This lawyer has a secret. Her name’s Victoria.
I was doing drag on the weekends when I was working as a prosecutor at Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. It was a very schizophrenic lifestyle. I was considered one of the best trial lawyers in the D.A.’s office. And then I would shift gears on Friday night and go up to San Francisco and do drag shows.
One day, I was doing an especially difficult murder case. I’d been doing drag the weekend before. I got up Monday morning, showered, got dressed. I was just about to go out the door and I looked down and saw that my nails were still painted vivid red. There I am in a suit with my nails red. And I said, “Oops, that’s not going to work.”
It was a nice relief for me to go off and do this on the weekends—to do something that was just pure fun. And it was an outgrowth of my theatrical background. I was a theater major at Cal. I used to tell people, “I have a bachelor’s and master’s from UC Berkeley and now I’m up here hosting drag shows. It proves you can do anything with a degree from Berkeley!”
I got started in 1989. The Palo Alto Players, where I did a lot of shows, cast me in the musical La Cage aux Folles, which is the musical version of the movie The Birdcage. I played the Gene Hackman role—that’s the girl’s father who gets into drag right at the very end of the movie. And so of course, they had to get me into drag for the final act and I had so much fun doing that. I said, “Gee, you know, I think I’d like to do more of this.” And so I went up to San Francisco, and I found a club that did drag shows and I started doing drag up there in 1990. I’ve been doing drag in shows in San Francisco ever since.
Victoria Secret is the character I created to do the shows. The way I always used to describe Victoria was I said, “She’s the party-girl half of my personality.” As Richard, I’m kind of shy. Victoria is completely out there. People ask me, “What’s the main difference?” And as a joke, I say, “Well, the main difference is Victoria spends all the money that Richard earns.”
When I first started doing this, I thought it would be a secret part of my life. Well, it didn’t stay secret for very long. In fact, after a while, I just threw caution to the wind and put a picture of me as Victoria up in my office. One day, my boss, who was the number two in the office walked in and she looked at that picture and said, ‘So Richard, this is like, really you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s really me.’ And she looked at it, ‘Goddamnit,’ she said, ‘You got better legs than I do.’
At one point, it was getting so well-known that I figured maybe I should go and tell my boss about it. So I went to George Kennedy, who was the elected D.A. of Santa Clara County at the time. And I told George, “You know, I don’t want you to hear about this secondhand. I just want to let you know that I do this on the weekends for fun.” And I didn’t know how he was going to take it because I had always thought of George as being a relatively humorless kind of guy. We always used to say he was like central casting’s idea of a district attorney.
After I told him, he kind of smiled. He said, “Oh, I think it’s great.” And I said, “You do?” And he said, “Yeah. I like to know that my D.A.s have a life outside the office—that they’re human beings, and they have something else going on.”
I retired in 2005 from the D.A.’s office, but I had so much fun with drag, I continued doing that as a retirement avocation. And I started my own show in 2001, called Fauxgirls! Then I moved to Key West, Florida, where I live now. And when I got to Key, I auditioned for the 801 Cabaret, which is a very long-running show here.
I’m 74 years old and I’m still doing drag shows. I’ve been told by the person who runs the show that I am now the oldest queen in South Florida—perhaps the oldest queen in all of Florida.
From the Winter 2019 issue of California.