“Slaying a Drag-a-Thon” Is a Podcast for Queens, by Queens

Eden Dawn and Fiona McCann’s latest work of audio storytelling reveals the drama behind the scenes at Portland’s record-breaking, WILDFANG-produced Drag-a-Thon.

Whether it be Eden Dawn and Fiona McCann’s affinity for all things fabulous (just ask Dawn’s childhood pet goat, the “elegant” Lipstick), the 35 years of journalistic experience shared between the two award-winning Portland Monthly alumnae, or simply the duo’s innate love for drag—their new podcast, Slaying a Drag-a-Thon, is…for lack of a more fitting word…a slay.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. Dawn and McCann are queens. But the incredibly stylish, cheetah-print-loving (Dawn), charming-accent-having (McCann), often-red-lipstick-wearing pair are not, in fact, drag queens. (Although, Dawn’s drag name, Eden P*ssy—given to her by her good friends, the legendary Poison Waters and WILDFANG CEO Emma Mcilroy onstage at Drag-a-Thon—begs to differ; but we’ll get to that later.)

In fact, neither Dawn nor McCann nor Mcilroy had ever even hosted a drag show before, but then Mcilroy pitched the idea to Dawn: attempt to produce the world’s longest drag show to raise money for the drag, queer and trans communities impacted by the wave of drag bans and anti-LGBTQ+ laws across the country. The answer was an immediate “yes.”

“The bans are filled with so much hate,” Mcilroy said to Dawn in a phone call recorded on the first episode of the podcast. “So, my thought is…what if we met that hate with joy?”

And after months of meticulous planning, constant problem solving, scheduling performers, rescheduling performers, queens’ flights getting canceled and, eventually, staying up for 27-plus hours with minimal access to caffeine (criminal)...that’s exactly what Dawn and Mcilroy did.

On July 10-12, Drag-a-Thon at Darcelle XV Showplace successfully set a Guinness World Record for the longest drag show ever—ringing in at exactly 48 hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds.

More than 60 performers—from RuPaul’s Drag Race alums like Peppermint, Eureka O’Hara and LaLa Ri to celebs like Frankie Grande, Fred Armisen and Punkie Johnson—made an appearance, ultimately raising $309,000 for the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ youth.

Now, you may be thinking: WW, you’ve spoiled the podcast for us by revealing that Drag-a-Thon did, in fact, achieve World Record status…isn’t that the entire point of Slaying a Drag-a-Thon?

No. The real story—at least the one that involves Fred Armisen declaring his love for Poison Waters, coming-out stories, several backstage panic attacks, drag names like Joaquin P****, a very judgy Mr. Guinness, and SO much more—is how they got there.

However, in an attempt not to spoil too much, I will summarize the true, chaotic story that is Slaying a Drag-a-Thon using takeaways I’ve learned from talking to Dawn and McCann, and from listening to the pod myself.

Here’s how to slay a Drag-a-Thon:

1. Have a somewhat dramatic drag origin story.

Sure, having a goat named Lipstick, a horse named Cher, an apple orchard to sashay around in, and a RuPaul awakening is helpful…but not entirely necessary. If it’s too late for you to follow in Dawn’s footsteps, perhaps you can try bartending at a bar drag queens tend to frequent in Dublin, like McCann.

2. Befriend several drag queens who will both inspire and assist you in your quest…years ahead of time, if at all possible.

3. Adhere to the (very strict and specific) Guinness World Record rules.

“No queen could perform over 10 minutes, or under two minutes…or we’d lose. No emcee could be over five minutes. We couldn’t have two emcee slots back to back. We had to have 25 audience members sitting at all times,” Dawn says. “There were no risks you could take with it,” McCann adds.

4. Book a hotel room across the street so you can run back and forth for (all-too-brief) naps between sets.

5. Make a podcast about the whole experience. (Extensive journalism and podcast experience is a plus.)

Thanks to the sheer storytelling prowess of its hosts, Slaying a Drag-a-Thon does not leave you hanging. Any question you could possibly have is immediately answered the moment it pops into your head. Every news reference cited, every character explained, every quote unpacked, every Guinness World Record rule dissected.

It also helped that Dawn and McCann recorded not only every moment of the event, but the strategizing leading up to, and during, the show.

“There was some pre-planning for sure, and then an awful lot of listening afterwards to so many hours of material,” McCann says. “A lot of which was like Eden wearing her little lavalier [mic] as she ran around onstage with no dialogue.”

“You never know when you’re gonna be getting something exciting, right? You just record everything,” Dawn adds.

6. Do it for Darcelle.

“Not that long before we were going up, [Poison and Eden] were just like, ‘We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna get this certificate back,’” Dawn says. “Because when Darcelle passed, her Guinness certificate [for world’s oldest drag performer] went to somebody else—so the club didn’t have a world record anymore. And we knew we were about to do it. It very much felt like she was there.”

LISTEN: Every episode of Slaying a Drag-a-Thon streams at wecantprintthis.com/dragathon.

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