Everything’s Coming Up Rose

Drag queen Boston Michaels and Match Gayme: Golden Girls of Drag honor Betty White

By Sharon Eberson

From far and wide, fans have been remembering Betty White for being a friend for nearly a century.

Her death at 99 on New Year’s Eve, 17 days shy of her 100th birthday, hit admirers hard. For many, she has been a seemingly omnipresent force of positivity, emanating from a screen in our living rooms.

Boston Michaels as Betty White

Boston Michaels’ devotion to the Golden Girl will be on display when she dons her intricately prepared wig, makeup, and clothes for The Match Gayme: The Golden Girls of Drag.. Joe King hosts the drag show with Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and friends filling in the blanks a la the TV game show, while contestants are chosen from the audience to play for real prizes.

When Boston, who belongs to the house of Michaels, appears as Rose, the audience will get a glimpse into an artist who has taken cues from Betty White throughout his life, on and off the stage.

Boston isn’t just one of those fans who can hear any reference to “The Golden Girls” and immediately name the year and the episode of the show that ran for seven seasons on NBC. There are a lot of those out there.

The Golden Girls and Rose, in particular, were a beacon for a kid growing up in a rural Ohio town, where his high school graduating class was 97.

His family joked that their town was very much like Saint Olaf, the hometown of Golden Girl Rose Nylund.

“It was a big part of my life growing up,” Boston Michaels said by phone. “It wasn’t airing live while I was a kid, but it was one of those shows the whole family enjoyed. Dad liked to watch his WWE, mom liked to watch her crime shows, but The Golden Girls was a show we could all turn on and agree on.”

The Match Gayme performance at the Oaks Theater in Oakmont, 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, will honor the late TV legend by continuing the Betty White Challenge – proceeds from a 50/50 drawing, will go to a local animal shelter. Also, Richard Parsakian of Eons Fashion Antique has donated a prize package that includes an autographed photo of Betty White.

Boston Michaels honors White not only in drag but in how he lives his life.

It began when he and his father bonded over the show, and Rose was their favorite character.

“It became a thing later on,” he said. “After I moved out, he would always have it on when I would come home. And he would say, “Oh, I was watching WWE, and I was flipping around during commercials, and look at what was on.’ He just wanted me to sit down and watch something with him, and he knew that was the show we could both enjoy.”

Even among bickering family members, fond memories swirl around Betty White. There was that time they went to see \The Proposal, which co-starred White, and “it was the one time I remember going out when we all had a good time, and she was the reason we went to see it,” Boston Michaels said.

Pittsburghers into the drag scene may recognize the name not just as a Golden Girl but a pageant winner and performer at the P-Town Bar in North Oakland and Brewers Bar in Lawrenceville. His charitable side – which he traces to following in Betty White’s footsteps – has led to book drives as a high schooler back in Ohio and drag queen bingo here in Pittsburgh.

Channeling older artists such as Betty White has always been in Boston Michael’s wheelhouse.

“I started drag at 19, and I went through my young and pretty phase,” he said. “But then I got into a style and, if you guessed my age in a show, you might say, late 30s-early 40s. I have a thing with aging myself by how I do my makeup and the outfits I choose. I always like portraying more mature women – I find you get a lot more respect from people. So I kind of have that reputation of being the old soul of the group, even when I was the youngest.”

Rose aside, he has leaned toward the Golden Age of black-and-white movies and TV, sometimes with a modern twist. Faye Dunaway’s take on Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest” has been an inspiration for many a drag queen, “but I was the one who did a different stylized version of her, where she was a rapper.”

When in drag as Rose, the choice is to be as close she can get to the sweet, naive housemate of promiscuous Blanche, fierce Dorothy, and acerbic Sophia.

His dedication to detail is so comprehensive, he incorporates even minor changes from one season to the next.

“So when I style my own wigs,” he said, “I always make sure the bottom part is just a tiny bit darker because that’s how it is in the show. That’s the kind of detail work I really go into.”

The performers you will see on Friday may have the look and the mannerisms down pat for their characters, but it’s not as if there’s nothing left to chance in The Match Gayme: The Golden Girls of Drag. Joe King hosts as Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and friends fill in the blanks a la TV’s The Match Gayme, while contestants are chosen from the audience to play for prizes.

Host- Joe King

For the initiated, there are heavy doses of Golden Girls lore to be mined.

For instance, there was a running gag in the TV show where Dorothy would ask Rose for the newspaper, and then she’d hit Rose in the head with it. The one time Rose refused, Dorothy promised not to do it.

“Then she hands the paper to Blanche, and Blanche hits me in the head with it. The audience always finds that hilarious,’ Boston Michaels said. “Those things that were running gags on the show, we try to hit those really hard.”

Like most Golden Girls fans and the actress who played Rose, he doesn’t like to hear the character described as stupid.

“She had a naivete about her, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t intelligent,” Boston Michaels said, adding that his favorite Golden Girls episodes include “when Rose has a cause, and she just won’t let it go.”

That reflects the actress who played her, Betty White, whose activism in literacy, environmental causes, and animal advocacy has been an inspiration in the drag performer’s personal life.

Although Pittsburgh-based, he found his niche is “definitely shows that are in more rural areas, because I understand the audience and I relate to the experience, and a lot of it is for charity. That’s a big thing in my life and another reason I love Betty White.”

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