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Dragopolis Till Dawn

At aaah! Capella in North Hollywood, the drag queens come out three nights a week at midnight for some fun and a quiet latte.

April 23, 1998|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At the stroke of midnight, when Cinderella's carriage turns back into a pumpkin and the princess of the ball goes from riches to rags, a similar fairy tale is taking place at aaah! Capella, a theatrical coffeehouse in the artsy enclave of North Hollywood.

But at aaah! Capella, the party is just beginning. For when the clock strikes 12 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, this artsy cafe is transformed into a venue where everyone is queen for a day. A drag queen, that is.

A late-night cafe that features the standard run of artsy things in addition to theatrical productions performed in its 99-seat theater, aaah! Capella puts on a pretty face after hours and becomes Dragopolis, a haven for transvestites.

Dragopolis, which runs till 6 a.m., got started six months ago when a couple of queens came in for some coffee after a night at the Queen Mary, a landmark drag club in Studio City. They came back again and again, and each time they brought more divas.

Co-owner Carl David said he felt out of place serving coffee and doughnuts with a straight face, so one night he brushed on some powder, puckered up with red lipstick and put on a wig and a dress. And, voila, Debbie David was born, and so was Dragopolis.

"It's a safe harbor for people who like wearing a dress," said David, a tall, lithe-looking diva who runs the cafe with fellow queen Spanky. "It's much safer to be here than it is to be cruising the boulevard or hanging out in the bar scene."

There's no telling whether folks passing through this old Chinese restaurant in spiked heels and matte make-up are men or women. Some look too good to be boys, but the old-timers will tell you, make no mistake, that under all that makeup these are guys, not gals.

There are divas of every race, shape and size sipping lattes and mocha in the cafe, which is decorated with a mishmash of Hollywood paraphernalia, including an old synthesizer that once belonged to Lawrence Welk. Some dress to the nines wearing silky nylons and miniskirts, others don pinstripe suits and floral dresses looking more like school marms.

"Oooh, she's good," says Victoria Vaughn Vixen, a longtime queen referring to a dolled-up diva wearing a tight miniskirt and tube top. "For some it's just a fetish, for others it's more, but I respect all queens."

Vixen is the reigning Ms. Gay Galaxy, a beauty competition for futuristic queens, and every now and then her posse of divas, Mouths Inc., performs at Dragopolis. They wear flashy clothes and strut their stuff in the theater. Vixen typically closes the show with a routine to the aptly named "It's Raining Men."

Dragopolis isn't all aaah! Capella, which is open nightly from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., has going for it. On Monday, old movies are screened in the theater, where sofas and lawn furniture make up the seating. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, comics, musicians and the occasional poet get seven minutes of fame with open-mike night.

But unlike the other nights, it's at Dragopolis where folks who like to get dressed up have some place to go.

BE THERE

Dragopolis at aaah! Capella, 5907 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 509-6738. All ages. Cover: $5.

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