playing with burnt cork

In 1920s New York, actress Dorothy MacKellar was offered the lead part in a play depicting a marriage between a white woman and a black man – a partnership that was illegal at the time.


“She is said to have accepted the role on the condition that a white actor and burnt cork play opposite her. When she was told that it was intended to have a real Negro fill the bill, she retired without more ado.”

Thanks Jahsonic

Around the same time the “Green Twigs“, a group of socially prominent middle class ladies, set out to choose a queen for a community fiesta via a popularity ballot. Early on, the tally showed 17 year old honour student Miss Dorothy Derrick was pulling ahead. This was a cause of great consternation as Miss Derrick was black.

Dorothy Dandridge NOT Dorothy Derrick

After another day of voting she had fallen to third place, having been overtaken by a Miss Violet Meyer. The Green Twigs were still not pleased as Miss Meyer was a Jew. The contest was abruptly cancelled.

Ultra Violet NOT Violet Meyer

Fast forward to the beauty contests of the 1950s. The catholic church was in an uproar about them and threatened to expel college students who participated.

Mrs Edward Belitz, whose daughter Mary Jean withdrew from the Miss Nebraska competition because her education was jeopardised said “I’m just sick. I’ve trained her so long.”

But in New Mexico, 20 year old Sue Ingersoll elected to remain in the Miss Universe contest despite being told she would be denied the sacraments for a period of time unless she withdrew.”

Sacramental Bingo

Now in Thailand pretty boys in Pattaya compete for the title of Miss Tiffany with the aim of creating human rights awareness and promoting a positive transvestite image to the world. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come but Marine Marine Monroe, Barbara Style Sand and Donna Summer are there to remind us.

2009 winners found here

A few years ago in Sydney, Boaz Stark published a book of inspired drag queen names.


“Having a Drag Queen baby but no idea what to call her? Uma Gawd! This Trudy Light of a book has literally hundreds of names to suit Drag Queens of every shape (Justine Ormous), age (Terri Daktil), race (Fu Ling Yu) and religion (Cath Lick). Your Drag Queen is destined to be the Bella DeBall with this Paige Turner!”

But my favourite will always be my son, Cherry Ripe.

Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 8:14 am  Comments (45)  
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45 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Burnt cork? Is that what happened to all the cork in wine bottles, they burned them?

  2. Dorothy Dandridge!!!!! *faints*

    • Indeed!

  3. Dorothy Mackellar “retired without more ado” – sorely missed, Im sure.

    That book of drag queen names sounds like a cracker! ‘Trudy Light’ is my fav…

    • I like Terri Daktil and Paige turner

  4. That Thai trio is simply gorgeous. I skipped back in time to read the Cherry Ripe post about a mother’s proudest moment – also gorgeous. There’s just a whole lotta gorgeous goin’ on tonight.

  5. Not a fan of pageants but if one of my kids was in one – different story.
    Cherry Ripe – a name with style and flair!

    (btw – I have no idea why that pot café is allowed to exist in Toronto. The powers-that-be turning a blind eye to what has become an institution, a tourist mecca?)

    • Your pot cafe has me baffled Beth

  6. Burnt cork might be more appealing to her than “soaked cork” (say that 3 times really fast)

  7. had the pleasure of attending a drag show in Bangkok with my lesbitarian sister. the thai ladyboyz were spectacular – and left my poor sister vexed. “They’re GORGEOUS! Oh, crap, they’re men. But good GAWD, they’re stunning!”

    i thought she was going to implode…

    • haha…. wish I’d been there

  8. Playing with burnt cork – OOBLY DOOBLY!!!

  9. OMFG is that J…?


    The King

    • It certainly is. Takes after me don’t you think?

  10. I wonder why there seems to be such a huge concentration of Trannies in Thailand? Do they just have a good PR machine down there?

    Was Lucky Chang’s open when you were in the city? It was an all Tranny staff. Hot stuff.

    • I haven’t been to Thailand UB, daisyfae probably made Lucky Chang’s day

    • I chatted up an American transvestite at the county fair here who discoursed on the Thai cultural niche for trans men, mentioning a third designated bathroom in schools. Imagine if someone suggested that even in NY or LA. It sounded as if their society is rather matter of fact about the existence of men who assume female dress and roles, so that population is more cohesive and visible.

      • three designated bathrooms? that’s fascinating

  11. My favourite Trannie name was Tanya Hyde… You certqainly have a fine looking son.

    • ha! that’s a good one

  12. As long as the two of you don’t squabble over who gets to wear the corset on Friday’s, everything will work out just fine.

    • My corsets are way too small for him!

  13. I’ve always been fond of Jenny Taylear.

    • I had to look that up in the urban dictionary 😉

  14. This reminds me of the Dolly Parton story where she secretly entered a drag queen contest of Dolly Parton impersonators and finished second.

    • Didn’t the same thing happen with Charlie Chaplin too?

  15. Bertha Venation, Eva Destruction, Juan Nightstand…this is a rich seam of comedy that had, up until today, completely passed my by. Thank you nursemyra.

  16. It is depressing when men have better legs than I could ever hope to have. Maybe I could become a male impersonator? I have a suspicious influx of whiskers now that I’m past 40.

    • You won’t be able to pass for a mature male until you can grown hair out of your ears and nostrils as well


    • That doco looks amazing P. Have you seen it?

      • doesn’t it? plan to.

        and Madame D will have to forego plucking rogue eyebrow hairs too. in fact, she’ll have to cultivate them. and knuckle hairs and back hairs and… but there are positives, such as a better salary and not bothering with the toilet seat to name just two.

      • David Hemmings had the best eyebrows ever! just google his name and ‘eyebrows’ if you don’t believe me

  18. there seems to be no shortage of people unwilling to see beyond their own noses.
    yes, the reference to pinocchio is intentional- because these people would rather lie to themselves than accept that not everyone is like them nor wants to be like them.
    i won’t even begin to explain the nose-in-the-air types… but they exist too!

  19. Malach cares not, I would do them all!

  20. Candice End said to Cher Alike, “Get your own damn fella!”

    Anita Mann

  21. Gorgeous young man you have there, and I can imagine that you are very proud of him, for all that he is.

  22. My brother does a mean Mother Mary McKillop but those two of J take the cake!!

  23. There’s a Seven Sacraments bingo game? I don’t even really know what sacraments are, but I want to play!

    MAN. I missed out on so much being raised Jewish.

    • but you had matzo balls and gefilte fish

  24. If I were black back then I think I’d end up on death row because I’d try to just kill everybody.

    I can’t believe how much Dorothy Dandridge looks like Holly Robinson Peete. The could be twins..

  25. So silly about the green twig ladies. I’m glad the mode of thinking they showed is an outdated one and no longer mainstream.

  26. Oh Nursie, I love this post. I started out by spluttering with dismay and ended smiling. Thank goodness for greater tolerance and here’s hoping that we all get even better at it.

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