Friday, June 10, 2011

Know Your LGBT History - Charles Pierce

During eras where there were few positive lgbt portrayals on television and the movies, a female impersonator managed to not only stand out with performances that were not disrespectful to the community, but he also kept his integrity.

That man was one of my idols, Charles Pierce.

From Wikipedia:

Born in Watertown, New York, he began his show business career playing the organ and acting in radio dramas at station WWNY. He branched out into a comedy routine, attired in tuxedo, yet managing to evoke eerily convincing imitations of popular movie actresses. Eschewing the term drag queen, which he hated, he billed himself as a male actress.

Initially playing in small gay clubs, his fame spread. He took up residence in San Francisco, California, where his act became well-known to Hollywood stars. As he toured, his costuming became more elaborate, initially adding small props, later full costume and makeup changes. His imitations were imitated by other female impersonators, and his roles included Bette Davis, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Carol Channing, Katharine Hepburn, and Joan Crawford, which became the drag queen canon. His act was centered on wit rather than accurate mimicry, though it was often said that he looked more like Joan Collins than did Joan Collins herself.

He performed at many clubs in New York, including The Village Gate, Ted Hook's OnStage, The Ballroom, and Freddy's Supper Club.

He was a guest actor on an episode of TV's Wonder Woman and played a cross-dressing villain in an episode of Laverne & Shirley ("Murder on the MooseJaw Express"). Pierce also appeared on an early episode of the hit 80's TV sitcom Designing Women as a steward on a cruise ship. During the episode, he imitates Joan Collins (as the ship's waitress) and Bette Davis (as the ship's lounge entertainment). As Davis he quips: "Was that Joan Collins hustling the tables? One bitch on this boat is enough!"

He died in North Hollywood, California, aged 72, and was cremated. At his funeral, Carol Channing spoke and said, "He did Carol Channing better than I did."[1] His ashes were interred in the Columbarium of Providence, Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Here is Pierce during one of his shows:

And here is Pierce on the television show Wonder Woman:

And Laverne & Shirley (beginning at 1:00):

Past Know Your LGBT History Posts:

Are gays too angry? Ask Tracey Morgan, NOM, and the Catholic Church

You will forgive for dispensing with the usual news briefs today, but this has been on my mind:

You probably heard about the Tracey Morgan controversy. If not, let TMZ elucidate you on the situation:

According to reports, Morgan took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium (pictured above) and went off about gays -- saying, "Gays need to quit being p**sies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying."

He added, "Gay is something that kids learn from the media and programming."

When talking about the possibility of his son being gay -- Tracy said he "better talk to me like a man and not in a gay voice or I'll pull out a knife and stab that little n**ger to death."

Afterward, Tracy told the crowd, "I don't "f*cking care if I piss off some gays, because if they can take a f*cking d**k up their ass ... they can take a f*cking joke."

After the performance, the Ryman Auditorium issued a statement on the performance saying, "The Ryman Auditorium regrets that people were offended by statements made by Tracy Morgan during his June 3 appearance."

The statement continues, "The Ryman does not control the content presented by people appearing on its stage, nor does it endorse any of the views of, or statements made by, such persons."

It's not the first time Morgan has ignited controversy over homphobic material -- back in 2009, a bunch of people reportedly walked out of his show at Carnegie Hall after he said being gay was a "choice."

So far, no comment from Morgan's camp.

TMZ later added the following:

TMZ spoke with someone in attendance at the Ryman Auditorium ... who tells us Morgan's entire act was filled with offensive gay jokes ... explaining, "It was the worst thing I've ever heard ... so not funny."

As we previously reported, Morgan's June 3rd performance ignited a firestorm of controversy -- after he "joked" that he would "stab" his son for acting gay.

It's ironic that the Morgan controversy comes in the week where we have heard about an upcoming article in which a group of religious right figures are complaining that the lgbt community are somewhat "mean and intolerant."

NOM encouraging supporters to write 'artificial' letters to the editor

If you want a good indication of the artificial and hypocritical tactics of the National Organization for Marriage against marriage equality, check out the following:

The New York Legislature is expected to vote on a same-sex marriage bill in the near future as this year's legislative session comes to a close. Same-sex marriage advocates are pulling out all the stops in an effort to sway the votes needed to pass the bill through the Senate.

Take a public stand for marriage and urge others to join you by submitting a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Simply use the form below and your letter will be sent to each of the newspapers in your city, as well as the larger, statewide papers.

Some ideas for topics to address in your letter include:

Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, but they don't get to redefine marriage for all of us.

The American people have spoken clearly and repeatedly about the definition of marriage -- and 31 times in a row, they have voted against same-sex marriage.

Marriage is a fundamental institution in our society, and we can't possibly anticipate all the unintended consequences that will follow if we change its definition. Therefore, any change should come slowly and with great caution.

Ours is a government of, by and for the people. Any decision on a question as important as the definition of marriage should be left to the people of New York -- not decided by a handful of elites and highly paid lobbyists twisting arms behind the scenes.

Groups like Catholic Charities and other religious organizations have already been denied tax exemptions and forced to give up their adoption services in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized. Such conflicts are only the tip of the iceberg.

Gay marriage advocates have repeatedly rejected any attempts to protect religious entities and employers from being forced to participate in a same-sex marriage regime. Why are they so adamant that religious believers must be forced to give up their religious liberty?

In other words, those opposing marriage equality don't even have to take the time to write personal letters in terms of how such legislation affects them. All they have to do write a letter (with the phony talking points laid out for them), and submit it to NOM who will relay that letter to newspapers.

Ideally, it's not a bad idea. Morally it strikes me as fake. It seems to me that the entire point of submitting a letter to the editor is to give your own personal opinion about a certain issue. Lgbts - particularly those involved in relationships and those couples with children - have given personal story after personal story about what it feels like when their relationships aren't protected or how they feel victimized by these campaigns to make them into second-class citizens.

But NOM encourages the disregarding of these personal stories. And at the same time, the organization is encouraging its supporters to use the editorial pages to make it seem that people are standing up for so-called traditional marriage by not talking about their personal lives, but using talking points (inaccurate talking points at that) dictated to them.

This underscores just how phony NOM's campaign is. It should also send a message to the proponents of marriage equality to keep fighting the good fight no matter how angry or discouraged they get.

Realness always wins out over artificiality.

Related posts:

NOM - anti-gay marriage amendments keep lgbt teens safe

Is the Catholic Church overstepping its bounds in marriage equality fight?

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