The Queens of Club

Cross-dressers take the edge off the typical workday at the Yorkville Café

Ivana Grump and Twiggy Morgan Yorkville Café, 2196 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights Wednesday, July 12, at 10 p.m. Admission is $3; call 216-371-8998
At the Yorkville Café in Cleveland Heights, the transformation from day to night always heralds another escape from the humdrum spell of the cubicle. But on certain Wednesdays, an unusually tall female group begins to rub elbows with the urban professionals that normally flock to the bar. Cross-dressers Ivana Grump and Twiggy Morgan have emerged to take the edge off the typical workday, and their unsightly long legs, short skirts, and layers of caked makeup just might drive the liquor sales up a tad to boot.

"The more you drink, the better we look," Morgan is quick to note.

The two queens -- with a little help from their friends -- are there to lip-synch to music and spin their own brand of cross-cultural humor to the corporate troops. When the sun is finally swallowed by the encroaching darkness and the glow of house lights penetrates the evening, the scenery begins to change. The shimmer of sequins and chiffon takes on an eerie radiance as more customers begin to file through the door.

"I think, eventually, you're going to see a lot of restaurants or cafés are going to have to think of a way to draw more people to their restaurants during late hours," explains Mike Ina, who owns the Yorkville Café. "We work hard all week. We bust our ass. We need something different."

Still, the Lee Road restaurant is best reflected in its clientele, not its performers. Strolling over the glazed hardwood floors or strapped to a stool in the eatery's bar are young professionals in business attire, sipping away the toils of their hard-fought war for the Man. But on those special nights, there is also dotted among them a small set of drag queen groupies who have appeared to egg on the performers during their hour-plus act.

Morgan and Grump take turns doing stand-up and sharing the dance floor with fellow lip-synching queens. Customers can finger a slice of pizza or imbibe their favorite poison while the pair rhumba to "It's Raining Men" and park their packages on any number of laps between numbers. The more reserved members of the crowd are even enticed off the wagon with the lure of winning a T-shirt for gargling a shot of tequila to "La Cucaracha."

"It's good, clean fun," says Ina, apparently sizing up wholesome entertainment as they do in Miami Beach. And while Morgan's straight act does ooze cuteness, it's Grump's over-the-top performance that steals the stage.

"Yeah, I'm the drunk of the bunch," she says proudly. Her surly manner can't help but fix a grin on the audience's mugs -- even those who hadn't expected such theatrics. She holds the attention of the crowd with lighthearted authority, assaulting any poor sap who doesn't clap when she stops talking -- and she only gets better once she's downed a couple of hits of tequila. Half the show is watching this booze-swilling beauty's lip-synching abilities wane as she wobbles around the café on heels, searching for her next shot of medicine.

"A lot of that stuff's water," Grump admits. "I can't drink like that and be able to handle all the things I do. It's all part of the routine. But it's all in good fun."

The contingent that sauntered in from the conventions of their day lives, searching for something singular and new, are not disappointed. Coupled with a little intoxication, the show gives the dancing drag duo a better chance at laying waste the drudgery of the business-day blues -- most people are sent reeling from the bar feeling like a queen for the night.

Just be careful who you agree to take home.

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