Winner: Best Gay Bar
What makes Club XYZ Knoxville's best gay bar?
Customer service, diversity, cleanliness, the entertainment, the refreshments. We stock our bar with a lot of things. We have a wide selection of vodkas. We try new products, and we get things customers request. We develop good relationships with customers. The neighborhood is changing and developing. It used to be just us, the Time Warp Tea Room, and Freezo. The business owners here look out for each other.
Are you from Knoxville?
From Knoxville. Fountain City. Go Bobcats. Moving to Atlanta in the '90s opened my eyes. To see that many gay people marching in Atlanta Pride. It was amazing. I've been to San Francisco. I've been to Seattle. So I know the potential. The straight community here is very supportive. The level of acceptance is good to see in a city of this size. I'm really proud of Knoxville.
What makes you proud?
To watch PrideFest grow. The first one was so small. It makes me happy to see families, to see children. I'm proud to be a part of it. It gets better every year. I'm proud to be part of the community in such a positive way. We support the community through PrideFest, we sponsor a softball team, the Hope Center, Positively Living. We have an annual event, Mother's Day weekend in May, the Night of a Thousand Dollys, that benefits Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. We have a Dolly contest and Dolly entertainers. There's something about having a black Dolly. We've had one every year. A lot of people come for the Night of a Thousand Dollys. We don't want to cater to a niche.
Gay bar's not a niche?
Okay. You got me. Yes, but it's a broad niche. I hate labels. I don't have a men's night, a ladies' night. We have karaoke and the drag shows. It's more fun to have a broad customer base. People come from all over town. We've gotten national exposure, and people seek us out. Customers come and have a good time, a good experience, and they go out and say, "Oh my goodness. There's this drag queen. I peed in my pants." And they tell someone else. People feel welcome. I say, "I love my straights." I don't exclude anyone. I close every show with peace and love. There is no one or the other—gay or straight. It's not as cliquish as it used to be.
How's karaoke night?
It sucks. Certain people like it. I've got people who come because of it. I've got people who won't come. It's one of those things people like. It tickled me no end that we were a runner-up for Best Karaoke.
How did the club get its name?
Random. Could have been ABC instead of XYZ. We're not a strip club. Girls call and ask when we're having auditions. Guys call and ask about having bachelor's party. Maybe the name sounds like a strip club?
Who are the XYZ Queens?
The cast is just as diverse as our customers. Raz is the hostess and the funny one. We have a skinny one, a black one, a titty one.
Where did Raz come from?
It's been an evolution. Raz has been my stage name for 30 years. I realized being a pretty drag queen was not the route. It's the laughter. Comedy is more fun. I had a light bulb moment. It was that first bit of laughter. Making people laugh is my God-given talent. I love to hear them laugh. I get to laugh at myself. Sometimes I say things and cross the line. I realize it and apologize. I was raised the right way. You have to treat people with respect. You've got to maintain or enhance someone's self esteem.