John Barrowman: The Drag Legend
Beloved Torchwood, Doctor Who, and Arrow actor John Barrowman’s convention panels are like an urban myth you skeptically believe in until you see one in person. A group of hysterically screaming fangirls and fanboys got their Barrowman panel cherries popped at Awesome Con in Washington, DC—including yours truly. The panel began with the Star Wars theme blasting throughout the main panel room. The dramatic entrance didn’t end there. Chewbacca rushed the stage followed by a swarm of Star Wars cosplayers from the group Rebel Legion. John Barrowman then sauntered on stage in a salaciously sparkly Princess Leia number that left little to the imagination. He proceeded to do a striptease for the fans as he threw off the covering and the audience went wild.
Barrowman is known for his raunchy drag outfits. He keeps them hush-hush until the “big reveal.” He gives little hints on social media occasionally but his lips are otherwise sealed until his dramatic entrance. It was an honor to watch Barrowman kiss the sky for Carrie and honor her in such a fun way.
The Stories: Fun and Games
Barrowman loves his stories. For the first twenty minutes of the con he regaled fans with stories so wild, they’re almost unbelievable. Fans learned about the time he and his sister were so drunk, they thought their Uber driver was a serial killer. He loves to tell the story of his 50th birthday party where Stephen Amell (who is also attending Awesome Con) convinced him to take off of work for his birthday with the promise of popping out of a birthday cake in a gold speedo.
As much as Barrowman loves to tell stories, he adores feeding off of the fans. When fans get sassy, he gets sassy back. When they flirt, he playfully flirts back. Not even Supernatural panels can top the level of innuendo between fan questions and John’s answers. One fan asked what Supernatural character he would be. His answer? Unsurprisingly, “I wanna be the human form of the Impala so I can say all of the boys were in me.”
John Barrowman is a delightful goofball but he knows when to tone down the dramatic flair and get real. He called up two Marines that he’d met earlier to the stage to honor them and their work. Okay… he also flirted and watched their butts when they left. Howevr, he was serious while thanking them for their service.
He had another fan he met come up to the mic to tell her story about coming out. During autographing, she mentioned how homophobic her mother was when she got a photo op with John and his husband. That conversation later led to her coming out to her mother at Denny’s. The pancakes may have ended up on the floor, and she may have gotten kicked out of the house, but she found a great job, moved out, and moved on from the toxicity she faced. John asked her to share her story as an example of someone overcoming phobia to anyone struggling with the decision to come out. It’s not always a Hallmark moment and it’s not always met with acceptance, but self-love and self-acceptance are the most important things and it gets better.
A medical emergency developed during Barrowman’s panel and he handled it swimmingly. He stopped the panel, asked everyone to give the person space, and called out for any nurses in the area. He also kept the tone serious while calming down the crowd. Once the EMTs were doing their thing, he diverted attention off of them and had the people sitting in the surrounding area come sit on the floor near the stage. He asked us if it would be okay to continue the panel as long as he let us know if the fan was okay. The audience agreed and later learned that he was, in fact, okay.
Saying Goodbye with a Song
Goodbyes are usually tearful but this one was especially so. Barrowman likes to end his panels with a song but for this one, he had to tell a story first. The day same-sex marriage became legal in California, John and his now-husband, Scott, went to the courthouse to get married. There was a group of elderly couples who had been waiting their entire lives for their love to be accepted. One man asked John to be a witness for their wedding since most of their family and friends had passed. John and Scott witnessed over a hundred weddings that day because no one deserves to feel alone. He dedicated his version of “A Thousand Years” to the man who touched his life.
Barrowman couldn’t let things end on such a somber note, though. He was asked what his favorite karaoke song was during the Q & A which was, of course, “Raining Men.” Barrowman danced out of the room to “Raining Men” and on to his photo ops which were even steamier than his panel.