The Curbside Queens Bring Live Drag to Alumni Walk


Katherine Merisotis/The Bates Student

Cherry Lemonade (left) and Gigi Gabor (right) are the stars of Curbside Queens, a traveling drag show.

The intersection of Bardwell Street and Alumni Walk is perhaps not a natural spot for a performance, but when the Curbside Queens rolled onto campus on Sept. 11, it certainly felt like one.

The Curbside Queens are the pandemic brainchild of Maine-based drag queens Gigi Gabor and Cherry Lemonade. Gabor renovated a Ford shuttle bus, painted it hot pink and christened it Peg to serve as a portable theater for drag shows. While the stage itself is wherever Peg is parked, the bus also serves as prop storage, dressing room and sound system.

For their Bates performance, the usual queens were joined by Spreada Lajoy as well as Shaunna Rai, a Lewiston-based drag queen who often performs at the Dragapalooza fundraiser, which is frequently held right at our very own Schaeffer Theater.

Despite the unusual locale, their performance followed the typical order of events for a drag show. Gabor and Lemonade opened with a duet, then followed by introducing themselves, Peg and the show. They brought out a bucket with two big googly eyes on it for tips which, unfortunately, was left mostly empty due to the fact that college students rarely have cash on them. Fortunately, they had predicted this and came prepared with their Venmo accounts, too!

The queen’s tips partially go toward cost upkeep, but they’re also donated to trans and Black Lives Matter organizations. As Gabor explained during one of the transitions, today’s LGBTQ+ community owes much of their rights to the Black trans women who fought back against police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. The Stonewall riots are regarded as a major kick-off event in the gay rights movement and helped permit the Curbside Queens to travel around in a hot pink bus and come to perform for us and others around the state.

Spreada LaJoy was one of two special guests for the Curbside Queens’s Bates performance. (Katherine Merisotis/The Bates Student)

For many in the audience — including me — this was their first exposure to a live drag show. During Gabor’s first solo performance, everyone seemed slightly hesitant and unsure as to what was an appropriate response. As it went on, everyone started to get into it. By the time Lemonade arrived for their first solo, we had figured it out.

Drag requires an incredibly diverse skill set, perhaps the most obvious of which is the sheer amount of costuming, make-up and wig-styling that goes into each queen’s look. As if I wasn’t impressed enough with their initial get-ups, each queen made at least one costume switch inside the van, and Shaunna Rai pulled off two — one of which was mid-performance. We didn’t get to see inside Peg, but I can’t imagine that changing in a van was easy.

Secondly is, of course, lip syncing and dancing. LaJoy offered up some live vocals here and there, but the vast majority of the show was lip synced. This may seem like a cop out, but if they hadn’t been lip syncing, they probably wouldn’t have had the energy — much less the breath — to drop, spin and kick like they did. Gabor performed Dua Lipa’s song “Physical” with moves that included lying down on what I can only imagine was rather hot pavement and doing leg lifts, going so far as to bring her leg up against her head.

And don’t forget the acting and comedy skills you need to command a room — or, in this case, a parking lot. Lemonade won me and my theater kid heart over almost immediately with their performance of “Don’t Tell Mama” from the musical “Cabaret,” setting it up with a monologue about her mother believing that she is actually an accountant. As Lemonade revealed immediately afterward, this was a lie, but it’s much more fun to imagine the tension, right?

The monologue wasn’t the peak of the comedy, I promise, but if I wrote it out here I know it would look incredibly lame. You’ll have to check them out in person to see what I mean.

After the performances themselves were over, all four queens took questions from the audience. They discussed the importance of supporting local drag performers and spaces, controversy within the drag community around “Rupaul’s Drag Race” and pushing boundaries while making sure your physical safety remains your top priority. Pandemic permitting, Dragapalooza will return to Lewiston this spring, so stay on the lookout for that right in our backyard.

Gabor and Lemonade are both on Instagram at @the_gigi_gabor and @ch3rryl3monad3, respectively, where you can find updates on their solo and group performances in Portland and beyond. If you want Peg in on the action, too, check out @curbsidequeens or