ON MAY 26th the Religion of Antinous celebrates the life of Reg "Regina Fong" Bundy, a blessed saint of Antinous, who was born on this day in 1941 and died on April 15, 2003. A brazenly gay cabaret artiste — she disliked being called a drag queen — she was a well-known AIDS charity host who influenced a generation of post-Stonewall gays in Britain with acerbic send-ups of politics and popular culture.
Regina Fong was not just a "queen", she was an "empress" — the last of the Russian Imperial Dynasty of the Romanoffs. Forget Anastasia (and Ingrid Bergman in a '50s film), Regina Fong was the REAL heir to Russian nobility. Like so many Russian aristocrats, she sought asylum in monarchical Britain after the Russian Revolution. There were indeed members of the Russian Imperial family who lived (albeit rather modestly) on the grounds of Windsor Castle during the 20th Century. Empress Regina lived (albeit rather immodestly) in London's West End.
Her Imperial Highness (HIH) Regina Fong did in fact become an Iconic cult figure on the European Cabaret stage. Known to friends as Reg (pronounced "Redge"), she lost her battle to cancer April 15, 2003.
But Reg, by creating Her Imperial Highness Regina Fong, a flame-red-wigged champion of gay rights, was insistently committed to being the knight in shining red armour who carried the banner of charities involved in transforming the AIDS epidemic from mortal tragedy into spiritual triumph. She reminded us all that gay cabaret, especially in London at that time, was (and continues to be) a central part of gay life.
After the "Gay Liberation" in the late '60s and '70s, drag queens and cabaret artistes were pushed to the back of the room, to more mainstream, homogenized images of gay life.
Regina Fong, and other Gay pioneers like Lily Savage, changed this forever and brought Gay Cabaret back to its rightful spot in the London Gay Scene. The Cabaret Tent at London Gay Pride events as the epicenter of Gay culture in good times and bad is the direct legacy of this valiant drag queen — er, ahm — cabaret artiste!
Our own Knight Stephanos personally knew Empress Regina Fong and conferred with her often in the legendary Black Cap gay bar in the heart of the Camden Town District of London. And so it is fitting that KNIGHT STEPHANOS (pictured right with Her Imperial Highness) explains her Sacred Significance to us:
"Happy Birthday Regina Fong even though you and the Black Cap are now gone.
"What can one say in this current day except to pay a tribute to the one and only Reg...Regina Fong, Queen if them all…."Regina Fong the Empress of Camp. Queen of the Black Cap.
"You Reigned supreme. Sage of the rejected, muse to all that were affected.
"Daily she held court at the corner of the front bar, vodka and tonic, laughter, dialogue quite chronic. Nightly you drew the crowds: shaking us from the melancholy of the expected life, denial waking strife."Cabaret Artiste beacon of hope, torch carrier of all who could but strive to such heights."Black cap memories to be had everyday at the end of the front bar at 11:00 am. Sitting to Michael Jeffries swapping war stories giving advice...in comes Steffens and Camp David...last of the Polari...Vada, Vada, Naff, Convo...Laughter, drinks, and scams galore."Always aching for the next adventure of days gone by…. If you could smell and hear the wonder of the front bar of the black cap...nicotine stains and morning shakes...characters and creatures of a world gone by...but not forgotten...bastions of an age of defiance, survival, and overwhelming urge to be fabulous.
"Happy Birthday H.I.H. Regina Fong ... the likes of you could never be wrong."