Be it by a simple pat on the back, a hefty raise, or a shiny award, everybody wants to be recognized in some small way for the things they do, especially drag doyenne Shelley Novak. Known for his perennial five-o'clock shadow, copious chest hair, and ersatz resemblance to hefty actress Shelly Winters, Novak has been a frequent correspondent to this paper, sending tongue-in-cheek poison-pen letters protesting the fact he's never been blessed with the title of Best Drag Queen.
It turns out Novak never needed New Times's recognition at all. Eight years ago he created the Shelley Novak Awards. "There wasn't anything to really celebrate Miami drag," Novak explains in his thick Massachusetts accent. "It's the institution that won't go away." Begun at long-gone club Hombre, the show then gravitated to the Bee Hive lounge, was televised once on WAMI's Kenneth's Frequency, and eventually made its way to crobar three years ago.
Novak, who controls the whole shebang, makes sure that almost every local working drag queen is nominated in categories such as Most Glamorous, Most Comedic, and Best Costumes. This year's nominees include veterans Elaine Lancaster and Daisy Deadpetals and newcomers Golden Blonde and a quartet of kooky Latin gals known as Las Divas del Jacuzzi. "They may just sweep the awards this year," Novak says of Las Divas, who are actively campaigning. The public is encouraged to cast their votes via e-mail, but ultimately Novak has final say.
Prizes are dollar-store Barbie dolls, which Novak spray-paints gold in his back yard. "My neighbors look at me like I'm crazy," he says, adding that covering the heads with condoms keeps their blond hair pristine. Like all awards shows, a Lifetime Achievement/ Your Career is Over honor is essential. This year Sexcilia is the lucky recipient. And has Novak ever walked away with a prize? Of course, he responds: "The first year I gave myself Most Hideous!"