Bobbie Kimber debuted at Weston-super-Mare in 1937. Her act with the dummy Augustus Peabody, was very successful and she appeared in the major London theatres, including a Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in 1947.
She also appeared on radio and television. The Times commented in a review: 'Miss Bobbie Kimber is at once the triumph and surprise of the evening'. Other reviewers were also parviscient. Roger Baker quotes Mr Kimberley: 'I decided to keep my sex a secret. And I did, very successfully, although I was a married man and a father'.
Apparently few were aware that she was a man, although Bobbie Kimber appeared in Pantomime as early as 1945 when she was one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella at the Adelphi Theatre - that is, she was playing a Dame part and therefore was implicitly a man.
Mr Kimberley clarified his sex in 1952. He reports that Hannen Swaffer, a critic who had written him up as a woman, snubbed him after that.
Although successful in his female impersonation, Bobbie was also read. When he appeared on television, the switchboard would be flooded with calls enquiring: is it a man or isn't it?
*Augustus Peabody was not the US Congressman Augustus Peabody Gardner.
- Roger Baker. Drag: a history of Female Impersonation on the Stage. A Triton Book. 1968: 189.
- Anthony Slide. Great pretenders: a history of female and male impersonation in the performing arts. Lombard, Ill.: Wallace-Homestead Book Co., 160 pp. 1986: 50.
- www.christinekimberley.info. Christine is Bobbie's daughter. Lots of photographs of his performances.
From a 21st-century perspective, I find it rather odd that ventriloquists as well as gender impersonators were booked on the radio, where they could not be seen.