Back in 2018, I was visiting family in Athens, Georgia, and snagged a ticket to the big AIDS fundraiser event for Northeast GA, The Boybutante AIDS Foundation’s Annual Ball, which took place at The 40 Watt Club. What an experience that was! With most of my fundraising experience being in the Big Apple, I was delighted to see that the small city of Athens turned out (and turned IT out) in attendance, costumes (I was told, folks come dressed to each year’s theme—and they were) and revelry.
Well, I had to know more, and this past October, while visiting my mother in GA, I popped over to a brunch drag show to benefit the 2018–2019 Boybutante fundraising season at a fabulous restaurant, The National. That is where I met the charming and gracious host, Lacie Bruce, and we instantly hit it off.
I was so in awe of how rural Georgia took to HIV/AIDS fundraising—all led by drag queens, and made several more trips to my home land, to see my dear Mama (naturally), but also to check out the fundraising events Lacie and her gals put together.
Bigger cities see big turn-outs and big donations in fundraising events, In a town that
hasn’t had a dedicated gay bar in over twenty years, Athens’ own Boybutante AIDS Foundation, which started thirty years ago with humble beginnings, finally, this year made it to the $1,000,000 mark in fundraising, with the proceeds going to Live Forward (formerly AIDS Athens). Boybutante’s fundraising season goes throughout the year, culminating with their annual Ball in April. The 2019 theme was Divas Are Forever—and the divas were out and serving it to the children! Miss Lacie Bruce, resident of nearby Winder, GA, curated a fabulous show and a fabulous evening for such a wonderful cause.
Let me introduce you to my new friend and sister, Lacie Bruce.
Candy Samples: How did you get involved with Boybutante originally?
Lacie Bruce: The first thing I ever did with Boybutante was the talent show, one of their fundraiser shows leading up to the big Boybutante ball, and got involved in volunteering for the organization from then on. I think the year was ‘97, that was before I joined the board. In 2003 I became a board member.
How did you get your start in drag?
My husband took me to my first drag show in 1996, and soon after I entered the talent show at a local bar, Boneshakers. I won the competition and began doing guest spots at the bar!
I was so thrilled to be able to make several different fundraisers for Boybutante such as last October’s brunch, the February bar crawl and of course the 2018 Boybutante Ball. You guys had a fantastic turn out for all of those events. Has Boybutante always had a series of different fundraisers leading up to the big April ball?
Yes, we have always had different events leading up to the Ball. For years we did a Boybutante that took place during the Halloween season. We revived this past year Divas on Wheels where we hop from bar to bar doing a few numbers at each bar and gathering the following throughout the night.
We are always trying to come up with new events to intrigue people to come out and support.
I wish I could have seen your gender-bending version of Steel Magnolias and your spin on The Golden Girls.
One year during the Christmas season we presented Santaland Diaries with Harold Leaver (a staple in the Atlanta theatre community, having performed Santaland Diaries for over sixteen years). That went over very well with a few of the board members playing key roles in the production. I played three, myself!
Three roles?! Are you the next Hayley Mills?
[Laughs.] That was many years ago and I was a lot swifter on my feet. But I’ll do anything to raise money for this fabulous cause.
Listen, I saw you in April in your beaded onesie delivering a fierce performance at the 40 Watt Club for the 2019 Boybutante Ball. You still got it!
Thank you so much, darling. That means so much to me.
With the closure of Boneshakers, Athens’ only exclusively LGBT club, in the late nineties, did you think the Boybutante might run into some lean times?
I don’t feel the absence of an actual gay bar has hurt us. So many other bars are willing to step up to the plate and help us out. I think for the most, a lot of the so-called straight bars are really intrigued by us.
I hear ya there! I used to visit Athens back in the day and I spent many a good night at the old Velvet Elvis! A very inclusive community.
Do you find it’s easy to get the younger girls involved with Boybutante?
They are more than willing, it has never been a problem getting people involved especially when they’re going to be able to entertain in the Ball. Casting the Ball is always so easy but hard at the same time because you have to pick the cast. And some don’t make the cut. But I always try to rotate and give those who didn’t get to perform a chance maybe the next year.
And as far as having volunteers at the Ball, that is always pretty easy as well; people are always willing to help out.
One thing that makes Boybutante special is that it grew out of a one-night-only drag benefit show, correct? And there is a crowned board president who comes out of that to “reign” the following year. Did I get that right?
Yes, someone on the board is always crowned and he or she will be considered Miss Bogart for the next year.
Miss Bogart is the board member who we feel and vote on that has done the most throughout the year. Miss Bogart doesn’t always become chair during his or her reign. I was Miss Bogart back in 2008. The theme that year was “Jailhouse Frock.”
The first ball was held at the Rockfish Palace which turned into Boneshakers, and it was a drag show and we raised $800 for the first show. It was called Night of a Thousand Barbra’s.
Tell me about Miss Thing. The Boybutante AIDS Foundation has a distinct logo, an image of a beehived goddess—who is personified in all of the events. Is she the Boybutante’s personal Jolly Green Giant?
She sure is, with her big bouffant in all its Glory.
Yaaaas! What do you see in the future for Boybutante?
I see continued fundraising frenzies for the years to come until this terrible disease is obliterated. We are here for the long haul!
Miss Lacie Bruce can be seen on stage in Atlanta every Saturday night at Midtown Moon in Ruby Redd’s Redd Light District, 8 p.m. and at Da Grand Bar & Grill in Monroe the second Friday of each month, 10 p.m., and an occasional appearance on Sundays at Joe’s on Juniper (Atlanta) for their brunch show, The Heifer Review. Find Lacie on Facebook @lacie.bruce.5 and Instagram @divalaciebruce.
Candy Samples is a singer/songwriter drag artist in New York City. She has released two EPs and several singles on iTunes and is currently working on her first full-length album, Bittersweet. In her spare time, she fundraises and raises awareness for many different HIV/AIDS organizations. She is a fierce ally to the HIV/AIDS community and encourages all to use their “Powers for Good.” For more information, log on to: www.samplemycandy.com.