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25 May 2007

Ella Zoyara (1840 - 1879) equestrian.

Born in St Louis, Omar Kingsley ran away to the circus when he was eight years old. He was trained in the dangerous trick-riding, and presented as a young woman. Ella toured Europe with the circus.

In Moscow, a Count, believing himself to be in love, offered a large sum of money to be introduced to her. In Italy the king, Victorio Emanuele II requested that she visit him. Ella did so but always accompanied by a female companion.

Back in America, Omar married Sallie Stickney, a fellow circus rider. In Manila, several military officers accused Ella of not being a woman after she had refused one of them. This resulted in a brawl and Ella and the circus director were thrown into jail. Ella's 'true' sex was then discovered.

Omar gave up his life as Ella to become a partner in the circus, but continued to give benefit performances. He died of smallpox in Bombay where he was giving such a performance.
  • Hirschfeld, Magnus. Die Transvestiten; ein Untersuchung uber den erotischen Verkleidungstrieb: mit umfangreichem casuistischen und historischen Material. Berlin: Pulvermacher, 562, vi pp1910. English translation by Michael A Lombardi-Nash. Tranvestites: The Erotic urge to Crossdress. Buffalo: Prometheus Books. 424 pp 1991:344-5.

Woolworths, Windsors and cutting off cocks

Jimmy Donahue (1915-1966).  

Grandson of Frank Woolworth of the chain stores. A notorious and uninhibited queen who relied on his mother’s money to get him out of trouble, and keep him out of the courts.

Dressed as a nun, he had his chauffeur stop in the middle of a bridge and got out and squatted: two cars collided. He would dress as a female prostitute, or with pillows under his dress as grand society hostess Elsa Maxwell. He was often in drag at his mother’s parties. He did drag while entertaining his friend the homosexual New York Cardinal Francis Spellman.

In Italy, he stood on his hotel balcony, imitated Mussolini, and then pissed on the crowd below. He is rumoured to have killed one lover who had become inconvenient.

He is infamous for a party in New York in 1945 or 1946 where he invited US servicemen found in a gay bar. One of the service men – in a drunken stupor – either lost his cock as the guests attempted to shave his pubic area, or part of his ear as he was being passionately fucked. Either way Donahue’s mother paid him an enormous sum to keep it out of court.

In 1950 Donahue took up with the much older Wallis Simpson who was still married to Edward Windsor, Duke of Windsor, who had briefly been King of the British Empire in 1936. Their affair continued for four years while he financed the Windsors, and there was much speculation as to what Donahue and Simpson did with each other, although there are those who say that Donahue’s affair was actually with Edward, and that Wallis was acting as a beard.

  • Charles Higham. The Duchess of Windsor: The Secret Life. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. 482 pp 1988: 370-2, 394-5.
  • Christopher Wilson. Dancing With The Devil: The Windsors and Jimmy Donahue. Griffin 288 pp 2002.

PS Wallis Simpson(1895 - 1986) is said to have been an XY woman, with Androgen-Insentivity Syndrome (AIS).

Royal Command Performances by gender impersonators

The UK Royal Command Performances (later called Royal Variety Performances) are a tradition dating from 1912. The proceeds are donated to a showbiz charity.

  • Prior to their inauguration, Dan Leno had been invited to perform for the King in 1901, but he felt that etiquette prevented him from appearing dressed as a woman, and so he did the whole act in mufti.
  • The first of the actual Royal Command Performances was in 1912 and starred, among others, Vesta Tilley. She did her usual male impersonation act. Queen Mary is said to have so embarrassed, by the sight of a woman in trousers, that she turned her back for the duration of the act.
  • If we are to believe the autobiography of Rae Boubon, the famous pansy performer, he did a Royal Command Performance for King Edward, however this fact does not seem to check out.
  • An American drag performer, Delbert Hill, part of the US Air Force Special Services.who had been performing in a grass skirt and coconut-shell bra as "Dirty Gertie from Bizerti" and kept performing during air-raids, was on the bill in 1944. This is before he went AWOL and hid as Donna Delbert, "America's Outstanding Lady Magician and the Only Lady Fire Eater in the World".
  • The 1947 performance include Bobbie Kimber, one of very few female ventriloquists. This was before her self-outing as a male in 1952.
  • Since then Danny La Rue has done at least 3 Royal Command Performances, and today it is no big deal at all.

The drag queen who killed Rasputin and sued MGM

Felix Felixovich Yusupov (1887 – 1967).

Alternatively transliterated as Feliks Iusupov. Also known as Feliks Graf Sumarrokow-Elston.

Yusupov was descended via his mother from the fabulously wealthy Yusupovs, a family of Tartar origins. As he describes in his autobiography, he spent time with gypsy bands and in drag. He claims that he was cruised by Edward Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, then king of the British Empire, while he was in drag at a theatre in Paris.

On 16 December 1916 he was a leader of the group that murdered Rasputin. After the Revolution, Felix, his wife and daughter seized some family treasures and the British Navy helped them escape via Yalta. They settled in Paris.

They sued MGM in connection with the 1932 film, Rasputin and the Empress, in that the character who killed Rasputin could be based on only himself, and that it was libel to suggest that his wife had been raped by Rasputin. They were awarded £25,000, an enormous sum. This resulted in the disclaimer afterwards placed at the end of all Hollywood films: “The preceding was a work of fiction …”.

Yusupov wrote an autobiography: Avant l’exil, 1887-1919. Paris: Plon 310 pp 1952. Translated By Ann Green and Nicolas Katkoff as Lost Splendour. London: Cape 288 pp1954. Reissued Circlet Press 307 pp 2004. Translation online here.

22 May 2007

Rudy Giuliani (1944 - ) lawyer, mayor, presidential candidate

Rudy was born in Brooklyn, New York, the grandchild of Italian immigrants with both police officers and criminals in his family.

As a lawyer, he made his name prosecuting high profile cases against organized crime.

He was Mayor of New York 1994-2001. He was awarded a KBE in 2002 for his part in the 9/11/01 attack on New York City.

Sir Rudolph was a candidate to be Republican Presidential Candidate 2007-8.

Unusually for a top politician, he is willing to appear in costume, including drag, on stage. In 1997, he wore a sequined dress and a wig from Rupaul’s wig-maker to play opposite Julie Andrews in her Victor-Victoria persona. Later the same year he played Rita Delvecchio’s mother in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. In 2000 he played a skit with Donald Trump where he is a matron buying perfume.