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22 April 2013

Harvey Goodwin (1912 – 1992) performer

Harvey Wilson Goodman was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. He suffered from tuberculosis from an early age. He was interested in theatre and his father made a makeshift stage for him out of canvas and drapery.

After he graduated from high school in 1930, he quickly made his way to Washington, DC where he was employed as a clerk in the Bureau of Public Health. He also studied music and dance, and built up a female wardrobe. He first appeared as a female impersonator at a dance recital in 1933.

The City Slicker, 1936
He resigned from the Bureau of Public Health in 1934 when he was hired by Club Richmond in New York City, where he adopted the stage name of Harvey Lee. Lee played the part of a female performer in a Warner Bros-Vitaphone movie, The City Slicker. He was billed as the male Jean Harlow.

However in 1936 he was rushed to hospital with a 104-degree fever and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was in a sanatorium until 1941. Harvey then returned to Arkansas and worked as a clerk at an army base.

Word got out about his show-biz experience and he was coaxed to perform, which his drag persona did in 1942 at the Arkansas Ordnance Plant to a capacity crowd of 5000 with two full orchestras. He did three more victory balls.  In 1943 he moved to San Francisco and became a performer at Finocchio's night club. In 1945 Harvey acquired a white borzoi (Russian wolfhound) whom he then featured in his act. He toured with the Jewel Box Revue, performed at the My-Oh-My club in New Orleans and the Moroccan Village in New York, and won first prize for female
impersonation at the 1952 Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.

In 1952 he had another bout of tuberculosis. Until 1957 he worked in clerical positions in New York. Harvey Lee performed on stage in France and Germany, but he returned to clerical work again the next year. In 1964 Lee returned to Finocchio's to be the MC, and then worked sporadically in California. He retired in 1984.

After the 1989 San Francisco earthquake Goodwin returned to Little Rock, where he was honored as a judge of the Miss Gay Arkansas Pageants.

He died at age 81.

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