Drag Yourself to Saucy Saturdays

Supporting our sister town’s drag scene at Saucy Saturdays

Written by Kayl Wohl and Amanda Lurey, Photographed by Violet Turner

Pride Edition, 2023.

It’s the second Saturday of April, and Tina Turner’s “Rolling On The River” cues after anticipation. Stage lights shine to frame a frantic queen, rowing as fast as she can with a super-sized, inflatable joint as her paddle.

Carmela La Madrina is the Mother of it all; she works an adult day job, pays taxes and loves her children like anyone else. Her children, of course, are her chosen family living and thriving under her roof of The Elusive Haus of Indica.

“Drag house is like a gay street gang,” Lavender Haze, a Eugene-based drag performer, said. “We kind of band together through having something in common, and we have each other’s back… Carmela is our mother who we look up to, and we want to make her proud of us.”

Saucy Saturdays lit up a lively 4/20-themed show on April 8 with goodies of free joints, weed-themed decor, noise makers and candy –– all paid for out-of-pocket by Carmela out of her love for entertaining her community and her love for her drag children.

Hosted every second Saturday in Corvallis at Max’s Food and More, guests 21+ can indulge in affordable alcoholic beverages and delicious Mexican food. Everyone, whether on stage or in the crowd, leaves hate at the door, allowing any and all bodies to be immersed in a night of transformative performances.

“I don’t think drag and politics should mix,” Carmela said. “I want to leave that all outside… I just want people to have fun, eat good food, drink and smoke on break.”

In a time when our federal legislature attacks drag performers and transgender youth as a diversion of greater issues, Saucy Saturdays provide warm welcomes to all identities. Folks who don’t personally identify as LGBTQ+ are highly encouraged to attend. Saucy Saturdays performs for a largely nonqueer audience. The girls agree that cisgendered, straight folks are some of their favorite guests since everyone “deserves to experience the joy of drag,” according to Pluto, even if it’s their first event.

“I fell in love with the stage. I have cried so many times from people yelling and clapping. It’s an unconditional feeling. It’s just you in that moment and the crowd,” Carmela said. “I try to connect with every single person in the audience.”

Pluto, a Portland trans girl from Kansas, said drag is a very accepting community that embraces and challenges performers to bring originality and elevated creativity. She commented on how drag can be literally anything.

“You could literally come wearing trash, and people would cheer for you and accept you and be excited to watch you perform,” Pluto said.

Saucy Saturdays showcase diversity and provoke what drag “should” look like. Candy Whorehalla, for example, mesmerizes with her over-the-top, mess-of-a-woman persona that features an occasional silicone nip-slip and exaggerated motions. She wears her beard, merging nonconformist energy with somehow a hyperbolized hyper-femininity.

Wanda Anne Cosmos, officially with Eugene’s Haus of Blunt, followed shortly after Carmela’s intro with a powerful entrance –– so powerful and balletic that her death drop made the audience roar as her heel tore down the “LET’S GET LIT” banner.

While some drag queens opt for comedy in their performances, some opt for a more serious tone to be portrayed.

Lavender’s performance displays a stunning evolution of a worm to a butterfly –– a story where the audience can find pieces of deep resonation. Regardless of the viewer’s identity, Lavender hypnotizes with her artistic metamorphosis on stage. In Eugene, she can be found at Spectrum with her new, one-of-a-kind show, Lavender’s Bizarre Bazaar.

Evolution and development are key concepts for any performer invested in their art and talent –– and the art of drag requires practice, devotion, passion and confidence –– especially when it’s a source of income.

There’s no coincidence that cannabis finds its way to queer spaces like these. Cannabis is a flower that’s known to bring smiles to friends’ faces, draw in connections and community while weaving joy into LGBTQ+ spaces. The cannabis industry’s success is completely intertwined with LGBTQ+ activism and continued perseverance.

As a bilingual Mexican American, Carmela further proves that people of color will remain at the forefront of this polarizing work. Carmela said she has two jobs which balance each other rather well: drag and cannabis.

“I am a cannabis queen through and through, every day in my life,” Carmela said.

She calls herself a “dude” and a “simple girl” working on a weed farm in Salem. Her work with Avitas Cannabis (cleverly spelt as “sativa” backwards) allows her to provide samples at her drag shows, like gummies and joints.

“I’m the lead trimmer at Avitas Cannabis,” Carmela said. “I have grown before, and I love it. It’s like my favorite thing to do: to be out in the garden.”

By day, Carmela’s co-host Yvette Stone is a business student passionate about the economy, ready to hold political debates. By night, takes the stage as a glammed up “Desi queen.” Spending a lot of time in India as a queer person, Yvette’s freedom to express as a queer Indian performer comes to life in her sets and her fits. As a child, Yvette remembers secretly trying on her mother’s beautiful sarees.

“The way I stay in touch with my culture is going to India every year,” Yvette said, a week after her recent visit. “When I was younger, I would wrap myself in a dupattā all the damn time. In drag, I had a cultural awakening. I was pulling James Charles with my skin tone. People were saying I was white or just really tan… also giving Persian or Latin. I was like ‘I need to figure this out.’ I was working on my POV as a performer and realized I’m literally one of the few Desi queens out here so I really need to be repping it.”

Yvette said she started smoking weed “because it was on her bucket list.” She said cannabis helped her to “casually stop giving a fuck” –– which is an important lesson for a drag performer to have. However, Lavender, who is Turkish and Dutch, always said she would “never, ever smoke weed.” Oh, how the rolling trays have turned as she embraces her cannabis lifestyle in her performance. She agrees that thick skin is important when you’re queer and in the entertainment industry –– weed can help with that.

Carmela shares words of wisdom regarding self love and cannabis: “Love yourself a little bit more, and smoke maybe just a little more weed.”