Author to Watch: Johnny Drago

‘Luxury helicopters and gowns and cliff-hangers and catfights’

Author to Watch: Johnny Drago, Photo by Joeff Davis, 2012
Photo credit: Joeff Davis/CL File
Author to Watch: Johnny Drago

Johnny Drago has been busy over the last year: In 2011, his play Kiss of the Vampire took home the Metropolitan Atlanta Theater Award for Best Original Work. In 2012, Drago snagged the top spot in Creative Loafing’s annual Fiction Contest. This summer he was one of a select few chosen for Mint Gallery’s Leap Year fellowship, and most recently, has been awarded the Emerging Artist Award in Literary Arts from the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs. Then there’s his performance in Designing Women Live! at OnStage Atlanta, the debut of his play Buckhead is Burning, and regular appearances at Write Club Atlanta, Vouched Atlanta, and Hyde ATL.

Somehow, in the middle of all this, Drago found the time for Executive Privilege, a new book he co-authored with E.C. Crandall. Published this September under the pen names Dale Vigor (Drago) and Teri Dee Strung (Crandall), Executive Privilege focuses on the raucous lives of two executives of feuding aerobics companies in the early 1980s. It’s equal parts pulp novel and loving homage to queer melodrama. Drago lovingly refers to it as “their little Fifty Shades of Gay.”

“We started off writing a certain type of pulp novel,” he says. “But as we considered the history of LGBTQ literature and what we wanted our contribution to be, the book became a meditation on genre fiction, queer melodrama, the value of the humanities, and the pitfalls of commercial art — in addition to being a book about luxury helicopters and gowns and cliff-hangers and catfights.”

He’s encouraged by Atlanta’s thriving creative community: “It’s been heartening to watch the lit scene come to life and I’ve been extremely lucky to play along. We’re witnessing a special moment in the city’s creative life. People are being driven to crimes of passion over public murals! We have at least 20 roving, anonymous street artists! A chicken in every pot and a dance troupe on every corner!”