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Since 1989 Kevin Lordan has been performing up and down the country as the formidable and much loved Bette Rinse, holding residences in Molly Moggs, The Stag, 79CXR and most recently his home away from home, Halfway to Heaven. This month Bette will be performing for the very last time, before hanging up her heels for good. A dear friend of mine and many others, my ‘drag wife’ and a drag mother to many, her natural charm and talent will be missed greatly. So naturally I couldn’t let her go sailing off into yonder without a good probing…  


So…you’re giving up drag forever? 

Forever, and ever and ever. Eternity!


Because I’ve had my fun. I’ve been there, done it, seen the movie. And it’s just time for me to go.

What will you do now?

I’m gonna sit in the chair with my legs in the air!

Apart from that…

Well, my husband and I are going to travel the world and just chill.

It’s something you’ve been thinking about for a while, isn’t it?

Yes. As you know Jason, I’ve been saying it for three years. It was just getting the courage to do it.

Why do you think you hesitated for three years?

I’m not sure. I still enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but when I started drag way back when I always said I’d do it until I was 50.

And how old are you now? 72?

96, dear! No, I’m 53, so I’ve done three years more than what I’d planned. Plus I only work at one venue now, out of choice, and with Angel leaving [manger of Halfway to Heaven] I think it’s the right time.

This year has been a great one for you, too. 

It has. So many good things have happened and I’ve met lovely people. My talent competition at Halfway – It’s a Knockout – retuned for a second year and was so amazing. In my eyes, I’ve hit the highest.

So like a true performer, you wanna go out on a high?

Absolutely! It’s the best way.

You mentioned ‘It’s a Knockout’ which was the latest in a long line of competitions you’ve orchestrated over the years to encourage novice acts coming through. From knowing you well, I know that nurturing new talent is something very important to you. Why? 

It’s really important to me because when I started out in drag no one would help anyone else. And I vowed to myself that if I ever became an established act I’d help those coming up. I know how hard it is. Saying that, there have been people who’ve helped me out along the way, especially Julie Paid at Molly Moggs and Barbie at Southern Pride. That’s where you and I met, at Molly Moggs.

Ten years ago. I was a bar wench and you performed every Tuesday night. 

I remember it well. You were so young and handsome and virginal. You used to be fresh.

Cheeky sod! Now I’m old and washed up. Going back to the acts you’ve helped; you must be proud of how they’ve developed? 

I’m very proud of them all. The latest one was Carmen Dioxide, who has only been performing for a short while and I can see great potential in her. She has really excelled herself this year.

Mary Mac was one of your first protégées. 

I knew from the start Mary was going to be a big star, and she’s only halfway through that journey. She will hit the big time that one. Also the lovely Stephanie Von Clitz, she was hard work, but she wanted to learn and has got there in the end. Stephanie is a lovely queen, and I love her very much. This year I’ve helped so many (well I hope I’ve helped them) and there have been some new queens who I’ve fallen in love with, especially Vanity Nightmare and Chamonix Aspen.

You’ve made some good friends along the way haven’t you?

So many. I remember after taking a few years out I re-met Rose Garden at The Culvert in Uxbridge. It was strange to meet her after she’d made a name for herself. I never thought that’d happen. I mean, she’s got no talent really!

What will you miss the most? 

All of the new acts and my loyal audience at Halfway to Heaven. People like Ian Dodds and Hannah Lisshus who have been there every week without fail since 2011.

I think they see you as more than just an act. It’s like going to hang out with a mate every Tuesday. 

I’ve become an agony aunt more than anything else. Honestly, it’s like being in my lounge. The thing is, I don’t want to become like Dame Barbara Cartland: wearing pink and stinking of piss for the rest of my life.

Delightful! Perhaps that relaxed feel is due to your improvisation skills. Is that something that has always come naturally to you?

Everything I do comes naturally. I don’t rehearse at all. It surprises me the amount of shit that comes out of my mouth, and people laugh. It’s just my dry sense of humour.

And you get away with saying the most outrageous things, but you do it in such an endearing way. 

Absolutely outrageous. There’s a certain way of doing it, yes. A way of projecting yourself over to the audience, and of course the delivery is key.

You’ve never taken yourself too seriously either, have you? 

If you take yourself too seriously I would say give up now. Life is a joke and you have to enjoy it. Laugh everything off. And if others talk about you, fuck ‘em. People will always talk, whether it’s good or bad words. Let everything go over your head.

What have been your favourite memories from over the years? 

There’s just so many. I think it’d be easier to say what were the worst. I’ve been very lucky.

That’s a great answer. How would you like Bette to be remembered? 

As a good-time, fun girl. You never know, there might be another Bette Rinse in a few years time.

What’s the plan for your final show? 

I really don’t know. I’m just gonna go with the flow and see where the night goes. One thing is for certain: it’ll be emotional for me.

Finally, Madam Rinse, what would you like to say to the people who have supported you over the years? 

If it wasn’t for people like you, there wouldn’t be a Bette Rinse. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.


• Bette Rinse’s final full show is at Halfway to Heaven on Tuesday 22 December from 8.30PM.

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