There've been crushed cakes, heartbreaking memorial ballads and gallons of fake blood. But if audiences thought the Mx. Weirdo competition at Gladys: The Nosey Neighbor couldn’t get any weirder, they’re in for a surprise.
"We’re not even calling ourselves a 'drag' competition” in the third season, producer and host Izzy Dead says.
Instead, Mx. Weirdo will be billed as a variety competition. Dead, aka Travis Fantozzi, hopes the change will attract live singers, burlesque dancers and acts she hasn’t even imagined yet.
“I wanted to involve it all,” she says. “We want everyone, because art is important.”
The weekly show is making another big change: As of September 6, it’s moving from Thursday to Friday nights. Mx. Weirdo has regularly packed Gladys — the small Santa Fe Drive club honored by Westword as 2018's Best LGBT Bar — since the show was conceived by Vivica Galactica two years ago. Now Mx. Weirdo is popular enough to justify a regular prime spot.
“I’ve been begging for Fridays,” Dead says. She hopes the new night will invite a larger, more diverse audience, and that performers’ families will be more inclined to attend.
Weirdo is Denver’s first drag contest to completely ignore gender boundaries. The competition includes traditional cross-gender drag, hyper-queens and kings (people of a certain gender pushing that identity to the extreme), androgynous personas and presentations impossible to pin to gender at all.
Dead stopped doing drag in 2015, because producers who booked her complained when she wasn’t femme enough or didn’t perform to woman-voiced songs.
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“I went to two Weirdos, and I was like, ‘This is it,’” Dead says. “It’s so open-ended. All we ask of our performers is that it’s really weird.”
She rebooted her drag career, attracted by the show’s blurred boundaries, tendency toward destruction and gleeful unpredictability.
In 2018, when Vivica Galactica was moving from Denver, Dead was crowned Mx. Weirdo and was left to produce the show.
She’s kept many of the conceits that keep Weirdo weird. Nobody — not even the host — knows what order acts will perform in until their names are pulled from a hat at the start of the show.
"We want everyone to be on the edge of their seats,” Dead says.
And weird comes in a lot of forms. Markie Arendelle won the February competition with a vulnerable live singing act in memory of her former partner, who had died earlier in the week.
Conversely, the recently named Mx. Weirdo 2019, Belle Fegore, won the year’s finale wearing a pig-nose prosthetic, mimicking sex acts and drinking a blender full of fruit scraps and piss — or at least yellow Gatorade masquerading as piss.
“I consider myself more of a drag creature or a drag thing,” says Fegore, aka Sergio Soto. “People have called me a drag gargoyle, which I really like."
Soto’s most shocking performances might include stapling dollar bills to their body.
“I usually make sure that I get a drink or two on me, [staple] one on my leg, back stage, so I don’t freak out,” Soto says. “Pain is an illusion.”
Dead isn’t quite ready to pass off her hosting duties to the new Mx. Weirdo entirely, but she will share the stage with Fegore. The pair will co-host several events, and Fegore is scheduled to host shows several times over the next year.
"I know that with the lip synchs, I want to make them a little harder,” Soto says. “They’ll really have to think super-hard to do something to outshine competitors."
Contestants in the Friday, September 13, show should consider themselves warned: That will be the first show Belle Fegore hosts solo.
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As in its first two years, Mx. Weirdo will be a weekly competition. The first three Fridays of the month are preliminary rounds. Top scorers are invited to the fourth Friday’s final round, in which performers create acts based on a theme to vie for that month’s crown. Winners are chosen by the audience.
As a nod to the changes in store for the 2019 to 2020 season, the September finale’s theme is "Metamorphosis."
Competitors looking for an edge might want to take Dead’s advice into account.
"I love destruction in a performance,” she says. “I love a mess in a performance. I love a mind-fuck in a performance.”
Mx. Weirdo takes place at 10:30 p.m. Friday, September 13, at Gladys: The Nosy Neighbor, 500 Santa Fe Drive.