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28 February 2008

A female-impersonator impersonator

Penny Arcade is the stage name of Susana Ventura (1950 - ), performance artist and playwright. She has worked with many female impersonators and transgender actors. She performed with the Ridiculous Theater Company with Charles Ludlam, in the Jackie Curtis play Femme Fatal, and was in Women in Revolt, 1972, with Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn. She worked with Jack Smith, and was a friend of Quentin Crisp with whom she did a performance piece.

Her major drag performance is Margo Howard-Howard (1935- 1988 ) born Robert Hesse a New York drag artist who describes his adventures as a transy hooker in 1950s and 1960s New York, and his encounters with James Dean, the Windsors and Truman Capote. He was kept by a bigshot heroin dealer for four years, and after escaping the dealer and his drug addiction he met Judy Garland, Andy Warhol, Jackie Curtis, Tallulah Bankhead, Madonna and Elizabeth Windsor. He published his memoirs in 1988 as if an autobiography shortly before dying. The copyright page says: "This is a fictionalized memoir".

Most reviewers did not realize that Penny Arcade was performing Howard-Howard in her act, and took the autobiography at face value.

It is not known who posed as Margo in the photographs for the book, but here he is with Penny.


*Not Margo Howard, aka ‘Dear Prudence’, the daughter of ‘Ann Landers’.

1 comment:

Modera said...

Margo Howard-Howard was a real person. A friend of mine knew her and was trying to keep her functional during the time her book was coming out, so that she'd be able to do publicity and interviews, etc. But she still had a heroin problem even though in the book she said she had kicked. According to my friend, there was some truth to the stories in "I was a white slave in harlem" but of course they were embellished. In "Superstar with a Housedress", the documentary that came out about 4-5 years ago about Warhol Superstar Jackie Curtis, Margo is mentioned in one or two anecdotes told by those interviewed in the film, and used to shoot up with Jackie Curtis. I found two video clips of Margo -- one on Youtube where she is being unwittingly interviewed by Joe Franklin as the head of the Mary Stuart Society (posing as a blueblood lady) and one on Google Video/MySpace where she is backstage with Jackie Curtis in around 1980-81 after a performance of Jackie's.