Queens of brunch: Drag performers strut their stuff in Columbia

·7 min read

As someone who cheered for 15 years, drag queen K.C. Florance is no newbie to entertaining. But the Ellicott City resident created Drag Me to Brunch, to do more than spread joy — Florance curates a vibrant space to build community and celebrate all of life’s ups and downs.

“Although I’m not actually giving something to somebody, I’m giving [the community] a place to actually be themselves — a safe place,” said Florance, 32. “A lot of people say they’re [at Drag Me to Brunch] to celebrate life, and in every right we need to celebrate that considering what we’ve gone through the past couple of years.”

Since summer 2020, on the first Saturday of each month, people head to Union Jacks in Columbia to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, pregnancies, engagements, divorces and bachelorette parties at Drag Me to Brunch.

“Right as we were coming out of COVID-19 we started our first drag brunch and the success of it has really just allowed us to really feature it,” said Union Jacks Manager Gary Oullette.

The show’s DJ Melinda Ciaccio also said the event offers a much needed respite post the terrifying times of COVID-19.

“It’s energetic, it’s crazy, it’s alive. It makes me proud to say that we were still here, while everything else was locked up, that we were still able to entertain people,” said Ciaccio, who is also Florance’s neighbor.

“During the pandemic, that was the little break that we all needed,” added Ciaccio, whose husband, Joel, also works as the show’s “bucket boy,” collecting cash tips as the queens perform.

The pandemic temporarily put a wrinkle in Florance’s drag performances. But that same year, the drag queen and Union Jacks offered each other a reciprocal relationship coming out of the throes of the pandemic.

“We’re truly a gathering place. The middle of COVID-19 we were probably most affected by that,” said Oullette, who added that in the British-style pub’s 12 years in Columbia, the indoor and outdoor spaces were always utilized for large events and performances.

Florance said he got the idea for Drag Me to Brunch while dining at Union Jacks with husband and fellow performer Victoria Raye Florance, the drag queen’s show director.

“I said, ‘Look I can guarantee you I can make you money that you’re not making on [Saturdays],’ said Florance, adding that his pitch was all about helping businesses that were hurting from the pandemic. “And since then, it’s been history.”

Oullette said Drag Me to Brunch sells out almost every month.

“We’ve had 200 people here,” Florance said. “These queens that I work with — we all have a following. They’re people who come to every show.”

Lissa Ransom, whose husband bartends at the pub, is someone who has been to every drag brunch at Union Jacks as well as most of the ones Florance also hosts at The Periodic Table in Columbia. As a regular, Ransom appreciates what she’s gained from attending drag brunches.

“It’s become just a really fun community,” Ransom added.

Finding a community to fit in was a personal incentive for Florance, whose everyday name is Mikie Bermudez, to start drag brunches.

When the Frederick, Maryland, native moved to Ellicott City, he hoped to make new friends but found it difficult when he arrived initially in 2015.

“And I’m like there’s no gay community here, I don’t see anybody that I’m familiar with or a place that I can go and be myself and so I’m like, ‘Let’s see what Ellicott City has to say about this drag show.’”

Producing drag shows can be an expensive labor of love, he said. But his main concern is that the performers are valued for the work they put in.

“It’s very important to take care of the people who take care of you. In or out of drag,” Florance said.

At the June 4 drag brunch — after slaying the patio with a love-themed, flip-filled routine — Florance welcomed guests by going over the rules, first emphasizing tips from the audience.

“Rule number one: Please continue to show your appreciation for all these drag queens. Or should I say men in wigs? Because that’s really what we are. Am I wrong?” he said as the audience roared with laughter.

The second rule was all about safety.

“Rule number two: I know some of you have been eating, especially the nachos, I know those things will run right through you. They did for me. So if you’ve got to go to the bathroom, run to the bathroom. Other than that, please stay seated in your seats until the drag queens are done, because some of us, as you’ve seen, we like to do kicks, tricks and splits, and we want to have a good time, and we don’t want to hurt nobody. So this is your fair warning,” Florance said.

With it being the first Saturday in June, the performers and guests were also celebrating the kickoff of Pride month.

“Rule number three: And the most important rule ever, have a good freaking time. We’re here to celebrate love, togetherness, Pride and life,” Florance cheered.

The Pride month brunch was particularly special because it was the first time doing a drag show on the large outdoor patio at Union Jacks.

While the performers joked about the 80 degree-heat, they twirled, sashayed, split and dipped throughout the patio with so much energy the crowd launched at opportunities to tip the queens.

In an engaging, three-hour show, the performers, who included Florance, his husband Victoria Raye, Sue Nami and Candi Fuentes, not only wowed the guests, but also encouraged the audience to let their hair down.

“I think that drag brunches promote confidence in all walks of life,” Ransom said.

Bachelorette Michelle Binkley of Catonsville, who is getting married on June 18, danced around the patio wearing a sash that read ‘Bride to Be.” Her daughter, Stephanie Binkley, surprised her mom with tickets to the event and said she was happy her mom finally got to realize her dream of going to a drag show.

“I’m very proud of you for having fun like that because I don’t know if I can do that,” Stephanie, 22, said to her mother.

The Binkleys had so much fun at their first drag show, they’re already making plans to return.

“I just love how everybody’s open and they’re them,” Michelle Binkley said. “Everybody should be like that.”

Ciaccio encouraged people to “broaden their perspectives,” if they had not tried a drag show. “Drag isn’t scary, drag isn’t anything to be alarmed by. It’s amazing. It’s a craft,” he said.

Oullette said that two years later, Drag Me to Brunch still offers optimism during tough times.

“I just think that with the times that we are in right now, there’s certainly a lot of focus on the LGBTQ community, and with their challenges that they have,” the Union Jacks manager said. “And I think that the performers really embrace that and it’s a chance for everyone to celebrate that community.”

The brunch not only celebrates the LGTBQ plus community, it supports it.

Florance said that some of drag shows’ proceeds have gone to support Howard County Pride and LGBTQ plus youth in Howard County. The queens have also held special performances for breast cancer survivors like his mother-in-law, Fern Kreis of Ellicott City, who attends the drag brunches every month and encourages others to check it out.

“Come, it’s great. You’ll love it,” Kreis, 60, said.