Around 11 p.m. on a recent Friday at The Urban Cowboy Saloon just east of downtown, a woman in a poofy blonde wig peeked her head out from between the curtains of the main stage, her white makeup also contrasting sharply with the rich, red velvet drapery framing her. The 70 or so people in the audience went nuts. Slowly, seductively, she stepped out onstage, lip-syncing to Lana Del Rey’s “Ride” while moving her large frame around languidly if not unrehearsed. Her loose-fitting green dress with a teddy bear emblem across the chest was bizarre. Her stockings were torn, and her wig looked stolen from a 1980s-era Dillard’s mannequin. The crowd was enraptured. The entertainer began dancing to the poppy strains of Jessica Simpson’s “I Think I’m in Love” as bystanders held out dollar bills. As she ended her number, short of breath, she bellowed, “Holy shit. How we doing?”
The crowd burst into cheers. Frida Monet is one of Fort Worth’s most popular drag queens, according to someone who works at the bar. Seriously, though, Frida’s weekly Urban Cowboy extravaganza, The S*hit Show with Frida Monet, is one of the hottest tickets in town.
Back onstage, Monet slyly eyed the onlookers. Mic in hand, she bantered with them.
“You look like someone they made fun of in summer camp,” she said to a youngish-looking woman in the front row.
The jabs always ended in hugs and laughs. Monet wasn’t afraid to zap herself, either. She told the crowd about a creepy uncle who tried to turn her on to certain things. “But it wasn’t drugs,” she continued. “It was his large collection of pewter dragons he kept in his trailer. Now every time I walk into a gas station in Waco, I get aroused.”
Performing has always been a passion for Monet, who goes by Mark Mayr when not in drag. Growing up in Joshua, Mayr did what many gay youths did to save face in a conservative community: He played straight. “I was in the closet,” he said. “I tried to date women.”
After high school, Mayr enrolled in the Denton branch of North Texas Central College, majoring in business. A steady stream of house parties and late nights out put an early end to his first attempt at higher ed. Eventually, in 2014, he graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Worth with a bachelor’s in photography and took an advertising job the following year.
Mayr became fascinated with drag culture while making a photobook in 2012. Self-published, The Diary, Vol.1 chronicles amateur night shows at Fort Worth’s Rainbow Lounge. “I got to know these people and really got into their lives,” he said. “Something about it really resonated with me. Back then, [the Fort Worth drag scene] was still relatively underground.”
Mayr began researching pioneering American drag queens like San Francisco’s Peaches Christ and Divine, the icon from John Waters’ early films. Pink Flamingos and Showgirls, Mayr said, were part of his education. Curiosity turned into experimentation in late 2014. It was Halloween, and Mayr was sporting his version of a character from the music video “Venus” by Lady Gaga. “I wasn’t wearing shoes because I couldn’t find [high heels] that fit me,” he recalled with a laugh. “I made a bra out of yarn. It was pretty abysmal.”
He was hooked anyway. Mayr had always enjoyed performing, going back to his high-school theater days. Here was a chance for him to be centerstage. Mayr was terrified when he debuted at Urban Cowboy only months after first trying drag. Frida Monet, he said, is a self-described “trash queen,” a complex female character, someone you have to “stare at to figure out.”
The irreverent use of tawdry clothing, vulgar humor, and even Frida’s hairy legs espouse the message that you should be who you want.
His/her name is getting out. Last New Year’s Eve, he performed at Shipping and Receiving Bar as part of the concert/art exhibit The Future. Mayr plans to use his stage name more frequently. (Mark Mayr sounds “like an action hero,” he said.) He hopes to continue collaborating with local artists and venues so more Fort Worthians can experience everything Frida has to offer. The newfound attention doesn’t mean Mayr is taking himself too seriously, though.
“You’re watching my 8-foot ass tell jokes that barely make sense,” he said. “Just come have a great time.”
The S*it Show with Frida Monet
Fridays at The Urban Cowboy Saloon, 2620 E Lancaster Av, FW. Free. 682-707-5663.