By Mark Kariel

Last issue, I had a blast “ Ru-capping” the RuPaul’s Drag Race queens who appeared on the South Beach stage last year. Forty-five queens (yes, that’s right, 45 queens, which included a rumored queen for the upcoming Season 9) graced the South Beach stage during 2016. That is a whole lot of charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent! Can I get an “ amen” ?

In thinking about my first article for the New Year, I decided to do a little personal reflection. What better time to do this than just as the calendar turns to 2017? I suggest that all of you do the same. Focus on what is important to you in the upcoming year. What did you not accomplish last year that you want to accomplish in the New Year? Were there things you did in 2016 that you want to work on and handle better in 2017?

As a MONTROSE STAR contributing writer for more than three years now, I first of all want to thank two people who have given me the opportunity to keep my writing skills sharpened. Publisher and executive editor Laura Villagran and Nancy Ford, copy editor, have been fabulous to work with and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them in 2017 and beyond.

For many years, I’ve talked (to myself as well as others) about writing a book about my life story. Those who know me probably know at least a little bit about my story, but probably not all of it. I tend to not talk about the dramatic parts! I have a title selected, I have some of the chapters completed (or mostly completed), and I even have a placed picked out for the book signing. Maybe I am a bit ahead of myself.

Without giving too much of the story line away, the year 2000 was one full of change for me. I divorced my wife of 22 years, sold my CPA accounting practice and came out as a gay man. My children were 17 and 19 at the time, so this was naturally a challenging time for them, too.

I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to work in the field of accounting again after 18 straight (no pun intended) income tax seasons. Having taken a holiday job at Macy’s to take some time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do workwise, I had the opportunity to meet Charles Armstrong one day while I was working on the sales floor of Macy’s selling Men’s Polo clothing. That chance meeting eventually led to my being employed as the accounting supervisor for Charles in February 2004, and I have been in that position for the past almost 13 years.

It is through my employment with Charles that I’ve had the unique opportunity to meet about 70 of the 100 RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants from the first eight seasons of the show. This opportunity has given me the chance to write articles about many of the queens and their appearances here at South Beach. It has been a lot of fun.

Fast forward to the year 2017 (obviously the book would fill in the gaps!) and I am now happily married to my husband, Al. We now have four grandchildren whom we see as often as possible, plus three dogs, two cats, a cockatiel and nine fish to keep us busy. Al and my ex-wife trade recipes and we spend several holidays a year with the entire extended family. I often remind myself that this is not the way that it is for everyone who has experienced these life changes. I feel very fortunate and blessed.

I am typically not one to make New Year’s resolutions. However, I’m making an exception this year. I plan to make great strides with my book and hope to have it completed by the end of 2017. As you see me during the year, please ask me how my resolution is coming along. The more that I am held accountable to this resolution, not only by myself but also by others around me, the better my chances are for success.

Thank you for reading, and I will return to my regularly scheduled programming—my RuPaul’s Drag Race articles—in the next issue.

Stay tuned for the next edition of the MONTROSE STAR for many more upcoming RuPaul’s Drag Race events. South Beach is located at 810 Pacific St. Houston, Texas 77006. For more information, please visit, or call 713-521-0107.