The late 1980’s and 1990’s saw an explosion of relatively inexpensive video cameras and editing equipment and ushered in a new generation of film, TV and documentary makers. With that came a tidal wave of programming often only seen on North America’s Public Access Television stations. Among these video pioneers were Tom Green ("The Tom Green Show"), and Johnny Knoxville from the "Jackass" TV series, both picked up by MTV for national consumption based on their highly original "real-life" appeal. These and other non-scripted, generally smaller budget programs, laid the groundwork for much of the outrageous reality TV to come.
Many Public Access producers were using the video medium for the first time and created bold, sometimes controversial content, without the censorship of major network TV. Among those were Lisha Coleman, a hair stylist and make-up artist from New York City and Canadian writer, Zach Tate. Both arrived in Hollywood, California in the early 1990’s and together they produced, "Drag: The Grandest Illusion Of Them All", a documentary exploring the lives of drag performers, starring stage, TV, and film personality, Jazzmun (most recently seen in the film "The 40 Year Old Virgin").
“I was inspired by Jazzmun’s charisma and fearless personality. She wasn’t afraid to live her truth. We’re all in drag in one form or another. The only difference is these people aren’t afraid to let the world know who they really are,” says Coleman.
The crudely shot, yet cutting edge, intimate portrait of drag queens, written and directed by Coleman, was videotaped in 1993 but did not air until 1996. The original tapes were lost in a basement flood while the only existing edited 3/4 inch master was “lost” by the last public access station to air it, in West Hollywood, California.
Prior to it’s suspicious disappearance, "Drag" aired several times across LA’s vast Public Access network and gave Coleman and Tate an audience of millions, marking the birth of the duo’s production company, Coleman Tate Productions. Despite the low budget and minimal production quality, the documentary was groundbreaking for it’s time. "Transparent", a much talked about new show featuring a transgender lead character, and "Ru Paul’s Drag Race", a current hit on the Bravo Television Network is evidence that Coleman's "Drag", produced 20 years earlier, was visionary and foreshadowed the public fascination with "alternative" lifestyles, drag performance art, and reality-based television in general.
In 2014 Coleman discovered the only known VHS copy of "Drag" in an unlabeled storage box and digitized it for release on her website www.Lisha.com. With the exception of an updated introduction by the director, "Drag" is in it’s original, maverick video-maker’s state. In addition to featuring an in-depth interview with the still-performing, legendary drag performer, Jazzmun, the documentary also takes viewers inside L.A.’s notorious, “Peanuts Club" for a glimpse into a live drag show. Candid conversations with several drag performers discussing their sexuality, as well as misconceptions and stereotypes often associated with drag queens, transvestites, gays, lesbians, and transsexuals make "Drag" an insightful and entertaining piece of video/television history from the era that helped form the foundation of the reality television of today.
Lisha Coleman continued to work in Hollywood, California for many film and television stars doing hair extensions and has since become a highly regarded expert on the subject, appearing on various news and talk shows demonstrating hair extensions makeovers. Coleman, named "best" in her field by Allure Magazine, also produces a series of educational DVD's on the subject of hair extensions that has sold in more than 20 countries. She was recently honored by the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland for her pioneering work in the field of hair extensions. Coleman moved to Houston, Texas in 2006 with husband, Zach Tate, and continues to work in Los Angeles and around the country as a hair extensions consultant, stylist and instructor. Lisha.com has more about Lisha Coleman's career in television and film as well as her hair extensions services, classes and DVDs.
"Drag: The Grandest Illusion Of Them All"
Hollywood, CA 1993
Written, directed and videotaped by Lisha Coleman
Produced and edited by Zach Tate and Lisha Coleman
Exclusive On-Line Viewing from www.Lisha.com
The Birth of Reality TV on Public Access Television
Press: TV and Print
Lisha Coleman is an internationally recognized expert in the field of Hair Extensions. She is a writer and instructor on the subject of hair extensions.
"Drag" - 1993 - the only known VHS copy
"Drag" stars Apollonia, Pebbles (below) and Jazzmun (back)
"Drag" writer/director, Lisha Coleman
"Drag" star Jazzmun - 1993
*Watch "Drag" at the bottom of this page