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Woman's Club Hosts an Unlikely Guest

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"Eyecons" is a battle horse of an act. Peterson sings and does killer impersonations of Marilyn Monroe, Carol Channing, Joan Rivers, Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Liza Minelli and Judy Garland. And he hits all the high notes.

"Everything from the show is begged, borrowed or stolen," says James Mill, Peterson's stage manager and boyfriend of 21 years. Some material is taken from things the women Peterson impersonates actually said; a lot of his jokes are dirty old standards. One of his songs was written for him by members of the Second City improv theater in Toronto, where a number of notable comics, including Mike Meyers and John Candy, got their start.

Peterson is not your average night out in Richmond, but he is not your average drag queen either. Unlike other drag queens, he doesn't go by a stage name or have special requests about which personal pronoun you use.

Between characters, he changes on stage so the audience sees him wigless, sliding into dresses that Velcro shut. Peterson takes those opportunities to tell stories about his life or interact with the audience. A front-row couple named Judy and Charles were particularly good sports that night. "No diamond, no hymen," Peterson admonished the couple, married for decades, in one of his few printable cracks from the evening.

The audience rose to the occasion. Most laughed openly about sexuality and gender etiquette for perhaps the first time in a long time. The occupants at table 65 looked a little pained throughout, particularly after a sidelong reference to a frozen fish stick, yet were the first ones to join the standing ovation during which Peterson took off his wig and bowed.

According to Visual Arts Center President and C.E.O., Jo Kennedy, the sold-out, $100-a-seat event was such a success, raising nearly $12,000, that they plan to bring Peterson back next year.— Amy Biegelsen

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