Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 15 December 1997

HIDING MY CANDY

By The Lady Chablis

Book Review by David Scott Evans


Hiding My Candy, The Lady Chablis with Theodore Bouloukos, Introduction by John Berendt, Pocket Books 1996, 207 pages, $14.00

Traveling 350 miles north to the boondocks to pay whirlwind homage to a drag queen's birthplace is hardly what I ever imagined I'd find myself doing at the drop of a boa on the coldest morning of the newly arrived Floridian winter, but that's precisely what happened the morning after I read Hiding My Candy, an autobiography by The Lady Chablis.

About 10 minutes northwest of Tallahassee, nestled amongst live oak and Magnolia trees, slept the town of Quincy, birthplace of The Lady Chablis, America's latest cross-dressing female illusionist.

Quincy is charming, quaint, picturesque, and any other adjectival cliche you can summon that describes diminutive southern enclaves.

Arriving on a Sunday morning around 8:30 am, while the town at large slumbered it was clear my traveling companion and I were the soul tourists with this peculiar endeavor in mind. But with all the hoopla surrounding the release of the movie version of John Berendt's non fiction bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the reappearance of Midnight to the top of the New York Times best seller list, and the fact that a review copy of Hiding My Candy was plopped in my lap all at once, it just seemed perfectly natural.

Hell, every queen that ever read the book has traveled to Savannah, where events described in Midnight take place. Why not a pilgrimage to it's star character's cradle?

Hiding My Candy's first chapters open with a small town boy's rags-cum-riches tale. (And Quincy is a small town). Unadorned as the southern beginnings its author harkens from, the prettiness of the tale comes from its matter-of-fact simplicity. Do to my whirlwind itinerary there was scarce time to engage the locals. Quincy's facade, though, allowed for the usual second-guessing that most folks summarize the south's tiny townships with. Mainly: backward. Yet this is where one of our most celebrated characters in current non-fiction hails from. Interesting...

Chablis, (pre-cross-dressing days) was physically abused as a kid. At eight Mom came back from a stint in Chicago with a Stepdad in tow. Mom, an authoritarian in unison with the step-father, their noses obviously out of joint because of their little boy's sissified ways, gave beatings that left a confused, bloodsoaked child to wonder what god could allow such cruelty . The whole schmear.

As a teenager Lady Chablis went to live with her second "mother" who gave her refuge and, inadvertently, the name, Chablis. The second mother has, over the course of time, turned to the Lord, and in turn, turned on The Doll. Chablis was raised earliest by her GrandMama, and on a lighter note, that bond apparently flourishes, unbroken, til this day. Boobs and all.

When the book kicks into high gear you feel as at ease in the gay bars that Lady Chablis has entertained in as well as behind bars where she found herself rightly, wrongly, indifferently.

Maintaining trademark precision diva personae, all pomp and eyelashes batting, Chablis's tale always maintains a refreshing accountability that makes the excesses heartily palatable.

The book delights simply as biography...but wait there's more!

After The Lady has been so kind to relate her life's story she then gives tips on how to snag a man via his gut. Yes, dears, a mini-cookbook too. This ain't nouvelle honey, so prepare to work off some Love handles. After I quit laughing at the directions I fried up a batch of "Brenda's Kickin' Chicken" (Brenda being one of Chablis's former career-girl titles). Then I fed it to The expert on southern cuisine: My father. He loved it. I'm trying "Smack Y'Mama's Ribs" tonight. The recipe calls for "one can of bud. Yes, child, for the marinade..why should y'be the only one partying?" Can't argue that. To top it all off there are makeup tips, fashion wranglings for the aspiring Female impersonator in you, or perhaps that Halloween outing you wait all year for.

And in case you get lost, there's a handy who's who of the book's characters, as well as a glossary of all the Diva's kicky catch phrases.

Hiding My Candy is breezy and genuinely good-humored. Even when The Doll's bitchin' she's winking. And I'd suggest you laugh along or you may find yourself the recipient of a particularly distressing sewing bee. The Lady and cohorts may secretly take in all your dresses one size every few weeks. Each time you lose enough weight to fit into your capris pants they sneak back while you're shopping and do it again. And wouldn't that be a drag?

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