Pride Continues: Remembering Lynne Carter

Lynne Carter (ca. 1924-1985) was one of the more prominent female impersonators of the late 20th century. Originally from Cleveland, Carter served in the navy in World War Two. In show business he was initially a dancer, but gravitated naturally to singing in Chicago night clubs after the war, impersonating the voices of Mae West, Fanny Brice, Pearl Bailey, Josephine Baker, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, and Ethel Merman, later adding on women like Kay Thompson, Hildegarde, Hermione Gingold, Cher, Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, Phyllis Diller, and Eartha Kitt. Pearl Bailey and Josephine Baker helped and encouraged him in his career; Kay Thompson sued him for using her material. Carter also had several original drag characters which he performed.

He worked night clubs all over the country, calling his long running show the Jewel Box Revue. His record album She’s a He was released in 1957. The early 1970s may have been his peak time of recognition. He appeared as one “Madame Switch Hittinga” in the film The Man from O.R.G.Y. (1970) with Robert Walker Jr, Steve Rossi, and Slappy White; he did several spots on David Frost’s and Mike Douglas’s talk shows, and was the first female impersonator to perform at Carnegie Hall (1971).

Lynne Carter died in New York in 1985 of AIDS related causes.

Join us this Saturday at the American Vaudeville Theatre Under St Marks when we’ll be observing Pride Week with a tribute to the great drag stars of vaudeville! Details here.