Unreal is wo/man enough to admit that when we'd seen the talent the evening prior, we'd actually felt our throat close when the piece ended with the tender offering of a red rose.

Tonight the house seems to shake with a thunderous ovation.

Next comes Stetson with a comedy bit from MADtv, playing a hilariously awkward old lady who bumbles about a thrift store before bursting into an expert jazz clarinet solo. He too brings the house to its feet.

It took eight tries for Victoria Depaula, the outgoing Miss Gay America, to nab the crown.
It took eight tries for Victoria Depaula, the outgoing Miss Gay America, to nab the crown.
As Unreal learned, it takes more than Cover Girl to cover boy.
As Unreal learned, it takes more than Cover Girl to cover boy.

After Vouché performs a good-enough-for-Broadway tap routine to a 42nd Street medley, Unreal is flummoxed. We want to pick a favorite...but whom?

Backstage, the bona fide Miss Texas 2008 twirls about in preparation for her part in a dance bit. "I just gave up my reign in July!" gushes the beauty queen, a petite white-blonde who can't be all of 24.

"He's gorgeous!" she says of Sally Sparkles, her Dallas-based drag man, who choreographs for the Miss Texas pageant. When Sparkles asked her to perform with him at Miss Gay America, she didn't waste a breath. "Hell, yeah!"

By the time Depaula's farewell slideshow begins, the clock's neared midnight. As photos of a pint-size drag princess scroll by, Depaula narrates: "While other boys were playing cops and robbers, I was impersonating Madonna and Paula Abdul...."

Eventually Depaula, decked out in a red, white and black rhinestone-studded gown, moves center-stage to greet her acolytes. All 50 contestants, along with all the formers, pay her a final tribute, complete with a hug and cash money.

The departing queen turns to greet the audience, all the while stuffing the dough into a hot-pink shopping bag. A train of taped-together bills is draped over her arms like a stole.

"Oh, man, now I'm really gonna cry!" says a man rolling up to the bar as the first bars of Jordan Hill's "Remember Me This Way" pipe through the speakers.

At the back of the ballroom, Edwards' wingman is jittery. "I'm so nervous," he confides. "Win, lose, tie, I just want it to be over."

Unreal knows the feeling. So does the owner of the Miss Gay Missouri pageant, Joey DiMercurio, who's been assisting a number of the locals from day one and is now shifting from foot to foot alongside us. "It's been a long week of hell," he says. "Drag hell."

At last we hear the magic words: "Fourth alternate...third alternate.... Ladies and gentlemen, your first alternate, contestant number fifteen, Coco Montrese!"

Unreal is suddenly grabbed at both shoulders by a linebacker of a fella in a fleece. "IT'S ALYSSA EDWARDS!"


As Montrese accepts his consolation prize, Edwards, resplendent in magenta, remains planted in his spot at stage-left. He's staring at the floor, then bending over, teetering, back and forth. Uh oh. Is he gonna throw up? Faint?

As he's ushered to center-stage, Unreal sees that Edwards is aquiver with the thrill of it. If we didn't know better, we'd swear the ecstatic queen was having an orgasm. 

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