“Churning butter!” Grant Vanderbilt yells in a video posted on Instagram back in 2018. It’s not actual butter: Marko Monroe is “churning” the contents of a trash can on Hollywood Boulevard with a palm frond as people mill around. “Making trash butter!” Vanderbilt continues. “Who wants a cocktail?!” adds Marko, attempting to sell the product.
“We were absolutely insane,” says Hunter Crenshaw, who also was there that night. The three are the founders of the five-member House of Avalon, a chosen-family collective of Arkansas transplants who now reside in an L.A. duplex. “We just did crazy things, and that’s kind of how we made our name.” The clip of Vanderbilt and Monroe led to the group working with the drag moguls and nightlife producers the Boulet Brothers (hosts of the the reality series The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula) for one of their first club gigs in L.A., with the party Queen Kong at Precinct DTLA. Now, the creative hub is a force on L.A.’s nightlife circuit. They host two ongoing events: Gloss, a biweekly drag show at the new club Heart WeHo (co-owned by Lance Bass) that provides a high-production, concert-style experience exploring different kinds of drag, and monthly party SugarTank at Precinct, billed as a “nitty, gritty fun committee party.”
Little Rock, Arkansas — or “Glitterock,” as they reenvisioned it — was the birthplace of the House of Avalon. In a small city with no notable alternative queer scene, the group fashioned their own world inspired by Disco 2000, the former party at NYC’s Limelight, and the club-kid documentary Party Monster. First, that materialized in parties at the house they shared (which they sometimes referred to as a “queer halfway house”), once turning the rooms into an installation dedicated to Britney Spears. And then it became a series of events for a local club like God Daughter, which themed each edition around a color. For a yellow night, Monroe — who also works as a stylist for the likes of Lizzo and Nicole Byer — asked drag queens to wrestle in a pool of butter. “And they did!” says Crenshaw, who is Monroe’s partner and handles the management of House of Avalon, which also includes RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 winner Symone and videographer Caleb Feeney.
Though the intention was to have amazing experiences, it was also about freedom. On a recent trip to New York City for Pride, Crenshaw says he was approached by someone in Hush Bar who was also from Arkansas. “She says ‘You have no idea who I am, but when I was 16 years old, I used to go to your house parties in Arkansas all the time, and I really attribute me transitioning and moving to New York and making it out of there to that,’” Crenshaw recalls, his voice slightly breaking. “‘And I just wanted to tell you that.’ That’s exactly why we made that space.”
From their Arkansas beginnings, they’ve won fans and friends such as singer Beth Ditto, Moschino designer Jeremy Scott, drag performer Willam, and makeup artist Mathu Andersen. Before most of the members of the House of Avalon relocated to the City of Angels in 2017, Anderson gave Crenshaw a lasting piece of advice. “He said to me, ‘I want you to come to L.A., and I want you to get all this gloss, but I never want you to lose the scent of woodsmoke and whiskey,’ ” he recalls.
Early on in L.A., they danced on boxes as go-go performers at Micky’s in West Hollywood. “[They] really put us through the wringer,” says Crenshaw. They then graduated to hosting their own event there, a weekly party that lasted for two years. “We would just terrorize those people,” says Symone. The group would turn up for their gigs in coordinated outfits, often made by Monroe, that referenced pop culture. They dressed as the Coneheads, chic employees of a Blockbuster store, and Care Bears, among other looks.
Now they juggle their nightlife endeavors with brand collaborations (Moschino, Drink Can, Cash App) and manage a schedule that includes front-row appearances at presentations by Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino during fashion weeks in Europe. Says Symone, “We just want to push the boundaries of what people are going to expect.”
Their operations are largely based out of the duplex where they all live. It’s decorated with things like bright neon signs, photos of various pop-culture divas and a few custom dildos. It is there that the five create, mold, and collaborate with one another and it’s from there that they have historically hosted AvalonTV, a Twitch stream they started during quarantine that they operated as their own public access television channel complete with a selection of shows. That channel also came to feature the Sisters of Avalon, a group of three close collaborators and recurring partners that are close to the house members: Gigi Goode, Rubber Child, and Rosy Thorn.
“AvalonTV is one of our proudest achievements,” says Crenshaw. “If you ask anyone else in the house, I’m confident they would say the same. We just said ‘Let’s just turn the cameras on in the middle of the living room and talk to people.’” Through the channel they launched shows like House Party, Show N Tell with Hunter & Marko, Raw Dog, and Gigi’s Wig Rehab. And it’s something they have plans to return to.
Says Crenshaw, “We’re in the process of renovating a studio right now next door to our house and we will set it all up in there. It’ll be a business/work space — it’s going to be fun.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.