If you’re ever in need of perspective on whether our society is in true upheaval or if we’re only experiencing the same cultural battles that have raged forever, old Geraldo clips on YouTube will always offer some clarity. Recently I found myself binging on the talk show’s coverage of “club kids,” a scene of 1990s New York City partiers who wore fantastical and frequently gender-bending outfits. In various episodes over the years, Rivera invited them on and then scoffed at their floral masks and harlequin makeup, their coy references to drug use, and their queerness. Once, they inspired him to ask, somewhat in earnest, “It’s four in the morning—do you know where your children are?”
Last week, RuPaul retweeted a link to one of those episodes, from 1990, which featured him a few years before he became America’s most famous drag queen. Midway through, Rivera asked whether dressing outlandishly is an art, and RuPaul gave an exuberant yes. “I dropped out of society when Reagan got in office,” he added, then took the opportunity to rally the audience: “Everybody say ‘love!’ Everybody say ‘love!’”
Remarkably, RuPaul doesn’t seem to have changed much since that 1990 appearance—and the story he’s woven about drag has stayed remarkably consistent too. He was using his current catchphrase, “You’re born naked and the rest is drag,” back then. During the ninth-season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which aired Friday, RuPaul repeated his Geraldo routine: “Everybody say ‘love!’” he commanded. And just as RuPaul was drawing a contrast between Ronald Reagan and himself back then, he’s doing so with Donald Trump now.