Today is the birthday of the female impersonator Vardaman (Mansel Vardaman G. Boyle, 1877-1945).
Vardaman was born in Santa Cruz, California and raised in Butte, Montana, where he first worked as a store clerk, stenographer and book-keeper before getting involved in local amateur productions where he donned his first skirts. This led naturally into vaudeville. From 1903 to 1913 he was working some of the top houses of the west and midwest, billed as “Vardman, the Auburn Haired Beauty” and “Vardaman, the Gay Deceiver”. In 1913 he embarked on a word tour that included the U.K., South Africa and Australia. In 1916 he toured the U.S. with the burlesque company The Champagne Belles.
By the the 1920s he was getting long in the tooth and no longer able to pull off a Pretty Little Miss. For a while he tried vaudeville under the handle “LaVardy” but by 1925 he had packed it in. For some years he lived with film star J. Warren Kerrigan. For a time he also lived with the family of Flint, Michigan theatre owener Louis Sunlin, as a live-in private cook. He passed away in 1945 in relative obscurity.
To find out more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc