Describing his story as “The Drag Queen and the Professor,” Mark Hooker captured the attention of “Property Brothers” Jonathan and Drew Scott when they brought their hit show to their hometown of Las Vegas for the first time last year.
“Mark’s story inspired us,” Property Brothers series producer Dora Fong said. “He shared with us why he and Dave were in the middle of a long relocation process to Vegas. They were caught between Dave’s job as a history professor in Minnesota and Mark’s burgeoning dream to be a working drag queen in a bigger market.”
Hooker’s longtime partner of 25 years, Dave Berg, is the associate professor of management and international business at Hamline University in Minnesota. He flies back and forth between the two cities.
Hooker has been acting for more than 50 years, staring in his own cabaret act, “The Mark Hooker Show,” as well as several films and daytime dramas including “All My Children,” “One Life to Live” and “The Guiding Light.” He began performing in drag two years ago in Minnesota. He wanted to relocate to Vegas to fully pursue his dream and find a destination where he and his partner could retire.
“I gave drag to myself for the my 60th birthday,” he said. Hooker is performing as his stage persona “Margo Caprese,” known as the Vintage Vegas Vixen at Hamburger Mary’s on East Flamingo Road. “As I get older, I don’t feel like auditioning for things. This is my way of having an outlet as an entertainer.”
As part of his new home, Hooker wanted a drag room for Margo. Jonathan Scott, seeking inspiration for the space, reached out to his friend Frank Marino, an iconic Las Vegas headliner. Marino will emcee as Joan Rivers for another Las Vegas icon, “Legends in Concert,” Sept. 11-Nov. 19.
“Who else to go to but the expert of drag here in Las Vegas?” Marino said. “It worked out great. I was excited to be on the show.”
As part of finding the right property in the couple’s $425,000 budget, Jonathan and Drew Scott showed several fixer-uppers in iconic midcentury modern neighborhoods in the historical areas of the Las Vegas Valley.
“The brothers made the process fun and educational,” Berg said. “They got to know what we were looking for and then showed us places that could provide that and still stay within out budget.”
The couple selected a 1,720-square-foot midcentury rancher. The fixer-upper is in the historic Paradise Palms neighborhood and is on the historic registry.
“Some clients need to see 50 houses before making a decision, and others only need to see a few,” Drew Scott said. “Fortunately for us, Mark and David were able to narrow down what kind of a home they wanted quickly. Something with character that was in a non-cookie cutter community.”
The ability to live in the Paradise Palms neighborhood played a significant factor in their decision. Located near downtown Vegas, the historic midcentury modern neighborhood has an extensive list of celebrities who have lived there at one time. They include Phyllis Diller, Debbie Reynolds, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin and Howard Hughes.
“We really like this neighborhood,” Hooker said. “It’s very artistic with lots of actors and entertainers living here. Plus, we’re close to the entertainment venues. I really feel at home here.”
They paid full list price of $320,000 for the home, which showcased several features the couple wanted in a property, including midcentury modern design, three bedrooms, a pool and the ability to create an open living area with separate dining.
“I grew up in a midcentury modern house,” Hooker said. “I love everything that was set in that era.”
With a renovation budget of approximately $100,000, Jonathan Scott created a design with an open main living area that balanced beauty and function.
“There is nothing cookie cutter about Mark and David,” Jonathan Scott said. “They wanted a character home to kick off this new chapter in their lives. So I wanted to create a space that would represent their eccentric sense of style but also function to make their lives easier.”
Hooker and Berg left most of the renovation to Jonathan and Drew Scott, but they provided direction as to what they’d like.
“I like monochromatic with a pop of color,” Hooker said. “I know it’s boring, but I like white walls. I don’t want anything to conflict with Margo’s outfits.”
The home’s age required overcoming several challenges initially, such as mediating asbestos found in the popcorn ceiling and finding mold while removing the old flooring.
The existing kitchen was demolished, and a larger, reconfigured kitchen was installed with a central, expansive waterfall-edge quartz island. Two-tone cabinetry, light blue tile backsplash and high-end vinyl flooring complete the stylish hub.
“My favorite place is the island,” Hooker said. “It’s where I live. I sit and work on my computer, writing a novel, screenplay and learn how to play a ukulele.”
Creating a separate dining space required removing a fourth bedroom off the entry.
The living room’s fireplace surround was painted white, and strips of wood were added to the adjacent living room wall to enhance the space’s vintage feel.
Enlarging the exterior wall opening and installing a voluminous patio door provided spacious indoor/outdoor living out to the backyard and pool deck.
Pops of yellow on the front door and bar stools lining the island provide fun elements to the décor. A rust colored sectional adds another retro dimension among the midcentury furniture pieces.
“The design and finishes really brought back the 1960s vibe we were looking for,” Berg said. “And, even though I was concerned about it initially, taking out the small fourth bedroom really opened up the living space and made it a great home for the entertaining we love to do.”
Opening up the main living area provided Jonathan Scott a way to design a “runway” area from the entry into the living room for Hooker to show off Margo’s outfits. Introducing the runway, Jonathan and Drew Scott strutted for their own runway walk during the episode.
“It wasn’t my first time throwing on a pair of heels,” Drew Scott said. “When we have homeowners that like to have fun, we have fun.”
Even the runway couldn’t top the Marino-inspired drag room, built out of one of the three other bedrooms. The glamorous but functional space offers Hooker a place to dress, store and sew all his stunning costumes.
“I’ll always remember my first drag room,” Jonathan Scott said of designing the space. “The first call I made was to Frank to find out what some of the typical ‘must haves’ are for a drag room. I blended that with some of my typical needs for a nice closet and sprinkled in a lot of personality and glam.”
Marino offered key elements to include in the space, such as putting wigs on a flat board with four spindles for easy transport and having a place to lay sequin gowns.
“You never want to hang them,” Marino advised. “What happens is they are so heavy it will break the beads.”
Jonathan Scott turned the other secondary bedroom into Berg’s den with the added versatility of an extra guest room by installing a full-sized Murphy bed on the wall.
The entire renovation took seven weeks to complete and came under budget at $96,500.
“It’s always a fine balance of blending the new with the old, but at the risk of sounding overconfident, I think we hit the nail on the head,” Jonathan Scott said. “Or, maybe more accurately, we hit the wig on the head.”
According to Hooker, it took 14 days of shooting to complete the episode, which debuted on the HGTV network at the end of July.
“Jonathan and Drew did everything we asked them to do,” Hooker said. “They designed a house that was easy for a retired couple to live in.”
“We really enjoyed our time in Las Vegas,” Fong said. “It’s a great city, with incredible growth, amazing views and weather, and wide variety of people who were so welcoming.”