Atlanta’s drag king scene has grown exponentially in the past few years, and the king-centered show Manhole has played an integral role in that growth. As the city’s first monthly show featuring all-masculine drag, Manhole has filled a hole in the Atlanta drag scene.
The show was started in November 2021 by king Mr. Elle Aye, who started the show on a quarterly basis as a way to celebrate and grow the local king scene. As for the name, that idea started as a joke between Elle Aye and his fiancé, drag queen Taylor Alxndr.
“Kings don’t get booked as often as queens do, and when they do, not very often are they paid appropriately,” Elle Aye told Georgia Voice. “I wanted kings to have the space and the opportunity to make the same as queens do. This year going into the second year — because the show brought more kings and made the king scene grow — we are able to go monthly and book out-of-town talent as well.”
With the show happening monthly this year, Elle Aye created a cast of three kings: Aries Alxndr, Deacon Slanders, and himself. Not only is this cast blazing trails by being the first regular king show in Atlanta, but it is also the first show in town with a main cast of all transmasculine performers.
Other performers rotate and have included new kings as well as seasoned performers like the well-known king, Tenderoni.
“Next month we have a newer king, Pressure K,” Elle Aye said. “Sometimes we’ll have a theme. For International Sex Workers Day, sex workers hosted the show, and we performed sex-positive numbers. For Cinco de Mayo, we had an all-Latin show. You can expect campy, funny and silly from Deacon, pop punk from Aries, and for me to be sensual and working the crowd.”
So, who are the kings of Manhole?
Deacon started doing drag in December 2021 after seeing local king Mystery Meat perform earlier that year. Mystery Meat soon became Deacon’s drag dad, and less than a year later Deacon decided to enter Atlanta’s annual drag competition, Dragnificent, created by local Ru girl Phoenix. He won and is thus far the only king to ever do so.
“I connect my three Cs — camp, concept, and either costume or comedy,” Deacon said. “I like storytelling through specific songs, and I put a lot of work into costuming. I do a lot of character numbers, [especially ones] people never would have thought of with the song [I use.]”
Deacon has performed as a scary Ronald McDonald, as Inspector Gadget, and in a three-foot tall hat channeling Doug Dimmadome from Nickelodeon’s “Fairly Odd Parents.” At last month’s sex-work-themed Manhole show, he proudly showed off his body.
“It felt really good and correct,” Deacon said. “I felt so comfortable being post-top surgery, like I could do whatever and be that confident and at peace.”
As the “Pop-punk Papi of Atlanta,” Aries’ drag celebrates his Mexican heritage and love for pop-punk and boy bands. His performances often include song mixes with incorporated monologues. Aries’ drag journey began in 2017 as a queen, but he began doing king drag in 2019 at Mystery Meat’s king competition, “Macho Man Brawl.”
“It’s been really cool seeing Atlanta’s king scene grow over the past few years,” Aries said. “A lot of it has to do with visibility — the representation is helping. We are having a renaissance, and Manhole is a big part of that. I love seeing drag kings represented everywhere!”
Aries has also created a show, the family-friendly “Cabbage Patch” drag show, which includes performances for all ages and sometimes even story time for kids. He is also the father of Atlanta’s iconic House of Alxndr, which is mothered by Taylor Alxndr, Elle Aye’s fiancé and local drag queen and organizer.
Mr. Elle Aye
Elle Aye’s drag includes Latin and burlesque influences and, of course, his incredibly stamped mug with razor-sharp contours. He started drag in early 2019 while living in Athens. That March he performed in the same Macho Man Brawl show as Aries. In April 2020 he moved to Atlanta, where his career has taken off with king competitions, Wussy events, shows at Mary’s and My Sister’s Room, and the support of the House of Alxndr.
On New Year’s in 2021, he proposed to Taylor on stage at the Masquerade, officially solidifying their status as Atlanta’s drag power couple. Since then, he went on to win Mx. Macon 2022, a mixed drag pageant held in Macon, and is considering entering the Mr. Gay America pageant next year.
Manhole is held at Noni’s, an Italian restaurant and inclusive venue on Edgewood Avenue.
“The owners are gay, and some [ of Noni’s employees] are performers, like Saliva Godiva and Cistofer,” Elle Aye said. “Noni’s has been part of the community for so many years. I can’t put into words how great they treat us. Even on a bad night, it’s a good night. It’s always fun.”
All three kings heaped praise on the restaurant, describing the venue as one of the best places to perform.
The next Manhole show is Friday, July 7 at 10:30pm. Doors open at 9. To support each king and find out about their upcoming performances, follow them on Instagram at @mr.elle.aye, @deaconslanders, and @ariesalxndr.