Queens of New York chase after Di's designer frocks

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The Independent Online
When the bidding begins at Christie's in New York next month for a collection of 79 ball gowns and cocktail dresses once worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, expect to see royalty in the crowd. RuPaul, seven foot tall and bedecked in a blond wig, could be raising her considerable hand. So might Lypsinka.

Word began leaking out on Friday: amongst those contacting the auction house to express their interest in the 25 June sale are several leading members of New York's drag queen community. They have been drawn, apparently, by catalogues published a week ago detailing every item from world-class designers such as Bruce Oldfield, Victor Edelstein and French-born Catherine Walker.

Among those rumoured to be ready to buy is the towering RuPaul - the most successful and probably the wealthiest of Manhattan's drag stars - Lypsinka and several others.

That the sale of Diana's frocks, the proceeds of which will go to cancer and Aids centres in New York, should be attracting both the drag queen and the wider gay community is not surprising The Princess - seen as a steadfast friend to Aids sufferers and tragic victim of a disastrous marriage - is indeed something of gay icon. She is not quite up there with Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor, but nearly.

For Joey Arias, another prominent New York drag artist who has performed in London, the appeal is obvious. "Any time that a Diva leaves her throne, all the queens are ready to collect the pieces," she explained. "It would be like having Cleopatra's head-dress, in a thousand years those dresses will be priceless."

Joey is something of a magpie herself - she has a Diana Ross eyelash and an original Ziggy Stardust suit worn by David Bowie. But the overflow from the wardrobes of Kensington Palace holds no temptation for her. "I only wear Thierry Mugler", she insists. And besides, those dresses will not be cheap - each is expected to raise at least $5,000. "Most queens will need a sugar daddy or a sponsor."

Christie's, of course, is all discretion. Meredith Etherington-Smith, its London-based creative director, was heard to say only: "The Princess hopes that whoever buys them will enjoy them as much as she did."

But then why should be Diana be offended anyway? "I think she would be honoured," avers Joey. "After all, it will be royalty greeting royalty."

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