Archive for the Drag and/or LGBT Category

Today’s LGBT Solidarity Rally (w/ Guest Photographer John Leavitt!)

Posted in CULTURE & POLITICS, Drag and/or LGBT, Protests with tags , , on February 4, 2017 by travsd

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I wish I could claim I hurt my foot strictly by going to anti-Trump protest marches, but, nah, I walk several miles every day and ignored the mounting discomfort, and now am strictly resting it for a couple of days in hopes it’ll clear up. That’s my “doctor’s note” for sitting out today’s LGBT Solidarity Rally at Stonewall National Monument this afternoon. BUT, luckily, cartoonist/illustrator/all-around funny guy John Leavitt agreed to take these beautiful shots for us, and so we we show our solidarity by posting them here. Thanks, John!

He started out at Julius, a bar, restaurant and historical center of gay culture:

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World AIDS Day

Posted in CULTURE & POLITICS, Drag and/or LGBT with tags on December 1, 2016 by travsd

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Today is World AIDS Day. Last year at this time I took a quick inventory of artists and scholars whom I admire, or matter to me, or whose work I enjoyed, or who even simply interest me, who died of AIDS or AIDS-related complications….and it’s a lot of valuable people: Charles Ludlam, Ethyl Eichelberger,Tony Richardson, Colin Higgins, Jack Smith, Cookie Mueller, Wayland Flowers, Alvin Ailey, Rudolf Nureyev, Keith Haring, Klaus Nomi, Ricky Wilson (of the B52s), Derek Jarman (Jubilee), Jacques Demy.  Esquerita, Liberace, Anthony Perkins, Denholm Elliott, Rock Hudson, Robert Reed, Teddy Wilson, Tom Fogerty, Michel Foucault, Allan Bloom, Frank Maya….There are many on this list whose loss I mourn way more frequently than once a year. According to the World Health Organization, 35 million people have died of the disease; and 70 million have been infected with HIV. These people ALL matter.

There is a point to designating days like today, which prompt us to contemplate the impact of natural scourges like AIDS upon everyone’s lives and to educate us about the resources that are needed to confront them. Toward that end, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources maintains an exemplary web site. Learn more here: https://www.aids.gov/news-and-events/awareness-days/world-aids-day/

Stars of Vaudeville #1014: Eugene O’Brien

Posted in Broadway, Drag and/or LGBT, Hollywood (History), Melodrama and Master Thespians, Movies, Silent Film, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , on November 14, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Eugene O’Brien (Louis O’Brien, 1880-1966).

Originally from Boulder, Colorado, O’Brien studied first to be a doctor and a civil engineer before finally ignoring his parents’ wishes to go on stage. He sang with quartets in vaudeville and acted in stock companies before getting a part in the chorus of The Rollicking Girl (1905), a Charles Frohman production. Frohman gave him a much better role in The Builder of Bridges (1909), but it was his part opposite Ethel Barrymore in Trelawney of the Wells (1911) that put him on the map. His last show on Broadway was The Country Cousin (1917).

Meanwhile he’d begun to star in films starting in 1915. Throughout the end of the silent era, he was to be leading man to the likes of Mary Pickford, Norma Talmadge and Gloria Swanson in such hits as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), The Perfect Lover (1919) and Secrets (1924). When talkies came in, he retired entirely from acting, both stage and screen. He was only 47 at the time.

O’Brien was one of the top matinee idols of the late teens and twenties. He socialized with his beautiful co-stars, received tens of thousands of letters from adoring female fans, and was even sued once (unsuccessfully) for statutory rape. But all that availeth nothing — it was an open secret in Hollywood that O’Brien was gay. In retirement, he told a reporter he was “untroubled by girls, and was reveling in athletics, gardening, and most of all bachelorhood.”

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Who Were the Gibson Girls?

Posted in AMERICANA, Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Drag and/or LGBT, My Family History, VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , on September 14, 2016 by travsd
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Gibson Girls Observe a Tiny Man Through a Magnifying Glass

Today is the birthday of the illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944)  — a distant relative of mine!

Gibson was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts and studied at the Art Students League in New York. By 1886 he was submitting work to Life magazine and other periodicals. In 1890 he introduced his famous “Gibson Girls”, for whom his sister Josephine was the original Muse. In 1895, he married Irene Langhorne; she and her four beautiful sisters became additional inspirations, as well as his models. He generally featured them in lightly humorous sketches, done in pencil, pen and ink, often with a caption. The Gibson Girls were modern and reflected changing attitudes towards women’s roles in their time. But the women in the images also became the beaux ideal of the day, the height of glamour and fashion. They were portrayed as powerful, cool, superior, independent, and strong (though never political; they weren’t associated with the Women’s Suffrage movement). They were always upper class and accoutered in the latest styles. Female sexual power is bursting out of them. There is an aloof spirit of mockery of the male that is irresistible to both sexes.

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In addition to those members of Gibson’s family we’ve mentioned, his models included Evelyn Nesbit, Jobyna Howland, Mabel Normand, and Camille Clifford. 

The craze also was the inspiration for many a vaudeville act. Texas Guinan did an act called “The Gibson Girl”, and many drag performers made a point in mimicking the look, such as Julian Eltinge, Malcolm Scott, and Bothwell Browne.

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By the second decade of the twentieth century, movies were coming in and the Biograph Girls like Florence Lawrence and Mary Pickford now held sway. By World War One, the Gibson Girl was passe. Gibson became editor of Life in 1918, and later took over ownership of the magazine as well. He retired in 1936, though he continued to paint and draw until the end of his life.

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. For more on early film history please check out 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

Stars of Vaudeville #955: Marjorie Main

Posted in Broadway, Comedy, Crackers, Drag and/or LGBT, Hollywood (History), Movies, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of the great Marjorie Main (Mary Tomlinson, 1890-1975). The daughter of an Indiana minister, Main started out in vaudeville, on the Chautauqua and Orpheum circuits.

She broke into films and Broadway at around the same time, with extra roles in the 1928 play Salvation and the 1929 film short Harry Fox and His American Beauties. Throughout the 1930s she alternated her time between Broadway and movie roles. Her large size, matronly carriage and distinctive voice (which would have been excellent for cartoon voiceovers), made her eminently castable, and she worked constantly until she retired. She was often cast as rich dowagers in her early years, but she was especially adept at plain-spoken, fussy, earthier types so she eventually specialized in playing ill-tempered domestics and landladies, and (because of her country accent) especially frontier women in musicals and westerns, almost invariably comical ones.

She is in Stella Dallas (1937), both the stage and screen versions of Dead End (1935-1937), and both the stage and screen versions of The Women (1936-1939), five films with Wallace Beery starting with Barnacle Bill (1941), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946), Summer Stock (1950), Friendly Persuasion (1956), and of course the film series she became best known for, Ma and Pa Kettle (1947-1957) (read more about that series here). And this is just the tip of the iceberg; she gave memorable turns in dozens more movies than this.

While she was briefly married, Main admitted in an interview to having had lesbian affairs, one of which is widely believed to have been with Spring Byington. Her last performance was in a 1958 episode of Wagon Train. Her last public appearance was the year before she died, at the world premiere of the MGM compilation film That’s Entertainment. 

For more on vaudeville historyconsult 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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Stars of Vaudeville #949: Bill Tilden

Posted in Drag and/or LGBT, Sport & Recreation, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , on February 10, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of tennis great “Big Bill” Tilden (1893-1953). Long a symbol of the Roaring Twenties, Tilden was the World #1 tennis player from 1920 through 1925, won seven U.S. championships, and a long list of other impressive sounding accolades I am too tennis illiterate to properly understand or appreciate. But what I do know is vaudeville, and Tilden like so many of his era, was bit by the bug. In 1928, he toured with a sketch a sketch called “A Night at the Tennis and Racquet Club.” The following year he was said to have visited London and U.S. theatres with a monologue “in one” wherein he recounted his tennis experiences. Tilden was said to have a star personality, and he hobknobbed on the courts with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. Later, scandal tarnished his image (he had a weakness for underage boys) and it damaged his career.

For more on vaudeville historyconsult 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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Stars of Vaudeville #944: Berta Beeson

Posted in Acrobats and Daredevils, Circus, Drag and/or LGBT, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Berta Beeson (Herbert “Slats” Beeson, 1899-1969). Billed as the Julian Eltinge of the Wire, Beeson was a cross-dressing tightrope walker. It is not known whether Beeson was gay, straight, trans, or what — it is only known that he dressed up like a woman to do a highwire act.

Originally from Summitville, Indiana, Beeson started out working at his local vaudeville house. He debuted with the Sells-Floto circus in 1917 as “Mademoiselle Beeson, Marvelous High Wire Venus.” When Bird Millman retired from Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey in 1925, Beeson was her replacement. He retired from performing 11 years later, but continued to work for the circus as an advance man. Check it out: there’s an entire blog devoted to Berta Beeson. Read it here. 

To learn more about  old school show biz especially 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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