Miss Mae died of a heart attack on Monday, October 5, 2009 around 11 a.m. while in Wichita visiting a friend.
Miss Mae was a member of MGRA
Miss Mae was involved with the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association since it's inception in 1986 and served on the board as Treasurer since MGRA's beginning. She was also a prominent member of the MGRA Royalty program and was on the IGRA Royalty Team in the early 1990s.
Miss Mae was extremely proud of two things (not counting her vodka): that she had attended each and every IGRA Convention AND that she had never done drag for anything OTHER than a fundraiser.
Miss Mae's family did not know about her involvement in gay rodeo. We will be planning a huge fundraiser in her honor this winter (2009). Any monies sent by her rodeo friends and family, as well as money raised at the fundraiser, will be donated Passages in Miss Mae's honor. Passages is an organization in Kansas City that provides a safe place for gay and questioning teens. She always said, "I wish there had been a place like Passages for me when I was younger."
I know many of you knew and loved Miss Mae, but she would want the "show to go on". She was THRILLED with she heard the IGRA Archives were being shared with the Autry Museum. She only wanted the best for gay rodeo, and she was proud to see so many positive changes happen within the organization over the years.
IGRA Vice President
(aka Mandy Barbarell)
Phil was born in Girard, Kansas. He grew up in Girard and attended Girard schools, graduating in 1969. He worked at the Census Bureau in Pittsburg through the summer of 1969 and then attended Pittsburg State University, graduating in 1973 with a BSBA in Accounting. For several years he was employed as an accountant in Parsons and earned his Certified Public Accountant designation.
He then became a controller, and in later years worked at Depco, Inc. in Pittsburg, and since March 13, 2007 he had been director of the Graves Memorial Library in St. Paul. He really loved to work at the library and especially to work with the children that used the computers.
Phil had a happy disposition and enjoyed spending time with friends, often traveling with friends to interesting places around the United States and Canada.
History of MGRABy Miss Mae
When Mandy Barbarell, (Andrew Goodman) Miss MGRA 1999, 2000, and 2003 and Miss IGRA 2004, first approached me about writing a brief history of MGRA from a drag queen's point of view, I was very flattered. THEN, I realized that, to a youngster like Mandy, I must seem like the oldest living drag queen in America. I suppose having been a member of the MGRA Royalty Team in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1997 and 2004, might also have influenced her decision to ask me to write this history (OMG...I AM the oldest drag queen in America!)
I hope no one expects this article to be historically accurate or complete. After 20 years of vodka, mind erasers, and Pucker, I have only one functioning brain cell left...and I have to share that one with Mandy Barbarell. Luckily, I have custody of it this week.
MGRA was formed in 1986. Several patrons of the local country bar in Joplin had heard of this "gay rodeo thing" going on in Texas and had gone to check it out. When they came back with reports of how much fun Texas was having, and how much money they were raising for charity, we decided to try our luck at our own gay rodeo association. Soon a small but enthusiastic group met in the back room of Billy Jack's Lounge in Joplin, and MGRA was born.
Since Joplin is such a small town, we knew we could never successfully host a full-blown rodeo, so we decided to have a big fund-raiser, Roundup I, on Labor Day Weekend, at the bar owner's ranch outside of town. I don't think there was ever a time, before or since, when the Joplin gay community was more cohesive. We divided ourselves into two road crews to widen and trim the half-mile driveway. A third group-the poop scoopers-worked on removing the five feet of hay and manure inside the barn. Being a true, genteel, delicate flower of the South, I of course chose to be a poop scooper. I will never forget using pitchforks to roll each layer into manageable piles that could be moved to some waiting pickup truck. We did this all day Saturday and Sunday for weeks in advance of the event. Our hard work paid off, though, and we made an enormous contribution to charity as a result. We were off and running.
Early on MGRA joined with the Oklahoma Gay Rodeo Association (OGRA) and the Kansas Gay Rodeo Association (KGRA) and several years later the Diamond State Rodeo Association (DSRA) to produce the Great Plains Regional Rodeo in Oklahoma City. A lot of hard work went into producing a rodeo in those days. Many of you youngsters don't remember when nobody, including IGRA, owned a computer. We would work all night, drawing running order by hand and handwriting the control sheets. The accommodations for royalty were always first rate, too. Each of us had our very own personal HORSE stall, complete with hay and horse, to get ready in. I will never forget putting on make-up, only to have it slide off my perspiration-soaked face...I did have the prettiest knees in town, though.
KGRA in Wichita provided the arena crew, MGRA in Joplin the secretarial staff, and OGRA in Oklahoma City the advance legwork. After that first year, we had gained many lifelong friends and a debt we didn't think we would ever get paid off...but we did.
In 1989 Joplin was joined by the Kansas City chapter, in 1991 by the Springfield chapter, and in 1992 by the now defunct Columbia and St. Louis chapters. With each new chapter came new faces and friends. From my standpoint, I was especially glad to welcome Springfield into the fold, because they had Krystle DeVille, who could take turns with me being MGRA royalty.
In 1993 we decided it was time for us to produce our own rodeo. We chose Labor Day Weekend and the Kemper Arena in Kansas City as our venue. To say our champagne tastes almost exceeded our beer pocketbook would be a gross understatement. I still have a permanent black and blue ankle from the hours we all spent in pumps, entertaining the troops, trying to raise money to afford the venue we had chosen.
The next year we decided to move the rodeo to its current location, the Wyandotte County Fair Grounds. While the accommodations were not as swank as Kemper, we were able to put on a quality rodeo and still have money left over for charity. I am very proud to say that, over the years, we have donated THOUSANDS of dollars to local charities in Missouri.
In 1995 Bobbie St. Jeor moved from Springfield to Kansas City and took over the rodeo director reins from our then-trustee Cheryl Harrington as rodeo director. Bobbie continued in that position until 2004, when we tragically lost our dear friend and leader in a car accident. Bobbie ruled with an iron hand, tempered with a heart of gold. In 2004, we instituted the annual Bobbie St. Jeor Memorial Buckle for the individual volunteer who had made the most notable contribution to the Show-Me State Rodeo that year.
In 1997 at the Joplin Spring Roundup, we were introduced to a young drag queen named Mandy Barbarell. When we watched as she attempted to put underwear on an unruly human "goat" during our indoor rodeo, little did we know we were watching the birth of a leader for MGRA. Mandy first became Miss MGRA in 1999. Following that, she got interested in the internal workings of MGRA and became a Kansas City chapter officer. Later, she was elected state secretary of MGRA and in 2004 was selected to fulfill the trustee position left vacant when Bobbie St. Jeor left us.
Nobody jumped higher or screamed louder then the two "old goats," as Mandy loved to call Bobbie and me, when Mandy was chosen Miss International Gay Rodeo Association for 2004. She has left an indelible impression on IGRA, and I'm sure will be remembered as one of the best Miss IGRAs ever.
I could regale you with anecdotes for days...
- Like the time Charlie, Frances, and I decided we were going to participate in the Wild Cow Milking (and we HAD to have been drunk). Let me tell you, they weren't kidding when they said those cows were wild. OR . . .
- Like the time my beehive wig fell of at a rodeo kick-off show that Kitty Litter and I were hosting. OR . . .
- Like the time David Medzerian and I cohosted the Finals Royalty Contest, and I told a judge to sit down and shut up until we were finished telling our story, AND we received a standing ovation. OR . . .
- When the toughest question in the Royalty Competition interview had to do with pantyhose. OR . . .
- When part of the horsemanship competition included saddling a horse. OR . . .
- When the Entertainment Competition required two numbers, one upbeat, and one slow. OR . . .
- When Roxie Hart, in high drag, fell off the horse during Grand Entry in Oklahoma City. I still say we should have drawn a chalk outline around her. OR . . .
- When Larry Lindstrom and John Beck got me tanked up on vodka (I know- WHICH time?) and I told a waiter in Omaha that, if I had a corn-fed ass like his, I would not say anything about the dessert Aunt Pitty had just ordered. OR . . .
- When the crowd at a Tulsa fundraiser (just when I thought I should retire) tried to kill and old woman by asking for multiple encores. OR . . .
- When Ailissa Phillips rides the mechanical bull in full face, tiara, and all.
AND, is there anyone who HASN'T been flashed by Bonnie Oliver? or seen Bobbie St. Jeor put on pastries instead of pasties to do a strip number? or seen Emil Pronier in cycle-slut drag? or seen Ken Boge (Sister Mary Harley Davidson) slapping someone around to the tune of "Say A Little Prayer For Me"?
During the last 20 years MGRA has had some wonderful leaders to call on. Serving as trustees during that period were Bob Mitchell, Bonnie Oliver, Ken Boge, Cheryl Harrington, Emil Pronier, Bobbie St. Jeor, and Andrew Goodman. Serving as state secretaries have been Thom Brandt, Emil Pronier, Jeff, Cleo Toris, Andrew Goodman, and Tony Lear. Serving as state treasurer for the entire period has been C. W. "Phil" Filkel.
Can it really be true that we have been at this for 20 years (I started when I was 9 years old)? Through the years, I have made friendships that will last until I die (remember, only women pallbearers. If them old men won't take me out when I'm alive, I don't want them taking me out when I'm dead).
Of course, it wasn't all fun and games. Sadly, each year this disease that we have been fighting for 20 years takes away some beloved member of our community. My fervent prayer is that someday I will be able to retire the pumps, wigs, and corset because a cure of AIDS has been found.
I have certainly enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. As I always say, it's not over until the fat lady sings-do I feel a song coming on?
So, LETS RODEO.