Portland drag queen Cherry Lemonade is set to grace TV screens across America in the coming weeks, but so far the silence is deafening.

It’s an open secret around town that the performer, whose real name is Conor Tubbs, will be a contestant on this season’s edition of the star-making Fox singing competition “American Idol.” The first episodes will air Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m.

But the show’s producers don’t want to risk contestants or their friends giving too much away, so Tubbs has been told to keep quiet and to tell all his friends to do the same. While dozens, if not hundreds, of locals have been cheering Tubbs on via Facebook, nobody is cheering “on the record.”

Several of his friends and relatives said last week they have been asked by Tubbs to say nothing about his “American Idol” journey or about him. Fox publicists had little to say as well, only confirming that a contestant from the Portland “area” will be on the show.

In December, Tubbs posted an “American Idol” video on Facebook in which this season’s “top 24” contestants are heard singing, but are not seen clearly. Above the video Tubbs wrote, “See, or rather hear, anybody familiar?”

Tubbs also has posted pictures of himself on his Cherry Lemonade Facebook page, posing with an “American Idol” logo. He’s also posted pictures and videos of his audition before the show’s judges, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. Above a link to the audition video, during which Tubbs sings “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse, he posted the comment: “My American Idol XIV audition makes me pretty happy.”


When asked to comment about his pending appearance on the show, Tubbs responded briefly by email: “I’m unable to discuss the happenings of ‘American Idol’ until further notice, and same for my friends and my family.

“I’m currently in the dark as to which episodes will feature which contestant, as the production team hasn’t released that info,” he wrote.

The singer, performer, writer and bartender grew up in South Portland and lives in Portland. As the female character Cherry Lemonade, he sings and hosts variety shows at local nightclubs, including Styxx in Portland. He also has written for Portland’s Dispatch Magazine, an arts and activities publication. In 2013, he helped organize, on behalf of Dispatch, a giant pillow fight in Monument Square.

In a profile on the website Liveworkportland.org, Tubbs said that when he performs as Cherry Lemonade he’s doing a “caricature” of a female. He said he likes to sing “in character” and designs all his own looks, including hair, clothing and make-up.

Tubbs said he enjoys performing as Cherry Lemonade because it allows him to “keep myself on stage as often as possible.”

“It’s where I thrive, ’cause I get to sing live while I perform, and write my own skits and comedy routines. It’s the best parts of all my projects put into one,” Tubbs was quoted as saying in the profile.


Tubbs’ “American Idol” journey began last July, when the “Idol” audition tour bus stopped on the Maine State Pier in Portland. The show’s judges were not at that audition. Instead, Tubbs sang for casting directors that day and later auditioned for the show’s judges.

When Tubbs will be on the show this year is hard to say, since a specific schedule of episodes has not been released. In past years, the show usually followed a similar pattern, with two episodes each week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the first three weeks featuring audition highlights.

Those episodes showed short clips of many singers. They were followed by two weeks featuring hundreds of people who had passed preliminary auditions and were trying to advance past auditions in Hollywood. Next came one week where the top 30 contestants performed and were pared down to 13.

This year the show has already announced it will have a top 24 pool of singers. Tubbs’ Facebook post hinted that’s likely where viewers will be able to see him.

Last year, the top 13 finalists began performing live in late February, with someone usually getting voted off each week. The winner was named May 21.

This year, lots of Mainers are hoping the winner is named twice: Conor Tubbs and Cherry Lemonade.

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