By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
• On Tuesday in Harvey Milk Plaza, Starr socked a friend of one of the ex–house members in the face after she claims he slammed transsexuals and disrespected New York.
• On Wednesday, two remaining members decided they weren't committed to attending the ball.
Starr herself had a change of heart: She'd rather be in a house dedicated to slaying on the runway, not to drama outside of it — and it seemed to her that Father Casanova, who brags about his house being "badass gangsta ... we have a type of swagger that would intimidate you," was more interested in the latter. So on Friday, she disbanded the chapter, and posted a message on the West Coast ballroom Yahoo! Group list to say she was now Star 007, looking to join a house.
With multiple offers from houses on Wednesday — the mood on her MySpace page changed to "ecstatic" — Starr and her friend Jasmine went to interview with the House of Richmond, a new Atlanta–based house started by breakoffs from the respected houses of Cavalli and Ultra-Omni. The meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Hayward apartment of Nikki Richmond, the new West Coast chapter mother. Around 9:30, Angel Richmond, the national house secretary who'd flown in from Atlanta for the ball, strode in looking every bit the role of a Gap model in a black peacoat over white T-shirt, jeans, and Timberland boots. Angel explained the house rules with the charisma of a suave recruiter and an affected lisp: No fighting with house members in public. Keep any sex work discreet. Do something productive outside of the ball scene. Starr was clearly impressed. "For this to be a very, very new house, all y'all have things really together," she said.
There was only one part of the interview left: Starr's voguing audition. With a beat playing on the CD player, Starr pulled out her arsenal of moves, constantly glancing over to Angel, whose eyes had narrowed in critique, his face betraying no emotion.
(Click to see a slideshow from the session.)
"Slow down," he commanded. "Just catwalk." Starr obliged.
"Duck walk." Starr walked in a squatting position, bobbing on her heels, flipping her wrist one way and the other.
"Can you do floor for me?" Starr sat and kicked her legs out, up, and around, and rolled over. After she was done, Angel delivered the verdict: "You need a lot of practice."
Starr laughed, allowing the critique. She sat down and asked Angel for more: "So what did you think, though?"
After the interview, Starr walked out to Nikki's car, full of the certainty other kids her age would have after a killer college visitation. "This is something I'm definitely willing to dedicate my time to and give my all to," Starr told her, adding that she'd call the other houses and decline their offers. "So do you think we're definitely in, Nikki?"
Back on BART, Starr and Jasmine plopped down facing each other. Starr copied Jasmine in raising her arm and snapping, drilling the House of Richmond cheer Nikki had taught them: "R to the I to the C to the H. I'm rich, bitch! I'm rich, bitch!"
Starr's cell phone rang and she whipped it up to her ear. "Oh yes, girl, I'm a Richmond now."
At the ball, the nine-judge panel of house parents was selected from the crowd to sit behind two tables onstage, reigning above the runway like royalty to be entertained. Wearing all black with a bejeweled eagle on the back of his shirt, MC Jack Mizrahi hit his two talking points — there's media in the room, so behave yourselves; and an AIDS prevention message. "The HIV and AIDS pandemic is not over. 46 percent of us tonight are HIV positive and infected," he says. "Until there's a motherfuckin' cure, practice. Safe. Sex. Give me a hell, yeah!"
"Hell, yeah!" the crowd repeated.
After asking for a moment of silence for those in the ball scene who had passed, Kool-Aid Mizrahi yelled, "Let's start the motherfuckin' ball!"
First up: virgin vogue, Starr's category, with a cash prize of $25. The contestants must first show their moves and "get their 10s" from every judge, meaning they're deemed acceptable to continue to the "battle zone." There, two dancers face off on the runway, with one eliminated each round until the last one standing is declared winner. Yet if even one judge eliminates, or "chops," contestants when they first audition, they don't even get to compete.
That's exactly what was happening to the voguers before Starr. The runway was starting to look like a kill line at a meat factory, the dancers chopped before they could traverse its length with their fledgling moves. Winners of a virgin category must compete at the next ball against the voguers who have been doing it for years, so it's a judge's duty to chop anyone who hasn't reached that level — the message being, "Child, go home and work some more."
The costumes of the virgin voguers, many of them 007s pledging a house, skewed more toward thrift than glam — sweatpants or hoodies decorated with a couple of condoms for the HIV prevention theme. The flashiest contestant, an Oakland boy with a mohawk glued to his head and a white tutu jutting out from his hips, was sprayed with Silly String from a judge while he was still lying down in a dip. Kool-Aid yelled his disapproval of the gesture into the mike: "If you're gonna chop someone with the Silly String, fine. But don't disrespect anyone!"