It's coming up on Alex Simpson's/AKA Deb Auchery's birthday. Bend hasn't sparkled quite as brightly since she passed away last September from diabetes. Her drag collective, The Cult of Tuck, is putting on a new show on Aug. 5 at Silver Moon for her birthday celebration. "Deb's Dollhaus" is a variety show benefiting the Transgender Law Center and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and members of the Cult, as well as burlesque, comedy and live music, will perform. Deb was one of the driving forces behind advancing the queer community of Bend, so I checked in with three members of the Cult to see how the local scene has been doing since she left.
Source Weekly: Now that you've had some time to produce shows without Deb, is it becoming clearer what the Cult looks like moving forward? How has that been?
Dick Von Moreno/Merissa Perez: With each show the picture of where The Cult is going is becoming a little bit clearer, but it still feels like we're finding our footing in a lot of ways. So far it's been amazing, cathartic and eye opening, to say the least. I can also say I am so glad that I have Mystique (Syd), Foxy (Todd), and all of our other Cult members to find our way and each bring a color to the painting that is the Cult's bright future.
Foxy Lahound/Todd Leiser: So much of the process still feels the same — producing shows without Deb. The Cult of Tuck still feels like the same family with the same goals that Deb formed back in 2018. It's just that now many of us are sharing the workload that she used to put in on her own! While it has been, at times, overwhelming, heartbreaking, intimidating and scary to produce these shows without her, it's clear that there is very little to change with how we put on shows. We still want the Cult to be what we and Deb have always wanted: a platform to showcase local drag, a space where we can freely pursue our creative ideas and challenge ourselves and an opportunity to spread queer joy as much as possible.
Mystique Hunt/Syd O: We're still in the early stages, I think. This (Deb's Dollhaus) is our third show following her passing, and by virtue of being both a fundraiser (for the Transgender Law Center and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and a variety show with many guest performers, it's automatically very different from a typical Cult show. All the production pieces definitely continue to get clearer, but I think the Cult is always expanding and evolving. And that's one of the things that makes it great.
SW: What can people expect from this upcoming show? What specific vibe/tone/theme are you curating?
Dick/Merissa: People can expect a variety of drag, burlesque, comedy and live singers this time around. Aside from raising money for two awesome charities, the vibe of the evening is, it's a celebration. Deb always wanted her birthdays to be a big ol' celebration with all her friends. It was her party and only she was allowed to cry if she wanted to.
Mystique/Syd: Tips, raffle tickets and the majority of ticket sales (every penny earned outside of paying our performers and crew) will be donated 50/50 to both the Transgender Law Cen-ter and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Deb's name. If you can't physically be present but want to donate to the fundraiser, you can via the Eventbrite ticket page.
Foxy/Todd: This will be a variety show featuring performances from many of Deb's close friends. Not just drag queens, but fellow comedians and burlesque performers as well. Everyone who has been instrumental in Deb's performance career, we want to showcase. The title, "Deb's Dollhaus" is one she used to use every year on her birthday in order to put on a show with her friends and we hope to keep that tradition going, starting with this one which would have been her 31st birthday. We want it to be a celebration of her and make it an opportunity to raise funds in her name for causes that would have been close to her. Most importantly, this is a collaboration with Deb's mom, Markaye Simpson. So much of our decision making with this show was run through Markaye first so that we could celebrate the memory of Deb in the most meaningful ways possible.
SW: I know you've been asked this question before, but what do you think Deb's legacy, not just for the Cult but for the community in general, will be? How do you think she was able to make people feel so effortlessly loved and safe?
Dick/Merissa: Deb's legacy to me will always be that of loving and being one's true and authentic self. As well as she was always a loud advocate for herself and delighted in helping others find their own voices and be their true selves. I'm honestly not sure how she did what she did. She did make it look effortless though and I've never known another like her. All I can say is I strive to bring some of that essence she had whenever I take the stage.
SW: What would you say to the youth that feels like there's no way out of their current situation? What do you hope they can learn from you?
Foxy/Todd: Finding community is incredibly important. Even if that's just one or two people you can trust.
Mystique/Syd: There's always a way forward, even if the path isn't clear just yet. It's worth surviving, there is community. No feeling or situation lasts forever, even if it feels unending or overwhelming. Hold on and keep doing the things that bring you joy, no matter how small. I can say from experience that I am glad I've survived the darkness I've faced, because there are a lot of amazing things on the other side (including chosen family!).
SW: Do you feel like the local community has grown more open to queer culture over the last year? If yes, in what ways; if no, in what ways?
Mystique/Syd: Yes and no. I think Central Oregon has far more visible queerness than, say, five years ago. The queer community is definitely larger and more vocal/visible. However, over the last year there have been so many awful legislative moves against LGBTQ folx across the country. That has definitely had an impact — there are intense reminders that, no matter how loving the spaces we create and inhabit may feel, Central Oregon still has a very long way to go (especially in its treatment of the QTBIPOC members of our community).
Foxy/Todd: There is no question that there is more love and support of queer culture in our community than there ever has been before, but it doesn't mean that we aren't always painfully aware of how fast that can go away. Bend is a place I know I can be myself openly but I also know there are only specific places where I can do that.
SW: For someone completely unfamiliar with drag, how would you explain the beauty of it to them?
Dick/Merissa: It's an ancient and ever evolving artform that's meant to be fun, thought provoking, political, and it's not going anywhere.
Mystique/Syd: It's an art form and performance that simultaneously allows people to be wholly themselves and a completely different person. It's a very personal form of expression that is different for each artist, and it can be both fun and deeply cathartic. Just like other forms of art and expression, drag contains multitudes. There is no one way to do drag.