Polished rubies in a city of rough gems

Polished rubies in a city of rough gems

The Rubi Girls present a benefit for ARC Ohio

By J.T. Ryder

The Rubi Girls will perform their sold-out show, ‘Definitive Rubi,’ on August 13 at the Dayton Playhouse to benefit the AIDS Resource Center Ohio.

The Rubi Girls will perform their sold-out show, ‘Definitive Rubi,’ on August 13 at the Dayton Playhouse to benefit the AIDS Resource Center Ohio.

Since mankind adopted gender specific clothing, through Shakespearian time and into modern times, the entertainment world has had a titillating fascination with jocks in frocks. Even within the realm of drag queens and divas, there are countless layers and visions of drag, from the overindulgent splendor of the runway rulers to the campy kitsch of the vaudevillian stage, with Dayton’s own Rubi Girls falling somewhere within that spectrum.

As the Rubi Girls ready themselves for yet another extravagant event to benefit the AIDS Resource Center Ohio (ARC Ohio), I was able to speak with one of the performers and documentarian of the group, Jonathan McNeal. The first question I had was about the culture of drag and where the Rubi Girls fall into that culture.

“There are a lot of different factions of being a drag queen and some are very serious about the pageantry and even the regality of it. There are just different games and different approaches to the whole idea, whereas, with the Rubi Girls … and here’s how we say it … we don’t take drag seriously. We take having a good time seriously and drag just happens to be the way we do it.”

In explaining the reaction within the drag community over the release of McNeal’s documentary, The Rubi Girls, McNeal said, “With the documentary that I made, which was released in 2003, it has taken us to a lot of different venues across the country and there are certainly a lot of people whose eyebrows are immediately raised, saying, ‘Those aren’t drag queens like we have seen before!’”

With the recognition and renown the Rubi Girls have enjoyed, tied with their campy compassion, I asked McNeal how it all began…

“This kind of started back in the late ‘80s when just a few people kind of touted themselves as the Rubi Girls. They lived on Rubicon Street and they decided to put on little performances for each other with bed sheets and lampshades and whatnot. Then it started to become a big party where they would invite a bunch of people and say, ‘We’re going to put on a show tonight!’ These early shows were in the living room or the attic and, quickly, they began to outgrow that space because people were coming up onto the porch and watching from the windows and there wasn’t enough space in the living room anymore. When they started to outgrow that space, a bar said, ‘You know, I think we can make money on this, so we’ll give you the bar to do your show in.’”

Knowing of the Rubi Girls’ reputation as being one of the most prodigious fundraising groups for various non-profit organizations, I wondered how long it took before their philanthropic yearnings overcame the offers for personal earnings.

“The Rubi Girls decided that getting paid for doing this would alter the dynamic that they had going on where it was really just intended for fun, and so they decided that any money raised would go towards charity and so that’s where the charitable aspect of the group came along.”

Describing what type of charities, McNeal elaborated by saying, “There were a variety of charities over the years. They initially would send a team to the Gay Games and the Gay Bowling League and all varieties of LGBT-related causes, but then there became a focus on HIV and AIDS-related charities. We decided that it was time to refocus and so we said that anything that we did had to be tied in with HIV and AIDS-related causes, which also would include educational and outreach components.”

One such event, titled Definitive Rubi, will be held August 13 and all proceeds will benefit ARC Ohio as well as an ongoing sale of calendars, which, again, benefit ARC Ohio.

We had spoken at length about the group’s past nightmare gigs (having to use an alley as a dressing room probably rates pretty high on this list) to the group’s overall personality overcoming not only the public’s, but their peers’ perception of the troupe. Now, as our conversation wound down, I asked McNeal what his own insight into the allure of the Girls was…

“The Rubi Girls are kind of an entity that, even if they are in boy’s clothes and if there are more than two of us out and about, everyone goes, ‘Oh! Here come the Rubi Girls!’” McNeal stated with a glint of contented pride. “We kind of have a cult following and people know who we are in or out of drag, which is kind of fun and certainly is something that we are happy to have embraced.”
‘Definitive Rubi’ is slated for August 13 at 7 p.m. at the Dayton Playhouse. Tickets have just SOLD OUT. For more information on the Rubi Girls, go to www.rubigirls.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at JTRyder@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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