The Minor Luminaries


Skip Arnold

Arnold was a long-time headliner at Kansas City's infamous Jewel Box Lounge, but he was equally well-known at Chicago's Trip and Chesterfield bars, where his quick wit and sharp tongue were equalled only by his philanthropies. But doubtless his greatest claim to fame is as the central subject of Esther Newton's seminal 1972 book "Mother Camp", wherein Newton does for drag queens what Margaret Mead did for Samoans. Newton followed Arnold from club to club and recorded-in the name of science-every detail of his act, down to every wisecrack, cocktail and eyelash; she even provides the readers with diagrams of the stage.

Welcome to Fairieland/Snow White and the Watch Queen (7" EP, 1965)

Ty Bennett

New Jersey drag queen of the 50's; a pretty funny album and surprisingly "out" performer for the time.

Queen For A Day (Half and Half 34 1/2 ; ca. 1962)


Jimmy Callaway

New Orleans drag queen and for many years the headliner at that city's popular My-Oh-My Club.

Show Me a Milkman . . . (Planet 19-677/8 ; 7" 45 rpm; ca. 1964)


Jackie Curtis

Overshadowed by the more glamourous Candy Darling and the more vocal Holly Woodlawn, Jackie was nonetheless a shining star in the Factory firmament. He not only stole the show in Warhol's "Flesh", he also wrote the screenplay. His only (to my knowledge) 45 captures a song from the ill-fated (i.e., closed after one performance) anti-war Broadway show "Blood Red Roses". A tribute site to that there are more recordings waiting to be released. Let's hope so.

The English Rose (single sided 45)

David DeAlba

Cuban born DeAlba is truly the last of a dying breed. He worked at San Francisco's legendary Finnochio's for years, along side some of the great female impersonators of all time. (That is, when he wasn't busy being an acclaimed hairdresser to the stars.) He was-and is-from the old school: where grace and glamour and a good voice are more important than camp or ranch. He's an avid Judy Garland fan (but who isn't?) and has a wonderful website with tributes to some of the greats. Check it out; you can get his CDs there!

A Loving Tribute to Olga and Tony (Ryner/Alba Ltd. CD-DDA-02-01; CD, 2000)
-an homage to Cuban singers Olga Chorens and Tony Alvarez
Live At Finnochio's 1971-1987 (CD, 2002)

Diamond Lil

Atlanta, GA based drag queen with a locally produced album.

Love Generator [Glamour Version]/Love Generator [Grease Version] (7" single?)
Queen Of Diamonds Sings Silver Grill (Glamour & Grease PF 434343; LP; Atlanta, GA 1984)


Harvey Fierstein

Frog-voiced entertainer whose Broadway shows­Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage aux Folles­are true to his drag roots.

This is Not Going To Be Pretty (Plump 5904-2; CD)
Torch Song Trilogy [soundtrack] (Polydor 837 785 1; LP)

Fist Goodbody

Utterly indescribable camp from the 70's. I have no idea who Fist was or what happened to her, and judging by the content of this LP-a cacophony of shrieks, slaps, wails and other dungeon sounds-she probably deserved whatever she had coming. And loved it.


Fist Goodbody's Traveling Torture Show (Hot Waffle HW P1300; LP, 1977)


Martin Hughes

Obscure drag comedy.

Madam Chairman (Roto P66-2020)


Lee Leonard/Liz Lyons

OK, try to follow this. Sometime in the 1940's, Rubin Elkins became a female impersonator named Lee Leonard, whose raunchy act burned up the northwest for decades. In his 60's, Rubin/Lee became one of the oldest persons ever to undergo gender reassignment. The result? The naughty Liz Lyons! She made a single LP in 1975, still going strong and filthy as ever. Reports are that she had no modesty whatsoever on stage when it came to proving that she was 100% female. Her photos speak for themselves.

Up Your Ass (Angelo Productions mx. FO 2459 A/B; LP, 1975)


Jean Malin

Jean (sometimes Gene) Malin got his start as a female impersonator in the 20s, but his greatest success would come later as the pre-eminent emcee of the short-lived and under-researched "pansy craze" of the early 30s. He died in 1934, accidentally backing his car off the Santa Monica pier; actress Patsy Kelly, who was with him at the time, survived. He left behind but two recordings, released posthumously and pressed in a single royal blue shellac 78. But just listen to a little of "I'd Rather Be Spanish (Than Mannish)" and you'll know why he was an extraordinary performer; this was 1933, remember!

I'd Rather Be Spanish/That's What's the Matter With Me (Columbia 2812-D; 10" 78 rpm; 1933)



San Francsico drag queen with a number of successful local productions in the late 60s and early 70s. One of the last headliners at the famous Finnocchios, Michelle's benefit work for various charities earned him a resolution from the San Francisco Senate Rules Committee in 1974 and a mayoral certificate of merit in 1979.

Ready or Not, Its Me (Ron-Mar 5/6/7/8)
Its Me Again (???)
Here's to Us (Raritan CW 016)
--this last a compilation album of the first two albums



The exotic, attractive Minette was one of the most popular female impersonators of her day. She played virtually every big club-the 82 in New York, Finnochio's in San Francisco and the Pearl Box Revue-and her following was legion. Consciously modeled after French star Babette, Minette was a favorite of Avery Willard, and starred in several of his Ava-Graph films.

Come to Me at Tea Time (Collector's Choice Records mx. CCR-Vol.1 A/B; LP, ca.19xx)



José (Sarria)

Headliner for years a the notorious Black Cat in San Francisco, José Julio Sarria was a WWII veteran, early gay rights activist , first openly gay political candidate and the founder of the gay Imperial Court system. In addition to leading a rounding chorus of "God Save Us Nellie Queens" in Word Is Out, he had a cameo role in "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar".
No Camping (Velvet 5003; San Francisco, ca. 1960)


Savoy and Brennan

Born in 1880, Bert Savoy began his drag act doing a hootchie-kootchie dance at freak shows in Boston and polished it in the wilds of Alaska. He hit the big time in 1914 while understudying for James Russell of the Russell Brothers (known for their "bitch" act: a pair of Irish servant girls) in "Maids to Order" and Russell dropped dead. Savoy had begun his partnership with straight man (!) Jay Brennan the year before after the former picked up the latter on a streetcar. The team was a huge success; they headlined in the Zeigfeld Follies of 1918. Unlike other female impersonators of the day (such as the notoriously closeted Julian Eltinge) Savoy was pure camp on and off the stage. The two routines which gave rise to Savoy's catchphrases­ "You Don't Know The Half Of It Dearie" and "You Must Come Over"­were preserved for posterity on a rare 1923 Vocalion recording made shortly before Savoy's untimely demise. The story of his death is legendary and, by all accounts, absolutely true: on June 26, 1923 Savoy and two friends were walking along the shore at Long Beach watching an upcoming storm when a thunderclap prompted Savoy to squeal "Ain't Miss God cuttin' up somethin' awful?" He was immediately struck dead by a bolt of lightning. Brennan continued the act quite successfully for a while with Stanley Rogers, owing much to the fact that Rogers copied Savoy's mannerisms and catchphrases to a tee. Brennan later became a scriptwriter in the movies and died in 1961 at the age of 78.


You Don't Know the Half of It/You Must Come Over (Vocalion 14619; 10" 78 rpm; 1928)