Profiles In Atlanta Drag: Charlie Brown

You can't talk about Atlanta's drag scene without talking about Mr. Charlie Brown. The Backstreet legend is still going strong at 65, doing two shows on Friday and three on Saturday every week at Lips. Find out about the old days, the new days and why he's not stopping anytime soon.

Where were you born?
I was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

Do you have a day job aside from performing?

How old were you when you first dressed in drag?
About 21, when I was old enough to get into the bars. I started out as the male lead, I did the male parts in productions in duets. And then I transferred over from there.

How old were you when you first performed publicly in drag?
Same age, 21.

What song did you do at your first performance?
“Maybe” by The Three Degrees. It was a big number for me.

What have you learned about yourself as a performer since then?
I truly enjoy entertaining. My drag mothers taught me early that the day you think you're a star you'll never be one. And every time you walk on stage you have to prove to those who've heard of you why you're there and to impress the ones that haven't heard of you. But after all that time, I truly truly enjoy making people laugh.

What's the hardest thing about being a drag performer?
Sitting down and doing your makeup. It was easy when I was young but now that I'm older it's getting harder to cover it up [LAUGHS].

What's your favorite thing about being a drag performer?
Getting it all on and ready to go to work. That's all I've done all my life ever since I was 21 so I truly enjoy the entertainment part of it. I enjoy the transformation of going from a fat bald man to what I think is a lovely old woman [LAUGHS]. 

Has your being a drag performer had a negative effect on your dating life? If so, how?
I've been with my lover since 1977. I met him in the bars. I met him in drag. The next night he met me out of makeup and we fell in love. It didn't bother him either way, he liked me as a man or a woman. He preferred me as a woman onstage but as a man at home.

What's the biggest misconception about being a drag performer?
A lot of people think that we all live in drag 24/7 and I have thoroughly enjoyed my life as a man and thoroughly enjoyed my career as a woman, so I've had the best of both worlds.

Have you ever been harassed or physically assaulted for being a drag performer? If so, what happened?
Not in the latter years. When I first started, when I was 21 we had to hide the fact that we did drag. You couldn't come out in drag. We had to do our makeup in the clubs and hide the fact that we were bringing dresses and wigs in. I've never really had a problem like that. I've always conducted myself in the manner I should.

What's the most money you ever made in one night performing?
Oh, Lord. I don't know. I've made a $1000 in one night in tips. But that, my friend, is a once in a lifetime thing and it was many years ago too [LAUGHS].

How long does it take you to get dressed and get ready for a performance? 
From sitting down to walking out the door, about an hour and 15 minutes. That's makeup, hose, bras, dresses, wigs, everything.

How often do you go clothes/accessory shopping?
I order my accessories usually from people who cater to drag and pick up fabric and have people make the clothes. The type of clothes I wear need to be made, you just can't buy them in the store.

If you had to pick one, what would be your all-time favorite song to perform?
Probably Whitney Houston's “I Will Always Love You” just because everybody's always given me so much love over the years and that would be appropriate to thank them for all the love they've given me.

Rate Atlanta drag scene on a scale of 1 to 10.
Atlanta has always been rated as one of the top female impersonation cities in the country. Our entertainers here look like a woman here more than anywhere else because our customers have demanded the perfection of it. That's a 10.

How much longer do you want to be a drag performer?
Well I'll be 66 this year. I can do it as long as I can run my dirty mouth, they love my dirty mouth [LAUGHS].