Roberta Donnay: Drag Queens, Diners & The Road

Drag Queen to visiting patron: “Do you travel much?” Patron: “Yes”.  Drag Queen: “But have you ever been a-broad?”  (Howls from the audience).

This has nothing at all to do with anything much. Except that I’m living in San Francisco, and, well, we must have some of the most best-dressed drag queen population right here in my old neighborhood.  Doesn’t bother me much except that some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen turn out to be guys.  Damn them !. Wish I had their beauty secrets.

Ok. So back to the road….We’re leaving for the east coast, then I have some gigs with my band out of town, then I think we’re in the Pacific Northwest again..

Last time I was in Orgeon with Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks, we were in a really small town. “How small was it, Johnny?” It was so small that the only motel in town had only eight rooms.  Then, in the morning, when I got up and out to take a walk (there was no downtown there), I saw one truck with one guy and I asked him if there was a breakfast place nearby. And he pointed to the market across the street and said, “That’s it, in the back of the market”.  And so I walked up to the market, which was really a one-room convenience store, with cases on one side of milk products, the other side with cleaning supplies, and, well, everything in between in small quantities. And one refrigerator case. That’s it.  No one manning the store.

And then there was a room in the back where there was obviously a diner.  And so I walked back there.  Another room.  There were maybe five tables..  And there was a small table for menus and some magazines (National Geographics, my favorite).

And there was a kitchen off this room.  And there was one cook who was hanging over a hot stove, making hash browns and eggs and wiping the sweat off her face.

She was the only working person there, and obviously had to run back and forth between the “diner” and the convenience store to help all the customers (at this point there were seven of us).

So, I read the menu and I ordered.  Naturally, everyone was staring at me in the room.  Of course.  I was a total stranger, what was I doing there ?  Apparently, none of them had attended the concert the night before so none of them knew what a huge star was in their midst.  Ha !  But, anyway, I finally went up to Kathy, that was her name, the cook, and asked if I could help her as this was obviously the “rush” time and she was barely able to write down my order.  I thought I’d be super brave and ask her if she needed any help and then I heard myself say the words “I’m a pretty good cook!”.  But she just sighed and wiped her forehead with her sleeve and replied, “The boss would kill me if he found out that someone else was cooking !”.

So, there it was.  I was stunned.  Not by her reply, not by the diner, not by the engrossing article inside the National Geographic Magazine that I started reading about Japan and the amount of tsunamis around the world and how the little specs looked around the west coast of the Americas but around Japan it looked like a fleet of battleships, but I was stunned by what happened next.

Some guys came in and said they needed gas pumped.  And sure enough, Kathy had to leave the stove, go outside, pump their gas, and then come back in, run the market, and get back in time to the diner to flip the hash browns.  Wow, now that’s a small town !

Isn’t touring great ?  Oh yeah, and no cell reception there.  So, all the phone calls and gigs I was waiting on, well, they just had to wait some more.  Just like I had to wait for the gas to be pumped, the register to stop clinking, and the other orders to go through… before I could hear the sound of my own egg a-fryin’ up…  What a sweet, sweet sound it was…

~ Roberta Donnay



Jazz Recording Artist ROBERTA DONNAY & the Prohibition Mob Band have a new CD “A Little Sugar” on Motema Music. She is currently touring with her own group and with Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks.

For more info:



“A Little Sugar” on Amazon:

“A Little Sugar” on iTunes:

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