Kitty Doner: High Stepping Drag King

 Kitty Doner (1894-1988) was a dame who danced just like a feller!

A second generation vaudevillian, her act seems almost a perfect splicing of her two parents’ skills. Her mother had been a “principal boy” in English pantomimes; her father, one of that long line of macho Irish dancers like Pat Rooney, George M. Cohan, Jimmy Cagney, etc etc etc. When Catherine joined the family act (which also included her brother Ted [1896-1979]), she seems to have dressed like a boy from the get-go. Her vigorous, virile dancing was augmented by character patter, thus cementing her credentials in the small historic pantheon of important drag kings.

Her first Broadway show was Bessie Clayton’s last, The Passing Show of 1913. In addition to a half dozen Broadway turns, she starred in Big Time vaudeville, including numerous turns at the Palace. Like so many others, she retired from performing in the early 1930s, becoming a choreographer during her last few decades.

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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