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What a drag 

& & by Sheri Boggs & &

Maybe North Idaho isn't the first place people think of when they think drag shows, nor is it the first place that comes to mind in terms of AIDS fund-raisers. That perception is about to change quicker than a flurry of costumes this Sunday when Mik-N-Mac's plays host to "You Want the Truth? You Can't Handle the Truth: A Few Good Women." Proceeds from the evening benefit the North Idaho AIDS Coalition (NIAC).

"We're planning a fun, fast-paced show. Since it's two hours, it has to move fast," says Joe Sullivan, a.k.a. Miss Mylar Black and director of the Friend to Friend project for the Spokane AIDS Network (SAN). "Two hours is a long time for drag shows; the performers sometimes get a little twitchy. So it's gonna be big, brassy, fast-paced and in your face."

Miss Mylar regularly hosts a weekly cabaret on Friday and Saturday nights at Dempsey's Brass Rail in Spokane. Standing 6'10" in heels, "she" has been a vital presence in local fund-raising performances, including the Annual Cancer Show and the SAN.

The evening offers some group numbers, but most of the songs will be a chance for the performers to play "superstar" alone under the limelight.

"We'll have all the usual gay icons, you know, Cher, Madonna..." says Sullivan. "There will be some musical show tune numbers, but mostly techno-remixes, because that's the kind of girls we have. What you won't be seeing is the 'emoti-claw.' " To demonstrate, he holds one hand up in a dramatic pose, fingers up, face contorted in an amusing mockery of Barbra Streisand.

It's the North Idaho AIDS Coalition's first drag show, but Dani Mahoney, prevention case manager for NIAC, has a feeling the night will be a big success.

"NIAC is really growing, and we need to raise funds for all of our projects," says Mahoney. "Having a drag show would be a fun way to do it."

NIAC's umbrella of services is large, encompassing direct care services, prevention resources, community building and support groups for HIV positive men and women. The organization has grown from a staff of one part-time position to three full-time positions in less than two years. And it is still growing.

"SAN and NIAC have received a grant to collaborate in order to reach out to rural communities," says Sullivan. "There's no place for people to go in a lot of these rural towns. Even now, we get a lot of people from the Tri-Cities and Sandpoint areas, which are larger towns. We want to create a larger community for these people."

Unfortunately, the growth of organizations like NIAC and SAN is due to an ever-present need. The number of AIDS cases reported every year is far from shrinking.

"A lot of people don't understand the risk of HIV reinfection," says Mahoney. "There are different strains of HIV, and you could be getting treatment for one strain and expose yourself to another strain of the disease."

"What we're finding now is that people, especially people our age, are apathetic to the cause," adds Sullivan. "We've grown up during the age of AIDS, we've heard as long as we can remember, things like 'practice safe sex,' 'try abstinence,' 'try celibacy.' People are just burned out. And also, people are living longer with AIDS; the medications we have now are really successful in treating the symptoms of AIDS and so people have a false sense of security."

Many AIDS organizations are tweaking their methods of outreach and education to incorporate the sexual and societal realities of their clientele.

"What we're focusing on now is risk reduction," says Sullivan.

Remembering that human beings, especially Americans, are often fun-oriented, is a good guide for planning fund-raisers -- for any kind of good cause.

"Drag shows are great fund-raisers, because they're a lot of fun," says Sullivan. "It makes giving painless because people are having a great time."

In fact, "You Want the Truth" comes from a long tradition of charitable drag show galas.

"The Court of Spokane is a fund-raising machine," says Sullivan. "They've had a lot of events at Pumps to raise money for children with AIDS, the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, cancer research, you name it, they've had a fund-raiser. There are titles -- empress, princess, debutante, Miss Spokane -- and with each title you're required to have so many fund-raisers a year."

So in a way, the court functions like the Lilac Princess and her court, with their numerous public appearances throughout the year?

"Absolutely," quips Sullivan, dipping for a moment into Miss Mylar's voice, "but our girls are far prettier."

& & & lt;i & "You Want the Truth..." takes place at Mik-N-Mac's, 406 N. Fourth St. in Coeur d'Alene on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 8 pm. Tickets: $2, which goes to benefit NIAC, along with all tips taken that evening. Call: (208) 665-1448. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

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