Female Mimics Part 2: The Late ’60s & Early ’70s

| Feb 6, 2012
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Female Mimics featured many professional female impersonators in its pages. It was easy to find the performers and get professionally shot photos to fill pages. What about the rest of the magazine? Well, often there’s precious little text and even less information contained therein. Lee Brewster was adamant that it was all fabricated, even the letters. When discussing performers Female Mimics seemed to present facts, but inflated. For example, if Female Mimics said a performer lived in a glamorous modern penthouse, it might be more accurate to imagine a six-story walk-up on the Lower East Side, possibly including drugs, prostitution and family rejection.

VERY HETEROSEXUAL

If the writing about the performers is exaggerated, facts about the non-performers are non-existent. What abounds are fabulous vagaries, and unfounded claims of glamour. Though show-stopping performances and huge wardrobes may be claimed in the captions, the photos don’t show any club shots and sometimes only one outfit.

Who these people are is not important. They’re just a fantasy. They’re young, pretty and if they’re gay, which is likely, it’s never discussed. This would violate Female Mimics policy of keeping the world safe for heterosexuality. The editors go out of their way to establish a solid heterosexual identity for these models. In fact it might be said that they go too far.

An example of protesting too much is the profile of Joi Fulnese of Detroit in volume 1, #12.

“Recently his wife gave him a Dior gown for a birthday gift!”Joi spends his evenings gloriously gowned in female attire — can you imagine how surprised his co-workers at the auto plant would be? Well, maybe they wouldn’t be too surprised since Female Mimics also claims that Joi “never goes without a manicure — and wears shimmery shades of enamel.

The writing, much of which is photo captions, isn’t credited, but, there are a few articles by established writers on crossdressing, Carlson Wade and Avery Willard. Carlson Wade is the credited author of the Coccinelle biography She-Male and co-author of two pamphets Transvestitism Today and Transvestism — Males in Female Dress. Avery Willard wrote Female Impersonation, a short book about theatrical impersonators.

There is little coverage of transsexuals. Besides the obligatory Christine Jorgenson profile in volume 1, #1, there are only three other pieces: “How I Changed My Sex by Patricia Ann Morgan, author of the autobiography The Man-Maid Doll, “Abby Sinclair…Ex-G.I. Now Bride-to-Be,” and the cover story “82 Club Star Hans Crystal Sails Away for a Permanent Change.” It is also noteworthy that very few models pictured in Female Mimics evidence breast augmentation. Many of those who do are French.

Perhaps this was an editorial decision. Transsexualism was new and threatening. Were transsexuals on the other side of the Atlantic less threatening? Perhaps hormones were more readily available in Europe. Perhaps most female impersonators in American were not transsexuals. Perhaps, like Pudgy Roberts, they were gay men, skilled in the art of illusion.

INTERLUDE 1969-1972

Between Summer, 1968 and Winter, 1970-71 Female Mimics’ publishing was disrupted. In the Winter of 1969 Health Knowledge issued a new publication: Female Impersonators, “We are happy to announce that we are wiping out the old Female Mimics’ format and starting anew with a new title Female Impersonators . . . A new art staff and picture editor . . . but most important, a new editor who has knowledge of the field. Let us introduce Pudgy Roberts, who as well as heading up his own female impersonator revue is probably the top writer in the field. We believe this is the first time a pornography publisher thought that adding a member of the gender community to their staff would sell more magazines.

When telling the story of how he got the job, Pudgy says that the publisher had no real intention of adding a member of the community to the staff. “I went into Health Knowledge, who published Female Mimics, and Lenny Burton was there and I said, Are you the publisher?’ He said, Yes.’ And I said, My name is Pudgy Roberts and I’m the world’s biggest authority on drag and you don’t know your ass from your elbow. You either make me editor of your publication or I’ll put you out of business because I do know what I’m talking about. You don’t!’ And Burton said, OK, I’ll make you editor.’ But, I was editor in name only. I got them models, suggested articles and such, but they still did what they wanted. They wanted a porn-type publication and I wanted a publication about professional impersonation. They didn’t let me have the final say on things.” So, Pudgy’s presence did not represent substantial input from the gender community.

We know of fifteen issues of Female Impersonators. Most are undated. The first three were published by Health Knowledge, the remainder by Neptune Productions of Belmar, NJ. Female Impersonators history is outside the scope of this presentation, but, in the begining it was true to its title and emphasized professional impersonators with lesser coverage given to drag balls. They also featured Letters to the Editor and male-to-female transition photo sequences. In many ways it was much like early Female Mimics, so their claim of “wiping out the old seems to have more to do with the staff than the contents.

In the Winter of 1970 a new publisher, Eros Goldstripe, introduced New Female Mimics #1. They dropped the New after the first issue. The magazine was expanded, sometimes to 98 pages. But, was this a real change of publishers? Probably not. Joseph Vasta says that a similar change happened to many Health Knowledge titles.

But, even if the publisher was the same, New Female Mimics #1 bore all the marks of major editorial change. Some of the changes were visual. The cover logo was new. The layout was very different and there was very little reprinting of articles or features from the Selbee/Health Knowledge days. All this confirms Lee’s statement that the Goldstripe on the cover of an Eros publication meant new material.

There were also changes in content. The cover of #1 featured England’s most famous female impersonator, Danny La Rue. The cover of #2 featured a split-faced, male/female image of a professional American impersonator, Ricky Renee, who was not identified. Failure to identify such a well-know performer would have been unthinkable earlier. Performers had been the major selling point of the Selbee/Health Knowledge Female Mimics. Lack of recognition was expected for the ball photos, which were typically without captions, but not the professional performers. The editors of New Female Mimics knowingly dissed the performers and gave them less coverage. The same goes for the balls. The editors had something different in mind, fiction and sexual fantasy.

The first 12 issues of Female Mimics contain only one piece of fiction and that was devoid of sexual content. But in New Female Mimics there were stories in every issue and sex was always a major element. This was a big change from earlier issues where sex was even never implied. Sex also made its way into the pictorials. The captions and fictional accounts of the girls in the photos had more fantasy appeal and were often loaded with innuendo, “Carol works all over the USA where she commands top $ for her talents.

NUDE PICK-UPS

Perhaps the most important editorial change in New Female Mimics was the appearance of a photo feature with very few words. It was the longest piece in each issue — 32 pages in #3. Each portrayed a fictional story. All had the same plot: a pre-op, male-to-female transsexual with prominent breast development, picks-up someone or gets picked-up. There was kissing, cuddling and plenty of frontal nudity, but no erections, no genital contact and no actual sex. The models were attractive and well endowed. Twice the photo spreads show encounters with heterosexual men (#1 & #3) and once a lesbian (#2).

The decision to include frontal nudity was a major editorial departure. Joseph Vasta says that in the early 1970s there was an on-going judicial review of the obscenity laws in this country. As time progressed, the laws became increasingly liberal. In spite of this new permissiveness New Female Mimics discontinued showing frontal nudity after only three issues and it would never return.

There are several theories. One is that the change was market driven. Lee Brewster said that magazines without nudity always sold better. Earlier in this presentation we stated that the readers of Female Mimics wanted to feel safe, certain in the knowledge of who’s male and who’s female. Transsexual nudity is confusing, disorienting. Some may find it a turn-on, but, perhaps for the majority of readers at this time, it wasn’t reassuring to see both female and male sexual characteristics on the same individual. Perhaps the publisher didn’t understand this yet. They didn’t know that the readers attracted by the performers on the cover were very different from the readers attracted by the nude transsexual photo spread. Perhaps this new format, which combined performers with trangendered nudity, did not satisfy either group of readers.

A second theory is Joseph Vasta’s. He reminds us that with all pornography there is the general assumption that organized crime is heavily involved. The editors, photographers and graphic artists have the talent to produce publications that reflect the fantasies of transvestites, voyeurs or bondage afficionados. But, behind the scenes there are “distributors, who are really pulling the strings. The editorial staff who create the magazines receive only a flat fee from these distributors for each issue. All profits go to the distributors.”

Joseph believed that the order to stop the nudity came from these distributors. Growing up in a lower middle class Italian ghetto, Joseph remembers that the toughest guys in the neighborhood, the guys who might kill people, had a double standard of morality. For example, though promiscuous themselves, they expected everyone to stay away from their sisters. Joseph can easily imagine these toughs guys saying, “Look, I don’t want those girl-boys showing their tushes and their things in my magazine. It offends me.

Besides frontal nudity these photo spreads shared another theme: unsuspecting suitors who are shocked to discover that their female partner is in fact transgendered. This theme of discovery, of a lover being fooled by a transgendered heroine, was a major plot element in the fiction, as well as these photo features. It was in four out of five stories published in these issues. In the fiction the dupe is always a heterosexual male.

In two stories the impersonator offers mutual oral satisfaction when discovered. In one story the proposal includes a line which seems designed to reassure heterosexual readers; “I’m a female impersonator. Only I’m not gay, honey. I happen to like girls an awful lot. I just dress gay. Especially when I boff.”I don’t take off my clothes when I fuck.” Now, when I was in High School, I used to blow fellows and have them blow me. I can do that for you, if you like. Other stories seem designed to confirm the crossdresser’s masculine identity. In one a professional impersonator beats up his twin sister’s boss for making advances and then rapes the leader of a women’s liberation organization.

None of the suitors in these stories wanted a transgendered lover. Sometimes they rejected her and the “oh so heterosexual date would take a hike leaving the heroine to cry, “Oh no, don’t tell me you’re going — not so soon — here I thought I had at last met someone'”and her voice was aggrieved. There was always shock. The shock proved too great for one unsuspecting suitor, who died of a heart attack. “You — oh God — you. In addition to the obvious homophobia, there’s the degrading implication that no one would knowingly have sex with a crossgendered person.


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Category: Transgender History

Ms. bob

About the Author ()

Ms. Bob is Dean of Liberal Arts and the Castro Campus at City College of San Francisco. She is the former Transgender Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator at City College and board secretary of the GLBT Historical Society. She is an avid collector of books, photos, magazines and ephemera on transgender related subjects and loves to trade or purchase new items for her collection. She can be reached c/o TGForum.

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