Ken Burnette, 58, first tried drag in 1979—”on Halloween, like everybody else,” he says. “Everybody tells you how good you look, and I never stopped.” Now he’s a fixture on Sunday night at Godfrey’s in Richmond. Burnette lost his job as a deli manager last March but makes enough performing as Kerri Blake, his old-Hollywood persona, to pay the bills.
On tolerance: “In the ’80s, you had to make sure you were always in a group. Being gay was bad enough, but if you were in drag, you were really in trouble. You were just asking to get your head busted open. You had to be careful—a lot of the girls didn’t get ready until they were at the club, and you didn’t let anyone in who was straight. These days, the straights love it just as much as the gays.”