I first came out as a young man, and later, for a second time, I came out in full force as a female impersonator known as Rachel Wells, and then as Miss Gay America 1979. This time I’m coming out as a queer writer and playwright.
I'm happy to announce that my new book,
Who the Hell is Rachel Wells? has now been published!
It's a collection of fictional short stories that deal with sexual orientation, gender roles, and gender identity. Yeah, and course, there are a few crazy drag queen tales, as well.
I'd like to think there's a little Rachel Wells in all of us!
Please take the time to look at my play list, browse through the Rachel Wells Photo History, and perhaps read my memoir found only on line, Teased Hair and the Quest for Tiaras (The Story of Rachel Wells).
has been named a finalist in the
2014 Saints and Sinners
Short Fiction Contest
|HOME PAGE||PLAY LIST||RACHEL WELLS MEMOIR||RACHEL WELLS PHOTO HISTORY Part 1||
PHOTO HISTORY Part 2
Who the Hell is Rachel Wells?
has been named to Out In Print's Best 13 Reads of 2013!
Thank you Out In Print!
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but lately I’ve been
compelled to write not just about my past, but also about the incredible
people that I’ve met. Around
seven years ago, I realized that it was my responsibility and duty to
help preserve my gay history, especially during the era in which I spent my
young adult years in
I decided to present my memoir as a free gift on this website to those who want to read it. It is my contribution to preserving just one small bit of female impersonation history. It is by all means not inclusive of everyone I ever knew or ever met. And for those who are not a part of the memoir, I encourage them to create their own piece of history for future generations to enjoy.
It's finally here!!!
After an enormous amount of hard work that I thoroughly enjoyed, my new book has been published by Chelsea Stations Editions. I want to thank Jim Currier, publisher and author, for having the faith in my work and guiding me through this publishing journey. I also have to give props to my partner, Jack, for being patient with me and for snapping the cover photo, and to Paige Passion from Columbus, Ohio for providing the drag pieces for my photo shoot. Sorry, old fans, it's not mine, and anyway, the shoes were way too small for my big feet. Yeah, I tried to get them on.
What they're saying:
"I know there are still two months technically left in the year, but Who the Hell is Rachel Wells? has officially won my heart as the best gay anthology of the year, and while of course not all of that is due to the final story in the collection, the final story in the collection is frankly brilliant...if you haven't picked up a copy of Who the Hell is Rachel Wells? yet, then allow me to tell you that you should." 'Nathan Burgoine, reviewer and author of LIGHT.
"This is a home run for this first-time talented author, and
a Southern-fried treat for his readers. Five stars out of five!" .
"One of the best perks about being a reviewer is the opportunity I get to read new authors. I received J.R. Greenwell’s last week and as I read, I thought to myself (and now I share that with you) that this new writer is going to find a special place in the gay canon. Who the Hell is Rachel Wells? is a collection of eleven short stories about being gay in the South and I loved each of them...Greenwell gives us a wonderful cast of characters with heart and we laugh and cry with them. Written with wit and emotion, we are taken into the world of Southern drag queens and feel what they feel as they navigate life." Amos Lassen, reviewer.
“J.R. Greenwell does a lovely job of relaying the comic as well as tragicomic aspects of the over-the-top dramatic world of drag queens, and he nails it exactly.” Felice Picano, author of 20th Century Un-limited and True Stories.
"Greenwell has a talent for creating immediately recognizable yet slightly weird around the edges characters, and he puts them through some wonderfully silly paces as well as some heartbreaking ones. His prose is admirably restrained, conveying a great deal yet never sounding overwritten. But it’s his characters that shine and sparkle like sequins in the spotlight. If you’re looking for a light read that has some substance behind its humor, you’ll hardly go wrong with this collection." Jerry Wheeler, Out In Print.
"J.R. Greenwell's debut collection of short stories heralds a new phase of red-state, trans-gay lit." Kyle Thomas Smith, EDGE.
If you're in Louisville KY visit my friends at Carmichael's Bookstore and ask for my book!
Hey Mister, My Name is Blue has been published in the January 2014 online issue of Round Up Writer's Zine. This poem was inspired by an interesting soul I briefly met in 1972. Click the link to check it out.
This Year's Reflection as a Writer:
My publisher recently asked me if having been a drag queen made me a better writer. I had to pause for a second at such a question, but the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became with the possibility. But after a few moments, I realized the experience may not have made me a better writer, but instead it gave me a unique perspective about the nuances of the subculture that has evolved over the years. For example:
· I know what it’s like to experience the incredible euphoria that comes with hundreds applauding a performance, but I also know what it’s like to only hear the sound of a busboy cleaning glasses off tables in an empty bar while walking off the stage.
· I know the feeling of adoration for looking exquisite, while the night before I was getting ready in a dressing room with small mirrors and dim lights, and with no one around to style an over-teased wig or let me know I applied too much blush to my cheeks.
· I know what it’s like to be wearing a gorgeous new gown and ready to hit the stage when some drunken queen in the wings waiting to say hello accidentally spills her strawberry daiquiri down the front of the dress. The music starts and there is no choice but to enter the stage with a wet, red stain on the front of the costume. I pretended no one could see it.
· I’ve seen the drama that unfolds in a dressing room packed with jealous drags, but I’ve also been witness to the camaraderie that also unites them when one of them is threatened by an outsider.
· I’ve seen the complexity of personalities that populates this subculture, along with the addictions, the alcoholism, the mental illness, the racism, the bigotry, and even the deviancies. But I also understand the trials and hurdles that these folks have gone through because I’ve faced many of the same issues myself.
· I’ve dealt with the pain that so many go through as they try so hard to be a member of this place called a gay community, to be wanted, to be loved, to be accepted, and to be recognized as real and human. I’ve also been a part of the humor, joy, and pride that my fellow drags have given others as they entertain or lead parades.
I’ve worn lipstick, eyelashes, and high heels, and I’ve pranced around many oaken boards during my time, but to say having been a drag queen makes me a better writer…well, probably not. However, having done so gives me the privilege to convey stories of the past from the prospective of authenticity; yet, I also have the obligation to pay tribute by making sure my characters have heart and soul. Lately, I’ve been writing about drag queens, disturbed gay men, transgendered youth, and those who have conflict with God, not to mention a dose or two of flannel-weary lesbians. It’s what I know because I’ve lived it. With that said, writing about what I know and staying true to my purpose each time I compose a story is really what makes me a better writer.
J.R. Greenwell 12-30-2013
I'm happy to announce that my play, Out of the Closet, will open in Louisville at the Bard's Town September 12, 2013 and will run for two weeks as one of eight plays in the Ten-Tucky Play Festival. It is an honor to be selected as one of the Kentucky playwrights, but I'm even more proud to be on the same bill as my friend and mentor, Nancy Gall-Clayton.
Though fictional, my playwriting has been influenced by situations and characters that have impacted my life. They are available for production.
METAMORPHOSIS (Learning to Sashay Like RuPaul)
Finalist in the Saints and Sinners 2010 Literary Festival Full-Length Play Competition (New Orleans, LA).
Full-length dark comedy
A young gay man throws the family (staff and show cast) of Club 82 into chaos when they take him in.
(6 M characters).
FIRST and CHESTNUTS
Full-length light, twisted comedy
While the director of an adult education center is sexually exploiting the auditor to maintain operational funding, her zany staff and teachers are being held hostage by a disgruntled student. In the duration of the plot, the characters reveal secrets about past and present gender-bending and sexual issues.
(3M and 4F characters)
Full-length dark comedy
An aging female impersonator reflects on his booger drag past, telling the story of how a group of young gay men crossed paths for a short time in the fall of 1971. Based on the memoir, Teased Hair and the Quest for Tiaras.
(1F and 5M characters)
In Michael's Honor
Short one-act play (approximately 12 minutes)
When Michael is murdered, these misfits have to deal with their grief and what to wear to his funeral. Adapted from a scene from PURPLEXION.
(1F and 3 M characters)
Short one-act play (ten minutes)
An irate shopper and a dim-witted cashier find an interesting way to connect at the checkout line.
A Ten Minute Play
Two conniving community college professors add a flavorful twist to lunch while mentoring an instructor.
(1M and 2F characters)
Out of the Closet
A Ten Minute Play
A dinner party takes a queer turn when one of the guests sits in a chair that has life-altering powers.
(2F and 2M characters)
A Ten Minute Play
Wanda and Jack have a tense conversation over coffee. Is their love life dead?
(1M and 1F)
That Smoky Mountain Fog
A Ten Minute Play
Eddie goes home to seek his estranged mother's blessing for his upcoming wedding only to find things have changed in his western Carolina hometown.
(1M and 1F)
Published Short Stories
Who The Hell Is Rachel Wells?
Finalist in the Second Annual Saints and Sinners LGBT Literary Festival Short Fiction Contest (2011).
After a farewell ceremony, a drag bag is left at a Kentucky rest stop. How will the bag and its contents impact those who find it? This short story is pure satire on the status of celebrity.
Now published in Saints & Sinners (New Fiction from the Festival 2011), available through Amazon.com.
The Scent of Honeysuckle
Finalist in the Third Annual Saints and Sinners LGBT Literary Festival Short Fiction Contest (2012).
A young gay runaway discovers what it's like to be homeless in Louisville, but the dangers he faces on a daily basis don't compare to the perils he would face back home...or would they?
Now published in Saints & Sinners (New Fiction from the Festival 2012), available through Amazon.com.
Silver Pumps and a Loose Nut
Finalist in the Fourth Annual Saints and Sinners LGBT Literary Festival Short Fiction Contest (2012).
Two drag queens from Birminham have a somewhat memorable evening in Daytona Beach.
Now published in Saints & Sinners (New Fiction from the Festival 2013), available through Amazon.com.
It has become so important to not just remember the past, but to record it as well. The following links will connect you to a couple of rare video flashes of me and others from the past. I've also included some incredible articles and interviews with some spectacular divas from their crossroads in Atlanta reflecting the days gone by.
Miss Gay America The official MGA website.
Hot Chocolate Interview A wonderful Legends interview with Larry Edwards. Lots of historical details.
Hot Chocolate's Website Larry's great website!
Lisa King Interview A must read interview with Lisa. She gives lots of insight into the past. Another legend to be honored.
Lena Lust Interview If anyone remembers and is part of any Atlanta drag history, it would be Lena Lust. A wonderful person and I was so happy to have found this recent article.
Video Rachel Wells Performing Someone recorded this video (it was during a MGA preliminaty night in the early 80's). It's rare to find a video of most of us from that era.
Female Impersonator of the Year Evening Gown I'm sure everyone has seen this video by now, but it's fun to be reminded of how much fun this particular group could have when we got together.
Female Impersonator of the Year Sportswear Okay, guys. Fur coats and such? What were we thinking?
Female Impersonator of the Year Talent (Kate) The one and only time I did this routine live. Life has always been about taking risks!
Video Library Commercial 1984 Someone let me know they had found this after all these years. A commercial with me as Kate and Carol, and Chocolate showing off his early Tina!
Impulse Video Digest 1984 Tina Devore and me with one of our episodes of News Beat that aired each week on Cable Atlanta. As always, Tina was great to work with.
Tribute to Logan Carter, aka Roxanne Russell A wonderful tribute to Logan.
Creative Loafing Article (Atlanta History) This article looks at the past 30 years in Atlanta. The Sweet Gum Head is listed!
Diamond Lil Interview The grand diva of all Atlanta drag entertainers, this is an incredible article with Diamond Lil.
Dina Jacobs Interview Another great original entertainer (and one of my favorites) from the past.
Tina Devore Interview The stability for any show, Tina Devore is paid tribute to a wonderful and long-lasting career. One of my favorite people.
I’d love to hear from you. My email address: firstname.lastname@example.org