The true adventures of a drag queen named Aqua: her loves, her trials, her goldfish.
Real-life stories from the fringe seem to be the latest trend in memoirs, and Kilmer-Purcell makes a stellar debut in this genre. An art director by day (at an unnamed downtown Manhattan advertising firm that any New Yorker with a grain of sense can identify from geographical clues), by night he was a performer in drag with a distinctive specialty: water-filled fake breasts containing live goldfish. Being the fabulous creature named Aqua was actually work, the author reveals. S/he emceed at club after club, striving to be relentlessly shocking and to create a glittery, glorious, train-wreck persona that forced people to pay attention. Actually, the few hundred bucks in an envelope under the bar helped more than the attention did. Late of a typical Midwestern upbringing, Kilmer-Purcell was new to the city but couldn’t imagine himself anywhere else, no matter how awful his East Village living situation. So it was good that he met Jack and moved into a sparkling white Upper East Side penthouse in the sky. Who would leave New York under those circumstances, even though Jack paid for the place by working as a high-priced hooker? (In the book, he’s never more than one page away from having to head out the door with a backpack full of toys.) The author doesn’t try to pretend that working during the day and spending evenings at the clubs, vodka permanently attached to hand, wasn’t fun. The way he tells it, he also had a strangely perfect relationship with Jack, who didn’t allow his profession—plus attendant addictions and erratic behavior—to keep him from being a near-to-perfect boyfriend. But everything that goes up must come down, and Kilmer-Purcell meticulously records the collapse in a delicate narrative that spares not an ounce of pain but never once aims for contrition.
Effortlessly entertaining yet still heartfelt: the romance of life as an escape artist.