ON MAY 26th the Religion of Antinous celebrates the life of Reg "Regina Fong" Bundy, a blessed saint of Antinous, who was born on this day in 1941 and died on April 15, 2003. A brazenly gay cabaret artiste — she disliked being called a drag queen — she was a well-known AIDS charity host who influenced a generation of post-Stonewall gays in Britain with acerbic send-ups of politics and popular culture.
Regina Fong was not just a "queen", she was an "empress" — the last of the Russian Imperial Dynasty of the Romanoffs. Forget Anastasia (and Ingrid Bergman in a '50s film), Regina Fong was the REAL heir to Russian nobility. Like so many Russian aristocrats, she sought asylum in monarchical Britain after the Russian Revolution. There were indeed members of the Russian Imperial family who lived (albeit rather modestly) on the grounds of Windsor Castle during the 20th Century. Empress Regina lived (albeit rather immodestly) in London's West End.
Her Imperial Highness (HIH) Regina Fong did in fact become an Iconic cult figure on the European Cabaret stage. Known to friends as Reg (pronounced "Redge"), she lost her battle to cancer April 15, 2003.
But Reg, by creating Her Imperial Highness Regina Fong, a flame-red-wigged champion of gay rights, was insistently committed to being the knight in shining red armour who carried the banner of charities involved in transforming the AIDS epidemic from mortal tragedy into spiritual triumph. She reminded us all that gay cabaret, especially in London at that time, was (and continues to be) a central part of gay life.
After the "Gay Liberation" in the late '60s and '70s, drag queens and cabaret artistes were pushed to the back of the room, to more mainstream, homogenized images of gay life.
Regina Fong, and other Gay pioneers like Lily Savage, changed this forever and brought Gay Cabaret back to its rightful spot in the London Gay Scene. The Cabaret Tent at London Gay Pride events as the epicenter of Gay culture in good times and bad is the direct legacy of this valiant drag queen — er, ahm — cabaret artiste!
Our own Knight Stephanos personally knew Empress Regina Fong and conferred with her often in the legendary Black Cap gay bar in the heart of the West End Theatre District of London. And so it is fitting that Knight Stephanos (pictured right with Her Imperial Highness) explains her Sacred Significance to us:
"Reg Bundy and his creative spirit, through HIH Regina Fong, reminded us all that we mattered as gay people, that we mattered, and that being just who we were was were our strength laid as a culture.
"I knew Regina Fong between the years of 1989 and 1995, a time when contracting the HIV Virus was a virtual death sentence. We witnessed scores of wonderful gay men fall to aids. Regina Fong (and more importantly his non-drag persona Reg Bundy) was a pillar of hope with his sarcastically witty way of keeping up stiff-British-upper-lips during some incredibly dark times.
"If Reg could keep up a brave face in such a scary time, then all was not lost. I had many conversations with Reg in the old front bar at the Black Cap. Surrounded by the dregs, gutter street characters and top-notch West End talent that would congregate, Reg held court and parlayed the latest gossip and told stories of how it was to be gay in London before it was legal.
"He was a Romantic at heart, a Dreamer and a Bitch, who always left you with something to think about, cry about or laugh about. There are many things that are a fog to me about London in those far-off days. But Reg Bundy I always remember as clear as a bell.
"I assumed Reg would live for ever. It is surreal to me that he is gone, But I know his spirit lives on, looking down from some corner of the Black Cap and many other pubs in London, and even right here in Hollywood, California, keeping watch and holding court, drinking vodka-and-tonic — being a beacon in dark times — and a Gay Saint Always."