Holy Untucked! What a treat we have in store for you: the Nashville legend, Miss Tina Louise! This year this little lady celebrates forty-five years in drag! To say it was a pleasure to kiki with this lady would be a major understatement. Her experience is so incredible! Today's generation could learn a lot from her because it's legends like her that really paved the way. Sit back and relax, because this is one for the books!
How did you start doing drag, and what intrigued you into doing it?
I started doing drag when I was 15 years old. I used to play with my mom’s clothes and jewelry. I started dressing up because I felt like I was a girl. Around 16, I met a friend named Regina Ray: she was one of the only two white queens in Nashville at the time. One day she got put in juvenile for being caught out in drag, because back then it was illegal to cross dress. It was called masking.
Tell us more about masking. What would the police do exactly?
They would put you in jail: it was a misdemeanor. If you were a minor, they would just take you to juvenile for being out past curfew. But I never got arrested for masking. One night we got pulled over and DeeDee got arrested for contributing to a minor. They took me to juvenile for being out after curfew. I was the only one in drag that night. There I was subjected to having to walk up and down the hall naked, in front of all the other boys, while still in makeup. It was my first brush with the law but it taught me a big lesson.
Who do you recall being some of the first drag performers in Nashville?
Well one day I was at Regina's house and she showed me a newspaper clipping. In the corner was a picture of Roxanne the Latin Lovely and Chris Cross, who were two of the first performers here in Nashville. That was at the Watch Your Hat and Coat Saloon. I wasn't old enough back then to get in, but I would stand outside and watch through a small window.
What was the shade like back then?
Well, since masking was illegal, people would call and tip you off that other queens would be out that night. Some girls who were jealous or what not would then call and turn you in for masking. Or they would see you out and call the law to turn you in. I would always run: sometimes the heels would pop off the backs of my shoes because I used to run track in high school.
How was it for you as a child?
I was the oldest of seven, and we lived in the projects on Shelby Avenue. My father was in the military and my mom was a stay at home mom—seven kids will keep you busy. In school the teachers always liked me, I was a good student. I was in choir, and band. Anything musical or plays, they always would put me in it because I stood out… A couple of shows my dad would show up, but he would be drunk.
What was it like with having your father battling alcoholism?
It was hard, you know, but it taught me to never be that way. He was abusive, and it was just a hard thing to deal with as a child. A lot of my friends struggled with it, but I never did because I grew up with it and witnessed the effects first hand.
What was it like with your peers in school?
I was bullied a lot and made fun of. They would call me stuff like candy-ass or pansy. I was jumped by several guys and even the teachers would make a joke of me. I talked to our guidance counselor, and he said the best thing for me to do was turn in my books and leave school.
How did your family deal with you being trans?
I was very lucky: my parents were very accepting and understood that was just how I was. They would let my friends that were kicked out or had to leave home come stay with us. I was very lucky: I never had to deal with the parental torment other people had to go through.
Tell me more about gay culture back then. Was there a lot of hate towards the community?
Oh yeah, there was stuff happening like that all the time. My dear friend Peanuts was murdered. She was stabbed 38 times and to this day her murder is unsolved. One girl didn’t tell a guy she was a man, and he killed her, slit her throat. It was hard back then especially dealing with the loss of our friends and community. I'll tell you this as a trans woman. I have never lied to a man about me; I always told the truth.
Then in 1973 the Watch Your Hat and Coat Saloon burned. That year Miss Gay America was happening and there was a lot of backlash. A lot of people were not happy about it being here in Nashville. So someone set the bar on fire. Some think it was another bar owner and some think it was a jealous queen. The next year another bar was hosting the pageant, and someone burned it down the following day.
How would you compare drag back then to how it is today?
Well there are so many more types today then there were back then. Today with all these shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, it's more mainstream. You don't have to go to bar to see a drag queen, you can just turn on the T.V. I think that has changed it a lot, because it makes it hard for other queens to get bookings because bar owners target those queens from these television shows more.
How would you describe your drag style?
Oh, I'm very old school being from my era. I'm not saying I am vain, but I like to be pretty, to show cleavage and what not. I was always known for kinda being the R&B girl. I always did songs like The Supremes and stuff like that.
Where can our readers keep up with you?
Well, I am not doing any shows right now because a few years ago I had to have a mastectomy. I am recovered from that now and have had reconstructive surgery, but it has flared up a lot of other problems. But I am on Facebook as Tina Louise!