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19 May 2015

Terry Gardener (1919 - 2000) female impersonator

Terry’s father had been the stage manager of a drag revue in the Great War. Terry started doing drag as a teenager, and was influenced by a pair of drag queens who went busking in the East End of London with a barrel organ.

At school, Terry played the lead in Mrs Mason’s Homely Kitchen, and it went so well that the teacher asked his mother if he could repeat it at a local pub.

During the Second World War he was a cook in the officers’ mess sailing between England and Gibraltar, and was also a performer both at Chatham Barracks and in concert parties in Gibraltar. In 1944 he was in the army drag show: We Were in the Forces.
Gardener and Chat mid 1960s

He was one of the few to continue working in drag when the forces drag shows came to an end in the mid 1950s. He was a partner with Alan Haynes for a while, and was then a partner of Barri Chat from early 1950s as The Pin-Up Girls of Comedy.

Then and later he played dames roles in Christmas Pantomimes – Terry did it every year for 40 years. He died at age 81.
  • Chris Shaw & Arthur Oates. A Pictorial History of the Art of Female Impersonation. King-Shaw Productions. 1966. http://queermusicheritage.com/fem-pic2.html.
  • Roger Baker. Drag: a history of Female Impersonation on the Stage.  A Triton Book. 1968: 183,193.
  • Desmond Montmorency. The Drag Scene: The Secrets of Female Impersonators. Luxor Press. 1970: 158-9.
  • Kris Kirk & Ed Heath. Men in Frocks. London: GMP, 1984: 18, 19, 20,
  • Alkarim Jivani. It’s Not Unusual: A History of Lesbian and Gay Britain in the Twentieth Century. Indiana University Press. 1997: 14-5,21-2,52,62-4,65,120,210.
BFI   IMDB

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