HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Nothing about Tommi Rose is understated.
Her jewelry is enormous.
"Something a little simple to go grocery shopping," she quipped, flashing a ring so big it obscured her whole hand.
Her custom-made gowns are described by weight and bead count.
"Over 32,000 rhinestones on this gown," she said, holding up one bedazzling number. "My finale gown that I wear in the show is solid silver beads and weighs 28 pounds."
She is referring to "La Cage!" a new show opening at the Cinegrill Theatre in Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel this week.
For this newly reimagined supper club, Rose holds a lot of titles.
"Emcee, host, grand dame," she said, adding with a flourish, "Bitch in charge!"
But the title she failed to mention was legend.
Tommi Rose has been doing drag for 47 years, yet this moment somehow feels like a new beginning.
"A chance for a comeback, so to speak," she said with a hint of nostalgia in her voice, "and a second bite at that apple."
Rose, aka Thomas Dixon, grew up in the South and first discovered female impersonators as a young teen when he saw Charles Pierce perform on a talk show.
"He was doing this hysterical Bette Davis…and I knew that's what I wanted to do," she recalled. "And I even told my mother, 'I'm going to meet him someday.' And she turned to me most earnestly, and she said, 'Honey, I have no doubt you will.'"
Several years later, Rose not only met Pierce, but he became his mentor and best friend, setting him on a career path that would last a lifetime.
Rose worked in some of the best-known clubs of the time, including the famed Finocchio'sin San Francisco.
"Back in those days, we did three shows a night, six nights a week, eighteen shows a week," she said. "These kids today…think they know what a drag race is! They have no idea what a drag race really is, especially for a show host when I averaged anywhere between 11 to 14 costume changes per show."
In 1981, the legendary La Cage aux Folles nightclub opened in Los Angeles. It was a popular celebrity illusion show that attracted actual celebrities flocking to see themselves on stage — Lucille Ball, Cher, Bette Midler. The show would later franchise to other cities, with Rose joining the cast in San Francisco before stepping in to headline the LA show.
She spent years in and out of the many iterations of "La Cage!" before settling in Palm Springs, where she's had her own show for two decades, making her the longest-running headliner in town.
That's where producer Michael Diefenbach first saw her and without even knowing her connection to the original franchise, he knew he'd found the star of his planned "La Cage!" revival.
"I actually was blown away by his impersonations and just by his performance in general," he said. "I said, 'If there's any host for this show, it's going to be him.'"
He describes this new "La Cage!" as an immersive experience with performers appearing all over this hidden theatre that is tucked behind a bookcase at the Roosevelt Hotel.
Walking in, there's an immediate sense of mystique, both speakeasy and time machine, transporting audience members into a world of plush red velvet and twinkling lights. Diefenbach described the show as immersive, with a cast of performers who are not limited to the stage.
"It is a throwback to the old Hollywood supper clubs," Diefenbach explained, "but we've reimagined it so that young people can appreciate the same form of entertainment in a brand new way."
Rose is in her glory for this new "La Cage!" She has 13 costume changes, each changing a completely new look from head to toe.
"I never wear the same gown, jewelry, or wig twice in the same show," she bragged. And why would she when each ensemble is unforgettable, with angel wings and floor-length capes and beads so plentiful she can be heard coming from the down the hall.
Rose has seen many changes in drag over four decades, partly because of Ru Paul, but she says don't expect her to pull the antics and outright acrobatics they do on "Drag Race."
"I don't do all the flips and the flops and the drops and the pops on the floor," she stressed. "I tell people in my show, if you see me on the floor, somebody's best be on the phone to 911 because it's not part of the act."
She's also seen perceptions of drag change, especially in recent years. She doesn't like to get political, although she says drag has been politicized.
While she once played long stints in Nashville and Biloxi, she says she's thinking twice before returning to places like that.
"I don't know that I would say I would feel safe or not," she said. "I would definitely second think it. And I would want to know much more about it."
However, she didn't need to question the newly reimagined "La Cage!" in the city of Angels.
At almost 65, she never expected she'd be doing this this long. She jokes that this is her swan song and intends to savor every single sequined moment.
"I've been in over 500 cities in over 100 countries. I've been in receiving lines for royal families," Rose said.
Sitting in front of her makeup mirror, she grew emotional as she looked back over her decades in drag.
"It has truly been an honor, and it has been a blessing and I'm… I'm so sincerely grateful for all of it."
True drag royalty. Long may she reign.