Kim Christy's Lost World

Filmmaker and performer Kim Christy talks about life in the big city in the bad old days of drag, and being outed by Life magazine.

BY Christopher Harrity

February 12 2011 4:00 AM ET

KIM CHRISTY CHRYSIS 02 XSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COMWho is this with you in this photo?
Well, that’s me with my back to the camera. My own clothes, thank you very much. The other girl is Chrysis [Billy Schumacher, also known as International Chrysis]. She and I had met when I was about 15; she was maybe 14. I met her on Halloween night at the Tenth of Always, a bar popular with the girls. I recall that her outfit bowled me over: white go-go boots and white vinyl trench coat with boxer shorts underneath. She had the cutest little Twiggy haircut. We both pretended to be older than we were — even to each other; then we figured out we both lived in the Bronx. We both were out way later than we should have been and we both needed to figure out how to de-drag and get home. We figured it out and became friends for years. I was with her when she died in 1990. One of my dearest friends. She became quite a big deal in the New York night scene in the ’80s.

KIM CHRISTY CHRYSIS 01 XSLIDE | ADVOCATE.COM

OK. Things are starting to look kinky here.
Me and Chrysis again. Same day. These photos were taken by Sam Menning, the legendary porn photographer. This was about a year after we met. We had figured out many things by then. Doctors, hormones, and influential boyfriends. This guy named Lenny Burtman set this up for us. The fetish clothing was all from his huge collection. He loved the lady boys, and he and I became very close over the years. He eventually set me up in California as a film producer and director. Lenny is gone now. I miss Lenny, and I am still very close with his wife, Jennifer Jordan.

What did you think of dressing up in shoes and leather corsets and the like?
Oh, something inside went kablam! I knew that I had just been invented a little further. This began a long season for me as a dominant. I mean, I look amazing, right? 16.

Were you and Chrysis still living at home then?
Oh, no. You know, it was very crazy for a few years then. Chrysis and I had a tiny studio on Mott Street, near Broome and Houston. Nothing was going on down there then except poultry and produce. We used to laugh about it — all the grade A chicken is below Houston. I don’t think we were living together at the time of these photos. I know we were very caught up in our own glamour and fame. These photos were to appear in Female Mimics International. Flash-forward a few decades and I ended up owning the magazine and producing it myself.

Did you and Chrysis call yourselves TVs? TSs? How did you identify? Did you think of yourselves as gay?
No, no, no. There was none of that. No one thought about that. We didn't think we were different than other people — but we knew we acted different. We were class-conscious more than gender-aware. We wanted to be high-paid female impersonators on the show circuit. I loved working on the street, but I knew that the showgirls were actually getting boyfriends who paid for apartments and stuff. I wanted to be kept. I never narrowed myself to just men or women, but I knew I had a lot more power as a woman than a boy. So I made that work for me.

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