Nine people voiced differing opinions on a controversial drag show coming to Sandwich’s historic Opera House during the public comment portion of a City Council meeting Monday evening, Feb. 6.
At times during the meeting, speakers and city officials were subject to heckling from the audience.
The show has been a topic of controversy at the past three City Council meetings. The first concerns were raised by alderwoman Rebecca Johnson at a Jan. 3 meeting and again when eight people spoke on the topic during public comment Jan. 16.
Between the public comments and aldermen’s comments at the meetings, more than an hour was spent on drag show discussion, and most of those speaking out were against the show, mainly for religious reasons.
Those against the show called it vulgar, immoral, satanic and an abomination, while those defending the show argued that the 18-and-older show was a form of expression and would not be sexually charged.
The Illusions Drag Queen Show will perform at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Feb. 18 at the Sandwich Opera House, 140 E. Railroad St., next door to City Hall.
The Opera House is owned by the city and operated by a volunteer board of directors. Performers at the Opera House are selected by the programming committee who follow a similar selection process each year.
Despite the objections, a majority of council members indicated they would not try to prevent the Opera House from staging the two shows.
Sandwich resident Deb Peterson spoke against the drag show, saying the performance exaggerates and mocks women and inferred that Antifa and Black Lives Matter were behind the shows.
“Have you opened the city to the protests of the satanists that openly came to Yorkville?” Peterson asked the council. Peterson said the press has been used to influence audiences into fear and compliance, silence the masses and promote unacceptable behaviors.
Peterson commended and thanked Johnson for being a voice of the people.
Sandwich resident Jeremy Bousselot was one of the only people to speak in defense of the drag show, saying that all drag shows are different and are forms of expression.
“I think you are all misinformed,” Bousselot said. “I don’t think any of you understand the amount of LGBTQ people that live in this town currently, or how offensive it is to have these meetings and to come up here and speak the words that you speak.”
Bousselot said, growing up, his mom worked for the Indian Valley Theatre, and he spent a lot of time on the Opera House stage performing.
“I applaud the Opera House and I support it 100%,” Bousselot said. “I know hundreds of Sandwich residents who have bought tickets.”
Brad Johnson, a Sandwich resident and Rebecca Johnson’s husband, said he is against the performance. He accused the council of willful ignorance and corruption and called on the council to revisit its relationship with the Opera House, claiming the show will be using taxpayer money to subsidize “soft porn and fetish shows.”
“I don’t give a rip if someone goes to the [strip] bar down the street or anything else,” Johnson said. “Those are tax-generating businesses.”
Molly Krempski, a Yorkville-area resident and activist against drag performances, spoke against the show and recited Bible verses at length.
“Believe me when I tell you this is a fight for the soul of America,” Krempski said. “We really have come to the place in time where Satan no longer hides his agenda.”
Krempski made a video to play with clips of previous performances taken from the Illusions social media platforms, which she wanted to be played at the council meeting but was denied.
“You guys are going to pay for this,” Krempski said. “You can’t get away with doing this to your community.”
Krempski’s husband, Michael, also spoke against the drag show at the meeting.
Plano resident Barb Petry talked at length against the drag show and about the battle between good and evil, taking a religious stance.
“Inclusivity is not what we as a community or as a nation are to answer to,” Petry said. “We answer to a ‘who’ and his name is Jesus the Christ.”
Petry said the sexual immorality, indecency, deceit and foolishness that will be in play at the drag show come from hearts that are unclean.
“I have heard of people in positions of authority being afraid to offend or make mad a small but aggressive portion of the population which is attempting to push sexual abominations into our daily lives,” Petry said. “Fear is being used as a tactic to lord control over the rest of us and advance various agendas from hell.”
Christine Williams, Opera House media director, defended the Opera House and the drag performance. She said she takes offense to the suggestion that those who are for the drag show are not Christian. She said the performances are a form of expression and asked that people try to be open-minded and to trust the people at the Opera House.
Williams said children were never intended to be at the show, refuted claims that the show would be sexually charged and offered anyone at the meeting who was against the show a free ticket to see it for themselves.
Johnson again voiced concern about the drag show during the regular meeting and opened the door to debate on the morality of the show. Shouts came from the audience on multiple occasions during Johnson’s comments.
Johnson read a dictionary definition of immoral and listed synonyms of “moral,” which included proper, righteous, straight, saintly and chaste. She said perversion, cross-dressing and promotion of gay promiscuity are being pushed on people and on their kids at every turn.
Johnson said she wanted to play the video created by Krempski but was advised not to, which led to arguments between her and City Attorney Cassandra Gottschalk, as well as heckling from Krempski and others in the audience, which were gaveled down by Mayor Todd Latham.
Johnson said she was under the impression that the council had voted not to allow cannabis dispensaries.
“I feel like you are discriminating against the potheads and giving a free pass to the pervs,” Johnson said.
Aldermen Rich Robinson and Fred Kreinbrink corrected Johnson, saying the council previously passed zoning ordinances to allow dispensaries in designated zones.
“The push for immoral behavior is in fact happening all over our country,” Johnson said. “Little towns that have never experienced this type of thing before are being torn apart because of this stuff.”
Johnson said she knows for a fact that the show will violate city code and asked that either Latham or Police Chief Jim Bianchi attend the show to enforce the code.
Alderman Rick Whitecotton said the people who have contacted him about the drag show are “overwhelmingly” in support of it.
Robinson disagreed with Johnson on several issues, arguing that going to a drag show does not make someone immoral.
Several audience members again interjected with shouting during Robinson’s comments and had to again be gaveled down by Latham.
“If you don’t like it, don’t go,” Robinson said.
Tickets to the drag show are available for $35 per seat and $40 for premium seats.