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Queen Mary Has to Be Seen to Be Appreciated

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A little-known 35-year-old landmark called the Queen Mary offers one more argument that the much-maligned San Fernando Valley is actually a surrealist’s paradise. Located near a Bed, Bath and Beyond and a golf course in Studio City, the Queen Mary is a drag queen’s Shangri-La, a strip club that’s all tease and also a traditional (well, almost) dance spot.

As with most of L.A.'s hidden treasures, the Queen Mary has to be seen to be appreciated. The only hint that it even exists is a nondescript sign advertising female impersonators. From Wednesday through Sunday, however, those-in-the-know pack the venue to witness performances by a stable of drag divas of every age, size, shape and sex.

What, never heard of a female drag diva? When you enter the Queen’s domain, leave all gender-specific biases at the door because there’s no telling whether the performer on the silver-curtained stage singing the theme song to “Evita” in full costume is a man or a woman. The particulars don’t seem important because the club seems to celebrate freedom of expression--the eclectic customers are nearly as intriguingly costumed as the performers.

On weekends the entertainment is continuous and, between the dance numbers, strippers “pole dance” and work the crowd for dollars. Clothes, however, remain on, and the siren that blares throughout the stripping segments reminds viewers that it’s all in good fun.

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It’s hard to believe that when owner Robert Juleff opened the Queen Mary in the early ‘60s, it was exactly what it is today--a drag club. And he says nothing’s really changed much, except back then the club featured performances every night. Some of the vintage divas still perform at the club.

The current lineup includes karaoke on Wednesdays (the audience participation makes this night a must) and a dance club on Thursdays (a small dance floor and bar are located in the back of the club). It’s not just Fridays and Saturdays that draw the biggest crowds. On a recent rainy Sunday, every table at the Queen Mary was taken by 10 p.m.

Take it from a drag club aficionado: From New York to San Francisco and everything in between, Queen Mary is about as good as it gets.

* Queen Mary, 12249 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. 21 and over, cover varies. (818) 506-5619.

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The Buzz: Another momentary mecca for A-list scenesters is the new late-night restaurant and bar Indochine, built from the ashes of the Monkey Bar (otherwise known as the house that Heidi Fleiss built) at Beverly Boulevard and Harper Avenue. Among the guests to date: Gary Oldman, Julia Roberts, Winona Ryder, Dolly Parton, members of Hole (no Courtney Love though) and Devo’s Jerry Casale (apparently he’s a real foodie).

* Indochine, (213) 655-4777.


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