A lot of people here in the South believe Sunday is the Lord’s Day: a time for relaxing, being with family and giving thanks. And on a typical Sunday night in winter, Asheville is frigid and still. Not too many folks in town, and by midnight, it seems as though the world’s asleep. All the shops and late-night restaurants are dark. Only a few bars and the Merrimon Avenue Exxon show any signs of life. So what are bored and lonely Ashevilleans supposed to do? What possible fun is to be had at this hour on a Sunday in the South?
In Asheville, the name Scandals conjures images of TV screens, dancers, loud club music, assorted rooms, huge dance floors, and plenty of wild people and flashing, colored lights. It’s a fixture on the local nightlife scene, with a reputation for big space and diverse crowds. But on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, even Scandals shifts to a more relaxed and “family”-oriented approach — a way to start the week on a pleasurable note. In a single room downstairs, with chainlink fencing delineating pool table, DJ booth and seating area, a stage is set. Music-video images command center stage, disco balls hang from the ceiling, neon lips and a fake gorilla head adorn the walls. The lighting is low, and the music takes hold of your hips and makes them move willy-nilly. Clearly, people come here to laugh and to celebrate.
The bar’s modest size puts the crowd’s collective body heat to excellent use; for a while, the piercing cold is but a memory. And just when you thought you’d seen it all, the room suddenly grows quiet and the stage lights come up. The crowd crams together so everyone can see. Expectant smiles and eyes fill the room: It’s time for the Sunday-night drag show.
Patrons are still pouring in, and a round of hugs and hollers erupts as people greet their friends. It’s a blessing seeing Jesus’ message of neighborly love so enthusiastically acted out. Besides, this is Asheville, where even God might enjoy joining the local hell-raising population and stepping out on the town now and then.
The queens walk with dignity and confidence, flashing legs and showing cleavage, sporting costumes that run the gamut from the classic to the erotic. Glitter, faux fur, high heels, faultless makeup and bootie-shakin’ are the name of the game here. This may not be the big time, but the audience adores these divas. Everybody knows that once they leave Asheville, it could be a good many miles before they find another drag show. Besides, Sunday night at Scandals invites everyone to be themselves, let loose, take a break from the mundanity that often seems to dominate this life.
The strength radiating from performers like Roxxy Hart is captivating. The 27-year-old, a seven-year veteran of the drag circuit, grew up in WNC and has regularly hit stages in the Carolinas and Tennessee. Tall and striking, with a velvety voice, the mere sight of her is enough to chase away the winter blues. Her eyes seem mysterious, her spirit powerful yet warm — and sweet as honey. When she’s not busy with her day job, Roxxy finds time to perform weekly at Scandals, Friday through Sunday. She also volunteers with Loving Food Resources. Roxxy has already represented Asheville in a national competition of drag performers in Dallas and will continue to compete this year.
Wasn’t the life of Jesus about staying true to yourself even in the face of danger or ridicule?
And as the weekend winds down and you find yourself facing the specter of another dreary week, maybe it’s time you tried a different way to kick back and observe the Lord’s Day.
[Sarah Benoit is a freelance writer based in Asheville.]