Michael’s Outpost piano bar has been a Houston mainstay since 1998. Not only is it the only gay piano bar in the area, but it also hosts a weekly female celebrity illusionist show called Eye Cons. Directed by Violet S’Arbleu (Miss Gay Texas America 2017, the same year OutSmart readers voted her Most Divine Drag Queen), the show will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a party this Saturday, October 16.
“Ten years is such a big accomplishment, especially in showbiz, especially in drag, and especially for a drag show that’s not even in the heart of Montrose,” S’Arbleu says. “Our customers and regulars are some of the most amazing and supportive people in the state, and we wouldn’t be here without them. They’re what make the shows so special, so I wanted to really reward them with a night of nostalgia.”
This Saturday’s show will feature performers from Eye Cons’ earliest days to its most recent cast. “Everyone in the show is doing one of their most popular illusions, so it will play out like a Greatest Hits.”
The current cast of Eye Cons includes S’Arbleu, Lana Blake, Chloe Crawford Ross, Dominique Opulent Ross, and emcee Blackberri. Lana’s illusions include Anastacia, Cher, Lady Gaga, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, and Madonna. Chloe regularly performs as Beyoncé, Paula Abdul, Sade, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys, while Dominique performs as Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Fantasia, Natalie Cole, and Heather Headley.
Teresa, Leon, and Jame’ created the show in 2011, and S’Arbleu has been the show director since 2018. It was Jame’ who came up with the name Eye Cons, which S’Arbleu thinks is perfect.
“We’re playing an optical illusion and recreating some music legends,” she says. “Truly, it’s an iconic—sorry, I mean eyeconic—name.
“It’s amazing to think of the shows we’ve produced in ten years—the themes we’ve done, the guests we’ve had, the immense range of celebrities that have been recreated in our precious little bar. I think what people love about the show is the variety. People do love when we feature newer stars like Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande (or a theme like ’90s night), but audiences both young and old still get excited for the everlasting legends like Cher and Madonna, or the fun of a night of all disco icons.”
S’Arbleu has been doing drag since college. “At this point, I’ve done dozens of celebrity impressions—probably over 50. I basically started illusions in earnest at Michael’s Outpost. I began performing in drag in 2009, and I had done tributes to some of my favorite singers at the time back in 2011–2013. I don’t know for sure, but I think it was a performance as either Édith Piaf or Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine) that alerted the show director to my interest in the art form. She started booking me as a rotating guest to do some of the celebs that are still among my most requested: Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Katy Perry, Bernadette Peters, Shania Twain, Patsy Cline, Ariana Grande. I also love anyone where I can throw myself into distinct makeup or a distinct style of performance, like Bette Midler, Reba McEntire, Dusty Springfield, Lisa Loeb, Janis Joplin, and Édith (of course). I’m currently really enjoying doing Kacey Musgraves in the show, but I think Bette Midler is still my favorite to perform, because she’s done everything from emotional power ballads to filthy standup comedy!”
What: Eye Cons 10th-anniversary party
When: Saturday, October 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Michael’s Outpost, 1419 Richmond Ave.