Apr 24, 2023


On May 31, to kick off the island's Pride celebration, the Key West Art & Historical Society opened its latest exhibit, "Sushi in the Shoe: Celebrating 25 Years of New Year's Eve Drop," that showcases many of the iconic dresses designed and worn by renowned drag queen Sushi, also known as Gary Marion. The exhibit, which runs until July 2, also contains a sampling of accompanying jewelry, shoes, portraits and global coverage of the annual event.

For a quarter of a century, Sushi starred in the Bourbon Street Pub's New Year's Eve festivities — a warm-weather takeoff on New York City's Times Square ball drop — that became known as the Red Shoe Drop. Each Dec. 31, wearing an extravagant self-designed and hand-sewn gown, Sushi balanced in a woman's sparkly red heeled shoe constructed of fiberglass and glitter high above Duval Street, exciting thousands of partygoers below. Seconds before midnight, the red shoe containing Sushi was lowered from Bourbon Street's second-story balcony as the clock neared midnight. The New Year's Eve Red Shoe Drop became so well known that it has been featured numerous times on national and international New Year's Eve television programs such as CNN.

"The shoe drop started 25 years ago. OMG, it's been a wild ride," says Marion. "Joey Schroeder approached me and said, ‘I am building a red high heel shoe and I want you to sit in it’ At the time he asked, I was the janitor at the Bourbon Street complex cleaning toilets seven days a week. I also did a drag show there once a week. I said, ‘Of course, darling, sounds fabulous.’ I never knew it would become as iconic as it did."

Each year, the extravagant dress worn by Marion was kept secret until he maneuvered into the red shoe high above the crowd. Eager to astonish the crowd, Marion spent months leading up to the drop poring through fashion magazines to find inspiration for each elaborate dress. No two are alike. They range in color, style, material and accessories. Once the drop concluded, Marion placed the dresses, wigs and jewelry into storage.

This exhibit brings together several of the original gowns along with short narratives about the dresses’ origins and material source.

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