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07 November 2010

Neil Cargile (1928 – 1995) pilot, dredging entrepreneur.

Neil was raised on a large estate outside Nashville, Tennessee. At 12 he made motor scooters out of washing machine engines. At 16 he built an airplane in his backyard from spare parts. He was a dare-devil pilot. He worked as a crop duster pilot while in college. He got into the business of dredging, often in remote parts of the world. 

In 1970 his 14-year-old son died of a burst aneurysm while in a swimming pool.

Neil first did public drag in the mid 1970s at the Palm Bay Club in Miami. Female friends encouraged him to go as Dolly Parton, and he won first prize. He continued to do drag at costume parties but not in Nashville at first, but then there as well. 

He held a vice-versa party at his home where all invited were expected to cross-dress. He was between marriages at that time. In 1979, in a costume party at the Science Museum, he came as 'Neil Cargile in a dress'. He made no attempt to pass, he mixed male and female clothing, and enjoyed the attention. He enjoyed his new nickname: High-Heel Neil. He referred to his female self as SheNeil, pronounced 'chenille'. 

In 1979 a passenger on his plane was decapitated at New Orleans when he walked into the propeller after disembarking. In 1990 Neil lost a propeller blade, but was able to land on the grassy median of the Interstate 24 causing severe disruption and slightly damaging a van, but without any injuries. 

In 1994 he won a trophy at the Easter-Bonnet contest at the Palm Beach Polo and and Country Club. Also that year he was arrested for drunken driving. He was in a red dress with his girlfriend after a night at a dance club. In New York he was interviewed by John Berendt, and together they went to Lee Brewster's emporium. 

The next year, Neil died at age 67 after contracting malaria while supervising a dredging project in Guyana.

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