Tabloids & Men’s Soft Core — Part Four

| Jul 23, 2012
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Sometimes the magazines reach too far for a masculine image, like showing a very old ID photo of French TS Coccinelle claiming, “He often has to show it to prove to wolves that pulchritude is phony.” Are hormones phony? And can’t you just picture her searching through her purse saying, “I’m sure if you see this head shot of me with shorter hair, you’ll be completely turned off.”

Then there’s English belly dancer/taxi driver Harold Sykes, who the author calls hard-driving and steel muscled when Harold himself says, I wear a wig, of course, but the rest of me is really me. I’ve taken a series of hormone injections to develop a really gorgeous set of breasts. And my tummy is just naturally beautiful. (The Queen of the Strippers is a Guy! by N. Main, National Informer, Sept. 18, 1966, vol. 10, #12, p. 3). Harold, who performed as Asima looks anything but steel muscled in her photos.


There are two articles about Hollywood films. Who Are These Women by Lloyd Shearer (Parade) is a preview of High Time. In it Bing Crosby plays a middle aged man returning to college, who attends a costume ball dressed as a Southern matron as part of his fraternity hazing. This film was released in 1960, just a year after Some Like It Hot.

Morley as Marilyn

The other, Hollywood’s Newest Beauty Queen Turns Out to be a Man by George Armstrong, (News Extra, Jan. 26, 1975, p. 19) is about Christopher Morley, 23, star of Freebie and the Bean. The article is properly professional, treating Morley as a rising young star, passing up plenty of chances for nasty innuendo and stereotyping. Morley is a hair dresser by trade, but this is balanced by telling the reader he’s “also an honor graduate of a beauty college and now works for Jon Peters, Barbara Streisand’s boyfriend, at his Beverly Hills beauty parlor. The star once earned a letter in swimming and studied ballet at UCLA. He was discovered by a studio talent scout at a dress as your favorite movie star Halloween party. Chris dressed as Marilyn Monroe.”

The article also reports that he, turned down other roles, ‘They’d type cast me’ and he’d rather portray a regular guy. RuPaul has been complaining about typecasting for years.


Russell Elliott

There are a number of other articles which seem factual and treat the performers with professional respect. These articles include:

Bunny Lake — He Takes It Off! (Men’s Digest) ; a serious Q&A which respects Bunny’s desire to keep some things private. (A reasonable request, especially coming from a transvestite stripper.) The writer also chose to let pass Bunny’s statement that she doubt she’ll ever marry.

Russell Elliott

Geni Dee/Russell Elliott Lead a Double Life by Woodrow Olivetti, which goes out of the way to prove Dee/Elliott is a show business professional, who studied at Lee Strasberg Actors Studio and Film Actors Workshop and has performed on network TV, film and stage.

World’s Smallest Female Impersonator…Ezzy the Midget Stands High in His Field Despite Being Only 42 Inches Tall by Lennie Cohen (Insider) about Ezra Dame, 24, of Chicago who wants to try serious acting or maybe computers.

Japan’s Top Female Star: A Boy Named Peter! by Sandra Wells (National Tattler, Feb. 22, 1970): His mother is happy with the choices her son has made in life so far. She wants him to be happy and to remain honest, nothing else matters to her.

I Am a Female Impersonator by La Monza (Whisper, July, 1950, v. $, #1, p. 32): Author La Monza idolizes the legendary Chinese “qingyi” Mei LanFang, who said, “To be a real great female impersonator one must think, feel, look and act like a woman every day, in whatever circumstances you find yourself.” So Monza dresses at home, but not publicly, except for one time in Nevada, when in a rush, she was pulled over by a handsome State Trooper asked for her phone number. As Mei Lan Fang used to say, Think woman – be woman.

Builder’s Life is Just a Drag by Dallas Morrow (The Exploiter, Jan. 16, 1972, p.7): Shane & Laurie Lee perform at The Black Cap in London, where the audience is mainly husbands and wives. Shane (age 30) works as a builder and decorator. A photo shows him shoveling gravel into a bucket. Laurie Lee, 35, an ex-merchant seaman, is a full-time professional drag queen. One steady fan, a young lady of 80, gave him a gift ‘for giving me so many hours of pleasure.’ It was a can of shaving cream.

Click for More Kit Russell

Secrets of a Female Impersonator (Beauty Parade, Sept., 1949, v. 8, #4, p. 18) Kit Russell, 23, was the star of the 181 Club. The obviously posed photos were supposedly taken backstage, but it seems unlikely that Kit would have his own dressing room and attended by two dressers. And the article actually tries to build up the field: “His act is one of the most popular and successful in the rapidly growing art of female impersonation.”


Professional impersonation showrooms are usually reviewed favorably. Wanted More Female Impersonators by Raoul MacFarlane (Man to Man Yearbook, Spring, 1972, p. 12) gives very evenhanded coverage of New York’s 82 Club, featuring photos of Ty Bennett, Kim August, Brandy Alexander, Dale Roberts, Tony Lee and group shots of the entire cast in both drab and drag.

Those Fabulous Female Impersonators! is an interview with Monsieur Marcel, a 57 year old man with grown children (who) admits that he may be the world’s number one promoter of female impersonators. He owns both popular Paris clubs Carrousel and Madam Arthur’s. That being so, it’s strange to read his statement that, “After being in the business for more than 30 years, I still have no tolerance for sexual deviation. Just a kiss from a man would disgust me, and none of my stars have ever tried it.” Does he really feel this way or is he trying to mollify the straight readers of the magazine, potential tourists who might visit his club?

But there’s even greater ambivalence expressed in You Won’t Believe Your Eyes (Peril, The All Man’s Magazine, May, 1962, vol. 6, #2. p. 13). The article is about the famous (or infamous) Trichter night club in Hamburg, where the talent enjoy the longest runs of any attraction on the Continent. The writer has a poor opinion of the performers and, while still admitting the show’s popularity, even turns a positive act like seeking therapy against them: “These unfortunates, as people are wont to call them, are the homosexuals, the deviates who come in from all corners of the globe and then are quickly swallowed up in the cloak of nonconformity that made Hamburg a Mecca for the beat and the offbeat. These are science’s guinea pigs and many of them willingly submit to probe and analysis, voluntarily laying bare their inner selves in an effort to help scientists solve what might be termed the riddle of the ages; namely, deviation and/or transvestism, which in this case, has as a show window the most popular revue in Europe, the Trichter’s parade of female impersonators.” We think the writer may have more problems than the performers.


Articles about strippers and erotic dancers were very popular, suggesting some weird sublimation of homo-erotic impulses. We’ve already mentioned belly dancing cab driver Harold Sykes, married man Horst Bueller/Bund and Bunny Lake. There’s also The Queen of the Strippers is a Guy! by N. Main (National Informer, Sept. 18, 1966, vol. 10, #12, p. 3) about Bunny Darlene of Baltimore, real name Bill. This article is full of praise and some generally correct information about the difference between transvestites and homosexuals, though it suggests that all women who are interested in crossdressers are lesbians.

A more sexist and homophobic account is the first person, Why I Became A Male Stripper: “I’m not queer, nor am I neurotic. What’s more – I don’t think there’s a woman alive who can strip as well as a man who knows how!” by Arthur Williams.” I was living with Verna Venus, a third-rate stripper in a one-room joint on Jones Street. She was good in bed, but she was lousy as a dancer. One night, when Verna was sick, I dressed up in one of her rigs and did her act.” He wasn’t planning to let the audience know he was a man, “But I saw the hungry faces of four lesbians at a ringside table, so I wound up with a flourish, taking off my wig and waving it at the audience. You think that saved me! There were three male homos waiting for me that night at the stage door!” What a pig! It’s worth noting that none of the photos in this article are of the author, but of professional drag stripper Gerry Lee. The editor makes this clear in the photo caption by saying, “Shown on these pages is Gerry Lee, a top dancer.” Unlike the author, Lee has brought great dignity to a bizarre profession. We believe that this publication had the photos and fabricated the story to go with them.

The strangest article is the true story, I Was a Lez Stripper – Until I Became a Man (National Bulletin, Jan. 24, 1972, p. 20). “Mort Stevens, who was born female, became a lesbian and a stripper, was surgically transformed into a male, and now is a female impersonator at the very same club that he worked as a woman! Mort says that after the operation, The strangest thing was, that I couldn’t quite get rid of my desire to dress in fancy female clothes. The boss suggested Mort work as a female impersonator after he recovered from the shock of being told about Mort’s surgery.” Details about the surgery remain vague, but all ends happily as Mort — alias Morrish the stripper — has finally found his ideal man — himself. A prime tenet of macho men is that lesbians are really looking for an ideal man.


The last two articles concern female impersonators who deceived famous Hollywood actors by posing as women on dates. One reads like a gossip columnist’s wet dream. Open Letter to Victor Mature (Confidential) is written in the first person with unmistakable contempt and glee. Victor’s angry girlfriend Maxine introduced female impersonator George Paris as Georgette. It is clear that they intended, at least, to embarrass the actor. But since the clipping we have is incomplete, we’ll never know what happened and what didn’t. The open letter reeks of sexual innuendo: “Remember what we talked about? I do. Among other things, we talked about that electric vibrator-massager of yours, that fascinating little gadget that people get such a charge out of.” Maybe that was considered kinky forty years ago? Strange we never see any photos of Victor Mature with either girl.

TV’s Perry Mason Gets Fooled: The Case of the Miss Who was a Mister-y by Andrew Robin (Confidential) is an entirely different matter. Raymond Reynolds, Greenwich Village bartender, has performed as Libby Reynolds in Philadelphia, New York and Chicago. When Burr stops in during Reynolds’ shift, Reynolds asks a friend to chat up the actor as Reynolds changes clothes. He emerges as Libby starts flirting and they hit it off. While heading to an after-hours spot, Burr and Libby hold hands in the cab. At the Plaza Hotel, Burr was holding ‘her’ around the waist, his eyes gleaming and love glowing all over him. They kiss in the lobby and “Suddenly Libby broke away and ran out, jumping into a cab two steps ahead of the passion-bent Burr. The next day Reynolds, dressed in boy clothes, meets Burr and tells him that Libby can’t make it. Then, The bartender went to the Plaza, packed Burr’s bag while the actor showered and called room service. Reynolds goes to the airport with Burr and even calls Burr’s relatives in Wisconsin to say Burr had changed flights. The bartender has never had the heart to write Burr and tell him the truth. With any heartbreak long gone, maybe Burr will see the joke and get a good laugh out of it.”

This may be the only time we think the pulps may be hiding something, engaging in damage control. First, it seems likely that the two Raymonds met in a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Second, though he was married three times, Raymond Burr has long since been outed as gay and lived for many years with Robert Benevides. The whole story becomes more believable if Libby doesn’t run away, but stays the night. Its also a better explanation of why Reynolds has breakfast with Burr, packs the actor’s bags and calls the relatives. But really, who knows?


America has always enjoyed female impersonators, but it also wants to believe they’re just regular guys under the paint and powder. Authors will go to any length, overlook any inconsistency, concoct any story, just as long as there’s some way to tell the readers the performers aren’t gay. Red blooded America boys wouldn’t be caught dead looking at gay female impersonators, only straight female impersonators. They’d never be aroused by gay strippers in drag, just het guys with muscles of steel. They’d never laugh at homosexual comics in dresses, but they’ll howl until they can no longer stand if the performer is married. In American there’s always a moralistic connection between what people do in the limelight and what they do in private. Strange how this Puritanical attitude in these trashy publications is like the Republicans view of President Clinton. But even if illicit relations can affect one’s ability to govern, it’s hard to see how they’d prohibit anyone from doing a really hot strip.

* Note: We always provide the most complete information available to us for each article cited. Unfortunately, many times we have only a part of an article or a mere scrap from someone else’s collection and cannot provide the name of the magazine or other information.

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Category: Transgender History

Ms. Bob

About the Author ()

Ms. Bob Davis, MFA, founder & director of the Louise Lawrence Transgender Archive in Vallejo, CA, served two terms on the GLBT Historical Society board of directors.

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