Is there anything Lexington misses more than a big Derby Eve bacchanal?
Not according to party planner Bradley Picklesimer, who wants to bring back a big, frothy, neon-tinged revel for the night before the Derby.
Years ago, Lexington socialites Anita Madden and Marylou Whitney — who invited the rich, the talented and the flamboyant to their Derby parties to mingle with down-home folks — quit hosting their annual Derby events.
Why are such things missed? Because they defined an era in the Bluegrass, Picklesimer said. At the Madden parties, there was glitter by the tub and several vats of alcohol garnished with behavior for which you could repent if only you could remember, he said.
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There was the glamour, the high jinks, the friend who Picklesimer said once woke up the morning after a Madden bash in a field, his Brooks Brothers suit grass-stained and his leg missing a shoe.
Such parties gave Kentuckians near and far the chance to live like a millionaire or, for one night, dress and drink and dance like one.
Madden's last bash was in 1998. Whitney ended hers in 1994.
In town this week, Bradley Picklesimer, once Lexington's leading drag queen, is twirling on the dance floor of The Bar Complex on East Main Street in a black corset, fishnets, Burberry six-inch spikes — "These are real comfy. They are like house shoes." — and a black organza train.
On Picklesimer's made-up lips is Revlon's Cherries in the Snow lipstick; his pressed powder comes from Cover Girl. On his arms are two "pony boys" wearing silver collars and black horse hats that look as if Cher's wig designer took on black horses as envisioned by David Lynch.
After driving from his home in California, Picklesimer is plotting his party décor. He is planning fresh flowers, archways with curtains, Chinese lanterns, chandeliers and a four-panel painting.
If this party works out — and indications are good, given that 80 VIP tickets at $100 each are already sold out — he plans to partner with a charity next year and donate part of the proceeds.
The vintage disco lights of Joe Brookshire's The Bar Complex come up. The Andrea True Connection's More, More, More, a disco classic, rumbles through the speakers, and the three men become three of the fiercest who ever fierced for the camera.
Picklesimer, 57, who grew up off Winchester Road and attended Henry Clay High School, ran the show bar Cafe LMNOP on Main Street, left Lexington in 1991 and moved to California to be a party planner.
Now, with a second home in Johnson County near country singer Loretta Lynn's old home, Picklesimer would like to start planning more parties around Kentucky.
"There is no place more beautiful than spring in Kentucky," Picklesimer said.
While he might be the most famous living drag queen from Lexington, he is fond of the legacy of others who preceded him, such as Sweet Evening Breeze, who died in 1983. Picklesimer was a pallbearer at his funeral.
Picklesimer sees himself retired in a few years on his tin-roofed Johnson County porch "with a ZZ Top beard, frilly panties, my overalls and a loaded shotgun."
Chi Chi LaRue, a drag diva, is coming to deejay Picklesimer's Derby Eve party. The Hustler Hollywood store is doing gift bags for the event.
Picklesimer has sent an invitation to Anita Madden, whom he regards as the pre-eminent Derby Eve hostess.
"She was always so gracious and so kind, the epitome of a gracious socialite," Picklesimer said.