Sixteen years ago, performing to the tune of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," sporting a goatee, wearing leather chaps and a do-rag, and smoking Marlboro Red, the drag king known as Buttwiser made his debut. Since then, the 38-year-old Independence native has made huge strides for women trying to pass as men, hosting "Buttwiser's Bash," a weekly drag show at Tootsie's. Crowned as the city's first king of gay pride in 2003, Buttwiser — also affectionately known as "Pops" (real name: Candy Combs, a research analyst for Renzenberger Inc.) — heads up a traveling performance troupe called the Kings of Kansas City. "The show allows people to be themselves and not what society wants them to be," Combs explains. "I just open the door for them to do what they want to do." Breaking out of their shells, the newbies on the drag-king scene consider Buttwiser a mentor and a friend, someone who advises his kings on everything from relationships to wardrobes. "I'm a better king because of him," says Jason Ezra, 26.