Climbing the steps to the tidy bungalow in NE Portland that is home to Poison Waters and Kevin Cook, I wondered exactly which of the two I would interview this day for Spot Magazine. Would it be the loud, hilarious, often brash Waters herself — known to many as the most glamorous drag queen in Portland — or would I be with Kevin Cook, activist, advocate and popular host/emcee known for his talents with humor, a mic, and an audience.
Kevin Cook opened the door with a friendly greeting and a warm smile. When asked whom I’d be talking to — Poison Waters or Kevin Cook — he laughed genially, quipping that even he can’t really tell the two apart anymore. Someone who may also not know but who definitely doesn’t care is Jackson the cat. Jackson joined us on the couch until becoming bored by my efforts to photograph him, sauntering off with a “whatever’ flick of his tail. Napping in the adjoining room was far more appealing.
Poison Waters is the vivacious, brilliant, sharp-tongued comic and legendary co-host of Old Town nightclub, Darcelle XV. Waters is also a much sought-after event host, who cheerfully (and often) blurs entertainment lines . . . appearing here as an emcee, there as a guest performer in Oregon Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker.
This in-demand performer has made countless appearances since stepping into her first gown and heels 26 years ago. What started it all was a social outing and tribute to a friend and fellow performer . . . that in time led to a respected professional career for the Waters/Cook combo.
Kevin Cook, the man behind the woman, is equally known for his keen insights, spontaneous humor, and ease as an emcee and star personality at events in the Pacific Northwest. His goal at each appearance is to entertain, give value to the audience and the sponsoring organization, and “Remain fresh and original.” Should you find yourself in the audience of either the lavishly gowned and bejeweled Poison Waters or the open-shirted, makeup-free face of Kevin Cook, you will find yourself laughing and chortling. Waters often follows some of her more “adult’ quips by letting the audience know she’s available for children’s parties.
Kevin, without the make-up and heels, is the respected Volunteer Camp Director for Camp KC, a program of Cascade AIDS Project. The annual camp at the coast provides a joyful week of activities to children affected by HIV/AIDS — whether personally, or through a parent or family member. Kevin gives countless hours annually, raising funds for the camp and promoting its quality of life value for children lucky enough to attend. Camp visitors and programs have also taught Kevin the value of animals — pets and therapy animals alike. He champions the caring, healing impact that they bring to those who meet, hug, and sparkle with happiness upon meeting a goat, bunny or llama.
Cook’s own cat, Jackson, has been with him for 14 years. While shopping and lunching at Saturday Market one day all those years ago, Kevin came upon a cardboard box filled with six-week old kittens. That day he returned home not with a new scarf or pottery bowl, but a kitten. “Jackson made me a happier person,” says Kevin. I had something to come home to — someone to nurture and take care of. These days the pair shares their home with Kevin’s partner Jeff, who loves Jackson as much as Kevin.
As Poison Waters, Kevin performs several nights a week and always on weekends. The work is physically demanding, leading (at the very least) to sore, tired feet. Can you imagine spending several hours a night dancing and twirling in heels? Which brings us to . . . the shoe. That bit of attire that is so Kevin . . . who, interestingly enough, never wears shoes at home. To him, “Shoes represent work.” He’s either laced up to exercise for the workouts that keep him in peak performing fitness, sliding into stilettos preparing to perform, or slipping into soles for any number of other professional obligations. For Kevin, “When I’m home with Jackson in my socks, I am happy.” As it turns out, Kevin’s favorite shoe . . . is no shoe at all.
If your group is seeking for an exquisitely entertaining emcee, Poison Waters/Kevin Cook is worth a look. Learn more at PoisonWaters.com.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance, this year Dec. 9th at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Marty Davis is a Portland writer and event photographer. She live in North Portland where is she closely watched over by Shasta, a bossy Aussie Shepherd. She is herded on a daily basis.