This weekend's Drag Angeles event is taking the City of Angels by storm. In three separate exhibits and a variety of events, we see a historical look at the Los Angeles and West Hollywood drag scene from the late 1800s to today. The celebration's opening reception in Hollywood includes guest performances curated by DJ Ambrosia Salad, portraits by award-winning photographer Austin Young, and the taking of a historic group photo of drag artists.
This exhibit is a collaboration between the City of West Hollywood through WeHo Arts, Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Advocate & Gochis Galleries, and CAP UCLA, with assistance from the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives. Curated by Katie Poltz (Los Angeles LGBT Center), with art direction by David John Attyah (Glendale Community College), and poster design by Cat Kostreba and research assistance by Jessica-Jean Fowler.
Julian Eltinge was the toast of Broadway as a a drag actress in the early years of the 20th century before he landed in Tinseltown to make films with megastars like Rudolph Valentino. The Great Depression and the eclipse of Vaudeville brought his career to an end, but he was, for the first half of the 20th century, the most famous drag performer in the world.
Kayrl Norman (George Francis Peduzzi) was known as "The Creole Fashion Plate" and as famous for his gowns as he was for his 1920s performances around the world. His mother travelled with him and made all his costumes. Norman was unambiguously gay and headlined at the Palace Theatre in 1930 in an act called "Glorifying the American Boy-Girl".
Bothwell Browne (Walter Bothwell Bruhn), was competition for contemporary Julian Eltinge whether he knew it or not. While Eltinge was all coquettish femininity, Browne deployed a more seductive arsenal, and thus was sought after and therefore more unsettling as well. He worked for a while with a male impersonator, came to Hollywood to make a big budget Mack Sennet film, and eventually retired in Los Angeles to teach dancing.
Laurie Knight won a Halloween show contest at the Flamingo Club and was soon called to work at a club in Los Angeles, Tess & Sylvia’s. Notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel owned the joint and soon he was having Laurie sing all over town. Read more about her amazing life here.
Sascha Bratsoff was less a drag/stage performer, than a drag/life perfomer. Exquisitely beautiful when dressed in drag, he was also a sexual scoundrel and was often off on a sexual rampage seducing the young men of Los Angeles. Brastoff was also the most successful ceramics artist in the United States. His artwork and ceramics became favored by the posh Hollywood set and he was always a fixture at Movieland parties, often in drag. His specialty was Carmen Miranda.
Chris Bailey was a beloved performer at the famous drag club, Finocchio’s in San Francisco. She liked to be billed as the “grande Dame” of sophistication, and she was also a hit at the Flamingo Club in Los Angeles.
Miss Destiny on the cover of a program held at the One Foundation archive.
Robbie Ross (Robert Arthur Bouvard) first came to Hollywood on tour with the Jewel Box Review. While staying in Hollywood he decided that it was time to retire from touring and set up shop, where he soon met and befriended many of the film world’s most glamorous stars. Read more about his wonderful life here.
Charles Pierce died in 1999, but he is the most contemporary performer on this short list. Many of our readers will certainly remember him playing in clubs all over the world. Famous both for his Bette Davis impersonation and his Tallulah Bankead act, he was a spectacular comedian. He was a television and film performer, and Bea Arthur sang at his funeral.