Jewel Box Revue booklet
Hard to believe that drag and impersonation has been around as long as it was. Even in the 20's and 30's some of the most fabulous girls lived and performed! And toured the country to some surprising little towns. The Jewel Box Revue was a famous drag/female impersonator touring company that began in 1939 and ran well into the 1960s. I believe the show shoe was sometime in late 1968. In 1939, during a time when gay people were viewed as abhorrent subversives and a threat to society, Danny Brown and Doc Benner were lovers.... and longtime producers of the revue, and were said to be pretty tough customers who never backed down from a fight and were known to run a very tight ship. They were hard on their employees but could be brutal to anyone who messed with “their girls.”In a very real sense Danny and Doc are the true godfathers of the modern gay community. Creating America's first gay community was not what Danny and Doc initially had in mind when they created the revue. They felt that Vaudeville had sidelined female impersonation acts into little more than burlesque shows, and both were passionate about reviving drag as an art form. Danny and Doc also intentionally catered the show to a heterosexual audience and tried their best to be viewed as legitimate entertainment by locals and authorities, to stay clear of any legal charges of sexual deviance. But behind the protective spin of publicity, it cannot be denied that the revue fostered one of the first gay-positive communities in America, if not the first. It was a place where "gayness" was accepted before the concept of gay-identity had even been fully conceived. The show became incredibly popular throughout the United States. Stars of the revue such as Mr. Lynne Carter, whose talent and skill as a dancer was legendary, became quite famous and included the Rat Packer and toe-tapper Sammy Davis Jr. as a fan.
Sammy Davis Jr with Lynne Carter
Legendary Charles Pierce with Lynne Cater
The drag revue was most often comprised of “25 Men & One Girl.” The one girl was none other than Miss Storme DeLaviere who served as the sole male impersonator for the revue. Storme would garner iconic status within the LGBT community in 1969 for being one of the first people to fight back against police officers during the raid on the Stonewall Inn. The riots that followed would spark the modern gay-rights movement. Despite government crackdowns against gay performers and female impersonators, the revue successfully toured America and Canada for nearly 30 years. At the height of its popularity the revue headlined at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem to rave reviews.
The show was billed as " 25 Men and 1 Woman," but hundreds of gay entertainers and female impersonators would come to work with the revue over the years, and their influence on the burgeoning gay rights movement still resonates to this very day. It's amazing to see just how glam they were considering the tools we have now, they didn't. Some of the legendary performers.....
George "Titanic" Rodgers
Bruno La Fantastique
Tony del Ray
I've got a hunch that somewhere out there in the cosmos, Danny Brown and Doc Benner couldn't be prouder at how well and far drag and impersonation has went.
Danny Brown and Doc Benner