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Tearing up the tantrums stage

Posted: March 4th, 2016 | Cover stories, Features, Top Story | No Comments

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

Joey Adams takes the crown

The tallest guy in the skirt wins.

At least that’s what happened last week at the annual Tantrums and Tiaras, Battle of the Bar Queens, held at Observatory North Park on Feb. 21.

Joey Adams, aka “Maria Von Tramp,” took this year’s crown in an evening that was wrought with laughter, squeals and confetti.

At 6 foot 4 inches tall, Adams already towered over his competition (Colin Wood of Rich’s, Ryan Birke of Flicks, Spencer Luster of Martinis Above Fourth and Dash Le of Baja Betty’s ), but he chose to wear heels — a size 15, wide — anyway.

Joey Adams, a server at Gossip Grill took the Tantrums crown as Maria Von Tramp. (Courtesy CeCe Canton)

Joey Adams, a server at Gossip Grill took the Tantrums crown as Maria Von Tramp.
(Photo by CeCe Canton)

“I did consider flats because I had a good three to four inches of height on everyone else already,” Adams said. “But then I thought, ‘I’m a drag queen, beauty is pain and why not go all the way and get the 7-inch stiletto heels?”

Founded by the late Daniel Bodemiller — who passed away in 2010 — and Matt Ramon, general manager of Urban MO’s, the curtain closed on Tantrums and Tiaras for a while after Bodemiller’s death. However Ramon brought it back in 2014 as an annual event dedicated in Bodemiller’s name. Ramon now acts as the stage director.

Billed as a “fun raiser,” 100 percent of the event’s proceeds go to The San Diego LGBT Center for its many social service programs.

Babette Schwartz donates her time as host of the show, while Paris, Shalita Buffet (Chris Barone of Baja Betty’s) and Olive Onemore (Ian Johnson of The Center) sit around and dish on the contestants to fill time between acts.

“The show and evening were absolutely amazing,” Johnson said. “One of the best years yet. All of the contestants gave so much to the show and had their respective bars complete support with sponsorship of all the fabulous costumes and props. The audience came enthusiastic and ready to support the community.”

Joey Adams (Photo by CeCe Canton)

Joey Adams (Courtesy CeCe Canton)

Though the Gossip Grill server has lived in San Diego for six years, Adams had yet to attend the over the top drag competition. He said one day last October while at a staff meeting, he noticed that Ramon was working on the Tantrums Facebook page.

“I thought it would be really cool to just help out because I heard it was such a great thing the year before,” Adams said. “So I said, ‘hey, is there any way I can help out with Tantrums?’ Matt said, ‘Well, we are in need of another contestant.’ I said, ‘Well I guess I can help out. I’ve never done it before.’ He said. ‘Perfect. Are you available in two hours to attend a meeting at Gossip?’”

Before he knew it, he was on his way to being Maria Von Tramp.

It was also the first time for Toni Duran, this year’s Nicky Award winner for Woman of the Year.

“I have to tell you … I was in awe the entire time,” she said. “Wow! What a production! It was so much fun and the audience was so energetic. I don’t know why I never made it before, but I’m so glad I made it this year. Of course, I got pulled into the hype again — anyone that signed up that night to donate $100 or more got a shout out — so I donated my $101 and just had to be called out by Babette from the stage. I was happy to donate to The Center.”

While Adams has a bachelor’s degree in musical theater, he said he had never done drag before, although his mother remembers him prancing around in her heels and dresses as a toddler.

“It is one of my big passions, to be on stage and performing and singing and dancing and that kind of stuff,” he said.

Glitz Glam was assigned as his makeup artist and Carlos Ramirez, an employee of MO’s, was the costume designer for all the contestants.

“The moment I knew that I was going to have Glitz for my makeup, I was excited,” he said. “Because I knew that the makeup was going to be crazy and elaborate. He also helped me get my wigs in order. I had one crazy frizzy wig that he knew exactly how to tame it and make it look good.”

Before Maria Von Tramp was born, Adams kicked around ideas with Ramon and Ramirez, each giving him feedback that helped him elevate his ideas. Then, he had a turning point.

“My performance actually started with one night,” he said. “I just happened to sit and really think about what I wanted to do. I was tapping my fingers to the music I had already picked out — three songs I was mashing up — opened up a bottle of wine and I just got really, really silly. I started re-writing lyrics to some of the songs. I wrote a bunch of stuff down, then went on the Internet to find quotes that I thought would be really funny to put in there. So when I rewrote all the lyrics, I realized “Oh okay, so I’m not just going to be just a parody of ‘Sound of Music,’ I’m gonna be the dirty parody of the ‘Sound of Music.’ Then the character just came flying at me.”

From October to February the five contestants met regularly to share in the journey and though they weren’t friends before, were bonding with each part of the process.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 10.55.41 AM“My idea changed like six times,” Adams said. “We had meetings every other Wednesday and went over all of our stuff. We just tried to make it a little funny and for those three months we were throwing ideas out there about evening gown, talent, sharing that info. We’d have lunch and talk about it. We were trying to boost everybody up to have as much fun as possible.”

But in the end, the five were contestants, after all, and Adams said they kept promising to stop sharing their secrets with each other.

“We were all still helping each other out until Saturday,” he laughed.

Once Sunday rolled around, the contestants had to be there at 10 a.m. for the 7 p.m. show. Rehearsal. Rehearsal. Rehearsal. Make up. Costume fittings. Adams said it was the first time they had actually seen each other’s complete stage performances.

The contestants had made a pact with each other that they would all meet up at the winning contestant’s bar after the show, no matter what, and the party was at Gossip Grill.

“Matt Ramon and Ian Johnson should get a lot more credit for this show than the contestants do,” Adams said. “They ate, slept, and breathed this show. They helped each contestant with our characters from day one up to show time. If anything, the success of this show is a testament to their extremely hard work and dedication!”

Adams said he was also happy to help raise money for The Center, a place that has helped him in many ways.

“I know a few people who didn’t even know that the Center offered things that the contestants were talking about during the show so if anything we raised awareness of the going-ons of The Center. As well as a bunch of money!”

Tune in next year when Adams dons his slutty milkmaid dress yet again at the beginning of the 2017 Tantrums and Tiaras.

For more information visit tantrumsandtiaras.com. To learn more about The Center’s programs, visit thecentersd.org.

—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at morgan@sdcnn.com.

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