The Los Angeles nightclub landscape will become a bit lonelier after this weekend as iconic monthly party Dragstrip 66 ends its 17-year reign on Saturday, January 9, at the Echoplex. Founded in 1993 by two Boston transplants, club promoter and DJ Paul V. and theater producer-performer “Mr. Dan” Der Kacz, the popular Eastside party offered L.A. revelers not only a respite from what was then a predominantly West Hollywood–based scene, but the opportunity to dress in outrageous drag costumes.
“We needed a vehicle for an alternative music club and for Dan’s incredible talent as Gina Lotriman [his drag persona],” Paul V. tells The Advocate of the club’s modest beginnings. “The first evening was a Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore look-alike contest.” A month later, when actress Karen Black attended the second event, titled the Karen Black-Valentine Ball, the pair sensed there was a market for the demented sensibility they shared. Subsequent theme nights such as One Million Years B.C. (Before Cosmetics), Hot Pants Explosion, Florence of Arabia, and Tranny Get Your Gun not only drew faithful clubgoers (including a pre-fame Adam Lambert) but curious celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Roseanne Barr, and Alan Cumming. Soon their creative, no-budget productions, which took place onstage during breaks in the DJ sets, became a sensation.
The success of Dragstrip 66, which until 2004 was held at Rudolpho’s, a Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake, and has since moved to the Echoplex, surprised both men. “We made a pact that if it didn’t take off after six months, we would stop,” Paul recalls. “From the third one it was obvious that it had become bigger than we imagined. Swarms of people would join us. We soon realized how important the club was and how special an experience it was for people and the crowd became as much a part of the show as anything we put on stage.”
Dragstrip was noted for its friendly vibe and welcoming atmosphere. “We had every age, size, gender, and no one was better than anyone else,” Paul says. “You didn’t have that diversity then. As an alternative to what was available to gay people, particularly the music, the crowd makeup, and age parameters, we blew those norms out of the water.”
“We invited everyone to come and play with us and they felt safe and comfortable,” he adds. “They knew they’d run into friends and probably get laid. We had the hottest guys in L.A. You could go up and talk to people without fear of the stand-and-pose attitude.”
Take a look back at some of the most memorable moments of 17 years of Dragstrip 66.
For information on attending the final Dragstrip 66, click here.
Gina Lotriman, Sharon Needles and Gender at the 5th anniversary event.
Adam Lambert (third from left) as Willy Wonka.
Bunny and Kitty Twisted
Feathers and Leather
Gina Lotriman and Drew Barrymore
John Waters and Mink Stole with Gina Lotriman
Madonnas and DJ
Dragstrip 66 founders Paul V. and Gina Lotriman
Momma (center) at Hooray for Bollywood