Next month, the 2007 Tony Awards – named for the late actress and director Antoinette Perry (1888-1946) – will be presented at the historic Radio City Music Hall and aired on CBS. The event honors excellence in New York City’s theater community.
In July, the 2007 Zoey Awards – named for the very-much-alive veteran Kansas City femme illusionist Zoe Kelly – will be presented at the historic Athenaeum at 900 East Linwood Avenue. The event honors, according to Ms. Kelly, “all aspects of Kansas City’s gay community, including best bar owner and best male vocalist.”
Kelly can’t remember all 27 categories off the top of her bewigged head, but they encompass a wide range of nominees, from best restaurant to best "outreach.” The idea of the awards ceremony is to be a major fundraiser; as the current reigning Miss Missouri Gay Rodeo Association, Kelly was responsible for raising money for the MGRA’s various charities.
“In the past, some of the reigning queens have put on drag shows or hosted barbecues to raise money,” Kelly says. “I wanted to do something more creative.”
So Kelly is renting the 93-year-old Athenaeum building (home of Kansas City’s oldest existing women’s club) at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 21, to hold the 200 to 500 people she hopes will attend the first annual Zoey Awards, which she named after herself.
“It was my other half who thought of calling it the Zoey Awards,” Kelly says. She adds that she has wanted to produce an awards show since she started performing professionally in the mid-1970s: “When I started out in drag in Chicago, there was an event called the Chicago Gay Academy Awards. I’ve thought of doing something like it for a long time. So when I needed to do a fundraiser for the MGRA, I decided to do a Kansas City version of the Chicago awards show.”
It won’t be just any ol’ drag show, though female impersonators from around the country, including Trisha Davis from Texas and Jade Sinclair from St. Louis, are among the scheduled performers. Kelly points out that it takes more than just a pretty face to become the Miss Missouri Gay Rodeo Association.
“It’s not a title that’s awarded in a pageant,” she explains. “You have to earn the title by doing lots of volunteer work. You earn money for charity, you attend regional rodeos, you have to do volunteer work at the rodeos.”
What kind of volunteer work?
“You might do security,” Kelly says. “You might have to sweep out the horse stalls.”
Kelly didn’t clean out any stalls, which might have wreaked havoc on her gowns, but she did do security detail. It was all part of a good cause: The non-profit Missouri Gay Rodeo Association, which isn’t just about gay cowboys wrestling steers, but it also helps local charities, including the Hope Care Center.
Even a Miss MGRA needs to know more than rudimentary knowledge about horses. During the competition, Kelly says, contestants are required to “draw a horse diagram in a rodeo setting and know the bylaws of the Rodeo Association.” After that, the talent portion of the competition was practically an easy gallop.
Tickets for the Zoey Awards are $20 (and include access to an open range -- sorry, open bar) and are available at Bell Street Mama’s Restaurant at 1726 West 39th Street or by calling 816-863-4974.
When asked if the audience at the Zoey Awards will be filled with lots of honest-to-goodness, cattle-ropin’ cowboys, Kelly answers, “Well, I certainly hope so.” – Charles Ferruzza