marking moments remembered

I remember like it was yesterday watching Jim Bailey perform on the Carol Burnett show. It was 1971 and our first year in Canada. I was 9 years old and completely fascinated and repulsed. He was good and not campy and almost uncomfortably real and I recall leaving the room for fear my parents would discover my interest.

Bailey was not over the top like Flip Wilson's Geraldine but instead feminine and plausible and belonged to that era when female impersonation was still considered an art form. A few years later, it would go back to seedy bars and strip joints and fall out of favour with the general population.

It's pinnacle was probably reached in the 1940's with the Jewel Box Revue which featured some of the greats of this unusual form of entertainment. Even the ubber tough guy James Cagney had gotten his start as a Vaudevillian female impersonator.

I moved on to see the likes of Christopher Morley on Switch and Vegas and Charles Pierce on Wonder Woman and was each time intrigued beyond a normal interest; as I grew older that interest becoming increasingly disconcerting. Back then however I was wonderfully impressed by the power of it all.

The entire concept still piques an interest in me today and even if it has disappeared from the landscape along with hoola hoops and poodle skirts.

There are still a handful of artists who have impersonated women on film, but the minority have gone into the books as being truly artistic or particularly noteworthy. The campy Mrs. Doubtfire (R.I.P Robin Williams) was perhaps one of the better examples of the less than stellar films made for strictly belly laughs.

Julian Eltinge must be rolling over in his grave.

Jim Bailey


Comments

  1. Funny thing...for some reason, I don't remember Jim Bailey or Charles Pierce, but I sure do remember Geraldine!

    Then there was Tootsie - enjoyed that one. And Mrs. Doubtfire and a couple of other such campy movies (like Nobody's Perfect with Chad Lowe from 1990.)

    Amazing what one remembers, or forgets!

    Mandy

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