Long before Brangelina came into being, Australia was home to the entity known as Billarion
Young Angelina found here
Marion (Bill) Edwards, transsexual barman, pony trainer and bookmaker, was born in 1874 at Murchison, Victoria. According to her fanciful memoir, Life and Adventures of Marion-Bill-Edwards, she worked on her uncle’s farm on the Goulburn River, and as a waitress, refused offers of marriage and ‘made hot love’ to women. About 1896 she decided to dress and live as a man, claiming that this earned her more money. Edwards later purported to have appeared as a female impersonator entertaining troops in Africa during the Boer War and to have delivered horses to India. He was, shall we say, very much a ladies man.
image found here
As William Ernest Edwards, in 1900 at St Francis’s Catholic Church, Melbourne, Marion went through a form of marriage with a 30-year-old widow Lucy Minihan, a lodging-house proprietor. In her memoir, Edwards claimed that they had a healthy sex life – although he always declared that Lucy never suspected his true sex. In 1905, arrested for burglary when found in a hotel at 3 a.m., Marion explained her presence by saying she was trying to catch a prowler. Fearful that her gender would be discovered she absconded to Queensland. Her ‘wife’, who had put up bail of £50, was sentenced to one month’s gaol for Bill’s default.
image of a different Lucy found here
After a second arrest in Brisbane in October 1906, women showered her with gifts and billets doux. A celebrity once her masquerade was revealed, Edwards returned to Melbourne after a spectacular send off, appearing in court in female attire. She was described as a wealthy girl, rough rider, masquerader, alleged burglar, fighter, barman and ingenious lover. Taking advantage of the publicity, she performed as a sharpshooter in an exhibition between film shows at the Fitzroy Cyclorama where she accidentally shot a member of the audience. She also appeared at Kreitmayer’s Waxworks, billed as ‘The Far-famed Male Impersonator’.
Fitzroy Cyclorama found here
At her eventual trial in November 1906 she was found not guilty. About this time her memoir was published, illustrated with photographs of her posing in male and female garb. It was titled The Life and Adevntures of Marion Bill Edwards, the Most Celebrated Man-Woman of Modern Times: Exciting Incidents, Strange Sensations, Told in the Graphic Manner by Herself. Interviewed by Lone Hand in 1908, she was described as a modern Mademoiselle De Maupin: “She liked her own sex, and they liked her. The girls ran after her for she was a lovable man with nice ways.”
sharp shooter Annie Oakley found here
Although there are references to Edwards in Truth and police records on ‘sly-grog’ matters, nothing was proven. A newspaper article in 1927 referred to her as a pony trainer at Port Melbourne. Living in West Melbourne from 1930, her lesbian notoriety forgotten, but still in male attire, she worked in hotels, and iron foundries, and as a starting price bookmaker. Neighbours knew she was female but described her later as a ‘ nice old gentleman’. Bill preferred to appear as a male. Nevertheless, near the end of her life the Mount Royal Geriatric Home forced her to dress in women’s clothes. She died in March 1956 and was buried in Fawkner cemetery.
Fawkner Cemetery found here