Louisville’s brunch game is strong, with everything from snooty chicken and waffles to $20 mimosas. But for a truly outrageous brunch experience, it’s impossible to beat Drag Me to Brunch, a fundraiser organized by the Derby City Sisters aimed at raising money for the Kentuckiana AIDS Alliance (KAA).
Drag Me to Brunch is a recurring event that combines drag performances and tasty victuals. For the next outing on Sunday, Feb. 19, KAA and the Sisters are dragging the event to Feast BBQ in NuLu, and the beloved local restaurant will host its first-ever brunch.
Insider caught up with John Garner, president of KAA, and Sister Zsa Zsa Gabortion to talk about what brunchers can expect at the event, get details about the mission of KAA, and talk about how the groups came together.
The Derby City Sisters are the Louisville chapter of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization with AIDS outreach as part of its mission. The group first formed in San Francisco at the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s.
“As people were dying of mysterious diseases, and nurses and doctors didn’t want to touch them, the Sisters were some of the first people who were willing to pick up that mantle,” said Gabortion. The Sisters started ministering to the sick and raising money back when the government was still calling HIV “GRID.”
As the organization grew and founded chapters in cities all over the world, the group has taken up other causes but still contributes to fighting AIDS and supporting people who are HIV positive.
The idea for Drag Me to Brunch came from a visit to the Sisters chapter in Nashville.
“I took a trip to Nashville, and we dropped into Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, and they do a drag brunch there,” said Gabortion. She loved the idea and decided the Derby City Sisters needed to get in on the action. She took the idea to Sister Alma Badhabits, another Louisville sister who helps organize events. “I’m really good at coming up with ideas, and (she) is really good at making them happen. That’s kind of our thing in general.”
Their first drag brunch at Zanzabar was a success. While planning a followup, the Sisters were deciding which AIDS nonprofit to support and came upon the idea of working with KAA.
“It was hard to choose — do we wanna support House of Ruth, do we wanna support the 502 Clinic, and what made the most sense was teaming with (KAA).”
KAA is an umbrella organization, working with all the Kentucky organizations that provide care and support for people living with HIV.
Garner got involved with HIV activism when he was diagnosed with the disease almost five years ago.
He said KAA wanted to work with the Sisters on Drag Me to Brunch because too many fundraisers are requiems.
“While it is terribly important to remember those who have fought the good fight and gone on before us, we think it’s really important to remember the people who are still with us, and the people who are still fighting that fight,” said Garner.
Changing the tone of the conversation also helps to talk about removing the stigma that is still attached to being HIV positive. “We try to draw attention to the fact that, these days, it’s not so much HIV that kills people, it’s the stigma of HIV that kills people,” said Garner.
That stigma can cost people jobs or leave them on the street with no place to live, problems KAA member organizations seek to address, in addition to the many medical issues connected to HIV.
Garner said the disease isn’t going away, and it actually might be getting worse.
“There are 220 counties on the verge of an outbreak like the one in Scott County. A lot of those places are in our backyard,” said Garner. He also talked about reaching out to young people. He said people under 30 are particularly likely to dismiss the issue and make dangerous choices.
The Sisters will definitely bring the fun, and Feast will make it tasty.
Gabortion, who also works for Feast’s sister restaurant Royals Hot Chicken, talked about what kind of food we can expect.
“They’re planning a loaded tatcho bar situation,” she said. “Tatcho” is a portmanteau of tator tots and nachos. So picture tots with toppings. “A whole bunch of breakfast toppings, like sausage, eggs, bacon, things like that, but also other stuff from the kitchen. I’m pretty sure we’re gonna have the pimento cheese grits from Royals, so it’s gonna be a combination of the two restaurants.”
And while attendees eat themselves into a food coma, there will be raffles and, of course, drag queens and kings. Gabortion says there is a mix of performers, some who work on the national and regional levels, up-and-comers, a burlesque performer and one drag queen known for spitting fake blood in her routines.
“Really, we just wanted to focus on entertainment,” she said. “If you come and pay $30 for a charity brunch, I want you leaving going, ‘Holy shit, that was a hell of a show.’”
Drag yourself to brunch this Sunday, Feb. 19, from noon-4 p.m. at Feast BBQ. Tickets are $30, and proceeds benefit the Kentuckiana AIDS Alliance.