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Drag Shows: Drag Kings and Male Impersonators  
 
page: 1  2  3  

The sexist pig or macho figure is much more available for the king to imitate and, in the process, to ridicule exaggerated masculinity. However, not all drag kings ridicule masculinity. Many have moved beyond the simple exposure of male violence and gross sexuality to make their acts tributes to male talent and charm and, thus, an expression of their own abilities. Some kings, such as Dred, the Dodge Brothers band, and Elvis Herselvis, enact a range of masculine traits, including some qualities that stem from sincere admiration and respect.

Storme Delaverié, an African-American male impersonator from the 1940s, suggested that it is harder to impersonate men than women since the impersonation of femininity entails the addition of things while the impersonation of masculinity can only be achieved by paring down. This may be why male impersonation might seem less dramatic than drag queen shows.

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But contemporary drag kings insist that their masculine personas require both addition and subtraction. The questions remain, however, whether drag king theater depends on parody or imitation or realness, and whether it can continue to provide the element of excess and camp characteristic of drag queen performances.

Elizabeth Ashburn

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators

Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Bars

The centrality of gay and lesbian bars to glbtq culture has been reduced in recent years, but they continue to fulfill important functions; and, in many areas, they remain the most visible manifestation of glbtq presence.

arts >> Overview:  Opera

Opera, an eclectic synthesis of voice, drama, music, costume, visual arts and spectacle, has played an integral role in queer culture since its development in seventeenth century Venice.

arts >> Bentley, Gladys

African-American Blues singer Gladys Bentley openly flaunted her lesbianism in the 1920s and 1930s, but recanted in the 1950s in an attempt to salvage her career.

arts >> Bernhardt, Sarah

The most famous actress of her time, Sarah Bernhardt scandalized and titillated Paris by wearing pants, taking men's roles in some of her plays, and having numerous love affairs, some with women.

arts >> Bonheur, Rosa

The most popular artist of nineteenth-century France and a renowned painter of animals, Rosa Bonheur lived in two consecutive committed relationships with women.

arts >> Dietrich, Marlene

Actress and cabaret performer Marlene Dietrich scandalized society almost as much by wearing trousers in public as by her numerous love affairs with both men and women.

arts >> Garbo, Greta

Mysterious, aloof, occasionally androgynous, actress Greta Garbo ignited the passions of men and women alike.

arts >> Grace, Della (Del Lagrace Volcano)

The work of photographer Della Grace, also known as Del Lagrace Volcano, confronts questions of the performance of gender, especially the performance of masculinity by lesbians.

literature >> Hall, Radclyffe

Radclyffe Hall, who lived her lesbianism openly and proudly, is best known for The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most important lesbian novel ever written.

literature >> Sackville-West, Vita

Best known for her relationship with Virginia Woolf and for her scandalous love affairs, Vita Sackville-West was a prolific author of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

literature >> Sand, George

The bisexual writer Amantine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, better known as George Sand, is as infamous for her cigar-in-hand cross-dressing as she is famous for her eighty novels, twenty plays, and numerous political tracts.

social sciences >> Teena, Brandon

Twenty-year-old Brandon Teena was brutally murdered on December 31, 1993 on account of gender non-conformity.

arts >> Thornton, Willie Mae "Big Mama"

A powerhouse performer noted for her no-nonsense stage presence and a penchant for cross-dressing, blues singer and songwriter Big Mama Thornton not only established a signature style of her own, but also inspired mainstream rockers.

literature >> Woolf, Virginia

Passionate friendships with women were essential to the life and work of novelist Virginia Woolf.


    Bibliography
   

Ackroyd, Peter. Dressing Up: Transvestism and Drag: The History of an Obsession. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.

Dickens, Homer. What a Drag. London: Angus and Robertson, 1982.

Garber, Marjorie. Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Stryker, Susan, and Jim Van Buskirk. Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996.

Volcano, Del Lagrace, and Judith "Jack" Halberstam. The Drag King Book. London: Serpent's Tail, 1999.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Ashburn, Elizabeth  
    Entry Title: Drag Shows: Drag Kings and Male Impersonators  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated February 13, 2010  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/drag_kings.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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