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Dragspiration on Screen

| Feb 7, 2011
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When we were all drippy nosed little kids we spent much time sitting in front of our electronic nanny — the television. As little crossdressers many of us were thrilled to see a male character appear on the screen dressed in women’s clothing. For the older CDs it may have been seeing Milton Berle don drag for comic effect. Other comics of that era, like Red Skelton and Bob Hope all slipped into a dress to get a laugh. Even The Three Stooges did it.

Younger CDs may have seen their first man in a dress on shows like Bosom Buddies, Flip Wilson’s comedy show, or even a Saturday morning kids show like Lidsville. (Young Butch Patrick dressed up as Mae West in one episode.) As young crossdressers we might have gotten the laugh but we also got a secret thrill at the idea of men wearing women’s clothes.

And not all drag appearances on television were for laughs. The Ed Sullivan show featured female illusionist Jim Bailey doing his act as a serious artist. The crime show Vega$ featured Bailey in a dramatic role. All In The Family had Archie Bunker driving a cab and one of his fares was a rather tall lady who passed out in the cab. Archie performed mouth to mouth only to learn the lady was a man. While there were laughs to be had there were also lessons to be learned, by Archie, about homophobia and gender discrimination. Drag performer Lori Shannon played the lady.

Movies have also provided crossdressers with excitement by featuring men dressed as women to play either female characters or male character who were “dressing up” for some reason, usually a silly reason. There was probably a better way for Cary Grant’s character to get into the U.S. to join his army wife than dressing up as a female war bride in the film I Was A Male War Bride. But that solution probably wouldn’t have been as funny as seeing Cary Grant in a bad wig and no makeup trying to pass himself off as a French lady.

Dustin Hoffman’s character in Tootsie made it seem like dressing up and auditioning for a female role on a soap was the only way to revive his acting career but seriously, who would have believed that? Not that he looked bad but you can’t do that kind of full time drag in real life without some beard showing through.

Early last week I sent an email asking for TGF readers to let me know what crossdressed images they saw on TV and in the movies when they were young. There are many, many more examples than these but here are just a few that our readers found notable, and may have provided some young crossdressers with dragspiration.

Uncle Miltie -- Milton Berle

Cary Grant as the male war bride.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in "Some Like It Hot."

Buckwheat and Spanky in "The Little Rascals.:

Billy Crystal in "Soap."

Flip Wilson as Geraldine.

Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari in "Bosom Buddies."

Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie."

David Bowie in the "Boys" video.

Before Mulder met Scully he dressed like a woman for "Twin Peaks."

Monty Python and Eddie Izzard.

Canadian comics Kids In The Hall.

We couldn't find a pic of Oil Can Harry (Mighty Mouse's nemesis) in drag but he dressed up for a bank robbery once.

Bugs Bunny in drag. (L) 1943 (R) 1949

Click each image for a larger view.

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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment, Transgender History

angela_g

About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Association, Inc., the former editor of that organization's newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She wrote the Diva of Dish column for TGF in the late 1990s and was the Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She is currently the Editor of TGF. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows. In her idle hours she keeps busy producing her monthly TG parties, Angela's Laptop Lounge.

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