Credit: Courtesy

NO DONUTS NEED APPLY:  Not since the City of Santa Barbara preemptively severed diplomatic relations with Ireland’s seaside town of Dingle — said to be even more quaint than Santa Barbara itself — have we seen an international incident of such looming magnitude as the one pitting the once-Danish city of Solvang against the very real Danish city of Copenhagen. 

This week, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, wrote to Solvang Mayor Mark Infanti expressing her shock and disappointment over the Solvang City Council’s retrograde rejection  earlier this year  of a proposal to festoon the downtown with LGBT pride banners during LGBT Pride month and to decorate downtown crosswalks with the colors of LGBT pride.

Like all international incidents dating back to the Gulf of Tonkin, this one could have easily been sidestepped. In fact, one would be excused for thinking members of Solvang City Council marched 14 blocks out of their way to step into this one. The reality is sadder than that. 

An instant replay of the actual vote suggests the good burghers of Solvang allowed themselves to be supinely stampeded into a position they were at most agnostic about — no banners or painted crosswalks — just to get the loudest squeaky wheel on the council to shut up. That is how power really works

I am referring, of course, to councilmember Robert Clarke, who has described his own self as “a big mouth with no filter.

As a practicing armchair revisionist historian, I am qualified to opine that Clarke’s real target was not so much the pride banners or rainbow crosswalks proposed by the Rainbow House, a nonprofit resource center, located on Copenhagen Drive — and its next-door neighbor, the ONEder Child Toy Store — as it was the more sweeping delusion of “gay grooming” and the conviction that gay people are intent on world domination. 

What really got the craggy-jawed Clarke’s nose out of joint was the idea that a drag queen story-time reading circle had been proposed for the kids’ toy store. “I don’t know what it is about men dressing as women and twerking in front of small children that is inclusive,” the flinty-eyed Clarke expectorated from his council dais. Summoning up what sounded suspiciously like his inner George Wallace, Clarke further fulminated, “I’ll be called a bigot tomorrow; I’ve been called a bigot before. I don’t care.” 

And I thought twerking went out 20 years ago. 

What precise role Clarke played in squelching the drag queen story hour, I don’t pretend to know. (But unlike my colleagues at Fox News, I at least believe what I pretend not to know.) Clarke — one can only wonder what a pall that inexplicable silent “e” has cast upon his life — claims that “heat from the local GOP” killed the event. But Clarke also happens to be a card-carrying member of the “Danish Brotherhood” — again, he said so; I didn’t — which has run that town with an iron fist (and a clenched jaw) since 1947 when residents abandoned farming in favor of the Danish-themed tourist trade, which we are told draws one million visitors a year.

To steal a line from my inner Muhammad Ali, “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them drag queens.” But then, I grew up in the D.C. Metropolitan area where drag queens were part and parcel of the football culture surrounding the Washington Redskins and their much beloved linemen known affectionately as the Hogs. For 30 years, a group of big, hairy, overweight, loud, fun fans donned dresses, shawls, purses, and parasols — not to mention plastic pig snouts — and cheered on their team at RFK stadium. Known as The Hogettes — what else can you call them but drag queens? — these guys were not merely accepted; they were beloved. Over the years, the Hogettes exploited their popularity to raise more than $100 million for charities. Most of these charities, it should be noted, focused on children’s programs that needed help.

More evidence of grooming? 

I am surprised, however, that drag royalty — there are kings as well as queens — has suddenly emerged into such a hot-button issue. I guess it was inevitable. Once upon a time, Republicans galvanized their masses by appealing to their homophobia. But now that same-sex marriage has become commonplace and boring — though still a major boon for the sale of fondue sets and other items purchased only as wedding gifts — more desperately deranged delusions have proven necessary

If anything, we need more drag queen story hours, not fewer. Yes, reading scores among 3rd and 6th graders have just crept up by one percentage point overall, but still — according to the most recent results — less than half of all Santa Barbara public school students in that age range are reading at or above grade level. Just 46 percent. That means 54 percent are not. This, for the record, is not new. 

Given the large number of teachers singing Johnny Paycheck’s famous hit “Take This Job and Shove It,” one might expect School Superintendent Hilda Maldonado to conscript as many drag queens as possible into her literacy campaign. I’m just guessing here — they might make reading a lot more fun. Of course, the big question is what curriculum the drag queens use — the widely discredited “whole language” approach popular with the touchy-feely crowd, or the more “science-based” approach — both new and old — that stresses phonemic awareness.

The obvious reality is that a welcoming attitude to the LGBTQ universe is just smart business. Look at the great lengths to which Disney is going in fighting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his “Don’t Say Gay” crusade. You’d think this might count for something with a business-minded fiscal conservative like Clarke. They’d be selling more evil skeevers in Solvang these days, that’s for sure.

And you shouldn’t need the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen to tell you, either. 


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