It’s not that this film is particularly well made or even so significant for his views. What Simon and his co-cinematographers basically do is to train their camera first on a small room where the contestants of the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Contest gather, calling out to each other in their drag names and seemingly all delighted to being seeing their friends again while reminiscing about old times: all of these figures have been selected in other such drag beauty pageants across the country. And later, in the seedy hotel where several of the participants share beds.
The contest itself at Town Hall is rather drab affair, a weak version of the Miss America contest. Despite the fact that everyone of them strut their stuff, most of them are neither truly feminine nor beautiful.
Four finalists are chosen, among them Crystal LaBeija and Rachel, each of the four making a final walk into the audience before the announcement of the judges. When Crystal is chosen fourth she runs out into the audience in a huff. Richard/Rachel is chosen queen and, for a moment, delights in the crown and the bunch of roses he is handed.
The final scene shows us Richard on his way back to his home in Philadelphia, walking, now dressed in normal street clothes, carrying her crown through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, finally sitting face out in a phone birth, twirling the silver award as if it were a kind of toy. It’s so clear that even in the underground, in a world of outsiders, love and fame are so very fleeting. Moreover, it almost as if Richard has now come to regret his aspirations. As July Holliday sang so hauntingly in Bells Are Ringing, “The Party’s Over.”