Sunday, January 21, 2018

FINALLY...MY CORK SCREW


JEWEL BOX OF GLAMOUR

It wouldn't be a Drag History Month without thinking about the great divas and the touring troupe, The Jewel Box Revue. The Jewel Box Revue was a famous drag/female impersonator touring company that began in 1939 and ran well into the late 1960s. Sort of a all drag Lawrence Welk if you will. Danny Brown and Doc Benner were lovers and longtime producers of the revue, and were said to be pretty tough customers who never backed down from a fight and were known to run a very tight ship. They were hard on their employees but could be brutal to anyone who messed with “their girls.”
Creating America’s first gay community was not what Danny and Doc initially had in mind when they created the revue. They felt that Vaudeville had sidelined female impersonation acts into little more than burlesque shows, and both were passionate about reviving drag as an art form. Danny and Doc also intentionally catered the show to a heterosexual audience and tried their best to be viewed as legitimate entertainment by locals and authorities, to stay clear of any legal charges of sexual deviance. But behind the protective spin of publicity, it cannot be denied that the revue fostered one of the first gay-positive communities in America, if not the first. It was a place where “gayness” was accepted before the concept of gay-identity had even been fully conceived. Many of the performers viewed Danny and Doc not only as his bosses but as no-nonsense parental figures. Danny and Doc took great efforts to protect their girls and the other members of the revue from the often brutal homophobic realities of life in the pre-Stonewall era.
The show became incredibly popular throughout the United States. Stars of the revue such as Mr. Lynne Carter, whose talent and skill as a dancer was legendary, became quite famous and included the Rat Packer and toe-tapper Sammy Davis Jr. as a fan. The drag revue was most often comprised of “25 Men & One Girl.” The one girl was none other than Miss Storme DeLaviere who served as the sole male impersonator for the revue. Storme would garner iconic status within the LGBT community year later in 1969 for being one of the first people to fight back against police officers during the raid on the Stonewall Inn. Despite government crackdowns against gay performers and female impersonators, the revue successfully toured America and Canada anyway, for nearly 30 years. At the height of its popularity the revue headlined at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem to rave reviews.

I think it's interesting though that some of the drag queens back in the day used male names instead of the campy names we now have today. It had something to do with letting the audience know they were in fact men. Some of the notable divas performing there.
LaVern Cummings was a long-time performer in the traveling troupe of The Jewel Box. Cumming's career seems to have spanned the post-war period into the sixties if you judge by her clothing and hair.

Gita Gilmore was one of the original members of the revue and often impersonated Mae West. Miss West even invited Gita to a show once and was asked backstage to meet the bombshell herself.

Ricky Renee went on to become one of the most well known Jewel Box dancers and can still be seen performing in Europe where she now resides.


Ricki Raymonde had a most amazing operatic voice and could sing a high C, then immediately drop to a deep baritone which would gasp audiences.


The talented Barry Scott, who often left the audience in gasp with his beauty, coiffures, fashion and singing talents.

Jane Korday was with the Jewel Box longer than any other member and was known as the boy with the million dollar legs and was also the revue's hair dresser. Some of the other notables were Don Marshall who was one of the few black men performing in drag at the time, Mr Titanic who was every one's favorite blond bombshells, and Chunga Ochoa who was the featured dancer and choreographer for the review.


In the end Danny Brown and Doc Benner were successful and saw their dreams of reviving female impersonation as an art form come to fruition. The Jewel Box Revue became very successful and toured throughout the country for over three decades, even headlining at famed venues like the Apollo in New York City. But their contributions resonate far beyond their impacts on the field of female impersonation. In a very real sense Danny and Doc are the true godfathers of the modern gay community. The show was billed as “25 Men and 1 Woman,” but hundreds of gay entertainers and female impersonator would come to work with the revue over the years, and their influence on the burgeoning gay rights movement still resonates to this very day, one particular performer somewhat more so than others. The African-American lesbian drag king Storme Delarvarie was the “1 Woman” of the Jewel Box Revue.
She spent decades living, working and traveling with Danny and Doc’s tough but protective community of touring entertainers. Those experiences and life lessons would prove invaluable in Storme’s later life, and her actions continue to inspire generations of gay people. Storme Delarvarie is credited as being one of the first people to bravely fight back against the police as they raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City on the night of June 27, 1969. Her courage helped to spark a riot that begat the modern gay rights movement. She sadly has since passed back in 2014, as many of the performers have. I do get the feeling though,somewhere out there in the cosmos, Danny Brown and Doc Benner couldn’t be prouder.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

LATE NIGHT......SHAKE IT GIRL!

Having a quite night and need some exciting ditty to wake you up? Well Divine is here for drag history month to Shake It Up!!!!!

THE GENE COMPTONS RIOT

Historian Susan Stryker made the amazing discovery the way that many of her peers do: by pure accident. She wasn’t looking for it, but she found evidence of a forgotten chapter in the history of LGBT community in America.In 1995, Stryker a transgendered historian, and co-author Jim Van Buskirk were working on Gay by the Bay, their soon-to-be published, best seller capsule history of the San Francisco LGBT movement, when they came across an interesting item in the program for the 1972 Gay Pride march.The article described an August 1966 riot at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderloin, a poor and working-class area of the city where many transgenders and drag queens lived, and still do. The incident started after a rowdy queen refused to leave the popular hangout and management called the police.
The account of the riot from the Pride program reads like a description of a lot of the social unrest of the 1960s: “Gays began breaking out every window in the place, and as they ran outside to escape the breaking glass, the police tried to grab them and throw them into the paddy wagon, but they found this no easy task for gays began hitting them “below the belt” and drag-queens smashing them in the face with their extremely heavy purses. A police car had every window broken, a newspaper shack outside the cafeteria was burned to the ground.” Though many positive changes occurred after the riot, including a better relationship with the local police district and the establishment of social services for the trans community, the incident didn’t give birth to the kind of national mass movement that followed a similar night of rioting in New York’s Greenwich Village after cops raided the Stonewall bar.
Nearly three years after Compton’s, the Stonewall riots were the spark that gave birth to the modern gay liberation struggle. Literally, overnight, thousands of students and others, many from the antiwar and other radical movements, came pouring out of their closets to form the in-your-face organizations that eventually replaced the existing “homophile” groups. “Compton’s happened too early,” says Stryker. “In 1966, things were just starting to bust out all over: The Black Panthers, the anti-war movement, the kids using psychedelics. Three years later, a lot more gay people were waiting for their own moment. Stonewall happened. A lot more people were primed to take advantage of it.”
Word spread about the rebellion in New York. Eventually, the Compton story was forgotten. Inspired by what she read, Stryker went on to make a documentary about the incident at Compton’s.
Co-produced with Victor Silverman and Jack Walsh, it’s appropriately entitled Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria. It aired on PBS stations nationally in June 2006. An official San Francisco city plaque was installed in the sidewalk near the site of the riot that same summer.
I'll say one thing...drag queens are not to be trifled with.

Friday, January 19, 2018

IN THREE WORDS

         In this weekly feature, I'll share a weekly guest with you, and you tell me in only three words what come to mind.

      In three words......
Divine

Thursday, January 18, 2018

DRAG HISTORY-DANNY LaRUE


Danny La Rue........ With his dazzling coiffures, extravagant costumes, immaculate make-up, fitted eyelashes, blonde peek-a-boo wig and high heels, La Rue — tall and handsome — brought an air of the most amiable and poised self-mockery to clubs, cabarets, variety halls and summer shows for nearly 40 years, and was at a time billed the most famous drag queen in the world at! The Unforgettable Danny La Rue' & that he was! Before Rupaul had raced or Lilly Savage had shop lifted, Danny La Rue was it.
 
  La Rue was an Irish-born British entertainer known for his singing and drag impersonations. He served in the Royal Navy as a young man following his father's footsteps, and even had a brief career delivering groceries, but he became known for his skill as a female impersonator (or "comic in a frock" as he preferred to be called) in the United Kingdom and was featured in theatre productions, and in film, television and records.
 
Among his celebrity impersonations were Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Margaret Thatcher. At one point he had his own nightclub in Hanover Square, and also performed on London's West End. In the 1960s he was among Britain's highest-paid entertainers. In 1982 he played Dolly Levi in the musical Hello, Dolly!. He also has the distinction of being the only man to take over a woman's role in the West End theatre when he replaced Avis Bunnage in Oh, What a Lovely War! and he was until his death still a regular performer in traditional Christmas pantomime shows in Britain. In 1968 his version of "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep" reached number 33 in the UK singles chart; La Rue later adopted the song as his theme tune.
He appeared in Every Day's a Holiday, The Frankie Howard Show, Our Miss Fred, Twiggs, Decidedly Dusty, Entertainment Express, Blackpool Bonanza and the BBC's Play of the Month in a production of Charley's Aunt (1969). He made a guest appearance in the Mr. Bean episode Mr. Bean in Room 426 in 1993. He most recently appeared in Hello Danny a biographical show performed at Benidorm Palace, which opened in Spain in  November  2007. The part of the young La Rue was played by Jerry Lane, who also co-created and directed. La Rue appeared at the start of the show and then in an interview on stage in part of the second half. He also performed a number of songs. This show proved to be La Rue's final major public appearance.
La Rue suffered a mild stroke in January 2006 whilst in Spain on holiday after his final Pantomime and all of his planned performances were cancelled. He had been suffering from prostate cancer for many years unbeknown to his fans. He had several subsequent strokes and developed cancer of the throat. He died in his home shortly before midnight on  May 31 2009 at the age of 81, his companion, Annie Galbraith, was with him at his home when he died. La Rue was laid to rest with his partner, Jack Hanson, who were a coupled for 40 years.
Back in the day when I did drag it was all about the entrance and huge looks to me.... so this clip gives me chills...... I adore this.

Now this is a entertaining queen.

I can only imagine the entertaining going on upstairs!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

QUEENS IN THE CINEMA

I love movies, especially old ones. Since we are looking at Drag History this month, there have been some really good films featuring drag queens themselves or actor portraying drag queens.
Over the years I've seen many, so we here at the Casa thought it was a good time to take a look at some of our favorite queens in film. These are some of my favorites I feel should be seen, and ones I enjoyed the most.

The Adventures of Priscilla
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a 1994 Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by Stephan Elliott. The plot follows two drag queens and a transgender woman, as they journey across the Australian Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a tour bus that they have named "Priscilla", along the way encountering various groups and individuals. The film's title references the English slang term "queen" for a drag queen or female impersonator.
The Queen

Under seen 1968 documentary I feel,  featuring old-school drag performers and at least one future trans woman, competing in a pageant that was judged by, among others, Andy Warhol. It was made in a time when virtually everything about it was illegal, and it serves up both the legendary Crystal LaBejia and International Chrysis. Have you heard of better drag names than those? Talk about some catty scenes too.
Torch Song Trilogy
Straight-up weeping is on the menu as pioneering out gay actor Harvey Fierstein takes his stage play to film, alongside Anne Bancroft as his judgmental mother. It’s a whole lot of downbeat, but it also proves that lip-syncing for your life is only what you do when you can’t actually croak it out all live and froggy.Arnold, a famous drag queen, tragically lost his lover Alan in a hate crime Alan tried to prevent. Arnold is now torn between his memories on Alan, his bisexual lover Ed, their new adopted teenage gay son David and Arnold's never quite satisfied mother.
Too Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar!
Three drag queens travel cross-country until their car breaks down, leaving them stranded in a small town. Too me, it was basically an American remake of Priscilla in everything but name, the 1995 drag road trip film is was still a charmer none the less. Three queens set out, this time not from Sydney to Alice but from New York to Hollywood, in a battered Cadillac and get stranded in small town America. Along the way, the queens teach us valuable lessons about taking an interest in our elders, community involvement and even manage to end domestic violence! What it lacks in originality it makes up for in a sort of vérité believability: after a while you see the drag queens as the townsfolk do, as really built women. It starred Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo as three of the best named queens around: Miss Vida Boheme, Noxeema Jackson, and Chi-Chi Rodriguez with cameos by drag legends Miss Coco Peru, Floatilla DeBarge and RuPaul herself.
Wigstock- The Movie
A concert documentary and Who’s-Who of 90s drag, including The Lady Bunny, Lypsinka, RuPaul, Jackie Beat, the late Alexis Arquette, and the staggeringly strange genius of the late Leigh Bowery. Watch in stunned amazement as Bowery “gives birth” on stage. Your senses will never be the same.
Victor/Victoria
Yes, I know: Julie Andrews isn’t technically a drag queen. That said, Victor/Victoria is a film utterly about the show business of 1930s Paris where drag was already a culture blooming with beading and feathers. Andrews plays the woman impersonating a man impersonating a woman and manages to completely shatter your associations with her as Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp the minute you see her doing a really good impression of a gay man. The film includes beautiful period recreations of the costumes and performances of the golden age of European drag.
La Cage aux Folles-1978
This was the orginal Birdcage. And while Nathan Lane was very funny in it, I do prefer the original. Two gay men living in St. Tropez have their lives turned upside down when the son of one of the men announces he is getting married. They try to conceal their lifestyle and their ownership of the drag club downstairs when the fiancée and her parents come for dinner.
Some Like it Hot
Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dress like women to escape the mob. Then they meet Marilyn Monroe. Thanks to heterosexual penises, it gets complicated. When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in. A classic.
Outrageous
A time capsule of the late 1970s, this Canadian comedy follows a drag queen/hairdresser and his mentally ill female roommate as they lean on each other for support. The trailer promises “a world you’ve never seen” and makes good on that by not showing you anything of the film. It also starred the incredibly talented drag performer Craig Russell.
Flawless
An ultraconservative police officer played by Robert DiNero, suffers a debilitating stroke and is assigned to a rehabilitative program that includes singing lessons, with the drag queen next door, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The movie was cute as Di Nero's character comes to terms with his budding relationship with a drag queen, someone he wouldn't normally mix with. But I enjoyed their chemistry together.
Paris is Burning
 Gurl.....whoever thinks Madonna Invented Voguing,you are wrong.Please see Paris is Burning for your gay history lesson. I am of course, speaking to myself circa age 18 when this dragumentary blew my white gay head off my shoulders and introduced me to the uptown world of “walking,” representing your house and the golden age of the uptown balls. It's where I learned to walk and cut runways!!! You meet queenster's  Pepper LaBeija, Angie Xtravaganza, and Willi Ninja and see the lives and pageants unfold like the fishtail on a Balmain gown.
Female Troubles
A spoiled schoolgirl runs away from home, gets pregnant while hitch-hiking, and ends up as a fashion model for a pair of beauticians who like to photograph women committing crimes. But we'd be remised if we didn't think the list should included most of Divine's movies, as they are all odd, but yet campy and entertaining and can be down right lewd, which you may be aware I do enjoy from time to time.
I only hope one day the story of Barbette will be turned into a film. What a colorful life she had and the people she knew. Would make for a great film I think.
Have you seen any of these films?
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