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09 March 2021

Some forgotten European gender impersonators 1890-1925

Stiv-Hall Bloch (187? - )

Stiv-Hall and four sisters, of whom the most famous was Jeanne Bloch, were collectively known as the troupe de la Scala. Only Stiv-Hall did gender impersonations in addition to singing and acting. Stiv-Hall was known for perfect impersonations of the major actresses of the day, especially Yvette Guilbert of whom he was more than once taken to be the original. It was proposed that Stiv-Hall make a phonograph record of imitations of the famous singers of the day, but that did not happen.

  • Oscar Paul Gilbert translated from French by J Lewis May, Men in Women's Guise. John Lane The Bodley Head Limited. 1926: 270-2.
  • Anthony Slide. Great Pretenders: A History of Female and Male Impersonation in the Performing Arts. Wallace-Homestead, 1986: 141
  • F Michael Moore. Drag!: Male and Female Impersonators on Stage, Screen and Television. McFarland & Compamy, 1994: 71-2
  • Dutempsdescerisesauxfeuillesm, 2010: Chapitre XXXI. Online.

Geneanet       FR.Wikipedia(Jeanne Bloch)



Middendorf

Ernst Middendorf was a renowned Berlin performer. In December 1917 he was sentenced to one year and five months penal servitude for shoplifting “while disguised as a woman”. 

Despite this, his skill was used in a court trial in September 1922. The woman owner of a hotel was accused of letting her premises be used by persons of bad character. An elegantly attired young woman was called as a witness and questioned seriously and politely by the judge. When this was complete, the defence lawyer requested an acquittal.  “The witness is not a woman at all, but a man. If an astute court can’t tell the difference between a man and a woman, how can it expect my client to distinguish good characters from bad on sight”. The judge accepted this, and dismissed the case.

  • C J Bulliet. Venus Castina: Famous Female Impersonators Celestial and Human. Bonanza Books, 1928: 271.
  • F Michael Moore. Drag!: Male and Female Impersonators on Stage, Screen and Television. McFarland & Compamy, 1994: 71.




Aranka Gyvengy

Performed female roles and minor parts in Budapest for 23 years before being outed.

  • Oscar Paul Gilbert translated from French by J Lewis May, Men in Women's Guise.John Lane The Bodley Head Limited. 1926: 270.
  • C J Bulliet. Venus Castina: Famous Female Impersonators Celestial and Human. Bonanza Books, 1928: 271.
  • F Michael Moore. Drag!: Male and Female Impersonators on Stage, Screen and Television. McFarland & Compamy, 1994: 71.


Pepi Schmeer

A Viennese folk singer, a mustachioed man with a sonorous tenor voice, who was for many years accepted as he appeared, although it eventually came out that he was a ‘woman’, and his female name Josephine was disclosed. Schmerr had originally performed as a ballerina. After becoming a folk singer, Pepi lived as male full-time, on stage and off. It was said that he had a Transvestitenscheinen (police permission) to do so. At the turn of the century, Schmeer had a stroke while on stage, His fellow performers came to his aid, and he appeared a few more times, but his health was broken and he retired to a home for the aged.

  • Magnus Hirschfeld & Wissenschaftlich-Humanitäres Komitee. Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Homosexualität. 1899: 1242-4.
  • Magnus Hirschfeld translated by Michael A Lombardi-Nash. Transvestites: The Erotic Urge ro Cross-Dress. Prometheus Book, 199:346-7.

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