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24 January 2012

David Wilde (1917 - 2001) writer, publisher.

David Wilde was born to rich parents in New York. He was an avid cross dresser from childhood. After doing a degree in English Literature at Yale University he married Mary Scott. They had two daughters. He became a news writer and film critic. For several years from 1949 he published The Record, a weekly in the Westchester County village of Bedford. Later he worked in public relations.
Gail in 1961

David and Mary separated in 1960, and David moved to an apartment on the East Side of Manhattan and then later to another in Greenwich Village. As Gail he subscribed to Virginia Prince’s Transvestia, and became a New York contact for the Foundation for Full Personality Expression, (FPE). Those who knew both David and Gail found Gail to be less abrasive, but both personae were negative about gays and transsexuals.

Gail met Katherine Cummings at Susanna Valenti’s D’Eon Resort, and met Darrell Raynor when the latter used the contact listings in Transvestia. Gail’s antique-filled apartment was open as a meeting place for transvestites, and she would answer the phone with “Downtown Branch” in recognition of Susanna’s uptown location.  At this time David was the publisher of Girl Talk, distributed free in beauty parlours.

In 1968 David met Joan Bennett (1910-90), the film star and member of the New York acting dynasty, at a party.   Joan had been in Bulldog Drummond, 1929, Little Women, 1933, Trade Winds, 1938, Scarlet Street, 1945. Her third husband, Walter Wanger jealously shot and injured her agent in 1951 which almost ended her career. She finally divorced Wanger, who served four months for the shooting, in 1965.

When she met David she was appearing in the occult soap opera, Dark Shadows, 1966-71. They dated for ten years. When David told her about Gail, she was initially dismayed, but afterwards she was unperturbed. David asked Harry Benjamin to talk to her about cross-dressing.

They married in 1978, shortly after she was in Dario Argento’s Suspiria, 1977. Only a few weeks later they awoke to find their Scarsdale house on fire. The police decided that it was arson, and even suspected David, but no-one was ever arrested.

David and Joan remained married almost 13 years, during which David did no cross-dressing as such, although he maintained a longtime friendship with Katherine Cummings whom he wrote to as Gail.  In 1989 David berated her when she was about to have surgery, and tried to talk her out of it for the harm that she was doing to her family.

Joan died of a heart attack at age 80. Afterwards Gail was quickly resurrected.

David committed suicide at age 84 in despair at how the world was going.

*Not the pianist/composer, nor the cricketer, nor the writer for Rolling Stone
* Not Girl Talk the pre-teen magazine.
  • Darrell Raynor. A Year Among the Girls. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1966. New York: Lancer Books, 1968: 32, 42-3, 45-53.
  • Brian Kellow. The Bennetts: An Acting Family. Lexington, : University Press of Kentucky, 2004: 428-9, 440-1.
  • Katherine Cummings. Katherine's Diary- the Story of a Transsexual. William Heinemann Australia 1992. Revised and updated 2008: 133-8, 151-2, 195-6, 277, 317, 391.
  • The Peerage: Page 29808.


  1. very nice article, good information some I had known of, but still excellent in all ways. very talented indeed. Thank you !

  2. I met them at their home in Scarsdale, NY. back in 1980. Wonderful and beautiful couple.

  3. In the video interview with Dallas Denny, Jack/Andrea Susan Malick says that Joan Bennett found New York noisy and dirt and wanted out. In Brian Kellow’s book we find: “Joan loved New York and had no desire to move, but David was insistent”. They moved to Scardale.

  4. Interesting . I didn't realize that Joan's last husband was a crossdresser. But none the less that was his business . I adore Joan she was so beautiful. And I loved her as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard.

  5. I have been to their gravesites in Lyme, CT. Joan was a great actress and I am glad she was happy with David. Very sad that he killed himself after she died.

  6. I knew David well, as my father was his close friend Darrell Raynor. After my father died (and Joan had as well) my husband and I loved to have dinner at Gail's house in Scarsdale. When David and Joan got together, he wanted to move to Bedford. Joan didn't--she wanted to know her neighbors. So Scarsdale seemed perfect. David's suicide was partly despair about the world, partly about being lonely (though he had many loving friends) but also because he needed a second heart valve replacement and was told as his age that he might not survive with his intellect (always very sharp) intact. He was very open about it. He used to say that one day he would take a pitcher of Moscow Mules and go into the garage and turn on the Mercedes. Everyone assumed because he spoke about it, that he never would do it. He did. I still miss him (and his happier alter-ego, Gail).

    1. Anonymous28/2/24 15:00

      He and “Doe”, his name for Joan, were dear friends of my grandparents. David was a graduate of Exeter and Yale, like many in our family. He never went back to Exeter or Yale as far as I know. He was a great husband to Joan and also an accomplished gardener. I only learned many years later of his other identity as Gail, which was too shocking at the time for many people in my family, even though he was a beloved friend as Dave. Both my grandparents had died several years earlier by then. Somehow I suspect they would have been accepting. I wonder how he presented him beyond the clothes as Gail. Was he still Dave but in drag or did he have a different personality and biography as Gail?

    2. I took care of them in 1989-1990. I lived with them in a house in Scarsdale and it was wonderful time for me. David loved the garden and I often helped him with the flowers. They both Joan and David were fantastic people. Until now I didn’t know about Gail. He was handsome, smart, cheerful, loved Joan very much and took wonderful care of her. I am very very sorry about his suicide.


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