held up a wire hanger, she dove into lip-syncing to Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know.”
Asia called the experience an “exceptional night of entertainment,” and was interrupted by a sign an audience member was holding up that read “Move Over, I’m Here for Asia.”
The man, who had traveled to Paramus from Linden, brought her up a bouquet of flowers. She was so taken by his kindness that she came out amongst the crowd to chat them up and obtain a handful of barbecue chips.
“If you live with the person you’re with, wrap your arms around them and make them feel loved and just have a good time,” said Asia, adding that the queens were prepared to give the audience their “heart and soul.”
The performances, needless to say, delivered.
As the mood lightened and the song “Supermodel” blared from the speakers and flat screens, Plastique Tiara (Duc Tran Nguyen) dazzled as Cher Horowitz, Alicia Silverstone’s character in the 1995 cult classic “Clueless,” which marked its 25th anniversary that very evening. Kameron Michaels (Dane Young) mesmerized with a spellbinding performance as Maleficent played by Angelina Jolie in the namesake 2014 movie to Lana Del Rey's eerily poignant “Once Upon a Dream.”