Seeing Starz

When thirteen-year-old LeAnn Rimes entered the pop consciousness years ago with the hit song "Blue," she was just a little country girl with a big voice, pure as good corn liquor. But Rimes has grown up, as evidenced by the skin she's showing in videos and photo shoots these days, which means it's now safe (and legal) to regard her as an object of lust. It also means that she's officially fabulous enough to inspire the devotion of drag queens. The Rimes character is just one of the major faux celebs who will strut the stage during Starz Cabaret, a full Vegas-style drag extravaganza debuting this weekend at Club Dream.

"We have a performer in the show" who looks like LeAnn Rimes, says Starz producer Aaron Hunter, adding that the artist "started doing [Rimes's] younger look, and that wasn't that much fun." Then he "noticed this picture of LeAnn with smudged makeup, looking kind of sleazy. That version is definitely more fun." The discovery created a different problem, Hunter says, when the performer realized that he would now have to get a whole new wardrobe.

Of course, shopping for the perfect costume is one of the delights of a gender-bender's life. Hunter says the Starz costumes will be lavish, outlandish and beautiful -- just like the rest of the show. Three Sundays a month, female illusionists channeling Reba, Cher, Barbra and Whitney will take over the new Club Dream, which opened about six months ago in the space formerly used by Tracks 2000. Producer Hunter has brought a high-tech lighting and sound system and a headful of ideas; he studied cabaret clubs in other cities -- the Baton in Chicago, the Rose Room in Dallas, La Cage aux Folles in Vegas -- to help shape his vision for Denver.

Hunter says he hired only the best and most popular local drag performers, some of whom have performed in drag circuits around the country and abroad. One, a creation known as Chamblee Tucker, will serve as the Cabaret's emcee. Tucker, who hosts a riotous drag-queen bingo night at Serengeti on Thursday nights, can be counted on to purposely humiliate brides-to-be who come to Starz for that purpose (bachelorette parties receive discounts on tickets) or to saddle embarrassed straight males with boas and wigs.

"Chamblee is basically comedy relief. She does some crazy, twisted shit," Hunter says. "She will embarrass you, yes, if she thinks you deserve it. And we might bring you on stage and make you do a shot, or just sing to you. We could dress your boyfriend up. Anything goes."

Tucker also worked a favorite makeover into the show, having performed as Cher for years.

"I love Cher," Hunter says of the real actress/singer. "She wears the most fabulous costumes and has a ŒFuck it, I don't care what you think' attitude. She's been a diva for forty years." And that's part of the appeal, he explains. "When you're trying to find your drag character, you're looking for someone who's very flashy, who just thinks, ŒOh, look at me.' And it helps if they have little quirks and traits."

Starz will run at Club Dream as long as the people come, Hunter says. He plans to expand the cast and content over the next couple of months, adding versions of Dolly Parton, Lil' Kim and the ever-present J Lo. And, he notes, unlike drag cabarets at gay clubs around town, Starz is designed as a show for everyone: gay, straight, male, female, shemale -- whatever and whomever.

Is Denver ready for this?

"Definitely," Hunter says. "Trends have changed in Denver as far as what's considered acceptable. When you think about how fashion trends are changing, people are lightening up and loosening up. A lot of people aren't as conservative as they used to be. And our show is good: It's a high-quality, professional production, and it's just fun, no matter who you are."

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond