Anybody who has skilled a Poison Waters efficiency or had the possibility to speak to the beloved Portland drag queen is aware of her connection to the neighborhood is legit. However along with the efficiency chops and charisma she’s been bringing to the native leisure scene for many years, there’s one thing about Poison Waters — whose identify can be Kevin Prepare dinner — that actually raises the bar for all different native icons: he’s been carfree and a proud public transit rider for all times.
Earlier than his drag alter ego got here to be, Kevin Prepare dinner was a child rising up in east Portland’s Parkrose neighborhood. His household survived on meager incomes, and with out cash for a automotive, that they had to determine different methods to get round.
“We have been very poor, oftentimes dwelling on no earnings. We didn’t have a household automotive the vast majority of the time,” Prepare dinner advised BikePortland in a latest Zoom interview. “It wasn’t an choice to get a automotive if you turned 16 in my household. That simply wasn’t a actuality.”
At first, Prepare dinner largely relied on strolling to get the place he wanted to go, which stored him fairly restricted to the Parkrose neighborhood. However then he found the bus – and finally the MAX practice when it launched in 1986 – and the entire metropolis opened up.
“I took the system anyplace it could take me,” Prepare dinner mentioned. “This sounds so tacky, however TriMet taught me that every one of our metropolis is accessible if you happen to knew which bus or practice to get on.”
When the MAX blue line launched, Prepare dinner shared that he would take the MAX from the Gateway Transit Middle close to Parkrose to downtown Portland and hand around in Pioneer Sq., encountering a aspect of the town he’d by no means skilled earlier than.
“It was actually implausible to me to look out the window and see all these neighborhoods I by no means actually paid consideration to as a result of I by no means left Parkrose a lot,” Prepare dinner mentioned.
Prepare dinner would folks watch at Pioneer Sq., awed by the punk and New Age crowd who wore leather-based jackets and had piercings and multicolored hair. This was across the time he began discovering downtown nightclubs and discovering out in regards to the world of drag that existed at locations like Darcelle XV Showplace and (the now-closed) Embers Avenue.
“It actually was like Alice going by way of the wanting glass,” Prepare dinner mentioned. “This practice introduced me to this type of wonderland.”
Over time, Prepare dinner started to get extra concerned within the leisure world and adopted the persona of Poison Waters. However he didn’t see a must get a automotive, as an alternative strolling or taking the streetcar downtown to reveals.
With the rise of social media got here Poison Waters’ large break because the transportation icon she is at present. Within the early days of Instagram, Prepare dinner began posting pictures documenting journeys on the Portland Streetcar, which was finally observed by native transit higher-ups. Issues actually took off throughout the pandemic when TriMet employed Poison Waters to do some public service bulletins about sporting masks on the bus. The company obtained different native icons (just like the Blaze the Path Cat) to take part within the marketing campaign too, but it surely was Poison Waters’ adverts that actually made waves on-line.
From then on, she was the de facto face of TriMet, which is all of the extra significant if about Prepare dinner’s lifelong relationship with Portland public transit. Different folks in native transportation took discover, too. The Avenue Belief just lately began getting Waters onboard for large occasions – she hosted their first annual Satisfaction Trip again in June and was an exquisite emcee on the Alice Awards final month.
Prepare dinner mentioned if he needed to depend on a automotive, Poison Waters may not even exist. (Not less than, she definitely wouldn’t be capable to look so good.)
“I spend a lot cash on my skilled stuff, like costumes and wigs, which prices some huge cash,” he mentioned. “I wouldn’t be capable to spend what I spend and look the way in which I look if I had a month-to-month automotive fee and insurance coverage and fuel and all that crap.”
Prepare dinner desires to fight any unfavorable stereotypes that encompass public transit by displaying the variety of people that use it for all types of causes. Plenty of instances, superstar endorsements like this will really feel a compelled, however with Poison Waters, you’re getting the true deal. So subsequent time you’re standing out within the rain ready for the bus and feeling very…unglamorous, simply know that there’s at the very least one native icon who would beg to disagree.
“I’ve to point out the bus is actually for everybody; all genders and races and generations,” Prepare dinner mentioned. “It by no means occurred to me that there was a nasty stigma about using the bus. I believed, ‘oh, that is so cool.’ I believed it was a privilege to have this service.”
Taylor has been BikePortland’s workers author since November 2021. She has additionally written for Avenue Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org