Drag King

Having moved to the Bay Area from her native Ohio in 1980 to study at the American Conservatory Theater, Mars paid her bills by working in the sex industry—as a dancer in one of San Francisco’s bisexual bathhouses.

She became a part of the queer performance scene — LGTBQ artists all testing the boundaries of representation. One night at the Bay Brick Inn in San Francisco, Mars donned a mustache, suit, fedora hat and became her first male drag character, Martin.

That was the late 80s. It wasn’t until 1991 when the term “drag king” started being used. After one of her performances at the Pyramid Club, The New York Post quoted Mars saying “Well, I am always performing around drag queens, so I guess I’m a drag king.”

The name stuck. Since then, Mars has developed half a dozen male drag characters. “I have always been connected to my male side.” Mars explains. “I get the guy thing. I channel men easily.”

Her performances, like masculinity itself, are multilayered. “Portraying a man onstage is both a celebration and perversion of power.” 

Invasion from Mars — The Kitchen, NYC, 1995

Invasion from Mars — The Kitchen, NYC, 1995

Gay Martin, 1991 — in collaboration with Mariette Pathy Allen

Gay Martin, 1991 — in collaboration with Mariette Pathy Allen

Meat Market, 1990 — in collaboration with Mariette Pathy Allen

Meat Market, 1990 — in collaboration with Mariette Pathy Allen

From Annie Sprinkle's Post-Modern Pinups: Pleasure Activist Playing Cards by Annie Sprinkle, 1995. Makeup by Kabuki

From Annie Sprinkle's Post-Modern Pinups: Pleasure Activist Playing Cards by Annie Sprinkle, 1995. Makeup by Kabuki

Still for Die Jungfrauen Maschine (Virgin Machine), 1988 — dir. Monika Treut

Still for Die Jungfrauen Maschine (Virgin Machine), 1988 — dir. Monika Treut

Invasion from Mars — The Kitchen, NYC, 1995

Invasion from Mars — The Kitchen, NYC, 1995