By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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There he was, rocking on the rocking chair, frothy beard, crimson suit and all, with a ho-ho-ho pealing forth whenever the door opened. Santa was escorted Friday into Good to Go Grocery, 1105 S. Eunice St., by Wayne King of Port Angeles.
He had questions for the kids who walked through his door.
“Have you seen my reindeer?” he asked. “I think they’re out playing in the snow.”
You couldn’t blame them. Amid all that new-fallen fluff, youngsters and animals alike had been frolicking.
“The kids were just really excited about the snow,” Santa observed.
But when asked what they want for Christmas, these Port Angeles children “want really simple things,” he reported.
“One little girl said she just wanted to be with her family.
“Another girl wanted a Barbie doll. It didn’t matter what kind.”
Good to Go, where he handed out organic lollipops, was one of Santa’s last stops. Earlier this month, he joined the festivities at Make Your Own Art, an all-ages crafting party at Studio Bob, the downtown Port Angeles event space.
But the partying will give way soon to his real job.
“I’ve got a lot of deliveries” come Tuesday night, Santa said.
After Christmas, this particular Santa will stay busy in another persona.
King, who also portrays a character by the name of Salmonella Riviere, is Port Angeles’ best-known drag queen.
Salmonella, as she is known in the arts community, hosts events at the Alle Stage at Studio Bob and at Bar N9ne, both in downtown Port Angeles. Statuesque in five-inch heels and a platinum-blond page-boy wig, Salmonella prances, preens and jokes about shopping for clothes at Bay Variety.
This New Year’s Eve, Salmonella will be mistress of ceremonies at “Mutiny on the N9ne,” a variety show at Bar N9ne, 229 W. First St.
King, who moved to Port Angeles 16 months ago, said his drag-queen persona has been well-received.
Salmonella gets looks, yes, but people have been largely appreciative of the character’s bawdy humor and short skirts.
King has been asked if he’s a cross-dresser, like some of the men who attend the Esprit conference every spring in Port Angeles.
“I am not; I’m a performer,” he says; he’s an entertainer whose repertoire includes drag.
People are more familiar than ever with drag queens, King added, in the wake of movies such as “The Birdcage” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and stars such as RuPaul.
King grew up in Bradenton, Fla., and worked in a corporate human resources office in Fort Collins, Colo., before joining AmeriCorps.
He was assigned to Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, and after moving here, he fell in love with Port Angeles.
After finishing his AmeriCorps service, King, 45, got a part-time job as a switchboard operator at Peninsula College, began work toward an associate of arts degree — and started getting gigs as Salmonella the drag performer.
At first, he was told there was a lively arts scene here but that it was “underground.”
In the past year, King has discovered a scene that includes music, dance, burlesque, visual art, performance poetry and other events, and that’s just in the downtown venues.
“There’s a lot of diversity in Port Angeles,” King said.
As for Salmonella, she’s another form of entertainment added to what King sees as life’s rich pageant.
“I like to have fun with people,” he said, whether it’s with Santa or Salmonella.
“Fun should be what life is about,” King quipped. “I like spreading joy.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.