NewsPride Month


New book explores Milwaukee's long history of drag

Posted at 3:24 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 23:30:01-04

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — This Pride Month, a book about Milwaukee's historical impact on the drag queen culture is about to be released.

We spoke to Michail Takach, one of the authors of the book titled A History of Milwaukee Drag: Seven Generations of Glamour.

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He says he knew the awe of drag culture spanned generations in this city. He did not imagine it would go back to the 1880s. "It's interesting that that's been the case in Milwaukee before there was a city hall, since before there were paved streets," said Takach.

He and co-author B.J. Daniels poured years of research in to this book, set to be released on Amazon and stores near you June 27. "The fact is Milwaukee was famous for its drag long before RuPaul was even born," said Takach.

The authors' research helped them discover there were several Vaudeville houses on Wisconsin Avenue in the 1920s, and traveling drag superstars performed the theater circuit. This includes famous drag queens of the era, Julian Eltige and Karl Norman.


"That's been the most interesting part of our research is this ebb and flow of drag becoming very popular and very culturally sensational, to the point where it's almost too popular and then reformers start to shut it down," said Takach.

The fever for this entertainment never waned in Milwaukee. In fact, Takach says in the 1950s, we had Billy Herrero. "He performed at a time where it was still very illegal to be gay in Milwaukee," Takach said.


This opened up the idea for some performers to realize their true gender identity. "What we would now say is transgender. It's very important to separate the two today. But that was not always the case," Takach explained.

The book also delves in the 1980s golden era for drag and the Milwaukee clubs still standing that have these shows. You will have to read their book, which pays homage to it all when it's released later this month. "To know that their names are being said decades after their deaths and people know who they were is probably the greatest reward some of our characters can receive," said Takach.

Click here to learn more about the book.

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