March 4, 2013

Drag performer Martha Graham Cracker deemed unfit for Dr. Seuss reading


Drag performer Martha Graham Cracker

Last week, Philadelphia Magazine reported that Martha Graham Cracker, a drag queen the magazine describes as a “legend,” was invited to a children’s reading event at a New Jersey after-school program — only to have the invitation rescinded for vague reasons.

The bandleader for Martha’s cabaret act received an email from a superviser at Haddonfield Child Care, asking the local celebrity to participate in a Read Across America series, and to read from a Dr. Seuss book of her choice to the elementary school kids. Mark Simmons, who extended the invitation, initially said he was “trying to add a bit of variety to our program,” but a few days laters, sent another email, saying, “I’m being told by some of my superiors in this organization that this guest choice is inappropriate. I cannot, however, get any of them to tell me why or how Martha Graham Cracker reading Dr. Seuss to our after-school program is inappropriate.”

It’s true that when drag queens talk about “reading,” they’re often referring to the practice of pointing out each others flaws and shortcomings; and as a group, they tend to have a filthy sense of humor. And Martha’s cabaret act is probably not the best place to bring a young child. But it’s hard to believe that the daycare center thought that she’d bring the same bawdy routine to perform for a group of kids, especially since, as Josh Middleton points out in the Philadelphia Magazine article, the Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret does an annual performance at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with plenty of children in attendance. One mom even posted on Facebook that her daughter has seen Martha’s show there several times and is a big fan (and has named one of her mermaids in her honor).

Haddonfield Child Care hasn’t specifically responded to the incident, but they did post a rather vague statement on Wednesday about encouraging diversity that’s, in all likelihood, an attempt to save face:

Haddonfield Child Care is committed to providing an environment that recognizes and encourages diversity in our staff and activities. Along with that commitment comes a responsibility to be sensitive to the developmental levels, maturity and ages of the children in our programs, which range from 5 to 11 years old. We strive to provide a variety of activities that respect the individual needs and parenting styles of all of the families we serve.

Meanwhile, in light of the un-invitation controversy, Martha Graham Cracker quickly lined up another Dr. Seuss reading for kids and their families at another venue: just yesterday, she was at the Christ Church Neighborhood House to read from Seuss and sing a few songs—and Haddonfield Child Care’s own Mark Simmons was the guest of honor.



Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.