| TOM QUEEN
ONCE UPON A TIME, two friends were sitting at the bar in a small dive of a place which stood smack dab in the middle of several downtown surface parking lots in Columbus. It was a Monday night, the event was called Peg-A-Go-Go, and it featured the talents of drag hostess Peg and several “male exotic dancers.” The hostess was a drag queen with a bellowing voice known as “Peg.” As an introduction to the next dancer (apparently an extremely “gifted” lad), Peg announced in her distinctive, bellowing voice: “Girrrrrrrrlllll, you can’t see the forest for the tree.”
The real person behind the Peg persona was a shy man named Craig Penn who came from the small, nearby town of New Lexington in Perry County. Craig’s talents brought him to Columbus College of Art & Design, from which he graduated. On his off-nights from bartending at various gay bars around the city, makeup and a wig would transform this shy man into Peg, a brassy broad with a white-trash edge, who pushed the limits of good taste with her unforgettable, twisted performances.
In perhaps her most well-known “number,” she appeared on stage as a proper housewife, holding a baby, to the tune of Somewhere That’s Green (from Little Shop of Horrors). Soon after, the music would segue into Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill, the apron and dress would come off to reveal an S&M outfit, and the doll she had been coddling (secretly filled with roast chicken) would become a “finger lickin’ good” meal fit for a queen.
Her longtime friend, Tim “Action” Blanton recalled to me a story of when the two were headed to a party, with a quick stop at the Victorian Village Big Bear grocery store (now Giant Eagle) to pick up some beer. When Action returned to the car, the door of Peg’s beater of a Yugo fell off in to the parking lot. With priorities in true order, the ever-practical Peg jumped out of the car in full drag, raced around to the other side, slammed the door back in place, and off they went for an evening of shenanigans!
On another occasion, Peg was hired to promote a party at a bar in the Short North. She was taking a “smokie break” outside, when along came the youth minister from her former church in New Lexington, with his two children in tow. Not missing a beat, Peg immediately stomped out the cigarette, more concerned that she be seen with a “bad habit” than being in full drag.
Peg A-Go-Go moved around to various venues in Columbus over the years, finally landing at the former Columbus Eagle by 1998. Peg was hosting the Monday-before-Thanksgiving show that year. After several high-energy drag performances onstage, Peg retreated to the dressing area, proclaiming: “I’m getting too old to do this” (at the age of 33). Peg suddenly keeled over due to a massive heart attack. The emergency squad came and wheeled her out of the venue, still in full drag. She didn’t survive the trip to the hospital.
The Columbus gay community came out in force to pay tribute to their dear friend with a barnburner of a memorial show at The Garage, the center of Columbus’ gay nightlife at the time. Countless friends (many of whom never dreamed of doing drag) threw on wigs and makeup to reprise many of Peg’s beloved drag numbers. The benefit raised the funds to pay for the funeral expenses of their fallen comrade. The youth minister from her hometown even attended and spoke at the memorial service.
I’m greatly indebted to Barbara Havens, Donald Printz, and Jonathan “BB” Massie for reminiscing with me about our dear friend. I’m sure that Peg might find it amusing that we are still talking about her like this years later, but this was one person we’ll never forget.