The flamboyant melodies of Lizzo, Adam Lambert, Sam Smith and other iconic artists echoed in the Bundy Museum of History and Art Saturday night as local drag kings took the stage. On Aug. 31, the Kings of Bing hosted their latest show, “The Good, The Bad and the Sparkly,” to a crowd of about 20 fans.
The Kings of Bing is a drag king series created in 2006 by kings Camden Summers, 33, and Psi Kotik, 19, both from the Binghamton area. The series aims to provide a supportive environment for LGBTQ youth that isn’t as sexualized as a bar.
“This is a safe space for people to go and just be entertained and have fun and see what a drag king is,” Kotik said. “It’s just a fun show, alcohol and drug free. This is just a safe space to let people be who they are and not be questioned when they walk out the door.”
While Summers considers drag kings and queens to be part of the same community, he noted that there are misconceptions of kings being lazier, with some claiming that they don’t put as much effort into their costumes as drag queens.
“I don’t like to think that we’re secluded from each other or in different categories,” Summers said. “I feel like the effort and the love for your craft and the love for what you do in your community makes us all equal regardless.”
“The Good, The Bad and the Sparkly” is a new show the Kings of Bing put on to give performers a chance to show their individuality. Each performer put their own twist on the theme, with acts showing off different costumes to different songs.
One of the main acts of the night was Justin Saine, 35, a drag king from Bainbridge, New York. Saine has been featured on BuzzFeed and Ranker, where he is ranked as one of the top drag kings in the world. For his act, Saine played the role of a phoenix rising to a remix of “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, then switched to a dark prince persona with the song “Fever” by Adam Lambert, all while waving different-colored fans to the audience.
“There’s this fun-ness about trying to convince people that you are a completely different gender,” Saine said. “It’s just a thrill, and I love to do theatrical character-type things so it’s even more fun for the audience.”
A highlight of the show came after Saine’s performance, when he did an “attitude check” with the audience. He said the bit was meant to be a release for those who “can’t afford therapy.” When he said “attitude check,” the audience yelled back, “F**k you, b***h!” as loudly as they could.
Summers said doing drag is an outlet that allows him to put aside the stresses of daily life and focus on performing — a feeling he hopes his audience picks up on.
“When I’m Camden Summers, I feel like I am who I am supposed to be and I don’t feel trapped somewhere where I don’t belong,” Summers said. “For the five minutes that I’m up on that stage, I feel good. This is what I’m supposed to be doing, making the audience feel good, making myself feel good and getting out of my head for a little.”