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Diva Las Vegas: Queering Space in the Entertainment Capital of the World

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Original languageEnglish
JournalGENDER PLACE AND CULTURE
Volume24
Issue number2
Early online date1 May 2017
DOIs
Accepted/In press30 Dec 2016
E-pub ahead of print1 May 2017

King's Authors

Abstract

After a spate of demolitions and a 1990s building boom, the values of neoliberalism – deregulation, privatisation and innovation through competition – have shaped an entirely new topography in Las Vegas, developing in perfect harmony with the former’s rise to global dominance. The Strip, however, has come to capture more than free market economics in building form. The fabric of this desert suburb is also unmistakably gendered, and embodies normative sexuality throughout its unique arrangement of casino-hotels. This article proposes that neoliberalism and heteronormativity are closely intertwined and manifest through the spatial composition of Las Vegas Boulevard. It uses the area’s orientation towards entertainment to consider performance as a central element to this spatiality, and thus as a lens through which to approach analysis of the Strip in spatial terms. Under the Strip’s twin spatial regimes, queer entertainers, and drag performers in particular, have historically marketed both themselves and their acts in order to attract revenue from a conservative, heterosexual audience. Despite its all-pervasive heteronormativity, however, I also argue that the Strip contains a queer disruption at its core. The drag revue Divas Las Vegas hosted by the Strip’s longest-running headliner, Frank Marino, marks a break with local drag traditions, and provides a queer interrogation of gender politics for its audience of predominantly heterosexual tourists.

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