Flathead coming out to party 

The Flathead Valley Alliance of Gays and Lesbians has been in existence since 1991, according to co-founder D.J. Lopez, a Kalispell resident and Daily InterLake sales representative, but it has never gotten together quite the way it did Friday, March 4, for the first-ever Flathead Valley Alliance Talent Show, held in the Fireside Lounge at the WestCoast Kalispell Center Hotel.

The evening’s ticket sale proceeds went partly to the Alliance, and also to the Flathead AIDS Council, Council President Ron Fournier says.

“It’s really nice to have the Alliance and the AIDS Council form a common bond,” Fournier says. “There are persons suffering from AIDS in this community and we can help them through friendships, finances and social supports.”

Though the event benefited the AIDS Council, the evening was all about entertainment. Bee Broadcasting’s Leah Lindsay, dressed as Julie Andrews from Victor/Victoria, announced performances ranging from the sassy (a no-holds-barred rendition of Reba McEntire’s “Why Haven’t I Heard from You?”) to the sweet (an emotional delivery, complete with sign language translation, of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All”).

The show was stolen, however, by talent show organizer Jeffrey Wagar, who assumed the role of “Ivanna Manatu”—a reprise of the character that won Wagar the Ms. Gay Alaska title a decade ago—for four drag numbers, complete with elaborate costume and wig changes. Audience members were eager to stuff dollar bills in “Ivanna’s” bra during her performances.

“I’ve never hidden who I am,” Wagar says. “I was born and raised in this valley. Usually I open my mouth and people are aware that I’m of the gay persuasion. There has to be more people that are open and secure, not closeted and afraid, because I’ve found that people really don’t care either way.”

Lopez agrees: “It’s time for us to have some place to go. We don’t always want to drive clear to Missoula. It’s time for the Flathead Valley to open up.”

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