Female Mimics Part 3 — Pudgy’s Challenge

| Mar 5, 2012
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This presentation is a preliminary history of Female Mimics magazine, which was published from 1963 to 1979. It is worth our notice for several reasons: its ground-breaking format, large distribution, long publishing history and, most importantly, because of its portrayal of the gender community.

THE GREAT FEMALE MIMICS

There were no issues during 1972. As Female Mimics lay fallow, performer/author Pudgy Roberts fulfilled a life-long dream. “At last! My own magazine!” Unfortunately, like so many dreams, it quickly vanished.  Pudgy Roberts Presents the Great Female Mimics enjoyed only one issue. Though the similar title is confusing, Pudgy’s magazine is completely independent of Female Mimics. In fact it was the editorial opposite of Eros’ New Female Mimics which reduced coverage of professional impersonators. Pudgy limited his focus to professional female impersonators. He said that, “Here I had real editorial control, at least more than before. I created a publication which presented female impersonators as show business professionals. It wasn’t successful. There was an English publication with a similar editorial policy. But, even they gave in.”

It seems that many professional impersonators had similar hopes for the original Female Mimics. A 1965 letter to the editor signed “The Cast of Finocchio Club” asked for “a magazine which would help us in our building a better image of the “Art of Female Impersonation.” That seems an appropriate goal, however, the main thrust of the letter was calling the magazine to task for presenting “freaks, perverts, deviates, transvestites, lesbians, etc.,” and anything in fact “which has absolutely no bearing on the professional art of Female Impersonation.”

There are two reasons why Pudgy’s editorial policy was doomed in 1972. The first is that female impersonation had become marginalized. Shows and clubs were on the wain. Impersonation was moving into the gay bars and main stream audiences didn’t want to know what was happening in the gay bars. Second, the magazine completely ignored the changes made by Stonewall, the cry for gay pride and identity. Perhaps ignoring this is part of the reason that Pudgy Roberts Presents The Great Female Mimics had such a short run. When Female Mimics reappeared the next year it had a very different policy on freaks, perverts and deviates.

Middle Years, Volumes 5-7 and 4.5, 1973-1978

The next issue of Female Mimics appeared in 1973. The cover featured the National Cotillion and marked the beginning of a new era. Eros Goldstripe was still on the cover, but the vast majority of issues said “published by Jenifer Jordan” on the inside front cover.

Though these issues were not as long as the earlier Eros issues, down to 62 pages from a high of 98, they had a classier look. They were printed entirely on glossy paper and had double the number of color pages. In short, they looked slick.

The photos of sexual encounters were gone. Only one of Jenifer Jordan’s 13 issues contains transgendered frontal nudity and in this pictorial the model is alone, not posed with a groping lover as before. Two issues contain no nudity at all. The other ten feature only bare, presumably enhanced, breasts. Indeed, from this issue on, silicone or hormones were prominent in the vast majority of models. There was also more approving mention of the model’s transsexuality or crossgendered lifestyle and it was less sensationalized.

The next three years was Female Mimics’ most regular period of publication, four issues annually, like clock-work. Previously the schedule had been erratic. This consistency, coupled with the higher publication values, implies that the publisher felt there was more money to be made by adhering to professional standards. Though its not labeled as such, this regularity has lead us to call National Cotillion 1973 volume 5, #1.

Though Eros’ address was Wilmington, Delaware, Jenifer Jordan was in Hollywood and the majority of clubs, balls and featured models were from Southern California. Riding the wave of the Imperial Court system, which was founded by Jose Sarria in San Francisco in 1966, there were more balls featured. There were also fewer clubs and these clubs were not the traditional showrooms, nightclubs and theatrical venues of the 1960’s, but gay bars with drag shows.

PRIDE

The most striking editorial difference between these Jennifer Jordan issues and any of the previous ones is the theme of Gay Pride, the legacy of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. Though there was never an explicit editorial statement, there’s ample evidence. Earlier, when it came to the issue of homosexuality, Female Mimics dared not speak its name. But, during the Jenifer Jordan, post-Stonewall years Female Mimics started captioning photos with statements like, “Sandy is in great demand at all of the big Los Angeles Gay functions.” The gay orientation of the balls was never alluded to previously, but now it’s a selling point, “The gay community of Long Beach, California, recently held the event of the year …”

The heterosexual members of the audience were not forgotten, however, “A gay nightclub called Oil Can Harry’s? you ask. True. You see, it’s a most unusual club, and thus the unusual name. The name of this club also suggests what it truly is — a Mecca of entertainment that caters to both the straight and gay males as well as men and women of cosmopolitan taste.” “Men and women of cosmopolitan taste” sounds so much more flattering than freaks, perverts and deviates.

One of the most strikingly gay-positive statements is the fictional story Cross-Dressing Upstairs, Downstairs. The author is uncredited and the accompanying photos irrelevant. The story is told through a series of letters and reads as if it was originally published in England, as much transvestite fiction still is. In the tale young, sickly Master Thomas Redfern is raised as a girl by his governess after his parents are lost at sea. As the girl, Aileen, Thomas marries a rich man who “prefers boys to girls. No problem there!”

Years later, when Aileen dies the loving husband erects a white marble stone in the cemetery. The inscription reads, “In Loving Memory of Sir Thomas Redfern. Born 1867, Died 1930. Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust her…’ (Proverbs 31, vv. 10,11) This monument was raised at the posthumous instruction of Mr. Percy Ailsford, of Albany, New York in memory of a loving and ever faithful friend.”

Pride was also evident in the captions accompanying ball photos. Names of the contestants pictured began to be listed and sensationalized statements, which play on the reader’s fantasies, were all but eliminated. Some things didn’t change, however. True, the facts presented about luminaries of the local ball scene seem less fictionalized, but the life stories of the lesser known models still lapsed into the old glittering fantasies. “But as soon as the day’s work is done it is time to practice and preen. Jim relaxes this way, and never seems to tire of his hobby.” Though the description fits an obsessed heterosexual crossdresser, the photos show what appeared to be a gay man who tends a gay bar. In spite of Gay Liberation the editors never forgot that a substantial portion of their audience still wanted fantasies.

Along with gay pride comes Female Mimics’ first acknowledgment of the growing transgendered community. With an eye to the crossdresser’s desire for information and connection to a larger gender community Female Mimics volume 5, #3 did a feature about Uba’s TV Boutique in Venice, California.

Reprinting material from other sources or past issues continued, but on a small scale. Two items are worth mentioning. The first is the uncredited serialization of Pudgy Robert’s 1967 book Complete Guide to Female Impersonation. This is significant since it is an effort on the part of the magazine to respond to the needs of the gender community. Second the reprinting of Robin Roberts’ photos from the undated Marquis digest, Presenting: Robin Roberts, America’s Most Beautiful Boy!, This makes Robin the only model featured in four different issues of Female Mimics: twice during the Selbee years in volume 1, #7 in 1965 where he was called Windy Starr, and volume 1, #10 from 1967, once during Eros Goldstripe’s exploitative years in issue #2 from 1971 and once during the Jenifer Jordan years in volume 5, #3 from 1974. It’s no surprise that Lee Brewster described Robin’s Marquis digest as one of his best all-time sellers. What is surprising is that except for these photos, which appear to have all been shot in one session, virtually nothing is known about Robin Roberts.


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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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