Bradley Picklesimer was born on March 15, 1958, in Lexington, Kentucky. One of four children, Bradley had a happy early childhood with a father who owned a motel and cocktail lounge, a mobile home park, and a barn full of Tennessee walking horses. Bradley enjoyed dressing up in ball gowns, sequins, and other flashy outfits, and from the time he hit seventh grade, he was out exploring Lexington’s underground gay club scene.
After losing both parents by 14, Bradley was sent to finish high school at a Christian academy in eastern Kentucky. It was a minor detour on the Picklesimer express. By 20, Bradley was back in Lexington, opening his first downtown club with the help of his brother and sister. The club featured shows from art to drag to rock. Bradley also took a turn as the lead singer in a punk band. Most importantly, by the 1980’s, Bradley was Lexington’s leading drag queen, regularly appearing at his own and others’ bars and clubs, and performing for charity fundraisers.
AIDS reached Kentucky late. Slowly at first, then relentlessly. In 1991, Bradley got sober and moved to California with the intention of recording music and performing cabaret. When he volunteered his design skills at an AIDS fundraiser, a local designer recognized Bradley’s talent and put him to work. Next thing he knew, Bradley had his own company, with clients ranging from Elton John to Barbra Streisand to Ellen DeGeneres. Along the way, he designed sets and did make-up for pornographic films.
In 2016, after 25 years in California, Bradley bought 40 acres in Meally, Kentucky, and moved back to be near his family. He lives in a log house built in the 1930s by his aunt and uncle. To make the house his own, Bradley covered the bedroom walls with velvet, and set up his own future coffin as a coffee table. While mostly taking life a little easier now, Bradley continues to coordinate parties and events, and still dresses in drag on occasion.
For his OUTWORDS interview in March 2018, Bradley very generously traveled from Meally to a friend’s home in surprisingly queer Lexington, Kentucky. Bradley’s stories were epic with detail and emotion – and we felt convinced that if the walls of his friend’s house could talk, the stories would have been even wilder.