From age 17 Hammonds worked as a half-man-half-woman in carnival, and then as an ‘exotic dancer’, and took the name Hedy Jo Star.
Hedy was drafted in 1942, and was in the press after making a fuss about not cutting her long hair. She served as a female impersonator in the US Army shows.
After the war, she returned to carnival life. She was a friend and colleague with Tony Midnite, and both of them made costumes for other people. Hedy was the owner-manager of the Hollywood State Revue, a troupe of female dancers, one of whom was Vicki Marlane. They played state fairs in summer, and in winter Hedy worked as a hypnotist in nightclubs.
Just after Christine Jorgensen was in the news in 1954 Hedi wrote her autobiography, I Changed My Sex!, which was only a slight exaggeration.
In 1956 she saw a female endocrinologist in New York.
“My face was covered during the examination with a sheet. Then my doctor and her colleagues examined me. Later my doctor explained to me that what she was planning to do was illegal under New York law, which is the reason the other specialists she consulted wished to remain anonymous.”The doctor put Hedy on estrogen and arranged breast-enhancement. Despite testimony from twelve physicians that Hedy should have gender surgery, the New York State Medical Society refused permission because of the mayhem laws.
In 1958 Hedy, by then two years on estrogen, applied to the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She received an answer by letter three months later:
“We do realize that you are psychologically more comfortable in your role as a female and perhaps it would be wise for you to continue as you have done in the past”
Novel Books, associated with The National Insider republished her 1955 autobiography, and she wrote an advice column for the National Insider which also was later published as a book.
Hedy married a doctor from Boston, Dr Ralph Bucinskas (1943 - 2003). They moved to Las Vegas where she developed her career as a costumier. One of her first clients was the impersonator, Kenny Kerr, then just starting his career. She was known for her expensive costumes for dancers, strippers, female impersonators, clowns, burlesque and circus performers, and for Elvis Presley and Anne Margaret.
She died at age 79.
- Hedy Jo Star with an Introduction by Dr Edwin Poole. I Changed My Sex! Chicago: Allied Books 158pp 1955. Novel Books 1963. Reissued as "I changed my sex!": the autobiography of stripper Hedy Jo Star formerly Carl Hammonds; with an introduction by Edwin Poole. Allied, 158 pp 1980.
- Hedy Jo Star. “Both Sides of Love”. National Insider. Early 1960s. Advice column.
- Hedy Jo Star. Sequel: I Changed My Sex! Chicago: Novel Books 1964. The advice columns that Hedy wrote for the National Insider.
- H.J Star/ Carl Hammonds. My Unique Change Chicago: Novel Books 128 pp 1965.
- Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, Ma, London: Harvard University Press. 363 pp 2002: 198-9, 218-9,325n85.
- Deborah Rudacille. The Riddle of Gender. New York: Pantheon Books. 2005: 102, 113-9.
- “Circus Sideshow ‘Girls’”. Tribe Dec 22, 2006 http://circusarts.tribe.net/thread/8df0806c-1137-40f5-b613-b52911666261#f52bdcff-d0b2-4c8d-95ef-2bac0ec10d49.
- Roy E. Richmond “Hedy Jo Star”. Sideshow World. www.sideshowworld.com/81-SSPAlbumcover/HH/9-Hedy-Jo1/Star1.html
- Ward Hall. “Hedy Jo Star”. Sideshow World. www.sideshowworld.com/81-SSPAlbumcover/HH/19-Hedy-Jo2/Star2.html.
- Lauren Gillette. “Miss Hedy Jo Star”. Eat It or Wear It, Nov 9, 2009. http://laurengilletteeatitorwearit.blogspot.com/2009/11/miss-hedy-jo-star.html.
- Dennis McBride “Las Vegas Transgender”. OutHistory, 2010. www.outhistory.org/wiki/Las_Vegas_Transgender.
Some say that her birth name was Joseph Starke. This is repeated by Ward Hall in his comment on the article in Tribe. When his comment was reprinted in Side Show World, this datum was removed. Roy Richmond is Hedy’s nephew and he is able to assure us that this rumor is untrue.
Does anybody have any idea who the female endocrinologist in New York in 1956 was?
Likewise who was the surgeon in Memphis in 1962? Did he ever do another sex change operation?
Why does nobody mention that I Changed My Sex! precedes Hedy’s operation by 7 years?
Notes towards the social construction of intersex: Teenage Carl grew small breasts and his mother, being freaked out by that took him to a series of doctors. However in 1958 the doctors at Johns Hopkins found that Hedy did not meet their definition of intersex.
Roy Richmond has been writing a book about his aunt. I look forward to reading it.
There are comments in some sources about Hedy having America's first complete sex change even though she did not have genital surgery until 1962. The implication here is that Christine Jorgensen did not have vaginoplasty in Denmark, and not until a date in the 1960s that is not specified in most sources. However to even bring up this claim is to totally ignore a) all the persons who had surgery with Elmer Belt b) those who had already gone to Dr Burou in Casablanca c) those who had had surgery in Europe e.g Tamara Rees in the Netherlands in 1954 and Sally Berry in Sweden in 1953-8.
Sandy Stone mentions Hedy Jo Star in her "The Empire Strikes Back", with the quote: "I wanted the sensual feel of lingerie against my skin, I wanted to brighten my face with cosmetics. I wanted a strong man to protect me." This kind of stereotyped femininity was expected of 1950s women, cis and trans alike, but nowadays is rather suspect and is even liable to be labeled 'autogynephilic', even in androphilic early transitioners as Hedy definitely was.