Courtney Bates performs as the womanizing Corey.

King for a Day 

Courtney Bates performs as the womanizing Corey.

As a girl, Courtney Bates was drawn to the spotlight over her grandparents' fireplace. "I'd make all my relatives sit down -- and I'm from a big Catholic family -- and I'd perform," she recalls. "When I hinted recently to my mom that I was performing in a show at a club, she said, 'Just like in front of the fireplace.'"

Courtney hasn't told her mom that she performs as Corey, who lip-synchs songs by George Michael, among others. Bates describes her alter ego as "sometimes wearing a hat, sometimes not, kind of hip but not sloppy, in khakis, a button-down shirt and a soul patch. He's a womanizer of sorts." He is one of a dozen drag kings starting to make a splash on the gay club scene.

"I've been doing it on and off since 1991," says Buttwiser, a goateed king in Levi's and leather who recently channeled Bon Jovi at Tootsie's.

Buddy Taylor, who headlines shows at Balanca's as the drag queen Belle Starr, says the idea of "male" performances isn't brand new. "I tried five years ago [to have such shows] at Missie B's, but there wasn't any support for it," Taylor says. He and drag performer Celeste Powers say that kings are effortlessly becoming part of the city's network of drag performers. "It's time for them to come play with us," Powers says.

Next week at Push, Corey hosts with Late Night Theatre's most svelte drag queen, De De Deville, in what is intended to spark an ongoing series of drag-king shows. Courtney Bates says she hasn't swapped trade secrets with Deville. "[It] doesn't transfer," she says, "except to have fun."

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