Eyelashes, Liza Minnelli and Charity, of Course
Mark National Coming Out Day in incomparable style
In Greenwich Village in 1969, raids of gay bars weren't particularly noteworthy events. In a social climate where very few establishments were openly warm to LGBTQ patrons, police-led “public moral” raids were all too commonplace. The Stonewall Inn was no exception—frequented by drag queens, transgendered people, butch lesbians and many more outside the prevailing heteronormative world—it had been raided before. But the raid on June 28, 1969 ended quite differently than the ones before it. This time, the LGBTQ community fought back, kicking off the three-day demonstration known as the Stonewall Riots, an event that set the course for the modern gay rights movement. “The second night [of the demonstrations] there was a group of men, some of them drag queens, [who] decided to do a kick line—like the Rockettes, sort of—to push the police officers back,” PJ Sedillo explained. Sedillo serves as Director of Fontana DeVine Productions, the group that organizes the annual drag extravaganza Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are in honor of National Coming Out Day. “I think female impersonators have a long history of fighting for LGBTQ rights in the United States. … I think about that and think, what better way to celebrate National Coming Out Day?”
This year, National Coming Out Day—which falls on Oct. 11—will mark its 28th year and, in anticipation, Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are will hold its 18th and final show on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the KiMo Theatre (423 Central SW), the proceeds from which will provide vital funding for local nonprofits. Born from Sedillo's reign as the Empress of the United Court of the Sandias, Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are is an annual drag show that has consistently showcased strikingly talented local and visiting performers while bolstering the efforts of organizations doing essential work in the city. The proceeds from this year's iteration, the theme of which is “Stepping Out,” will go to Casa Q, a nonprofit that provides support and housing for LGBTQ youth and the Anita Salas Foundation, which assists women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. “We're a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, our main goal is to raise money and give it back to the community,” Sedillo said. “I'd say in the last 18 years we've raised $40,000.”
Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are will hold its 18th and final show on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the KiMo Theatre (423 Central SW), the proceeds from which will provide vital funding for local nonprofits.
Sedillo himself will perform on Oct. 1, as well as emcee (with beloved radio personality Chaz Malibu) as Fontana DeVine. Sedillo, who works in education, spent 21 years as President of Albuquerque PRIDE and was recently elected Chair-Elect of the LGBTQ network for the National Association for Gifted Children. He saw an opportunity to expand his personal and professional mission of giving back through these productions, saying, “I can raise more money by being Fontana DeVine than by being PJ Sedillo. There's lots of PJ Sedillos out there, but there's only one Fontana DeVine.” This time around, the singular persona of Fontana DeVine will impersonate the equally unparalleled Liza Minnelli to perform the production's namesake tune, “Stepping Out.” Others on-hand for the evening include local heavy-hitters like Raquel Del Rio and visiting artist Jasmine Masters, of season 7 of “Ru Paul's Drag Race.” Sedillo described the 12 acts of the show as something of a journey—with all the high-energy glitz you expect, tempered with heart-stopping balladry, too.
It takes months on end to prepare for the production—the artful transformation into Fontana DeVine alone takes Sedillo around three hours and “a whole role of duct tape,” he laughed. “Where Fontana comes alive is when those eyelashes go on.” Despite the thousands of dollars Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are has been able to garner and the pride and celebration it has precipitated in the community, this will be the final year for the long-running series. For those involved—all of whom are volunteers—planning and producing the show is a second job, and while there will be shows produced by Fontana DeVine Productions, this particular incarnation has reached its end. But along the way it has empowered many, ecstatically marked National Coming Out Day and provided a safe place for audiences and performers for nearly 20 years.
“In 1989, I had just graduated and gotten my B.A.,” Sedillo said. “I started teaching when I was 20. That year I went to a PRIDE event, and I was hiding the whole time because the news was there. I was afraid that I could be fired. … I remember going home and having sort of a breakdown. [I thought], this is wrong, I shouldn't be hiding, I should be proud of who I am. [After that] I had a metamorphosis, and I decided that I would no longer be silent.” And since then Sedillo (and in turn, Fontana DeVine) have found a voice of their own, and used it to invite, encourage and empower. Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are isn't just a celebration of National Coming Out Day and the ebullient power of Albuquerque's LGBTQ scene to generate change and give back to the community—it is a powerful articulation of just how far we've come since the pre-Stonewall days. Flex your pride by buying a ticket ($15-$25) at sinatradevine.org.