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MISS 501

By Merle Bertrand | January 22, 2002

I’m scarred for life; the disturbing image of Burger, a hairy pot-bellied forty-something drag queen performing a suggestive Karaoke/striptease combo to the song “Love For Sale” seared into my brain for all eternity. Not a pretty picture. Burger, you see, emerges as more or less the central figure in Jules Karatechamp’s rude and raucous documentary “Miss 501.” A bartender/manager of the punk rock club The Bistro, Burger is also a veteran drag queen determined to try to win the title of “Miss 501;” a cross-dressing beauty pageant and talent show held annually at Bar 501.
While “Miss 501” the contest serves as what little skeleton this video documentary of the same name has, the film also delves into the early days of the local punk rock scene as well as pays homage to pioneering queens everywhere.
It’s hard to imagine much of an audience for this video beyond the filmmaker’s friends and associates, especially as there have been far more insightful pieces done on both the histories of punk and the whole drag queen thing. Even what tenuous thread of a storyline the viewer does have to cling to, the contest itself, is diluted and stripped of any drama. Similarly, Karatechamp never explores why winning the contest is so important to Burger…who seems to be entered mainly to have a good time and scratch his exhibitionist itch.
What we’re left with in “Miss 501” is a glorified home video; a loud, crude and amateurish affair which will appeal only to those who made it.

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