(Drag Queens and Pancakes in the Desert…with Scotty P)
When I was a flight attendant, the holy grail of trips you could get was the 6-day Los Angeles trip. With most long-haul flights, the cabin crew get one or two nights at the destination, but four times a month there was an LA trip that gave you 5 local nights. In all my time at the airline, I was lucky enough to get the 6-day LA once.
During that trip I hired a car and drove into the desert where I’d spend one night at a clothing-optional resort in Palm Springs. Of course, I’d also try to use this opportunity to meet and photograph a local, so I turned on Grindr and found Scotty P, a 21-year old lad who’d moved to Palm Springs a year before from an even smaller desert town.
Scotty worked by day at a pancake restaurant. I’m guessing it was IHOP ‘cos he didn’t have a car and IHOP was the only pancake house within walking distance. By night, he performed as a drag queen called Angelica Fox. During the shoot, he didn’t get out any of his drag costumery, but his shaved legs and lack of musculature surely enough revealed the Angelica alter ego.
First we shot inside, which stunk rather strongly of piss. He told me that only ten minutes before I arrived he was with a guy doing watersports and hadn’t chance to clean up yet. Indeed his bed was covered with a plastic tarp to protect the sheets and mattress beneath.
He wanted a shower, so I followed him and shot him there. The stench was bothering me and I had moments where I just wanted to get the hell out, but there was a gentleness to him, as well as a sort of sad idealism that reminded me of myself at that age. So I stuck around, but switched to shooting outside in the fresh air. He sat by the community pool; in the notepad he brought, he wrote stream of consciousness while I photographed.
The next day, even though I really don’t like IHOP (though it is better than Denny’s), I contemplated stopping there for breakfast and to see him again. Instead I ate at Elmer’s Restaurant on East Palm Canyon where the pancakes are superb and don’t taste like they were made in a factory 3000 miles away. But I wished I’d gone to IHOP.
Find out more about Elska here: www.elskamagazine.com