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Long Beach drag queen Jewels hosts Backyard Brunch amid COVID-19

Jewels Backyard Brunch

Amid the coronavirus, drag queen Jewels has been hosting a virtual Backyard Brunch in the backyard of her Long Beach home. Jewels quarantine roommates, Sam Thrasher Reeves, left, and Preston Thrasher-Reeves, film Jewels performance for the live stream. Photos: Shayne Benigno

Long Beach’s royalty drag queen Jewels has performed at clubs throughout Southern California, but her most recent residency has her taking the stage at her own residence, literally.

Jewels’ Backyard Brunch, which live streams every Sunday at noon on her Facebook and Instagram pages, is a stripped down, safer-at-home version of her renowned Sunday brunch performance at the Long Beach Hamburger Mary’s.

The two-hour, quarantine Backyard Brunch features the drag queen superstar at her vintage Long Beach home as she takes viewers behind-the-scenes as she prepares for the episode.

Jewels (who received the key to the city from Long Beach earlier this year) also introduces her remote audience to her camera crew-roommates, gives a tour of her backyard with its vegetable garden of chard, kale, and herbs, and performs various musical numbers. “I Will Survive” has been an audience favorite, she said.

William Dorsey Swann the 1st drag queen, LGBTQ rights pioneer

Jewels also enjoys a few libations and encourages viewers to imbibe in mimosas, if they have them.

“I never dreamed of performing at my home, and I definitely never thought it would take place in the backyard,” Jewels said during a recent interview.

Tipping options through Venmo, Paypal, and other payment services are mentioned on screen during the show. Jewels wants to recruit sponsors for the show

“Most of the shows are improvised on the spot. I am trying to plan them out more, but don’t want to lose the ability to interact and perform live with the viewing audience,” Jewels said.

Backyard Yard Brunch Jewels Drag Queen

“The overnight loss of nightlife was shocking. This is something no of us have ever experienced. The general sense of loss and uncertainty is coming in waves,” Jewels said. “Performing is a way to help keep a positive vibe going, and distract from feeling scared in many ways.”

It’s a job born out of ingenuity and necessity.

As the COVID-19 virus spread across California and the nation in March, state and local orders temporarily closed bars and nightclubs, essentially shutting down the nightlife industry, in an effort to slow down new viral infections.

Immediately, the curtain crashed down on Jewels’ career and livelihood. As executive director of entertainment at Hamburger Mary’s, Jewels produced 2o events weekly and performed in seven of those shows at their locations in West Hollywood and Long Beach, among other cities. 

“The overnight loss of nightlife was shocking. This is something no of us have ever experienced. The general sense of loss and uncertainty is coming in waves,” Jewels said.

“Performing is a way to help keep a positive vibe going, and distract from feeling scared in many ways,” she said.

As a result, Jewels has expanded her Backyard Brunch. Tuesdays at noon will feature virtual performances with the Brunchettes, and Fridays at noon will spotlight a drag show performance for kids.

Those shows also will live stream on Jewels’ Facebook and Instagram pages.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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