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POSTPONED: Legendary Drag Queens

Gigi’s Meets Aunt Charlie’s: A Tale of Drag Scenes & Queens

A drag queen in sunglasses dancing in a nightclub.
Photo by James Hosking. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022
5:30 pm


In-person Event

Michigan Theater
603 E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104


Penny Stamps Speaker Series
Open to the public
Free of charge

Note: This event, originally scheduled for January 13, 2022, has been postponed. We are working to reschedule this presentation for a later date in 2022.

This program presents a rare coming together of six legendary Drag Queens from two notoriously fabulous nightclubs in the gritty epicenters of Detroit and San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. 

Inspired by artist James Hosking’s project Beautiful by Night, on view at Institute for the Humanities Gallery, following three San Francisco Drag Artists over the course of one night at Aunt Charlie’s, the last gay bar in the famed San Francisco Tenderloin district, an area in the process of being completely re-defined by gentrification and the dot-com takeover.

This series event brings the San Francisco Aunt Charlie’s Queens together with Detroit’s own reigning Queens from Gigi’s Cabaret, home of the longest running drag pageant in the United States. Appearing from Detroit are Maxi Chanel (House of Chanel), Nickki Stevens, and Lady T Tempest. Hailing from San Francisco are Olivia Hart and Donna Personna. The six artists come together to discuss the history of their legacies and artform, the role of lineage and queer community building, and how drag has changed the world through activism, glamour, and celebratory inclusion.

The evening will be hosted by Ben Johnson, currently the Director of Performing Arts for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, whose position tasks him with developing programs of cultural exchange among other things. Previously he was the Director of Education and Audience Development at the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan (19962008). While in Michigan, he was steeped in Detroit’s history and lore, and it is through this lens which he centers drag heritage and history as an important and unique cultural contribution to the vitality of Michigan performing arts history, aligning it with the equally important and vital history of Aunt Charlies, the last remaining stronghold of queer and trans-centered cultural space in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.

Co-presented by the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities, this program celebrates the exhibition opening of photographer and filmmaker James Hosking’s multimedia project, Beautiful by Night, an examination of class, labor, and identity among aging drag performers in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, featuring the three San Francisco Queens presented here. 

James Hosking supports his subjects by sharing their stories and hopes to work towards ironclad non-discrimination laws protecting employment and housing, and the more truthful representation of this community in both news and entertainment.

Directly following the program, join us for an opening reception at Institute for the Humanities Gallery and meet the artists.

Learn more about COVID-19 protocols for Penny Stamps Speaker Series events.

In partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Institute for Humanities, with support from the Spectrum Center. Presenting Partners: Detroit Public Television and PBS Books. Media Partner: Michigan Radio.

Content Notice

In accordance with the University of Michigan’s Standard Practice Guidelines on Freedom of Speech and Artistic Expression, the Penny Stamps Speaker Series does not censor our speakers or their content. The content provided is intended for adult audiences and does not reflect the views of the University of Michigan or Detroit Public Television.