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26 March 2009

Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy (1931 - 2006) performer.

Jacques Charles Dufresnoy was born in Paris, but his family moved to Marseilles when he was a teenager. He was given the name ‘Coccinelle (ladybird)’ when he wore a wore a red dress with black polka dots to a party.

Jacques was discharged from the army conscription after six days because his presence caused disruption. He took to wearing female clothing to escape constant comments on how feminine he was. From 18-25 Coccinelle was kept by an important politician, whose name she always kept secret.

She became a star at Chez Madam Arthur, where her mother sold flowers, and then Le Carrousel de Paris in the 1950s, where she worked with Bambi , with whom she shared a home, Toni April (the future April Ashley) and Peki d’Oslo (the future Amanda Lear). Word was put out that she was a real woman. Others said 'A woman as beautiful as Coccinelle can only be a man'.

She took hormones from 1952 and became a woman in Casablanca in 1958, surgeon Georges Burou. She was the first gender impersonator and the first French person to have a sex-change.

In 1959 she was in the film Europe di notte, and the Italian singer Ghigo Agosti named a song for her, which added to the media controversy. In 1960, she married Francis Bonnet, a sports journalist. The requirement for the wedding in Notre Dame Cathedral was that she be baptised again as Jacqueline. She was given away by her father. However when she fell in love with another, she obtained a divorce on the declaration that she was still a man, and on these grounds was excommunicated. After this the French State stopped changing official papers for transsexuals until Maud Marin changed hers in 1974.

She was in six films between 1959 and 1968. In 1964 she was a major star and her name was up in giant red letters for her revue “Cherchez la Femme” at at the Paris Olympia.

Her second husband was Mario Costa, a Paraguayan dancer, who then wrote her biography Coccinelle est lui, 1961. A second biography by the American Carlson Wade came out two years later. Mario and Jacqueline were together until his death in 1977.

From 1978 to 1987 she lived in West Germany performing cabaret including at Romy Haag’s club in Berlin. At this point she brought out her third biography, this time written by herself.

She founded and worked with French transsexual groups, especially with Association Devenir Femme, which she and her third husband, the transvestite Thierry Wilson, founded in 1994.

From 2002-5 she operated a traditional French cabaret in Marseilles. She died of a stroke at age 75.



In Peter Ackroyd's Dressing Up, page 107, we find "Coccinelle, the male cabaret artiste". That is it. That is all.

In Vern Bullough's Cross Dressing, Sex and Gender, page 245, she is only in the "Cross Dressing on the Stage chapter", not in the "Transsexualism" chapter. Bullough gives her male name and her stage name but never her female name. And of course he does not mention her marriages at all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All those women who worked at Le Carrousel in that era were so fascinating. Coccinelle was such an icon of transwomen, and in her own way, made almost as much impact in the world as Christine Jorgensen. Moreover, she was always a gutsy advocate for trans rights in Europe and, unlike someone like Amanda Lear, continued to be out front in her identity as a transwoman. Calling her a drag queen or female impersonator does her a great injustice... she was a beautiful, charismatic performer who happened to be trans. At the height of her career in the early 60s, I can't think of too many famous actresses in Europe who looked as good as her or had her vivacity.