Men have been dressing as women on stage for hundreds of years, dating back to the thirteenth century when the church forbade the appearance of female actors but condoned that of men and boys disguised as the opposite sex.
The late Billy Carol
Fred Kovert ,silent film drag queen
Forms of transvestism can be traced back to the dawn of the theater and are found in all corners of the world, notably in China and Japan. In recent years, drag has witnessed a dramatic and widespread revival. Newsday recently observed, "People are talking about those fabulous heterosexual film idols who now can't seem to wait to get tarted up in drag and do their screen bits as fishnet queens." Drawing on a cinematic tradition popularized by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot....
Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams have each played women in the wildly successful Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire. Even former drag queens have experienced new found fame, witness the recent popularity of the late Divine, renowned for her oddly compelling appearances in underground John Waters films. Tracing drag tradition from the Golden Age of stage transvestism during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I in England to the current quasi-drag inclinations of American grunge bands, drag is an entertaining overview of this popular and complex medium. And now with the like of the new talents and the more widely acceptance of drag it doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. And we thank these early gals for paving the way for the opportunities many queens have these days.