Mummers take a fancy to Philly’s drag queens

Mummers and drag queens have finally found common ground. During the Fancy Brigades’ New Year’s Day competition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, brigades will be introduced by night-club performers.

Ian Morrison, the head of Philadelphia Drag Queen Mafia, was given an offer he couldn’t refuse.

By day, Morrison is a bartender in Center City. By night, the 6-foot-5 entertainer dons high heels and a 2-foot bouffant wig and becomes Brittany Lynn, the tallest drag queen in Philadelphia at a towering 9 feet.

He started performing in women’s clothes 15 years ago. The Mummers have been doing it for over 100 years.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“I can tell you, living on Two Street, I used to take a lot of stuff from their garbage,” said Morrison. “Every year after New Year’s Day, they throw a lot of stuff out. Millions of rhinestones and beads and feathers, every year we would get in my friend’s van and drive down Two Street and collect all this stuff.”

Earlier this year, the Mummers Association asked Morrison to round up 10 queens to introduce brigades as they take the stage. Their two-minute routines will include music, costumes, singing, banter and jokes.

“The city has come such a far way. They hang a pride flag on City Hall. The city paid to put up flags on street signs in the ‘gayborhood,'” said Morrison. “Now we’re being asked to participate in the televised show of one of the city’s oldest traditions. I never thought it’d happen.”

Mummers and drag queens have had unofficial relationships in the past, with queens dropping into formation during the parade, and performing side-by-side at fundraising events. The mummers extended an official hand to the gender illusionists to solidify their partnership.

“We have been looking for a way to entertain people at the Convention Center in between the brigades. They were enthused to do it,” said Jim Julia, president of the Fancy Brigade Association. “We wanted to expand our base and show that were are more than South Philly.”

The mummers have made daytime cross-dressing safe in Philadelphia, for one day a year, at least. After living off of the mummers’ leftover beads and baubles, Morrison is happy to return the favor.

“I think it’s about due,” said Morrison. “I don’t know why they haven’t consulted us on hair, makeup, style, how to dress …”

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal