The Manhattan-bound L train on a Saturday night at 8 PM is often a relatively quiet affair: small groups of friends heading into the city for drinks, couples on their way to a dinner date — rarely anything to write home about. But if you were waiting for the subway at Bushwick-Aberdeen on Saturday, October 23, you were in for a very queer, colorful and cunty surprise: "Haunting on the L."
For the past three months, Sterling Tull, Filthy June and their band of queens have been storming subway cars across NYC, performing drag for their growing cult fans and unwitting subway travelers on the Q and N lines. Now it was the L train's turn — seemingly the perfect line, given that it stops at a number of generally very LQBTQ+ friendly neighborhoods.
The aim is simple: to bring back the punk, niche and spontaneous attitude that queer culture has been historically known for, and to have a very fun time. And they did exactly that, featuring performances from Paris L'Hommie, Julie J, Stasi, The July Era, Cuntyham, Junior Mintt, Silly Brown and Juniper Juicy.
Queens and attendees met outside a self-storage business in Bushwick, coincidentally underneath a big sign that read "Your Happy Space." (A premonition for things to come?) Numbering about 40 altogether, those joining for the ride included queer folks in costumes, cis couples, native New Yorkers, transplants and everyone in-between.
The clock struck 8 PM when the group took over the platform deep in Bushwick, and stormed the arriving subway car in what became a very gay, loud flash mob. As expected, there were mixed reactions from the unsuspecting commuters; some got up and moved to the next car immediately, while others pulled their phones out and started filming in hopes of their viral moment on @subwaycreatures.
What followed was iconic: a one hour ride to 6th Ave and back, 11 stunning drag queens, countless dollar bills thrown, a fake zombie baby, a blow up doll, dozens of outfit changes and even acrobatics. Early in the evening, one person accidentally stumbled across the show on their way into Manhattan and had so much fun that they ended up riding the subway all the way back into Bushwick.
Each queen brought their own wonderful, unique flair to the evening, but Junior Mintt was the highlight of the haunting. Picture an entire subway car, completely filled with joyful riders from all walks of life, chanting, "I believe in Black trans power," as the drag artist strutted her stuff to Kierra Sheard-Kelly's "Something Has to Break," mixed with a speech from Raquel Willis.
As the L train pulled into Broadway Junction, its final stop of the evening, the show didn't end. Juniper Juicy's performance spilled out onto the platform as they twerked all over fellow performer Silly Brown to "Thot Shit" by Megan Thee Stallion. The crowd erupted and, with that, the night was over.
The MTA has gone to lengths to improve the aging NYC subway system, from contactless payment to better driver/ rider communication and updates on the 2nd Ave Q line. But it's clear there's only one thing that will cause meaningful change on the world's second busiest subway line: more drag shows.
Photography: Adam Powell