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04 October 2018

Skippy LaRue (1921-2003) sex worker, performer

Skippy LaRue was born in Port Arthur, Texas. His father was a boilermaker and bootlegger; his mother ran a house of prostitution where they all lived. His mother beat him frequently.

He was drinking whiskey from age 5; having sex with boys from age 9. He was expelled from school at age 11 for hustling merchant seamen.

He discovered the whorehouses across the tracks and was introduced to a madam called Evelyn Hardtimes. He lived there a couple of years. He tended bar and did other chores, and when a customer wanted a boy there he was. He was able to charge 50¢, while the girls charged only 25¢. He was also the only one giving fellatio. His customers included judges, lawyers, police, doctors, military, executives.  He was frequently taken as a girl, even in boys clothes. 

He was 18 before he was introduced to the gay scene.

As he grew older Skippy tried straight jobs: retail and delivery. However he kept drifting back into working as female. Skippy (as such) worked a roadhouse serving customers in their cars, and then as a carhop. She went with men but French (oral) only unless they were in the know.

During WWII, LaRue was excused military service because of an ear injury from his mother’s beatings. He moved to Seattle and worked at Boeing for 72¢ a hour, and then on a ferry lunch counter. He met Jackie Starr, first at a party, and then because they lived in the same building.

When Skippy started going to the Garden of Allah, Jackie and others encouraged her to perform, and helped with costumes, makeup and how to a do a gaff.  She sometimes performed as Madame Fifi.

Skippy supplemented the income from performing with running an after-hours bottle club where
Jackie and Skippy, 1946
customers pretended that they had brought their own drinks to get around the licensing laws.

Later Skippy went on the road with Hotcha Hinton and Jackie Starr working carnivals, performing in girlie shows. The other carnies knew what they were, but not the customers. In addition to the show they had a blowoff (sideshow) act where they did a striptease and even, being very confident of their gaffing, they had men pay to touch their genital area.

They were busted in Oxnard, California and had to prove their male sex to the police chief. However word got out, and the chief simply told them to get out of town.

In later years, Skippy lived in a mobile home in south Everett, north of Seattle, and worked at a gay bathhouse in Seattle, where he was known as Seattle’s oldest female impersonator. He kept in touch with others, and when Don Paulson was researching his book on the Garden of Allah, Skippy acted as a major resource.

He died at age 82.
  • Don Paulson & Roger Simpson. An Evening at the Garden of Allah: A Gay Cabaret in Seattle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996: Chp 7.
  • Gary L. Atkins. Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging. University of Washington Press, 2003: 63.
  • Mara Dauphin. " ‘A bit of Woman in Every Man’: Creating Queer Community in Female Impersonation”. Valley Humanities Review, Spring 2012.: 11, 14. Online.
  • Don Paulson. “South End Steam Baths”. Seattle Gay News. Online.
Obituary

Don Paulson and Skippy LaRue photograph collection, 1903-2000

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The 1930s were rather different.  On p126 of Paulson & Simpson, Skippy says "a twelve-year-old boy was no different than a a twelve-year-old girl.  At that time, many girls became prostitutes at twelve or thirteen,"

 72¢ a hour does not sound much, but at that time one could rent an apartment for $10 a week.

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