Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bianca Paige: "Smoking!" but without the smoke

Bianca Paige is a Nashville celebrity. She is also my husband's nephew. I adore him. The first time I saw him perform I was transported. I have never been up close to an artist with so much "star power." I met him first at a family gathering. He was not in drag, a small figure of a man in his early forties with a deep, absolutely gravelly voice and huge expressive hazel eyes, he was self-possessed, modest, but a presence nonetheless.

Bianca is bald and likes to wear hats when he's offstage or without a wig. Actually, he insists on wearing a hat. Once I tried to convince him to take a little derby hat off during his break. He complained of being hot. But he wouldn't shed the cover despite my nagging.

The first time I saw him perform I went with my daughter, 21 at the time, and my sister who is a few years younger than me. I guess she was 59 at the time. We let him know in advance -- through the management since he's impossible to reach in person--and when we arrived we were ushered in like celebrities. Everyone seemed to know we were Bianca's kin and treated us grandly. Apparently, acceptance by family members is not common within the openly gay ("out and about") community. A young man approached me as I was returning from the ladies room to say how much it meant for all of them that Bianca's family had come to see him.

Bianca is no exception. He comes from an extremely religious family. My husband's father was a manager for Kroger's before his death. But on weekends he was a "hell fire and damnation" preacher here in Middle Tennessee. While the kids were growing up my mother-in-law, Maybelline, refused to cut her hair and never wore make-up. Television was considered "not a good thing" so they never purchased one. My husband spent the1950s in the livingrooms of neighbors watching the tube. He also entered the Navy at 17 to escape the his parents' way of life.

That's the thing about Bianca. How did he manage to overcome the family ethic? He was a small kid, but extremely spirited. His older brother is a preacher but shares Bianca's attraction to performance. He's a gifted Gospel singer. Their father, my husband's brother, was once in radio and still gets calls for bit parts in movies made for television.

Well, part of the story is that Maybelline, the family matriarch, was the epitome of kindness.
If she judged Bianca for his erring ways, it was a judgment buried deep in her heart and tamed completely by her faithfulness to Christ's commandent to love.

I haven't seen Bianca for a while. She's moved to a new venue. But that's not why I've not seen her. My problem is that I'm old and don't like staying up that late--first performances are at 11 p.m. Smoke used to be another problem. From what I've seen a high percentage of people attending drag performances smoke. I guess that's true of all night clubs. But all that's changed since Tennessee's new "no smoking in restaurants" law. I think I'll go to Lucky's with my daughter before she leaves later this week. We'd even brave the smoke.

We love Bianca and we miss him.


David-That Blue Jeans Guy-Byrd said...

I have had the distinct honor of seeing Bianca without a hat or wig.

james said...

bianca paige was very sick and passed away this morning/lastnight