love and draginess

New Jersey Couple Celebrates Half-Century of Love and Drag

Vince Grimm and Will Kratz of Villas, NJ have been lovingly committed to one another through nine presidents, two wars in Iraq and 32 Cher farewell tours.

The Washington Blade profiles the couple who have been together since Grimm, 75, spotted Kratz, 73, in a gay bar in Reading, PA in 1961, consummating their love in the back of a 1957 Cadillac.

You don’t get romance like this anymore, kids.

Kratz had been performing in drag since 1959 and decided a few years later that he wanted his shows to be even bigger and draggier. But all those wigs and bugle beads didn’t pay for themselves so he and Grimm decided to throw a series of “barbecue chicken parties” to support Kratz’s queenery.

The parties soon took off with some 1,500 attendees trucking in from the tri-state area. Kratz and Grimm then began staging elaborate drag shows featuring up to 10 performers on stage. Though they faced some opposition from authorities, the couple kept dragging along, eventually winning over the local firemen and their wives, who would gussy up in their Sunday best to attend the shows.

But alas, nothing good lasts forever and Grimm and Kratz discontinued their epic parties in 1979 due to a lack of interest among the young folk. Still, it was fun, and even groundbreaking, while it lasted:

“It sounds like we were doing great things only in retrospect now because back then, we knew what we were doing, but we had no idea what we were doing,” said Kratz, who designed displays for the Strawbridge and Clothier department store at the time. “We knew our drag. We knew how to sew costume. We had no idea we were setting a precedent, for anybody. We just wanted to provide a safe place for the 1,500 or so people who ended up coming and the 500-600 who came to our shows in four weekends. We had no idea we were pre-anything else like Stonewall. We weren’t out on the streets looking for freedom. We already had it.”

Photo: Michael K. Lavers for the Washington Blade