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25 May 2007

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.

1 comment:

Benny Davis said...

Donna Delbert could not have appeared in a 1944 Royal Variety performance. All shows were cancelled during world war II. Recommenced 1945. Also. all members of the profession continued performing on stage during heavy air raids, only stopped for bomb damage. A prime example was the Windmill Theatre - "We never closed."