Remembering beloved Burlington drag queen Margaurite LeMay (and her alter ego, Michael Hayes)
For more than 25 years, Margaurite LeMay dazzled and entertained audiences around Vermont. Part of the Burlington-based drag performance team The House of LeMay, the LeMays always said in their act that they're from "the Hot Dam Trailer Park in Beaver Pond, Vermont."
Margaurite's alter ego, Michael Hayes, died from a heart attack in March at age 66.
Bob “Amber LeMay” Bolyard first encountered Hayes when they were both working on a Lyric Theatre production of "Annie" in 1988. A few years later, they decided to perform together as a drag act, The House of LeMay — house, because they were like a family. Johnnie McLaughlin, also known as Lucy Belle LeMay, later rounded out the trio.
Bolyard would write shows and jokes. Hayes had studied costuming at Castleton University and would make the group famous for their outrageous outfits.
"I'll always have his laugh in my head, because he could laugh at anything or with anybody," Bolyard said. "People felt comfortable going up to him and telling their life stories."
Hayes worked for three decades at Rags and Riches, the fabric store in South Burlington. "I knew of customers who would walk in and if Mike wasn't working, they'd walk out," Boylard said. "A funny story today someone sent me said that she loved going in shopping with with Mike, because Mike would tease her about her bland tastes — and try to get her to go experiment with colors and fabrics. And she just really appreciated that."
Hayes was a regular at the Other Place bar in Burlington, often sitting by the window to read.
And Bolyard said he always had candy — at the Other Place, or for the bus drivers on his daily bus route.
"When his mother was in a nursing home, he would visit whatever he visited he would take brownies to the staff — you know, he was always sharing what he had with others," Hayes said. "And that was just his the gracious nature of his soul."
Not just performers, the LeMays also were legendary for their charitable causes. Their 28th annual Winter Is a Drag Ball in February raised funds for Vermont CARES, a harm reduction organization for people with HIV/AIDs, Hepatitis C and substance abuse issues. They raised money for the Ronald McDonald House and for about a decade could be seen on the corner of Cherry and Church streets during the Vermont City Marathon.
“We went from just being part of the gay community to being a part of the greater Burlington community," Bolyard said.
Bolyard credits the LeMays' visibility as one reason Vermonters, even in rural areas, have been more accepting of drag performances than other parts of the country, where public drag performances are being targeted with harassment and even outlawed.
"Mike and I and the house had something to do with that acceptance, by being out there, by not just performing or being part of the gay community, but by being out there and being a part of the state as a whole," Bolyard said. "I think we helped create that civility that our state has towards drag queens."
Broadcast on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.