How lucky can one small-town "girl" get?
"Edie" is the alter ego of David Douglas High School graduate Christopher Kenney, a gay gent who spent his early years as a student at Sally Mack's School of Dance before becoming a full-fledged ballet boy. He worked for a decade-plus with companies across the country, including Ballet Oregon (the precursor to OBT). Dancing led Kenney to New York City, where, one eventful Halloween, he donned a black beehive wig and heels and became Edie, a svelte, 7-foot-tall drag star. That led to steady work both in nightclubs and on Broadway (Threepenny Opera ) and to meeting his partner of nine years, playwright Jamie Morris (Mommie Queerest ), whom he lives with in Manhattan in what once was Bette Midler's apartment.
Kenney (who declines to give his age) ventures back to Portland every so often to visit his longshoreman, nudist parents, Phil and Lynette, but this past holiday season was different. Kenney and Morris aren't going back to the Big Apple once their vacation is over. They're heading for Las Vegas, where Kenney will take over for Joey Arias beginning Jan. 22 as the "Mistress of Seduction" in Cirque du Soleil's 18-and-over Zumanity . The show is at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino.
"It'll be Edie with a big budget," Kenney told me in the lobby of the Ace Hotel, where he met me in early January along with Morris. He was talking about how the crafty folks behind the Cirque machine are hard at work tweaking the character of Edie to fit the role designed by Arias. "It's a great collaboration. I still can be Edie, but also something else."
For Kenney that means flirting with more adult-themed material than he has done previously in his career. This Cirque show, unlike the troupe's more family-friendly fare, features partial nudity, sexual experimentation and hula hoops. It's a risky move for a performer not known for risqué material. In fact, Edie is one of the "nicest" (i.e., clean-living) drag queens in the world. Not exactly an endorsement for someone who'll soon be leading a little person around on a leash. But Kenney has no fear when it comes to unleashing his brand of entertainment. "I've worked my face off to get where I am," says Kenney. "And I will in this show, too."
For now Morris and Kenney will live in a home furnished by Cirque, but eventually they will move into their own place. This terribly sweet couple is excited to spread their wings in a new town where they might be able to lead what they consider a "normal" life. "I was helping my sister run errands, and she had to go to Costco," Kenney says about his most recent trip home. "Living in New York, I'd never been in a Costco before. It was so exotic. Now that we're living in Vegas we might actually be able to buy one of those giant packs of toilet paper."
That Edie, she sure does live a glamorous life.
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