Tuesday, June 28, 2022

GAY PRIDE-GLADYS BENTLEY


 Gladys Bentley, one of the original and iconic gender bending performers and singer of the early 1900's. It's important to note that although Bentley was billed as a "male impersonator" in the 1920's, there's every possibility that she would have identified as trans or non-binary had those terms existed at the time. But since they didn't she chose the term male most times. Bentley's early life was spent in Philadelphia before settling in NYC where she added to her already packed repertoire as entertainer and pianist, during the Harlem Renaissance. Her career skyrocket, one of the few drag kings to do so, with her appearances at Harry Hanberry's Clam House, as not only a female and black performer, but a open lesbian, performing as a male.  Talk about shattering may barriers! How's that for brave and ballsy? She often headlined in the early 30's at Harlem's Ubangi Club and at the legendary Jewel Box Revue where she was often backed up by the infamous chorus line of drag queens at each venue. She always dressed in men's clothes played piano and sang her own material , often raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day, in a deep, growling voice while flirting with women in the audience. Bentley was among one of the first to live open and publicly  as a open lesbian. What a role model she would become.

18 comments:

  1. I was not familiar with Gladys. What a fascinating story of a trailblazer.

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  2. Glad your posting about drag kings.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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  3. Since Gladys identified as male, I'd say he is a hero to every gender-nonconforming person who came after because he lived his honest self at a time when it was literally physically dangerous to do so

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  4. Cap Chasen6/29/2022

    I once read a bio, on Gladys. Toward the end of her life she was back to living as a woman again, where during the McCarthy Era, she started wearing dresses and married, claiming to have been cured by taking female hormones. But reading between the lines, I don't think she was very happy to be doing so.

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  5. I think I read the same bio as Cap Chasen! It truly saddens me to think of how many lives were and still are diminished by societal norms that have no basis in humanity. xoxo

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  6. Imagine the bravery that required.

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  7. Wow! Happy to learn of this person.

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  8. She certainly was ground-breaking!

    You might be interested in this documentary about Glad and his/her contemporaries in that bizarre inter-war era, that we went to see back in 2014. Jx

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    1. Thanks for linking that my dear, I will have a watch tonight! Kisses.

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  9. That takes strength... to carve out a niche which previously had not existed. And to be so successful. Good for them. What a wonderful story to share. Thanks for this powerful series of history lessons. Our fore - brothers and sisters rocked! Which is what Pride is truly about.

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    1. I would have loved to have seen her work with the legendary Jewel Box Revue. The Jewel Box was one of the first trailblazing venues to showcase drag mainstream and filled with stunning queens darlink.

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  10. Iconic.
    It was NOT easy back them to even think about wearing the other gender's clothes, let alone perform in them. Love these history lessons, Maddie!!

    XOXO

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    1. And she was a triple...a woman, a black woman and a lesbian. And I think people didn't dare trifle with her. Amazing when you think she was brave to live "out" back then.

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  11. Pat Lark6/29/2022

    Just think of it: Her wearing men's clothing was long before Hepburn scandalized society by wearing pants! Love it!

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    1. I can't even imagine, But I assume she must have been very well liked.

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  12. I admire history's women who stood up and were brave not to do as they were told.

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  13. Thank you for reminding me of Gladys.

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Go ahead darling, tell me something fabulous!