May 14, 2023 - News

Untold Tampa Bay: Sarasota performer in pursuit of preserving drag

Sarasota drag performer Lindsay Calrton-Cline poses in a white feathered top in front of a bright green background.

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Carlton-Cline

Adversity has been as much a part of 62-year-old Sarasota drag queen Lindsay Carlton-Cline's career as lipstick and high heels.

Yes, but: She didn't stop doing drag when she was kicked out of her home at 18 after her parents discovered her drag costumes. She moved in with her drag mother, Pearly Mae Jones Douglas.

She didn't stop when she had to wear men's underwear under her dresses to avoid getting arrested for violating anti-drag laws that lingered in the 1970s. She performed weekly shows and won pageants.

She didn't stop when she watched friends suffer and die during the AIDS epidemic in the '80s and '90s. She rallied her fellow queens together to raise money for a local clinic. She still holds a fundraiser every year.

She didn't stop when gay bar after gay bar after gay bar closed around her. One of two of Sarasota's remaining will host its final party at the end of this month, leaving just Purple Rhino as a haven for Tampa Bay's LGBTQ community. She performs there most Saturdays β€” and anywhere else she can.

She hasn't stopped since the Florida Legislature passed laws policing drag and targeting the LGBTQ community. She hosted an event celebrating drag culture and history Friday and will perform at Silver Pride, celebrating LGBTQ seniors in Sarasota next month.

So why didn't she stop? "The applause. You're only alive when you're on stage. The applause, the attention, the admiration, it's anything that keeps anyone going."

Editor's note: This story is part of Axios' new series, Untold Tampa Bay, which aims to give a glimpse into the lives of the people who make up our diverse community and whose stories often go unheard.


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