This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1700 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing.

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30 April 2016

Berlin's Eldorado. Part II: 1928-33

Continued from Part I.

Motzstrasse 15. 

Success at the Lutherstrasse 30 encouraged Konjetschni to find larger premises, and he opened in the former Grand Cafe Luitpold early in 1928. Both Lutherstrasse 30 and Motzstrasse 15 were open, and many customers visited both. Marlene Deitrich and other celebrities were sometimes seen here. The “HIER ISTS RICHTIG!” banner was now outside.

Ossy Gades transferred to the new premises.

1929. Sinclair Lewis’ novel Dodsworth, takes the eponymous character on a Berlin pub crawl. In an unnamed transvestite bar, probably Eldorado: “And there was a girl in lavender chiffon – only from the set of her shoulders Sam was sure that she was a man”.

Mugette was a star performer. Her photograph by Elli Marcus was featured in Der Querschnitt 2/1931.

1930. “Our Excursion to ‘El Dorado’” by French writer Bernard Zimmer, Le Crapouillot, 23. He visited both locations. “The life of these “transvestites” is interesting to observe: Most live in couples with a thousand jealousies and intrigues. Some are small-time prostitutes, others husbands, and a few are fathers with families. And the prostitutes are treated like members of any other respected profession.” “The other Eldorado [on Motzstrasse] is more elegant. Sophisticated types spend the evening there for the performances and to savour a bottle of German champagne. On a small stage, some danseuses in tutus twirl on point: Again transvestites. (Many are from Paris.)”

Another observation from a Berliner: “You’d see always famous people there, like Max Pallenberg. Not much of a show, but the most fascinating thing was ... you had lesbians looking like lesbians with short hair, lesbians looking like beautiful women, lesbians dressed exactly like men and looking like men. You had men dressed like women so you couldn’t possibly recognize they were men, it was so realistic. Then you would see couples dancing and you wouldn’t know any more what it was “.

1931. Lutherstrasse 30 was closed.

September 1931, the Berlin journalist, Rumpelstilzchen, took his visiting provincial uncle Artur to the Eldorado. Artur did not understand the gender of the persons, but found them to be stunning.

The English journalist Denis Safton Delmer, was friendly from previous visits with Ernst Röhm, commander of the Sturmabteilung (SA). Röhm took Delmer to a restaurant and then on to Eldorado. One of the hostesses came over uninvited and chatted with Röhm about a party a few days previously. Delmer made a comment about about how no female hooker would talk like that to a previous customer in front of a stranger. Röhm  snapped: “"I'm not his client. I'm his commanding officer. He's one of my SA men. "

Michael Fry, son of White Russian Paquita Louise de Shishmareff, who blamed Jews for both Capitalism and Communism, visited with revulsion. In his 1934 Hitler’s Wonderland he blames gay decadence on the existence of Hirschfeld’s Institute, and beyond that as a Jewish plot to undermine German culture: “ The corrupt administration of the cities did not censure the Institute, so why should it forbid Pervert-Clubs, Homosexuality Leagues or ‘Daisy’ Bars?” (p19) “Now that your eye is trained, you can pick out fifty of these ‘Daisies’ at a glance-most of them are rather unattractive. That is because we are in the ‘Eldorado’, the popular resort. For those who can afford them, there are smaller, more exclusive night-clubs, where you find no creatures with rough chins dressed in imitation Paris models. There you would see the cream of the "Daisies" -the beau-monde of homosexuality­ - the better class of male prostitutes of which Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Munich, Cologne, etc. are full.”

May 1932. American Vogue attempted a send-up of the Eldorado. A reporter goes in search of Berlin’s most perfect female. Measuring everything from shoes to nose length, the reporter fails to find a suitable woman in the grand hotels, in the chi-chi cafés. Finally he checks the Eldorado, where a trans woman meets his criteria. However the Berlin that the article described was already over.

July 1932, new Chief of Police Kurt Melcher began implementing the strict Catholic policies of the new Von Papen government and announced “an extensive campaign against Berlin’s depraved nightlife”.  All “amusements with dancing of a homosexual nature” were now subject to an earlier closing time of 10pm and many bars and dance halls turned themselves into private clubs in an attempt to sidestep the new laws.

October 1932 Chief of Police ordered a ban on same-sex couples dancing in public.

Fearing for his family and livelihood, Ludwig Konjetschni closed the Eldorado and handed the premises over to the local Sturmabteilung (SA) – many of whom had worked for him and he placed his future in their hands. The SA turned the Eldorado into their new local headquarters.

January 1933 Hermann Goering ordered the closure of gay bars, and gay men and transvestites were routinely arrested and imprisoned.

1933. Ossy Gades was working as a man at the DéDé Bar on Bülowstraße. It was part-owned by a Sturmabteilung (SA) Lieutenant and, by 1934 renamed the Bülow-Krug. Despite this Gades was arrested several times and beaten for having dressed in women’s clothes. He explained that he was not homosexual, and went out en-femme only when accompanied by his wife. He was still regarded as homosexual.

July 1933. Despite his gift, Ludwig Konjetschni was not safe. He and his family fled Germany.
30 June/1 July ex-Eldorado customer, Ernst Röhm was deposed, arrested and executed by his own Nazi Party. The Night of the Long Knives.

May 1935. Ossy Gades was sent to Lichtenburg concentration camp. This camp was one of the first and housed mostly political prisoners and gay men. He died there a year later.

1935. Christopher Isherwood. Mr Norris Changes Trains. A novel based on his experiences set in pre-Nazi Berlin, and with scenes in Eldorado.

1939 Christopher Isherwood. Goodbye to Berlin. More based on his Berlin experiences.
  • Gustave Binet-Valmer. Sur Le Sable Couchées-. Roman Inédit. 1928.
  • Lewis, Sinclair. Dodsworth. Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1929.
  • Bernard Zimmer “Our Excursion to ‘El Dorado’” Le Crapouillot, 23, 1930. Translation in Gordon, 2006.
  • Curt Moreck: Führer durch das „lasterhafte“ Berlin. Moderne Stadtführer, Leipzig 1931; Reprint 1996.
  • Wyndham Lewis. “The Berlin Eldorado”. Hitler. Gordon Press, 1931.
  • Michael Fry. Hitler’s Wonderland. John Murray, 1934: 19-20, 24-5,27.
  • Christopher Isherwood. Mr. Norris Changes Trains. Hogarth Press, 1935.
  • Christopher Isherwood. Goodbye to Berlin. London: Hogarth Press, 1939.
  • Denis Sefton Delmer: “Ein Photo von Stalins Ohrläppchen”. Der Spiegel,  44, 31.10.1962, S. 46.
  • Wolff, Charlotte. Magnus Hirschfeld: Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology. Quartet, 1986: 443-4.
  • Norman Page. Auden and Isherwood: The Berlin Years. St. Martin Press, 2000: 13, 18, 62,89.
  • Gregory Woods. “The Sodomite Reputation of Weimar Berlin”. Niteroi, 14, 1, 2003: 9-27. PDF
  • Mel Gordon. Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin. Feral House, 2006: 118-129, 289-291.
  • Florence Tamage. A History of Homosexuality in Europe: Berlin, London, Paris 1919 – 1939. Algora, 2006: 245, 250.
  • Colin Storer. Britain and the Weimar Republic: The History of a Cultural Relationship. Tauris Academic Studies, 2010: 88, 136.
  • Robert Beachy. Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity. Knopf, 2014: 198-9, 205.
  • Tobias Churton. Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin: Art, Sex, and Magick in the Weimar Republic. Inner Traditions, 2014: 322-5.
  • Laurie Marhoefer. Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis. University of Toronto Press, 2015: 151, 156, 175, 198.
  • Karin Wieland translated by Shelley Frisch. Dietrich & Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives. Liveright, 2015:
DE.Wikipedia    Cabaret Berlin    Deviates, Inc 


Storer says that Wyndham Lewis’ visit to Eldorado was during his 1921 visit to Berlin; Woods opts for Lewis’ much shorter 1930 visit. I have gone with the former.

Cabaret Berlin and Mel Gordon disagree on opening dates. I have gone with the earlier in each case.

Unlike Paris' Le Carrousel, only 15 years later, we do not know many of the names of those who worked in the various Eldorados.

Also unlike at Le Carrousel, the performers were not able to take female hormones.   Hormones were being developed during the 1930s, by German, Bristish and US scientists, but did not become available until after the Second World War.  See Adolf Butenandt.

28 April 2016

Berlin’s Eldorado. Part I: to 1928

There were several Eldorados in Berlin in the interwar period. Our major interest is in the three opened and run by Ludwig Konjetschni. Other bars catering to transvestites were Hannemann, opened in 1892, and later the Mikado Bar, the Monocle Bar, Silhouette and the Bülow-Kasino. Many of the sources do not clarify which Eldorado is meant. I have sorted them out as well as possible.

Alte Jakobstrasse 60

 in the Kreuzberg district of the city (not owned by Konjetschni). Opened in 1919.

1921 Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) Vorticist painter/author visited Berlin. His impressions of Eldorado appear in his 1931 pro-Nazi book, Hitler. The first 3 chapters are devoted to a diatribe against ‘the Haupstadt of Vice’. He derided the “Nigger dance luxury-spot[s]’, the ‘night-circuses, Negertanz palaces, naktballeten, flagellation-bars, and sad wells of super-masculine loneliness”. Of the transvestite bar, the Eldorado, he wrote: “[p]re-Hitler Berlin was a sink of iniquity – the fingers of any moderately fussy patriot must have itched to spring-clean it. Its male prostitutes alone, with their India-rubber breasts and padded hips – the fairy hostesses of the Eldorado – were a standing invitation to the Prussian to organise a “March on Berlin”. He further presents Adolf Hitler as a man of peace. Lewis did change his mind about Hitler during a visit to Berlin in 1937.

Kant-Strasse 24

in Charlottenburg. Opened 22 March 1922 by Konjetschni. It was advertised in gay and lesbian publications as ‘Treffpunkt der Internationalen Mondänen Welt (“Meeting Place For The International World)”, and was for three years a huge success.

1923. US novelist, Robert McAlmon (notional husband of Bryher) wrote: “Several Germans declared themselves authentic hermaphrodites [sic—transvestites], and one elderly variant loved to arrive at the smart cabarets each time as a different type of woman: elegant, or as washerwoman, or a street vendor, or as a modest mother of a family. He was very comical and his presence always made for hilarity.” “At nights along the Unter den Linden it was never possible to know whether it was a woman or a man in women’s clothing who accosted one. That didn’t matter, but it was sad to know that innumerable young and normal Germans were doing anything, from dope selling to every form of prostitution, to have money for themselves and their families, their widowed mothers and younger brothers and sisters.” McAlmon also wrote a short story, “Miss Knight” about a US trans woman in Berlin who does lots of alcohol and cocaine before moving back to New York.

1924, Nazi Party Reichstag Deputy Ernst Röhm moved to Berlin and spent personal time at homosexual bars including the Eldorado. A year later, one of his tricks attempted to blackmail him. He instantly reported him to the police.

The film Geheimnisse einer Seele (Secrets of a Soul), 1926, was partly filmed there. G W Pabst (dir) Hans Casparius (camera). Casparius intended to make a second film at Eldorado, Sex Shades, and met what he took to be a suitable transvestite. However when he asked why she was a transvestite, she replied “Because I earn much more that way”. Casparius was repelled by her lack of integrity, and called off the project.

Lutherstrasse 30

 in the main entertainment district in Schöneberg. Opened in 1926 by Konjetschni in the former August-Victoria-Sälle dance hall directly opposite the famous Scala Variety Theatre. This venue was featured in most guidebooks, and attracted celebrities. It also featured transvestite taxi dancers – you could buy a chip to exchange for a dance.

A huge banner inside the entrance proclaims: “HIER ISTS RICHTIG! (here it is right!)” Nearby are two oversized frescoes that show Ulysses being beckoned by gorgeous Circes (of course, in drag) and the trial of Paris, who hesitates between a trio of male Graces. The orchestra wear unisex silk blouses and play French and Argentinian music. The customers amuse themselves attempting to guess the birth gender of the dancers. The floor-show is at midnight, and plays on the ambiguity of the gender of the performers.

Curt Moreck’s 1931 guidebook to Berlin: “It’s all staged, and only completely naive people think it’s real. Even the real transvestites who place their abnormality in the service of the business become actors here. Between the dances, in which even a normal man can enjoy the spicy pleasure of dancing with an effeminate man dressed as a woman, there are floor shows. A male “chanteuse” with a high-pitched voice sings ambiguous Parisian songs. A male star who looks like a young girl does graceful feminine pirouettes under the spotlight. He is naked except for a bras and a g-string, but even this nakedness is deceptive: it puzzles the audience and still leaves doubt as to whether it’s a man or a woman.”

 Ossy Gades was a regular transvestite door-host and taxi-dancer.

1926. Hansi Sturm was chosen as Miss Eldorado.

1927. Painter Otto Dix visited Eldorado, and made paintings of some of the trans women.

Magnus Hirschfeld was sometimes seen here, partly out of professional interest.

Francis Bacon’s father attempted to straighten him out by sending him to Berlin in the care of a distant uncle. However the young Francis soon bedded his uncle. In Berlin he was delighted to discover the transvestite bars such as Eldorado and the rent-boy culture.

1928 Gustave Binet-Valmer, a male Swiss novelist, wrote a lesbian novel, Sur Le Sable Couchées includes scenes in Eldorado, Paris’ Club de Faubourg and the psychoanlyical circles in Vienna.

Continued in Part II.  

25 April 2016

David R Wesser (1933 – 2008) sex-change surgeon

Revised September 2017 re Wesser's first marriage.

David Wesser gained an MD degree from New York University-Bellevue College of Medicine and was trained in Reconstructive Surgery. He married in 1963. During the Vietnam War he served as a Major in the US Army Medical Corps and lived in Saigon with his wife and two children.  Afterwards he was a consultant for the US State Department in Vietnam caring for war-wounded children.

He taught and practiced surgery in the New York area, usually at the Yonkers Professional Hospital. He also had an office at east 86th St and Park Avenue. His first transsexual patients were those who had had surgery elsewhere, and corrections were needed.

In 1972 Rupert Raj had his mastectomy from Dr Wesser and later said “a finer set of (man-made) male pecs I have yet to see”. In 1977 Rosalyne Blumenstein had an orchiectomy and a nose reduction.

Earlier, in 1976, there had been Romain, 30, previously a social worker with a city child-welfare department, and also an organizer of S&M parties. His friends knowing that he thought himself to really be a woman, had suggested Dr Benito Rish, who sent him to a panel of experts including a psychiatrist, all of whom approved her for surgery. Rish sent her for surgery with Dr Wesser. However as she later remembered it, she developed doubts while under sedation and on the gurney. As she was medicated, she was not considered rational. Seven months later, after failing to find a surgeon who would reverse the operation, Romain killed herself. Dr Wesser then started requiring a full-year of living as the target gender before surgery.

++Sandra Mesics wrote after Romain's suicide:
"But can you blame the physician? I was operated on by the same doctor who performed Romaine' s surgery and I can attest to his technical competence. I have known about six other transsexuals who had their surgery performed by this man, and there was not one botched job in the lot. I found him to be a very warm , compassionate man , who feels that he is genuinely performing a much needed service for people with gender problems. Sure, he's making money by the fistful, but he could do just as well performing nose jobs on wealthy society women."
By 1980 Wesser had done 200 sex-change operations.  One of his patients that year was Sharon Davis, 24, who was well pleased with the results.

Later that year, the Yonkers Professional Hospital was closed down after a surprise inspection by the state.

Also in 1980, David Wesser remarried. They had several children.

In 1981 he was charged before a panel of the New York Department of Health with
“negligence or gross incompetence, or both, in connection with the care of five gender-change patients. The basis for the charges was that he had diagnosed transsexualism and performed the gender-change operations without obtaining an adequate medical history, adequate physical or psychiatric consultations and without having obtained an adequate informed consent. Petitioner denied the charges and alleged that he had relied upon the psychiatric evaluations of a board-certified psychiatrist”.
His lawyer describes the panel:
“The Chairperson of the panel was a psychiatrist who believed homosexuality to be a deviant criminal activity. Another doctor on the panel was a close friend and professional colleague of the expert witness testifying for the prosecution. The lay person, non-medical professional member of the panel was a Roman Catholic Monsignor.”
Wesser’s license was suspended for one year in 1983, but the case had been pursued for seven years and Wesser was left psychologically broken, and in diminished health.

Dr Wesser started doing silicone injections, although by the end of the decade the procedure was being done by non-doctors such as Jimmy Treetop.

Wesser suffered a heart illness in 1993.

In December 1994 Dr Wesser admitted to the truth of allegations of malpractice endangering the life of a patient receiving liposuction and breast reconstruction. His license to practice medicine in New York State was revoked and he was fined $10,000.

He then lived in Palm Coast, Florida, and was a Counselor at the Stewart Marchman Center in Bunnell where he was an advocate for substance abuse treatments, especially for youths. He died at the age of 75.
  • Edward Falces, David Wesser & Mark Gorney. “Cosmetic Surgery of the Non-Caucasian Nose”. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 45,4,April 1970: 317-3324.
  • Isaac Kaplan & David Wesser. "A Rapid Method for Constructing a Functional Sensitive Penis".  British Journal of Plastic Surgery, 24, 1971: 342-4.  
  • A Robert Beck & David R.Wesser. "Constrictive Digital Injuries in Infants, Caused by Human Hair". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 49, 4, 1972: 420-422.
  • "Post-Op Transsexual Commits Suicide - Operation was a Mistake!"  Drag, 7,25, 1977: 6-7.  Online
  • ++ Sandra Mesics. "Thoughts on the Suicide of Romaine Atura".  F.l. News, No. 22.  Reprinted in The Journal of Male Feminism, vol. 77, No. 4 & 5:  47-9.   Online.  
  • David R.Wesser. "A Single Stage Operative Technique for Castration, Vaginal Construction and Perineoplasty in Transsexuals". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 7, 4, 1978: 309-323.
  • Sharon Churcher. "The Anguish of the Transsexuals". New York Magazine, 13, 25, June 16, 1980.
  • “Matter David R. Wesser V. State New York”. Supreme Court of New York, May 24, 1983.
  • Sharon Davis. A Finer Specimen of Womanhood: A Transsexual Speaks Out. Vantage Press, 1986:
  • Rupert Raj. “Metamorphosis: Man in the Making (A Personal and Political Perspective)”. In Bonnie Bullough, Vern L. Bullough, James Elias (eds) Gender Blending. Prometheus Books 1997: 480-4.
  • Rosalyne Blumenstein. Branded T. 1stBooks, 2003: 83 -5.
  • David R.Wesser. "Repair of a Cryptotic Ear with a Trefoil Flap". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 50, 2, 2006: 192-193.
  • Laura Rena Murray. “The High Price of Looking Like a Woman”. New York Times, Aug 19, 2011.
  • Deyan Ranko Brashich. “Transgender’s Dark Ugly Past and Present”. Litchfield County Times, June 10, 2015.
Obituary    License termination

12 April 2016

Ossy Gades (1902 – 1936) performer, barman

From 1929-31 Ossy Gades worked as the transvestite door-host and taxi-dancer first at the Eldorado nightclub at Lutherstrasse 30, and then at the new and larger premises at Motzstrasse.
Ossy was probably one of these

By 1933, Ossy was working as a man at the DéDé Bar on Bülowstrasse. It was part-owned by a Sturmabteilung (SA) Lieutenant and, by 1934 renamed the Bülow-Krug. Despite this Gades was arrested several times and beaten for having dressed in women’s clothes. He explained that he was not homosexual, and went out en-femme only when accompanied by his wife. He was still regarded as homosexual.

On 25 May 1935 he was arrested again, and sent to Lichtenburg concentration camp. This camp was one of the first and housed mostly political prisoners and gay men. He died there a year later.
  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Gesch-lechts. Transvestitismus und Trans-sexualität in der frühen Sexual-wissenschaft. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag 2005: 159.
  • C-J Charpentier. Isherwood och Berlin. 2015: 6. PDF


09 April 2016

Benito B. Rish (1923 - 2007) plastic surgeon

Benito Rish became licensed to practice in the State of New York in 1949. He was mainly a plastic surgeon, and became known as a urologist and for his rhinoplasty and other facial surgery. He worked at Yonkers Professional Hospital, 27 Ludlow St, Yonkers, NY, and in time became a part-owner of the hospital. Among other responsibilities he became president of its board of directors, chief of plastic surgery and head of the Gender Identity Center.

Both Harry Benjamin and Leo Wollman referred patients to Dr Rish for genital surgery. These included Erica Kay in 1968; Liz Eden and Puerto Rican Soraya Santiago in 1973; Mario Martino in 1977.

Dr Rish was also known as willing to sell female hormones without a prescription, if you looked trans. It is said that Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn and International Chrysis used this service. ++Perry Desmond named her New York doctor as Dr Ritter (who is otherwise unknown);  it is probable that this was Dr Rish.

In 1971, Debbie Hartin spoke about her problems with ‘her family, her neighbors and her daughter’ at a meeting that was supposed to be the inaugural meeting of Transsexuals Anonymous held at Dr Rish’s office.

That same year Dr Rish was named to the advisory board of Reed Erickson’s EEF, and was subsequently on the list of surgeons sympathetic to transsexuals issued by EEF.

Dr Rish was sued for malpractice in silicone injections in 1972; for surgery in 1973 and again in 1974. In 1985 he was sued re a 1977 rhinoplasty and subsequent injection of silicone into the nose.

In 1980 Yonkers Professional Hospital was closed after a surprise state inspection, stood empty for almost a decade, and was then converted into apartments.

Dr Benito Rish went into partnership with Canadian Sonia LaFontaine as the Lafontaine-Rish Medical Associates. LaFontaine and her husband, Arthur Kissel, also ran a clinic in Toronto. In 2000 LaFontaine and Rish were taken to court charged with hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraudulent insurance claims. As the New York Daily News put it:
“Lafontaine herself, who has no formal training as a doctor, is charged with performing hundreds of procedures at the now-defunct clinic, from silicone lip enlargements to vein treatments”.
The most serious charge concerned an overweight Jersey City man who went for liposuction in January 1998 in the hope of becoming a New York cop. He died from complications due to anesthesia. The anesthesiologist, who already had a suspended license because of a morphine addiction, quickly surrendered her license. Dr Rish pleaded guilty to insurance fraud, admitted to allowing two unlicensed individuals to perform under his name, and surrendered his license.

Kissel was arrested in Toronto for working illegally in Canada. He appealed his extradition to the US in every way that he could, and was not tried in New York until 2009, by which time his wife had completed her sentence. Dr Rish had died in 2007.

Yonkers Professional Hospital


The trans persons whom we know had surgery with Dr Rish are not reported as complaining.

Are we discussing a one-time good doctor whose standards slipped over the years?

All-right, I will say it.  There is a question hovering about Dr Rish.   We know that two of his non-surgical patients died young:  Candy Darling in 1974 at age 29, possibly of side effects of taking the wrong hormones;  International Chrysis in 1990 at age 39.   Was Chrysis still a patient of Dr Rish in the 1980s after the Yonkers hospital closed?  There is no indication of that in Ellen Fisher Turk's documentary.

04 April 2016

Selena Robbins (193? - ) actress

Selena Robbins, now almost forgotten, had already completed transition when she became involved in the New York cinema-theater underground of the late 1960s.

Sexploitation auteur Andy Milligan cast her in his 1968 film, The Filthy Five. The plot features a boxer caught between two women, and Robbins’ stripper who has a three-some with two men. Robbins was featured prominently on the film’s poster.
McDonough p162

  • Jimmy McDonough. The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan. A Cappella, 2001: 162-3, 166, 342.
  • Andy Milligan (dir). The Filthy Five. With Fredric Forrest as Johnny Longo, Jackie Colton as Rose White and Selena Robbins as stripper. US 96 mins 1968. IMDB