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Arts & Entertainment

If Molly Ivins and Minnie Pearl had a love child, it might be 'Texas Loves Lyla!' at the Hollywood Fringe Festival

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Just once, I'd like to meet a personality-based drag queen who, underneath the huge bouffant, the dowdy dress, and the huge boobs, has a huge bouffant, dowdy dress, and huge boobs. But no, Jeffrey Wylie is almost distressingly normal looking. Handsome even.

Wylie grew up in Corpus Christie, Texas, knew he was gay at the age of ten, felt religion-induced self-loathing until he came out in his mid 20s - until which time he confesses he was a very unpleasant person - and then, some years later, put on drag for the first time.

Wylie says, "I was assistant director on a stage production a group of friends were doing, Go Ax Alice, based on the novel Go Ask Alice, about a teenage girl that runs away from home and winds up OD'ing. This was a drag muscial comedy about it." At which point I do a spit take. But it was a huge success, Wylie says. Humor is, of course, the only way to deal with some subjects.

Five days before the show opened, the typical Hollywood story happened, an actor dropped out and jumped in. "It was so liberating and so much fun."  He says at first he did Dorothy Michaels (Tootsie), and here he slips into a pretty good impression of Dustin Hoffman's only known drag performance. But then a friend took him aside. "That's cute," he said, "but you need your own character." The friend came up with the name Lyla KaRug, but the character came from Wylie's own great aunt Gladys Godfrey - her real name - who, as Wylie describes her, was straight out of Central Casting.

Lyla lives in Cooterville, Texas, and does a radio call-in show from her back yard. "If you've got an issue," she says, "I've got a tissue." And so she deals with gay teenage callers, bullying, and suicide.

Texas Loves Lyla! runs through June 29 at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Tickets are just $12.